Not Just Another Sex, Drugs, and Rock n’ Roll Talk


“I don’t want to tell you about the worst day, I want to tell you about the first day.” That was what Chris Herren, a former NBA player told Lake Region Union High School students on May 11th, 2023. Since 2009, Chris has spoken to almost 2 million students about drugs, alcohol and addiction. While this speech starts out as any other highschool ‘please don’t do sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll’ talk, it turned out to be anything but. 

When the assembly started, Lake Region Principle Andre Messier introduced the students to the assembly (for all of the students who didn’t look at the papers that were sent home, myself included). As Mr. Messier was announcing the assembly he said, “This is a message we all need to hear and it will resonate with each and every one of us.” 

Later the students found out this statement was more true than expected. It was then continued on by a crew from the Journey to Recovery community center, based in Newport, VT, who help people of all ages with the struggles of addiction. Lila Bennett said, “Addiction can grab on to anyone, for any reason.” 

There is no way to know that you will fall into addiction. You can be from a struggling family or from a family that seems to have, or does have everything, you can still be pulled into addiction. Ms. Bennett goes on to say that “The thing we all have in common is disappointment and struggle.” No matter what home or situation you are from every person is struggling with their own battles and dealing with their own internal or even external disappointment. While severity and situation will range from person to person, EVERYONE is dealing with disappointment and struggle. 

Up to this point, it all seems like a relatively normal guest speaker assembly: everyone has problems, don’t do drugs, yada, yada, same as last year and same as next year. While valuable information is a topic that tends to be pretty consistent in information and stories. 

Then the student heard the story of Chris Herren’s life. Chris started as a Basketball player in Durfee High School, located in Fall River Valley. He led a relatively normal highschool life (all but the part about being a highschool basketball phenomenon) and didn’t start out addicted. His father was a drunk when he was young and while he was younger he hated alcohol for what it had done for his family. Then when he was 13 years old he got curious. He tried the alcohol that had ruined his family so much, and he didn’t understand why his father liked it so much, even so he carried on highschool dabbling and partying here and there. 

When Chris got to his first year of college things changed. He was on the college basketball team and just got back from interviews with magazines and newspapers, when he entered his dorm there were two girls, and his college roommate doing lines of cocaine. They asked him to join and at first he said no, but they promised it wouldn’t hurt him so he gave it a try. Chris said he “sat down with those girls and decided to do my first line of cocaine at 18 years old.” He later became addicted to the very cocaine that he was promised wouldn’t hurt him and went on a downward spiral. He got kicked off of the college basketball team three weeks in for multiple failed drug tests, and was sent home after becoming addicted to oxycontin. 

Later he was accepted to another college to continue his basketball career and once again ruined his chances, while he was originally lined up to be an NBA first pick, he was once again caught with drugs, and this time he was sent to rehab for 28 days in Salt Lake City, Utah, at just 21 years old. After he got out of rehab most teams in the NBA considered him high risk. Chris wasn’t chosen in the 1st draft, instead the Denver Nuggets selected Chris in the second round of the 1999 draft. The Denver Nuggets forced Chris to live a sober healthy lifestyle through constant supervision for the year that he was on their team. 

Once he was traded to the Boston Celtics, however, he once again fell under the control of drugs without a supportive team to watch out for him. A day Chris will always remember is June 4th 2008 the day he overdosed on heroin and crashed into a curb. He was only a few minutes away from his childhood home. He was pronounced dead for 30 seconds before he was revived. When he entered the hospital he said that to the staff he was just another junkie. After his hospital stay he was sent to two different rehab centers for a total of 45 days. His wife went into labor while he was in rehab. Chris went home to spend time with his wife, went home that same night and immediately got high. 

Chris recounts his wife saying, “Go back to treatment or don’t come back to me ever again.” After that Chris went back to rehab for close to a year. Chris is now sober and since 2009 has talked to over 2 million students. 

Chris said, “I dreamed of this for a long, long time as a little kid.” Being a basketball player wasn’t a passing thing, not a small coincidence, it was a dream of childhood. Addiction isn’t something that you choose with no dreams in mind , for as Lila Bennett said, “Addiction can grab on to anyone, for any reason.” It is a warning to anyone with a dream and hopes for the future, for Chris said, “Once opioids entered my system they became an everyday physical addiction.” Once you have started you can’t stop and you can spiral away from your hopes and dreams, no matter how important those dreams, and life plans matter to you. 

Addiction can attack people with low self-esteem and worth. Chris says to ask yourself is it true that “my self-esteem and self worth has dropped?” He also says, “I wish I liked myself enough” to not have tried drugs, to not have fallen into the trap that he didn’t know laid ahead of him. If you wouldn’t want the life that you are living in or headed towards for your family, why do you want it for yourself? 

“Why do you want more for them and less for yourself already?” asked Chris.  

While it may have seemed like just another sex, drugs, and rock’n roll talk, it was anything but a sex, drugs, and rock’n roll sex talk from Chris Herren.