You Should Know Who Chris Herren Is

My family suffered a blow recently with the death of someone very young.  Drugs and alcohol played a large role in his death. And while I believe it was the underlying problems that led him to a life of substance abuse, the substances ended up getting the best of him.  This death has hit me extremely hard. So hard that it has me rethinking everything about my own life.

I would normally cope with tragedy, or anything very stressful, by drinking alcohol.  While it leaves long lasting negative effects, like hangovers and financial troubles and a loss of self-esteem and a faulty digestive system, it’s the most expedient way I know to feel better.  But expediency has needed to take a backseat at the moment. It doesn’t feel appropriate to use a substance in this situation because that substance was a contributing factor to his death.

Instead, I’ve chosen to feel everything as myself.  And in order to try to understand the path someone goes down with substance abuse I’ve been engaging with a meaningful piece of content everyday on the topic.  I love the ESPN series “30 for 30.” I’ve been involved with athletics since I started walking and I have an obsession with the human side of every story, so naturally this series is a fit for me.  Years ago I watched the 3F3 episode titled “Unguarded.” It details the life story of Chris Herren and his journey from high school basketball standout to NBA draftee to drug/alcohol addict to recovering drug/alcohol addict.  I cried the first time I watched it and I still cry when I watch it now.

He has become an absolute hero of mine.  And it has nothing to do with his athletic career.  It has everything to do with the fact that he is truly making a difference in our society.  He has been sober 11.5 years now and dedicates his life to educating high school students about the dangers of drugs and alcohol.  His mission is important because of the following statistics:

  • You are 40 times more likely to have substance abuse issues in your life if substance abuse issues run in your family
  • 90% of all addictions start in the teenage years
  • Many folks with substance abuse issues will take a crack at sobriety
    • 5% will make it two months
      • 5% of the folks who make it two months will make it to two years

Some digestible math on that:

  • 400 folks will attempt to overcome substance abuse
    • 20 of those 400 will remain sober for 2 months
      • 1 of those 20 will remain sober for 2 years

1 out of every 400 people caught in the grip of substance abuse will remain sober for two years.  And this is all a product of touching substances while in high school or before. Today I watched a TedTalk presentation by Chris called “The Game Has Changed.”  I highly recommend this video. It’s only 16 minutes long. You can find the link to it on YouTube here.  “Unguarded” is 75 minutes long.  You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll cringe, but eventually you’ll bask in the glory of Chris’ triumph. 

Two things have become apparent to me from his life story: 1) No matter how hard a person falls, they can always stand back up and do wonderful things. And 2) We all need to put in the work to find our contribution to the health and well-being of all human beings. We need to live for something greater, something beyond ourselves.  That’s why you should know who Chris Herren is.

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1 Comment

  1. Everything we experience in life shapes who we are. We choose to make the difficult ones a moment that builds up our strength of character, our empathy for others, and our love and true appreciation for the gifts life has bestowed upon us. I will be looking forward to your writings. You are in my thoughts.

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