Episode 74: Chris Herren, Substance Abuse
In this episode, Karen speaks with Chris Herren, a high school basketball legend from Fall River, Massachusetts. He was named to the 1994 McDonald’s All-American team and began his collegiate career at Boston College. After failing several drug tests, Chris transferred to Fresno State where he was one of the best point guards in the country. In 1999, Chris was drafted by the Denver Nuggets and then in 2000, traded to his hometown team, the Boston Celtics. What no one knew during Chris’s collegiate and professional basketball career was that Chris struggled with substance abuse disorder. Chris’s journey to recovery has been documented in the bestselling memoir, Basketball Junkie, the Emmy-nominated ESPN Films documentary, Unguarded, and in countless local, national and international stories by The New York Times, The Boston Globe and Sports Illustrated, among others. Chris has made it his life’s mission to facilitate honest discussions about substance abuse disorder and wellness and has conducted presentations on the subjects to over 1 million students and community members since 2011.
Chris Herren Bio
An extraordinary basketball player, Chris Herren was a celebrated star in his native Fall River, MA before graduating high school. He went on to play at Boston College and Fresno State, two seasons in the NBA – including one with his hometown team, the Boston Celtics – and seven seasons overseas before losing it all to the disease of addiction.
With the unwavering support of his family and friends, Chris has been sober since August 1, 2008, and he now shares his story with the goal of making a positive difference in the lives of others.
His recovery journey has been documented in the bestselling memoir, “Basketball Junkie,” the Emmy-nominated ESPN Films documentary, “Unguarded” and in countless local, national and international stories by The New York Times, The Boston Globe and Sports Illustrated, among others. Through Herren Talks, Chris has spoken to over 1 million students and community members, sparking honest discussions about substance use disorder and wellness.
In 2011, Chris grew his vision of support for others when he founded the nonproﬁt Herren Project. Through the organization, Chris and his team empower schools and communities to make healthy choices, while also guiding families through recovery. In 2018, Chris also founded Herren Wellness, a residential health and wellness program that helps guests lead healthy, substance-free lives.
Intro Voices 00:04
Where do I go? it only happened when I was singled out. The phone calls began about one month ago. And what is hazing? Something happened to me when I was suffering. I'm worried about my safety. He said he was sorry, someone helped me. Where can I get help? Can someone help me? This is You Matter!, a podcast for the NYU community developed by the Department of Campus Safety.
Karen Ortman 00:37
Hi, everyone, and welcome back to You Matter!, a podcast created to teach, inspire and motivate members of the NYU community who have been victimized in some form or fashion, and so identify resources both on and off campus that can help. I'm your host Karen Orman Associate Vice President of campus safety operations at the Department of Campus Safety and a retired law enforcement professional. Today I welcome Chris Herren. Chris is a high school basketball legend from Fall River, Massachusetts. He was named to the 1994 McDonald's all American team and began his collegiate career at Boston College. After failing several drug tests, Chris transferred to Fresno State, where he was one of the best point guards in the country. In 1999, Chris was drafted by the Denver Nuggets and then in 2000, traded to his hometown team, the Boston Celtics. What no one knew during Chris's collegiate and professional basketball career was that Chris was struggling with substance abuse disorder. Chris's journey to recovery has been documented in the best selling memoir Basketball Junkie, the Emmy nominated ESPN films documentary Unguarded and in countless local, national and international stories. Chris has made it his life's mission to facilitate honest discussions about substance abuse disorder and wellness, and has conducted presentations on subjects to over 1 million students and community members since 2011. Chris, welcome to you matter.
Chris Herren 02:10
Thank you, thank you so much for having me on.
Karen Ortman 02:13
Your story really epitomizes the purpose of this podcast, which is to teach, inspire and motivate others. You were a superstar athlete in Fall River, Massachusetts, you were awarded a full scholarship to Boston College, seemingly on an upward trajectory. But this is really where your downward spiral began. And my understanding is that at Boston College is when you tried cocaine for the first time. So tell me, did you think when you tried cocaine, it was a one-time thing at that moment.
Chris Herren 02:51
You know, what, 18 years old I, I was put in a position, you know, to make a decision on whether or not I was gonna experiment try that night. I had every intention on doing it once. And just kind of checking the box. You know, here I am in college freshman year, no one around, people were drinking, smoking. And, you know, I walk into the room and there's some cocaine on the desk. And you know, never would I ever imagined that, you know, I would take that drug for another 14 years after that moment. So, yeah, the intent was, was to to check the box. And unfortunately, unfortunately, you know, that's the scariest thing about, about addiction. You know, nobody, nobody knows who has it. You know, Nobody. Nobody knows who's gonna suffer.
