Chris Herren does not sugar coat. At all. The entire student body and and staff of East Greenwich High School sat rapt during his monologue Friday, as he recounted his very steep fall from grace into a herion addiction that cost him a career in the NBA and, on more than one occasion, nearly his own life.
Herren, of Fall River, would seem a strange role model for the students of East Greenwich High School. And yet, it was both the anti-drug CWC (Citizens Who Care) and the EG Booster Club who arranged to bring Herren to EGHS.
"If the only thing you every did was have a recovering speaker, you’re not that effective," said EG's substance abuse counselor Bob Houghtaling. "But if you use someone like Chris Herren, it can serve as an impetus for additional programming."
Not only is Herren a powerful anti-drug speaker, Houghtaling said, "he appeals to athletes, to males, to adolescent angst."
Some details of Herren's story were hard to ignore: the friend from high school who sold him pills for the first time – "this kid who I'd known since I was 6 years old, who would have sat beside me in the bleachers today."
The details of his story tumbled out as he paced around the gymnasium, seemingly needing the move, to keep moving away from the words he was saying. Herren's was not a pretty or quick story of redemption. In fact, he went back to drugs so often in his narrative that you couldn't help wonder, what would turn him around.
It was, finally, when he was told to leave, to disappear, to stop causing his wife and, by now, three children, such harm.
His organization, Project Purple, looks to influence one person at a time. In a gymnasium full of hundreds of people Friday, Herren said he'd feel good if one person, one person, was emboldened enough by his talk to seek help.
That's because Herren knows, that one person, it could have been him.
To see Herren interviewed last year on CNN, click here.