By Jano Tantongco
Former NBA player Christopher Herren visited Walt Whitman High School on Friday to share with students his story about his battle with drug addiction.
Herren, who played for both the Denver Nuggets and the Boston Celtics, said that he tried to cover up and manage a habit that escalated from alcohol and marijuana to harder drugs like cocaine, prescription opiates and, ultimately, to heroin.
“Once opiates entered my system, it became an everyday addiction,” he said.
Herren said he gives talks to about 250 schools each year and sees the rampant plague of addiction everywhere.
“Every community I’ve gone to, there’s someone who just died of an overdose. Where I come from, we had 11 overdoses two weekends ago. No community is safe from this. I just think we need to do a better job at educating our children,” Herren said.
Before his foray into professional basketball, he began playing at Boston College, but was shortly kicked out for drug use. He transferred to Fresno State in California where he once again tested positive for drugs. During a press conference around that time, he broke down in tears and admitted to his addiction.
Herren was then sent to a 28-day rehabilitation program in Salt Lake City, but he said he paid little attention to what he had learned and continued his drug-fueled life after he returned.
In 1999, Herren was picked by the Nuggets during the NBA draft. He said that he would have to pop pills before games just to maintain his composure. Herren also went on to play for the Boston Celtics before moving abroad with his family and playing for various international basketball teams.
Returning in 2008 to his home town of Fall River, Massachusetts, he said he scored heroin from his dealer, shot up and overdosed. He said he didn’t remember what happened after that, but he awoke to paramedics reviving him and telling him that he had been dead for 30 seconds.
Shortly after this, Herren said he finally decided to get sober and has been ever since.
After listening to Herren’s story, Walt Whitman senior Robert Bottoni said his eyes were opened to pursuing the path of being a “good kid in life.
“We’re losing a lot of lives, year after year, in the Huntington area. I remember walking in the hallway with some of these kids… I never thought anything was wrong with them. But then a couple of days later you hear they passed away.”
After the presentation was over, about 40 students gathered around Herren to thank him and share their stories of how their lives have been touched by addiction.
Herren said, “The strength that some of these kids had in here to talk openly… is why I do this. That just reaffirms to me that this is necessary.”