Chris Herren: A Rocky Road to RecoveryPublished on 07. 05. 2015
Former NBA basketball player Chris Herren nearly lost everything before finally conquering an addiction that controlled him since his late teens.
Herren was a high school basketball star and McDonald’s All American who was slated for the big time and featured in several national publications as the next NBA star. He scored 14 points in 21 minutes during his first game for Boston College in 1994, but was sidelined by injuries. After testing positive for cocaine and marijuana twice, he was expelled from the university.
The young athlete transferred to Fresno State where he finished his sophomore year as a high scorer, but a positive drug test the following November landed him in rehab for 28 days. Herren managed to complete rehab, graduated from Fresno State in 1999, and was selected by the Denver Nuggets at the NBA Draft. He was soon traded to the Celtics, where things quickly began to spiral out of control. It was during his time with the Celtics that a single pain pill at a social event quickly turned into a $25,000 a month habit. He recalls standing outside in his uniform, just before a game, waiting for his dealer while his teammates warmed up inside.
After he was released by the Celtics in 2001, Herren played for a number of European and Asian teams. It was in Italy that Herren became addicted to heroin, a habit that followed him through several other countries and back to the United States.
Teetering on the Brink of Death
All in all, Herren racked up seven drug-related felonies. He nearly hit the point of no return in 2008 when he wrapped his car around a utility pole while overdosing on heroin. First responders, who found Herren with a needle in his arm and heroin on the seat next to him, estimated that he had been clinically dead for 30 seconds. For Herren, the near death experience turned out to be the rocky beginning of a new, drug-free life.
Herren knew that the only hope of getting well was intensive, long-term recovery, but not surprisingly, his money was long gone. An NBA friend and mentor stepped in to help, and thanks to his generosity, Herren was able to receive nine months of intensive treatment in a quality facility.
Turning Points and a New Life
However, recovery wasn’t smooth sailing. Two months into rehab, Herren was released for a day to attend the birth of his third child. Although he was sober this time, he was under the influence and missed the births of his first two children. However, he relapsed within a couple of hours after his son’s birth. His wife drew the line when he returned to the hospital, telling him not to bother showing up again. A tough-talking counselor back at rehab pronounced that Herren didn’t deserve his family, and recommended that he let them go so they could build new lives without him.
Herren has been clean and sober since that night.
Today, Herren has shifted his priorities to his family, and to sobriety. He runs a basketball clinic for kids, and has launched a nonprofit foundation that has funded treatment for more than 100 addicts. He visits high schools and prisons, where he tells his story and substance abuse and recovery.
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