Chris Herren played professional basketball for the Boston Celtics and Denver Nuggets. While playing, he struggled with substance abuse and drug addiction.
I am writing to tell you that the path you take is a tough one, but you will survive and be very happy someday.
When I look at you I see a kind, smart, athletic boy. You come from a lineage of basketball and there are unreasonable expectations. You are programmed to be tough and win.
In high school you play in sold-out gyms, getting taunted. Wearing your name on your jersey isn’t easy. The scoreboard has much more meaning than fun. As your spotlight gets brighter, you feel uncomfortable and confused, not knowing your losses are as important as the wins . . . both will teach you valuable life lessons.
At fifteen you won’t understand the power of the red Solo cup full of beer and the blunt that will lead you to stronger and more dangerous drugs.
Your senior year, the country’s top colleges recruit you. But you choose to stay close to home. Fall River is your safe place. Your relationship with your mom is unconditional and immense. Your father and brother offer you protection from the madness around you. Heather is your sanity and one of the best things you hang on to in your life . . . and one day she will be your wife.
At Boston College, you will be introduced to one line of cocaine, and although you promise yourself one time, that one line will be the reason you get kicked off campus and barely make it through Fresno State. That one line will last fourteen years. And although you’re gifted enough to get drafted into the NBA by the Denver Nuggets, your struggles will continue chasing that one line.
At twenty-two you will spend twenty dollars on a little yellow pill called OxyContin, and that 40mg pill will turn into 1600mgs a day, and that twenty dollars will turn into a twenty-thousand-dollar-a-month drug habit. And that one little yellow pill will have you outside the Boston Garden in your Celtics uniform ten minutes before a game, waiting for your dealer. That little yellow pill will strip you of your NBA dreams and goals and you will no longer be invited back into the league. Two years later, that one little yellow pill will become a syringe that will stay in your arm for the next six years.
Christopher, addiction will follow you wherever you play. Addiction will be your toughest opponent.
As a husband and father, you will spend every dime you ever made on drugs and put your family in debt. You will feel defeated and at times suicidal. But one day please know, you will find it in you to fight back.
On August 1, 2008, your awakening begins. You are granted a day off campus from treatment to see the birth of your son. Yet again, you fail. After his birth, you walk out of the hospital and go get high. Upon returning from your relapse, your counselor tells you to pick up the phone and promise your wife you will never call her again, and to tell your three kids their dad has died in a car accident, because you don’t deserve a family and you should let them live. But instead you pray for sobriety; and from that prayer on, God willing, you will stay sober.
Treatment and faith gave you sobriety. It will be your life’s greatest gift. Sobriety will enable you to become the man you always wanted to be. You will find your life’s purpose from your struggles and you will share your story in the hope that it may help just one person. You will be a voice for those who are sick and suffering. You will no longer have shame.
And you will live one day at a time.