Former NBA player talks addiction, recovery in Darien

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DARIEN — The day Chris Herren’s childhood dream got here true, a brand new nightmare had already begun burrowing itself into his life.

A highschool basketball star of nationwide prominence who ultimately landed within the NBA, Herren’s profession and private life have been destroyed by his dependancy to narcotics.

On Wednesday night time he appeared on-line for a question-and-answer session and program organized by The Group Fund of Darien, a part of its “Our Darien” collection, known as “Altering the Dialog on Substance Use.” The occasion, which included a 30-minute taped video of Herren telling his story about his dependancy and supreme restoration, was moderated by John Hamilton, president and chief govt officer of Liberation Packages. It was the second time Herren talked to the Darien neighborhood.

“The fantastic thing about dwelling life in sobriety,” he mentioned, “ultimately it lets you discover a silver lining in all of your unhappy tales. You grow to be grateful in your worst moments. You forgive and also you enable your self to be forgiven.”


With over 12 years of steady sobriety, Herren now runs his personal remedy group known as Herren Wellness, with areas in Massachusetts and Virginia, in addition to a nationwide nonprofit known as the Herren Undertaking that gives free assets and assist for substance use dysfunction.

“I don’t consider in slicing off. I consider in serving to,” he mentioned, requested in regards to the idea of robust like to attempt to push an addict towards looking for assist.

“I feel that is an sickness that requires remedy, and I’ll all the time push a member of the family in direction of remedy,” he mentioned, noting that enabling an addict in any means is, on the similar time, a really private resolution. “I feel everyone’s coronary heart is completely different. Everyone’s story is just a little completely different.”

However Herren was adamant about encouraging dialog and honesty from the onset of drug and alcohol use with younger individuals.

“We speak in regards to the worst day and we neglect the primary day,” he mentioned, “and the saddest factor I see on school campuses and excessive faculties is that we’ve normalized a few of these errors. That the primary day is not any huge deal, that the ingesting and smoking is minor and that the marijuana doesn’t matter.”

“I feel in terms of younger adults, early intervention is important. … The dialog wants to begin,” he mentioned in response to a query from Hamilton. “The stigma round dependancy, it’s so deep. It’s been occurring for therefore a few years. The disgrace and the guilt that come together with it (forestall) early interventions.”

In response to a query about how youngsters can take care of selecting to not drink or use medicine, he identified an irony.

“Sadly we’ve got to even ask that query, that’s what’s superb — that we’ve created this sort of environment and tradition within the teen years that youngsters really feel uncomfortable not doing medicine and alcohol.”

By the point Herren was in his first yr at Boston School he was already assembly bother. Regardless of showing in nationwide magazines as a basketball prodigy from his Fall River, Mass., highschool when coming into school, he failed three completely different drug assessments for marijuana and cocaine as a freshman and was in the end expelled.

After coming into the NBA in 1999 at age 23 — first with the Denver Nuggets — Herren noticed his childhood dream of taking part in for the Boston Celtics come true in 2000.

But on the very day he attended the press convention asserting the transfer, he was sick with withdrawal from his first foray into narcotics, the identical medicine that may lose him his place on the staff inside a yr.

Whereas he adopted profitable affords to play in different nations, together with Italy and China, his dependancy adopted as nicely and solely amplified.

“At 24 years outdated, I turned an intravenous drug person,” he mentioned.

The subsequent few years noticed overdoses, accidents and arrests. Whereas he was in a position to keep relationships along with his spouse and three youngsters, these too turned strained to the purpose the place it regarded like he would lose them.

Herren discovered himself wandering the streets of his hometown amassing cans and hustling cash to purchase liquor and medicines, and considering suicide.

“I did no matter I might to get excessive,” he mentioned, persevering with into his mid-30s.

Requested what the toughest a part of being sober was, Herren famous points referring to vanity.

“I feel vanity is all the time difficult,” he mentioned. “Simply since you’re sober doesn’t imply you don’t lack in sure areas in life.”

Herren saidhow, starting at age 14, he was always scrutinized by coaches, resulting in tons of resultant stress.

Likewise, he mentioned, “I feel there’s numerous youngsters in highschool that really feel they should dwell as much as one thing or faux to be somebody.”

Herren mentioned the onus was on adults to open the dialog about substances and dependancy, on the similar time striving to not normalize the behaviors amongst younger individuals.

“I feel for years we’ve nearly surrendered to the truth that highschool youngsters are going to have interaction in the sort of habits,” he mentioned, “and to me it’s simply nearly unhappy.”

Herren mentioned the rationale he does these talks is “we discuss medicine, alcohol and psychological well being and what it appears to be like like in the long run somewhat than addressing the start. … I feel early intervention is important. We have to concentrate on vanity, diet, social and emotional well being and breaking down stigma.”

Herren mentioned he makes use of his story as a basis to ask college students vital questions that they might be combating.

“It’s all in regards to the ‘why’ and refocusing the dialog on substance use dysfunction to the primary day not the final,” he mentioned.

Group Fund Youth Asset Crew members Katie Chandler and Ethan Fox recently conducted an interview with Herren.

Chandler mentioned Herren’s emphasis on “why” people interact in substance abuse “impacted me most.”

“He suggests dad and mom, as an alternative of asking ‘who have been you with’ or ‘what have been you doing,’ ask ‘why did you select to try this’ to get to the basis of what could also be occurring of their youngsters’ lives,” Chandler mentioned. “This subject is so related proper now as a result of there may be a lot stress on youngsters to be good, particularly in Darien. Substance abuse and psychological well being points are much more prevalent as we’re amid a pandemic and “shut down” of many in-person actions.”

Fox mentioned he’s motiviated to serve on the Youth Asset Crew due to how “initiatives like our involvement with Chris Herren goal probably the most urgent points dealing with the youth in our neighborhood.”

The subsequent occasion within the “Our Darien” speaker collection is on March 4 at 10 a.m. Mother or father educator Cristina Younger will current “Managing Tough Moments with Teenagers,” a dialog about psychological well being, substance use, and ways speaking with teenagers throughout turbulent instances.

The speak is the third in a collection of “Our Darien” occasions this yr sponsored by The Group Fund of Darien’s Thriving Youth Job Drive to teach dad and mom in regards to the risks of substance use, youth psychological well being and the way they will greatest assist their teenagers. Registration is free and required at www.communityfunddarien.org.

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