Editor’s Note: This week , Chris Herren, former NBA player, Division 1 College and High School Basketball star, came to Deep Run High School to share his journey of recovery and the road he traveled to get there.The story was painful. The story was raw and real . Chris Herren shared and the audience felt the pain. His message was one of strength and courage. I sat with my oldest daughter, who graduated from Deep Run in 2012. Please read her piece below for a closer look into the impact of this night.
What I want to share with you from this night is this, Chris Herren may not “fit” the image or description you have on addict , but, Chris Herren lost almost everything, including his life due to his addiction. Chris had it all, college scholarships playing the game he loved. Playing in the NBA on the team he dreamed of being on – the Boston Celtics. A wife, children, success – all of it. But, NONE of it mattered, his addiction took over and with it, took his dreams, his family and so much more on a path of destruction.
Chris shares how he hurt many along the way, he shares with great detail, the pain he caused but could not stop. Chris tells us the pain his kids and wife felt and his inability to do anything to stop the pain while in his addiction.
I applaud Chris for taking the time to share his story with us as well as sharing it over 200+ times a year across the country in hopes to change one life for the better. I applaud Chris for maintaining sobriety for over 8 years and living one day at a time. I am thankful to have been in the audience to hear his message.
I learned from Chris that we as a community to need to embrace and acknowledge these issues that are real, that being private will not help. Deep Run High School, in the last 4 years has lost 8 students to this disease. That is just one school in our community, our children matter and we have to do all we can to help. We need to open our eyes and do what we can to make a difference. As Chris says, “It is OK to ask for help and to share your struggle.”
Chris, if you ever question the impact you are making and the good you are doing, read on, I am forever grateful.
Below is my daughter’s summary from being in the audience. This wasn’t planned. We also have some thoughts from other students in the audience below hers. This is a lengthy article, but one that needs to be read and shared.
On Tuesday night, I went to Deep Run High School with my mom to listen to an internationally known speaker by the name of Chris Herren. I actually was not set on attending, as the topic of discussion was recovery and addiction, which are both things I am oh too familiar with. I am an individual who struggles with addiction and sought treatment in 2015. I prayed prior to the assembly and decided to let go of whatever it was that was holding me back and just GO! I wasn’t quite sure of what to expect or how the experience would make me feel over all, which had me feeling fearful. I was certain that I could learn something from Chris’s story and I was right, not only did his story move me in ways I can not begin to explain, it was extremely empowering and motivating. I ended up raising my hand in the Q&A portion (which I still am shocked that I did) and I publicly made mention of the fact that I was a student who graduated from Deep Run in 2012 and that I am actively trying to maintain sobriety .
I had the opportunity and privilege to personally interview Chris Herren with my mother, Carissa Garabedian the following day at Deep Run High School. There were two specific moments in the interview that really stuck with me:
First was when Chris said, “It’s not about the worst day, it’s about the first day.” I identified with this line so deeply because the first day is the one that leads to the next and the one that will haunt you and follow you in addiction. That first time you drink, or use a drug and the feeling or sensation that it gives your body/brain registers a memory in the mind which is what the addict will continue to chase and chase for as long as they let the drug or alcohol run them.
Second was “you are who you hang with.” This was something my mother and father told me on and on again throughout middle school, high school, even college and I always ‘yes’d’ them not fully grasping the meaning. This statement is so true.
While struggling with maintaining sobriety , I have learned that surrounding yourself with successful and well minded people will attract the same results to your own life. If you surround yourself with negative people who use drugs and drink constantly; you should expect to reap the kind of results that drugs and alcohol are known to bring.
For me, looking back on myself in active addiction, I was hopelessly chasing a feeling of happiness and making an attempt to control the natural cycles of life. You don’t need to hit rock bottom to get the help that you deserve, and at some point I figured out that as hard as I have made my life for myself and my family up until a certain point, I didn’t want it to be hard anymore and it didn’t have to be. Recovery is not easy, and sometimes I have to get through it one minute at a time.
This world and community needs more people like Chris to speak up about it and recognize that this “thing” is real and that it is ok to not be ok. Although the crowd was over 400 people to hear Chris Herren’s assembly, there was room for at least 400 more. It was a powerful statement. Chris shared that he heard our community was a “proud and private one” and that this “is a recipe for disaster”. He’s right. We need to come together and see the real issues and address them. So many believe that this will never happen to them or their children. My parents didn’t plan or see this coming. This can happen to anyone. Chris strongly urges families to ask their children about their mental health, how they are doing, how they are feeling etc. There are so many resources and avenues for help, you can even remain anonymous if you so choose.
I am confident that many readers had no knowledge of my addiction or of the road I am traveling for recovery, however I will say that the more open I am about it, the healthier and easier it will be for me to live my own truth.
To learn more about Chris Herren and his story, here is his website.
Sophia , age 16 : It was really eye opening to hear about the real impacts that drugs and alcohol have made on the lives of so many high school students.
Murfee, age 17: He asked us if we would be “proud of ourselves if our grandparents, parents, or younger siblings knew who we really were,” (something along those lines) and it made me step back and question who I really am and who I really want to be.
Allie, age 17 : He said it wasn’t about drugs or alcohol it was about self esteem which hit me really hard because everyone always turns to those things when they aren’t feeling too good about themselves which isn’t how you should be handling it
Alyssa, age 17: It was very relatable when he talked about a younger sibling and how we want the best for them and how they wanna aspire to be just like you and how I am that role model for my sister and I should be setting the right example for her
Cole, age 17 : Chris Herren took an approach to the crowd of high schoolers that no one expected. He described real stories that made you think about yourself as a person and what you are going to for life. Most importantly, how conversations are necessary between friendships.
Chase, age 16: Hearing Chris Herren reminded me to stay away from drugs and alcohol because even if you only try it once, “Its not the worst day, its the first day”. For me, this means that the drug addiction cycle starts with one experiment, and then becomes impossible to stop. Broken promises, hurting loved ones, and uncontrollable addiction; these are not things I want in my life.
Mary Katherine , age 16 : I was fortunate enough to hear Chris Herren speak on both Tuesday Night and Wednesday morning. I was impacted by his brutal honesty when telling his story. He was blunt in his responses and he made it very clear that no matter where you are in life there is opportunity for growth.
Hannah , age 16 : His speeches were very eye-opening and appealed to everyone. His journey and how he overcame the difficulties were very inspiring
Thanks to everyone who shared here, let’s keep the conversation going and Chris Herren- THANK YOU!