In front of the entire Toll Gate student body, as well as a number of students from Vets who were invited to the assembly, former Boston Celtic Chris Herren shared his story of past drug abuse and the impact it had on his life on Wednesday morning at Toll Gate High School.
Herren, who was a McDonald’s All-American out of Durfee High School in Fall River, Mass., and later played for Boston College, Fresno State University and the NBA’s Denver Nuggetts, as well as the Celtics, spoke for over an hour and detailed the toll that drugs had taken on every aspect of his life.
As the subject of a recent ESPN documentary “Unguarded,” Herren’s struggles with drugs have come further into the public view lately, and he spared few details on Wednesday. He spoke about the use of drugs from when he was an 18-year-old freshman at Boston College until 2008, use that ranged from alcohol to cocaine to oxycontin and heroin.
“The reason I do this (presentation) is because I was you sitting in those seats,” Herren told the crowd. “I thought it could never be me. I couldn’t be an addict. My dad was a politician, my mom worked for the phone company.”
He spoke of being featured in Sports Illustrated alongside future NBA stars Ray Allen and Allen Iverson, and only months later having to leave the team at Boston College and seeing his family face the reality of his situation.
“My parents had to open the Boston Globe and see their son, a picture, with cocaine across my face,” Herren said. “Four months earlier I was in Sports Illustrated.”
His tale went on, from his time at Fresno State to the days when he was the 33rd overall pick in the 1999 NBA Draft and played with the Nuggets and the Celtics, all the while continuing to abuse drugs at a rapid rate.
He estimated that, the summer after playing his only season for the Nuggets, he was spending upwards of $25,000 per month on oxycontin.
As the years went by, his addictions got worse, and he moved from Italy to Turkey to various other countries while playing basketball. Each stop along the way, his drug habit grew, but he couldn’t find a way to stop.
Even after leaving rehab to see the birth of his third child in 2008, Herren immediately left the hospital and relapsed before re-entering rehab.
It was not long after that time that he managed to stop, and he has now been drug free since June 4, 2008.
He ended the assembly with a question-and-answer segment, and spoke of looking to the future and helping young people avoid his mistakes.
“If I can help to just one person, than it makes all this worthwhile,” Herren said.
His stop at Toll Gate was one of many, as the 36-year-old Herren has been visiting schools around New England to tell his cautionary real-life story.
Other than his speaking engagements, Herren also runs a basketball player development company to mentor players on and off the court called “Hoop Dreams with Chris Herren.” He recently co-authored the book “Basketball Junkie: A Memoir” with Providence Journal columnist Bill Reynolds.