Former Boston Celtics player Chris Herren spoke to a gym packed with HHS students on Nov. 18 about how his addiction to drugs almost cost him everything he loved.
Earlier in the week, we watched a video in PE about Herren’s story. He talked about starting to use drugs at 18 and how it almost ruined his family and basketball career. Before the video I thought, “Just another ‘drugs are bad’ speech, we’ve already had DARE.” I was stunned when, in the video, Herren admitted saying the same thing in high school, never paying attention during this kind of speech. The video also emphasized that, despite having all he had ever wanted — a career with his favorite basketball team, a wife and kids — he couldn’t be happy because of his dependence on drugs.
In person, his message was even stronger! He started by saying that after his basketball career, he found a new passion. That passion was helping school children with talks like these. During one presentation, Herren recalled, a girl alone in the back of the bleachers raised her hand to ask a question. Everyone around her was laughing, urging him not to call on her. She eventually said that she didn’t want to ask her question since she thought nobody cared at school anyway. Herren said that girl later emailed him, revealing she has family problems due to alcohol, and that to escape from it, she cut herself. She told him that after his speech, she went to a table where all the people who bullied her sat and showed them the scars on her arms, telling them their teasing had caused those scars. Standing up for herself improved her life, Herren added; people began saying hello to her in the hallways for the first time in a long time. Herren said he was proud to hear that even one person’s life was impacted by his speech, and that even helping one person is worth it.
His talk would go on to cover many important topics like how drugs and alcohol can ruin families, relationships, and friendships. The talk took a surprising turn when someone brought up marijuana being legalized. Herren said he thought it was an awful law, exposing many people to drugs and making drugs seem acceptable.
Students seemed to take the presentation very seriously. Freshman Abby Bulman said, “I thought that speech was not only inspiring, but shows what good a person can imbue society with.”
The thing that I took with me when I left the gym after the presentation was how Herren called the people who on Friday nights can look in the mirror and be okay with themselves, and the people who feel “cool ” without having to drink,”heroes.” I left thinking how that statement is actually right–people who are comfortable in their own skin are heroes.
I think this was one of the more successful speeches about the the importance of staying away from drugs that students get the chance to hear. As Herren said, it’s more important to talk about the first days of doing drugs than the last days. When you think about it, it makes sense. It’s easy to say you’ll never be like that person in the grip of addiction, while trying not to be that person resisting the temptation at the beginning is much harder.