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Opioid Awareness

How the NBA’s Chris Herren is Leading the Charge for Substance Recovery

In 2009, Chris Herren celebrated his first year of sobriety. Two years later he founded The Herren Project, a nonprofit organization that offers support for people suffering from substance abuse.

“I’m just grateful that over the last eleven years I’ve been part of it, and I’ve been able to share it with others,” he said. “That’s the profound part of this. I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to give hope.”

Journey to recovery

When Herren’s own path to sobriety began in 2008, his family and friends were his support network.

“I wanted to be the father my kids deserved,” he said. “I wanted to be the husband that my wife married and the son that [my] parents could be proud of.”

Support from his family inspired Herren to use his platform to give back to others via the Herren Project.

“I was not only able to see but to feel what recovery did for me and my family,” Herren said. “Addiction breaks the hearts of everybody that loves you. I wanted to be part of the healing process.”

A way forward

Through the Herren Project, he has spoken to millions of school kids and parents about coping with substance abuse. He encourages parents to actively communicate with their children about drinking and drugs.

“Most parents, when their kid comes home drunk for the first time, are hot,” he said. “The first question is where did you get it? Who did you do it with? Parents don’t ask ‘why.’ And here’s a moment when your son or daughter is under the influence, and it’s an opportunity to understand.”

Schools also need to play a role in supporting children, yet they are often insufficiently resourced. “Guidance counselors in this country are not supported. They’re overwhelmed,” Herren said. “I speak at high schools where there are a thousand kids and four guidance counselors.”

Raising awareness

Herren is currently promoting his new documentary, “The First Day,” streaming online.

“When it comes to addiction, especially with our children, we oftentimes remind them of the worst day, and we forget about the first day,” he explained. “We talk about how it ends rather than why it became.”

For Herren, recovering from substance abuse is a lifelong journey. “There is no finish line in recovery. You don’t break the tape and run through it,” he said.

Although well into his recovery, he still felt the stigma of addiction. “Even as a recovering heroin addict, in the very early stages of my recovery, I didn’t think there was anything out there for me,” he said. “I truly believed that I was too damaged to do anything.”

Through his work with the Herren Project, which has helped thousands of students, Herren has found hope in himself.

“Sobriety gives us a gift,” he said, “and that gift is that we are ourselves 24/7. For me, that’s an edge in life.”

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