HARVARD -- Former Boston Celtic-turned-addict Chris Herren, stopped by The Bromfield School to share how his life did a complete 360 from one of fame and fortune to heartbreak and dependency.
Herren had no idea that the mistake he made as an 18-year-old freshman at Boston College would haunt him for much of his adult life.
Herren's description of his family seemed to resonate with the capacity crowd. Herren's father was a Statehouse politician, he said, and his mother successful in corporate America.
How could a kid with a solid family foundation steer himself toward hard drugs? Simply because he figured it would be nothing more than just one fun night, he said, a sentiment many high-school and college-aged students possess.
That one night of fun turned into the worst 14 years of Herren's life.
"I said to myself, I am going to do this drug one time," said Herren. "One time and I won't ever do it again. I took the dollar bill, did a line of cocaine and walked out of the room. I had no idea at 18 years old that the thing I promised myself one time would be a 14-year nightmare."
Herren was injured during his first game as a Boston College Eagle and he turned back to cocaine. He figured the school wouldn't test him again for drugs but Herren's third failed drug test resulted in him being kicked off the Boston College campus, just five months after he'd arrived.
The BC administration told Herren to pack his bags and be off campus by the end of the day. Herren left and flew 3,000 miles to Fresno State, where head coach Jerry Tarkanian decided to give him a chance to play.
Tarkanian did everything in his power to assure that Herren had a strong support system. He arranged a network of middle-aged men to help keep Herren out of trouble and drug-free for his entire sophomore season.
Herren said that year was the best of his college career. In that season, Herren averaged 20 points per game, he was All-Conference and was talking to NBA teams.
But Herren's addiction got the best of him and he decided that he wanted to be a normal college student. Herren returned to Massachusetts for a prime-time Saturday afternoon game at 2 p.m. with UMass inside its gym, fittingly known as "The Cage."
Herren went out the night before and had some drinks with his buddies from Fall River, and he made a late-night call to his cocaine dealer. He did lines of cocaine from midnight until 1:30 p.m. the next day.
Herren checked into a rehab facility in Salt Lake City, Utah, for 28 days, after he admitted on national television, following the UMass game, that he was a cocaine addict. He finished his career at Fresno State in 1999 and was drafted in the second-round of the 1999 NBA draft by the Denver Nuggets.
Herren's rookie season in Denver was a large success, but a trade to Boston in Oct. of 2011, caused the 22-year-old to resort back to substance abuse, this time abusing painkillers. Herren was released from the Celtics on Oct. 31, and signed a contract to play in Europe. Herren described that he had his first experience with shooting heroin while in Italy. Herren played for five more seasons in Europe.
His addiction continued to rage for two more years after his professional career in Europe came to a close. Herren's dependency on drugs caused him to leave his wife and kids at the airport while he was strung out behind a convenience store. He has died and been brought back to life twice, as a result of overdosing.
The athlete has since cleaned up his life and has been sober since 2008.
The message Monday night was that one night of fun can quickly turn into a lifetime of addiction.
Bromfield Principal Jim O'Shea commented on what bringing Herren accomplished.
"Last year we did the national youth risk survey," said O'Shea. "We got some data from the survey that our adolescents were involved in things. We really need to start bolstering the education around them."
Herren encouraged parents in the audience to ask the tough questions if they suspect their child has a drug or alcohol problem. Herren instructed parents if they believe their kids are using drugs to pick up a home drug test at CVS, and have their children take it to be sure. According to Herren, the biggest drug problem in high schools stems from pills found in the medicine cabinet, because they are small, odorless and undetectable. Herren stated that addiction to pills such as Oxycontin and Percocets kill twice as many people as heroin and cocaine.
Audience members asked about Herren's family situation, crystal meth being sprayed on marijuana plants,if he still drinks, and how do you know when your child is using opiates?
"If you think your child is using, put light in his pupils and they will stay tiny, " said Herren on the telltale signs of opiate abuse. "If he or she sweats when they shouldn't be sweating, kids become disconnected from their family, and if their grades start slipping. Once you do identify it, they will never escape."
Herren challenged students who are facing trouble with addictions to drugs, alcohol or even self-harm (cutting) to seek help.
Herren ended the assembly with a simple message to Bromfield students.
"To the kids in here, I want you to go home and say to yourself, 'How come on Friday and Saturday nights I can't just be me?" said Herren. "How come I have to put something in my body to be someone different? Every kid in here has a dream to become somebody."