By Joseph Salvatore Prezioso
Students at the Seacoast School had a one-on-one experience with former NBA star turned drug addict turned sober anti-substance educator Chris Herren on Monday morning, Dec. 12.
Herren was a high school legend at Durfee High in Fall River from 1990-1994. He went on to Boston College, turning down offers from Duke University and the University of Kentucky. However, within his first season, he was dismissed from the team for failing drug tests. He transferred to Fresno State University, where he starred for the team but continued to struggle with drugs. After being drafted by the Denver Nuggets, he went on to play for the Celtics where he has described being outside of the TD Garden looking for his drug dealer while wearing his Celtics warm-up suit.
Herren struggled mightily with drugs after his retirement, and after a horrible car accident where he nearly died, Herren sobered up in 2011. Now, he travels around to schools to speak to students about his experiences and to encourage them not to use drugs.
After a 30-minute film about Herren’s life, from high school to stardom to his downfall, about 50 students and faculty sat in the dark school auditorium and were greeted by Herren at the film’s end.
Herren wasted no time in getting deep into social issues affecting teens and adults. He started his speech talking about a girl at a high school that used to cut herself with razors.
Not drugs, not alcohol, but physical harm.
She did it because she was bullied. Herren said he met her at another high school years ago. She was laughed at when she went to speak, but later emailed Herren and has continued to.
She is now 24 and has not cut herself since.
“I did drugs and drank at a very young age because I wanted to forget,” said Chris Herren. “It took me away from who I was.”
Herren spoke about his childhood and issues that lead him to seek to forget, and pointed to the students in the audience, stating that he knows there are kids here that have parents with problems and challenged them to be better then them.
To not become them.
Revere is above the state average on substance abuse among students, a teacher stated. Another teacher asked about what to say to kids who get high just because they like the feeling, not because they have any social issues at home in school.
Herren dismissed the idea, and asked for what reason should a 13 or 14 year old not want to be themselves. He spoke about peer pressure situations and parents not being home and his own introduction to sniffing cocaine.
Herron said he believes it all comes down to self-esteem.
“If you’re so tough, so cool, confident, then why in the world are you doing drugs?” he asked.
“Marijuana is a battle because of the way kids perceive it,” said Herren. “Don’t ever minimize substances. We all started by smoking a blunt, saying we don’t have a problem.”
Herren went on to explain that he knew there were students in the audience who were already on the chase where one beer, one hit, a split pill eventually lead to more.
“Don’t ever minimize the mistake your making,” he said.
One student raised her hand and spoke about being born with issues caused from her parents’ substance abuse and the challenges she faces today because of it.
Another student raised their hand and stated, “I did weed for four years and then moved on to coke.”
The student then said they have been struggling to stop, and has been sober for two months.
“You know exactly what drugs do to people, yet don’t think they’ll do it to you,” said Herren at the closure of his program.
Herren made his personal email and phone available to any student who wanted to speak to him later about getting help or coping with social problems.