Former NBA player tells cautionary tale about drugs at YSU

By Curtis Pulliam


Chris Herren was a freshman at Boston College when he did cocaine for the time.

“I decided to give it a one-time try,” Herren said. “And that one-time try took 14 years to walk away from.”

Herren finally walked away from cocaine and other drugs and has been sober since 2008. He spoke to a crowd at Youngstown State about substance abuse and recovery on Monday night at Beeghly Center.

“My message is cautionary,” Herren said. “I went on to lose everything because of substance abuse.”

The event was sponsored by the Mahoning Valley Hospital Foundation.

Mike Senchak, the president of the foundation, believes Herren’s story is important for many reasons.

“He talks about being aware of decisions out there that may affect your future and your life,” Senchak said.

After being a McDonald’s All-American in high school, Herren was forced to leave Boston College after failing a drug test.

He ended up finishing his college career at Fresno State.

“I never thought I would go past high school,” Herren said. “And then I never thought I would make it past Division I college basketball.”

Herren played in the NBA for two seasons — one with the Denver Nuggets and one with the Boston Celtics — but was battling addiction the whole time.

“To me, it started like most people,” Herren said. “I was a high school kid thinking it was OK to go out on weekends and pound beers. I thought it was OK to smoke a little grass.”

It was not just alcohol or pot that Herren was getting into. At 22, he developed an addiction to the painkiller Oxycontin.

From there, he moved to a heroin addiction.

Herren’s relationship with his family suffered along the way, but with recovery and sobriety, that has improved.

“My relationship with my family is better than it ever was,” Herren said. “Recovery allows me to be present at all times and my relationship with my family is second to none.”

But getting his family to forgive him hasn’t been easy or simple.

“It took a lot of time,” Herren said. “I had to be OK with their trust issues. I couldn’t say, ‘I’m sober now, deal with it and let’s move forward.’ It was on their time and I had to respect that.”

Herren has been speaking for four years now all across the country — mainly at high school and colleges — and trying to help kids avoid what happened to him,

“I believe we focus on the worst day and the last day too often and not the first day,” Herren said. “I think we should teach kids where it begins instead of showing them pictures of prisons and mugshots. Kids can’t relate to that. The message has to be changed somewhat.”

While he uses his basketball career as a platform to spread his message, Herren sometimes wishes he didn’t make it as far as he did professionally.

“I think sometimes we focus on the sport and not the person,” Herren said. “I tell athletes often that I wish I was a pro at being me rather than a pro basketball player. I wish that was a different dream growing up.”

Herren believes his tale and the ultimate lesson can reach many people — and not just athletes.

“Everybody needs inspiration in their life,” Herren said.

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