Chris Herren Shares His Story At Benedictine
Courtesy of Benedictine University
LISLE, Ill. -- Former college basketball star and NBA player Chris Herren visited Benedictine University on Monday night to talk to over 1,500 Benedictine students, families and members of the Lisle Community about overcoming his drug addiction.
Herren, who has been sober since 2008, shares his story for many reasons.
"There's a million reasons why [I share my story]," said Herren. "I think one of the main reasons is that I know what it's like to look back and say 'I had that chance.'
"I also believe that the easy road for me, and a lot of people take this road, is that once they recover and get sober that they never look back at their past life. They don't want to acknowledge where they were, but I think it's important for people to know that it can happen to anybody and that it's never too late to pick yourself up."
Herren's journey is one with many twists and turns. After first trying cocaine at age 18 when he was a freshman at Boston College, he battled addiction to numerous drugs, such as cocaine, heroin, OxyContin and crystal meth, throughout his whole basketball career. Despite making it to the NBA and living his childhood dream of being a point guard for the Boston Celtics, his addiction caused his career to take a very steep decline.
He failed to latch on with a team in the NBA and overseas, and by the time he finished his playing career, he had spent all the money he had made in his professional basketball career and had overdosed four different times.
However, on Aug. 1, 2008, after almost losing his family and being on the brink of suicide, Herren remembers being down on his knees praying and putting his all his faith into the hands of God. He underwent rehabilitation programs and has been sober ever since.
What may surprise most people is how honest Herren is about his story and his willingness to share it. However, Herren believes that honesty may be what endears him to college students more than anything.
"I think my connection to the students is just my honesty," Herren explained. "I think when kids walk away from this, they're like 'wow, there was no sugar in that story.'"
Overall, Herren wants his message to the students and the community to be that it could happen to anyone.
"The reality of it is that no one is exempt of falling victim to this," said Herren. "I grew up in a home where my dad was a politician for 18 years, my mom worked in corporate America and we had a couple of houses. I wasn't supposed to fall into the category of a heroin addict, never mind all of the accolades I had going on as a basketball player."
"I'm not unique. There's millions of me," he added. "The only unique part of my story might be the Boston Celtics. There's millions and millions of my stories out there."
In addition, Herren just wants students to be themselves and not do things just because it is the popular thing to do.
"I ask every kid a pretty powerful but simple question: what is it about themselves that they're not comfortable with? Why can't you go onto a campus and to a party on a Friday night as you? Why do you have to become somebody different? That's an extremely difficult question for kids these days to answer, but that's the reality of it."
"I think unfortunately the society we've embraced has allowed a culture accepting that with high school and college kids, this is just a phase they go through: boys will be boys, girls will be girls," he added. "A lot of people don't get through the phase, so why allow the culture? The choices that you make at a young age stay with you."
Herren usually travels about 20 days out of the month telling his story, but still finds it difficult sometimes to share his past.
"[It's] totally difficult," said Herren. "I do it so often, but certain days it catches me more than others. There are days where I'm on the brink of breaking down telling it. I believe that once I do not get like that anymore, I will stop doing it."
After hearing the talk, BenU student athletes reflected on what Herren had to say.
"I thought it was very inspirational and motivating," said senior men's basketball player Jamison Montgomery. "It showed how those types of drugs can take away everything from you."
"I found his talk to be very eye-opening to how easy it is to slip up and lose yourself when your guard is down," added junior women's golfer Kathryn Ghanayem. "His speech was a reminder to all of us to be vigilant of one's self and to never compromise your beliefs and morals when the pressure is on."
While he talks to many high schools and colleges, Herren has recently visited the Green Bay Packers and a prison in Aspen, Co., and will be visiting the Chicago Bears later on this week. He also is the author of a book titled Basketball Junkie: A Memoir and is the subject of the ESPN "30 for 30" documentary Unguarded.