Chris Herren

Former NBA player and addict Chris Herren shares his story Thursday with the community in the Washington High School auditorium. Herren also spoke with Washington Junior High and high school students.

You could hear a pin drop in the Washington High School auditorium Thursday night. From the opening credits of a short film until he appeared in the front of the audience, all attention was focused on Chris Herren and his story.

Herren’s name may sound familiar. As a high school basketball standout in Fall River, Massachusetts, Herren had been “hard-nosed, tough and one of the most talented basketball players.” He played at Fresno State with legendary coach Jerry Tarkanian and went on to be recruited by the Denver Nuggets as the 33rd pick in the NBA draft and later played for the Boston Celtics. There’s more to Herren than just basketball though.

Everything hasn’t been bright and shiny for Herren. His father was an alcoholic. His mother had tried to leave when he was 10. Seeing her heartbreak Herren promised his mother he would never follow down the same path as his father.

“Three years later, I was getting drunk on my dad’s Miller Lite,” said Herren, who said after his parents divorced, he chose Boston College over several other offers.

Just a few months into his stint in Boston, Herren made a decision that would forever change the course of his life.

“My roommate and his friend were doing cocaine,” said Herren. “I told myself I would do it once and never do it again.”

Instead, that one line of cocaine led to getting kicked out of Boston College, overdosing four times and jeopardizing everything for the next 14 years.

“Jerry Tarkanian gave me a second chance,” said Herren, who was still using when he made his way to Fresno State “I was playing the best basketball and I was still using cocaine.”

After one of his biggest games, his trainer called him to congratulate him on his efforts and to let him know his number had been pulled for random drug testing.

“I still had cocaine in my system. I admitted it and the AD found me a treatment program,” he said, adding part of the deal was he must also admit he was an addict and that admission took place on ESPN.

He completed the program, headed back to Fresno and was the 33rd pick in the NBA draft but it still wasn’t enough.

Herren played half a season at Denver, bought a house for his wife, Heather and their new baby and life went on. A visit from a friend from high school led to Oxycontin use. At one point, he was using 1600 mg a day and spending $25,000 a month to keep up with the habit. He went back to training camp fully dependent and trying to detox. That’s also when the call came from the Boston Celtics.

“I wanted to tell my family I was coming home but instead, my first call was to the guy with the pills,” said Herren.

His time with the Celtics was short but an offer to play overseas came. A fresh start in a new country didn’t stop his addiction though. Instead it introduced heroin to his life. That heroin eventually led to the end of his basketball career but not the end of his drug habit.

Herren overdosed multiple times but that didn’t stop him either. His family was struggling to make ends meet but his own struggles continued. After he overdosed and crashed into a cemetery, Herren said he had gone from being the biggest hero in his town to being the biggest loser. After being treated for his injuries, Herren was flagged down by a nurse as he tried to leave the hospital. The woman had attended school with his late mother and managed to keep Herren in the hospital a few more days in hopes of finding him a treatment program. On the eighth day, one of his friends who was also in recovery found a place for him in New York.

“I couldn’t talk to my wife or kids for 30 days. On day 30, I was able to call my wife. She was in the hospital about to have our third child,” he said.

The counselor warned him it was a bad idea but that didn’t stop Herren from going to see the birth of his child.

“It was the first time I had been sober for a birth,” he said, adding his son, Christopher, had told him he knew the drugs had almost killed his daddy.

That thought rattled him and he left the hospital.

Herren said that sobriety was short lived and 30 minutes later, he had a needle in his arm. Heather was ready to leave her husband. He headed back to the treatment facility and after hearing some tough words from his counselor, Herren decided he needed to make some changes.

“That was Aug. 1, 2008. That’s my sobriety date. And the best part is you become grateful for the worst moments and start the process of being forgiven. For the last 14 years I’ve been the same dad every day. My family knows who is coming through that door,” he said.

Since finding sobriety, the Herrens have started a treatment program to help others. One of the most common questions he’s asked when at speaking engagements is how he will handle his own children should they have struggles with drugs or alcohol. His answer might come as a surprise.

“My kids are 24, 21 and 12. So far we haven’t had a problem but if we do, I’ll tell them I love them and ask them why? Why are you doing this? Why do you have to change yourself to be around your friends? We all have our own why. I played in front of crowds of 4,000 or 5,000 people every night in high school but no one ever asked me why I had to go get drunk or high to hang out with my teammates.”

For more information on Herren visit,

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