On March 2, 2015, former NBA sensation, Chris Herren, arrived at West Chester University’s Asplundh Concert Hall to share his story of redemption with a crowd of athletes, students, professors, residents of West Chester, those in recovery, and those who are sober.
His inspirational talk chronicled his journey from playing basketball in his hometown of Fall River, Mass. to his current passion: making an impact on lives by speaking about his battle with drugs and alcohol.
Stemming from a long line of athletes including his grandfather, father, and older brother, Herren was destined to be an unstoppable force on the basketball court at an early age.
His undeniable talent landed him contracts with the Denver Nuggets, Boston Celtics, and several teams overseas.
Yet, basketball was not the only thing Herren inherited from the men in his life.
At the two-hour lecture, Herren stated that he believes the root of his drug addiction stems from his father who is now a recovering alcoholic at 63 years of age.
Despite witnessing his father’s alcohol abuse, Herren soon found himself in a similar nightmare, even as his childhood dream of playing professional basketball came true.
“I made three decisions in my life, three choices that changed my life forever: when I saw those two girls snorting cocaine in my dorm room at 18 [and joined them], when I took OxyContin two years after that, and when I stuck that needle in my arm a few years later,” said Herren.
Now sober since August 1, 2008, Herren reevaluates his priorities: his family always comes first.
At the climax of his heart-wrenching and profound lecture, Herren shared a griping memory after he returned home to the states from his work overseas.
“One day I tell my son, I tell my daughter, ‘Daddy will be right back, I’m going to Dunkin Donuts. I’ll bring you home some munchkins.’ I met my drug dealer in that parking lot. Now, I’m playing with needles, and I’m shooting up on a daily basis. And I sat in that parking lot and I spent $60, put it in the needle, put it in my arm, sat in that drive-thru, and overdosed. The only thing I remember is glass hitting me and a police officer grabbing me through the window. He later told me I had been dead for thirty seconds,” Herren stated.
Death became both a curse and a blessing for Chris Herren.
After Herren was admitted into rehab, the counselor told him to “play dead” and never contact his wife or children again.
“Playing dead is what changed my tune,” said Herren.
“My whole life, I wanted to be a pro, I wish I had just been a pro at being me…. I used to walk on stage with fear and regret; now I walk on with fear and pride. I’m proud of who I am. For the last six and a half years straight, my kids have the same father and nothing makes me more proud,” Herren declared as the crowd, completely immersed in his lecture and story, began to conjure up questions and comments.
When asked about his wife of seventeen years Herren responded with “My wife is by far the star of this story,” the audience began to clap and rejoice as Herren finished his statement with a smile on his face, “Nobody took their vows more seriously. I am extremely grateful for her because she stayed and I have the chance to be a father.” [pullquote align=”center”]My whole life, I wanted to be a pro, I wish I had just been a pro at being me…. I used to walk on stage with fear and regret; now I walk on with fear and pride.[/pullquote]
Herren’s sobering and unguarded account of his past not only attracted the attention of those attending the sold out lecture in Asplundh Hall, but it also encouraged attendees who have struggled with substance abuse to relate and share their experiences.
In his closing remarks, Herren urged the audience to, “Be a pro at being you. Those are the kids I admire, those who sing and dance and talk and don’t need [drugs]. You guys are my heroes.”
Chris Herren is co-author of Basketball Junkie: A Memoir, founder of The Herren Project, a nonprofit organization that informs and assists those who are suffering from substance abuse, and founder of Hoop Dreams with Chris Herren, a company that acts as a support system for basketball players.
Herren is also the inspiration behind ESPN’s Emmy nominated documentary, Unguarded.
If you or someone you know is suffering from addiction and wants to get help, West Chester University offers Drug and Alcohol counseling at the Counseling Center located in Commonwealth Hall on the lower level at 715 S. New Street.
The counseling center can also be contacted at (610) 436-2301.
A list of their hours is posted on their website, www.wcupa.edu/_services/stu.cou/
For other resources outside the West Chester University community visit www.chesco.org/index.aspx?nid=216.
Angira S. Pickens is a fourth-year student majoring in English writwith minors in journalism and ethnic studies. She can be reached at AP765497@wcupa.edu.