WARREN, N.J. (AP) — Drug and alcohol addiction cost Chris Herren his dream job of playing basketball as a hometown hero for the Boston Celtics and nearly destroyed his family.
The son of an alcoholic, Herren had been drinking and drugging since the days when he was a 1994 McDonald’s All-American on the Fall River, Massachusetts, high school basketball team, he recently shared during a near-capacity assembly at Watchung Hills Regional High School in Warren.
Despite being a star player bound for college glory, Herren said that a lack of self-esteem and self-worth drove him to drink and do drugs.
His message to keep others from doing the same and awaken parents and school and civic authorities to the reasons why addiction needs to be addressed as a disease, such as diabetes, is why organizers said they presented the chat.
“As parents, we sometimes hover over our kids,” Herren said. “We apply pressure on them athletically and academically. We’re right over their shoulder or on the sideline or in the bleachers. But when our kids need us most, we take a timeout, and to me, that’s sad. Academics and athletics are the focus, but on Friday and Saturday nights and in their social life, we forget about them.
“Recovery put me back in front of a mirror, but there are still days that I don’t like what I see,” he continued. “And that’s why I think self-esteem and self-worth play a big part in this. And I truly believe that we don’t serve our kids well enough with that stuff. . Why wouldn’t you want your kids to walk into school and sit in the classroom and feel empowered and motivated? And teach them skills to communicate and talk openly about what they’re struggling with? Why don’t we do that for them?”
In the wake of Herren’s chat, organizers — the Watchung Hills Regional Municipal Alliance, a substance abuse prevention program that serves Warren, Watchung, Green Brook and Long Hill; the Watchung Hills Board of Education; and the township — said they plan to do just that.
Jack Walsh, chairman of the Municipal Alliance, said the program will help to fund a series of talks that will deal with substance abuse prevention, suicide prevention and mental health. The first will be a discussion between parents and Somerset County Prosecutor Michael H. Robertson on March 6 at Watchung Hills, health educator Jill Gleason said.
“Trying to talk about drugs and alcohol is very difficult with parents because there’s a lot of…