On Wednesday, November 7, 2012, former professional basketball player and recovering drug addict Chris Herren visited the campus of St. Augustine Prep. Herren’s book, “Basketball Junkie,” which tells the story of his battle with addiction, was the focal point of St. Augustine Prep’s annual Veritas program. Each year a new book is selected, provided to all members of the community, and the author is invited to campus. Chris Herren’s story is one that immediately caught the attention of the student body.
Chris Herren was a local celebrity in Fall River, Massachusetts, as a high school basketball player in a town with a long tradition of basketball stars. Herren played at Boston College for a year before transferring to Fresno State to play under Coach Jerry Tarkanian. He was drafted number 33 overall in the 1999 NBA draft by the Denver Nuggets. He would go on to play for the professional team that he spent his childhood following: the Boston Celtics.
Chris Herren’s basketball career is not the reason that he spoke at St. Augustine Prep on November 7. He spent the entirety of his professional career in the desperate throes of a losing battle against drug and alcohol addiction. The tremendous accomplishment of overcoming this addiction is overshadowed by the work that he is doing in the wake of his recovery: He has dedicated his life to keeping others from making the mistakes that he made.
Herren spoke at length about the “monster” of addiction and how it cost him his playing career, his reputation, his relationships, and very nearly his life. His story takes a turn when Herren finally commits in earnest to the treatment that he so desperately needed. Today, his ongoing recovery is fueled in part by his desire to help others avoid the life choices that he made himself as an 18-year-old young man.
After delivering a powerful, honest, and heart-wrenching story, Herren fielded questions from the students and parents present at the event. One of the students asked Mr. Herren if he considered his story a success story.
Mr. Herren paused and looked at the ground as he considered his response.
“Do I consider myself a success story,” he repeated, and again paused to contemplate his response. “I consider myself blessed. I can tell you honestly that I would much rather be doing what I am doing right now than playing basketball in the NBA.”