Former NBA player speaks out on recovery from drug addiction

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — Chris Herren has traveled all over the world.

But the former NBA player told a crowd Thursday night at Chambersburg Area Senior High School that Franklin County is no different than anywhere he has been.

“I don’t think where you come from matters, because heroin doesn’t care,” said Herren, who began drinking his alcoholic father’s beer at age 14, took his first cocaine at 18 in college and began taking opioids while playing in the NBA. “Drugs and alcohol could care less where you come from.”

Herren was a McDonald’s high school all-American and, despite his struggles with addiction, he played college basketball and was drafted into the NBA.

Herren played college ball at Boston College and Fresno (Calif.) State. He was drafted in 1999 by the Denver Nuggets, and spent two years in the NBA with the Nuggets and Boston Celtics before taking his talents overseas.

“Is it a dream? I was a broken kid who had unbelievable talent that worked really hard for something, but the whole time broken,” he said. “I’m not afraid to admit that, so when that so-called dream was achieved, I was the furthest thing from ready for it.”

“I was given multiple chances to get well and, by the grace of God, the last time it stuck, and it has for nine years. I had to believe in myself. I had a beautiful wife and kids. I had to find that fire within me to believe I was capable of a better life. Not only capable of it, but making a better life for my wife and family,” he said.

Herren has been sharing his story for seven years, and came to Chambersburg at a presentation sponsored by the Franklin County (Pa.) Drug Task Force.

“We’re in this fight together as a community and as a team, and failure is not an option,” Franklin County District Attorney Matt Fogal said in introducing Herren.

Herren said society has gone horribly wrong in how it presents drug abuse to youths, and prevention is the answer.

“I believe we have to invest more in our children. I believe reporters have to stop focusing on the worst day and start focusing on the first day — start challenging our children in the beginning rather than showing them pictures in the end,” Herren said.

“When it comes to kids, we need to start asking why. We need to challenge our children to hang out with children they’ve known their whole lives without getting drunk on a Friday night. I think kids want to be asked those questions. If you ask that question, it shows vulnerability on both sides,” he said.