Karen Ortman 03:51
Yeah. And do you recall based upon that one, initial sort of trial with that substance? How did it make you feel? What do you recall? You know, saying to yourself, I, I gotta try this again.
Chris Herren 04:10
Well, you know, I think some people are attracted to it for different reasons. Right. And you know, and I say this and people who have done cocaine or or have similar experiences, as I with cocaine can identify. Cocaine was like, my emotional truth serum. You know, it. It gave me the ability to sit down for lengthy periods of time and talk very openly and honest, honestly, about my childhood, my relationships, my parents, you know, the stresses that I've had in athletics, I would get into very, very deep conversations. And that was something that was attracted to me with cocaine. Yeah. Interesting. Yeah.
Karen Ortman 05:02
And without being under the influence of a substance, you were not able to do that.
No, no, I didn't have those skills. I, you know, I wasn't raised with them, it was something that, you know, we just kind of kept guarded and threw ourselves. You know, and back then there wasn't much attention put on to, you know, the psyche of college athletes and what they go through and the pressures and, and the stresses that come with it. Mental health was not, you know, was not even a topic.
Karen Ortman 05:36
yeah, so that one time experience or so you thought actually turned into a 14 year habit with a, or it's probably more accurate to say, it's an addiction.
Chris Herren 05:52
Cocaine for me was not a daily thing, right. I didn't jump into the world of, of daily dependency until I started with opiates. You know, and for the students out there, that's why cocaine can be so tricky, right? Because, you know, you'll have, you'll have one rough night, and then you won't do it for another two months. And then there'll be another rough night. And that's kind of the pattern that I adopted to college it would be one or two rough nights in a row and then make three or four weeks off.
Karen Ortman 06:30
So you brought up opiates tell me how that evolved. Your your use of cocaine evolved into opiates?
Chris Herren 06:42
Well, I just think, you know, my, the addiction was always untreated. And you know, it was any any substance that I took that could allow me to escape emotionally or mentally and at times, physically. You know, that, that that was something that, you know, I was attracted to in the worst way. And, you know, I had knee surgeries in high school, I've had multiple injuries in college playing sports and painkillers were prescribed pretty regularly. I was one of the unlucky ones who liked the feeling. Yeah. Like I've been, I've been married for 23 years, my wife has had multiple surgeries. And you know, if you give her a Percocet, she's on it. So she doesn't want it. You give me one I smile. Yeah. And that's just basically what happened to me. So, you know, what, eventually, you know, my occasional opiate, taking a painkiller, hearing that throughout high school and college transition, when I was playing in the NBA, and I was introduced to oxycoton. And, you know, that was something that, you know, was completely unmanageable. I had no idea of the potency and, and the principles to attach to oxycoton.
Karen Ortman 08:09
Yeah. So before we even get to that, you're, you're at Boston College. And at some point, you leave Boston College, why?
You know, three failed drug tests. I was, I was embarrassed. You know, I here I am a kid, you know, big time prospect, one of the highest recruited ranked prospects in BC history. You know, I just did a huge photoshoot for Sports Illustrated. You know, I was on top of the world, and, you know, and I'm, and I'm battling with marijuana, and, and cocaine. And, you know, people ask me all the time, like, you know, once I entered the world where drug tests were mandatory, that's when I realized I had a problem. You know, and I think there's a lot of kids in college right now. You know, if you put them on mandatory drug testing, they would see how hard it is for them to quit.
Karen Ortman 09:06
I think you're right. When you left Boston College was that of your own volition? Or were you told you were leaving Boston College?
It was a little bit of both. Right. I mean, in hindsight, it was a little bit of both, they wanted me out. I wasn't good for the brand. You know, there's no doubt about that. You know, in fact, in 1994 95, like, you know, substance use, I mean, it was taboo. You know, like the back then, you know, the suburbs weren't doing drugs, you know, and
Karen Ortman 09:40
for that people were aware of, or we're talking about, much like, you know, it's still that stigmatized subject today, which is really another purpose for this podcast, because we need to talk about this. So you left Boston College and then you had another opportunity and you went to Fresno State where you You were a superstar, and did very well. Was your focus directed towards at that point, maintaining your addiction, or being the best ballplayer or both?
It was both, there was always both right and wrong. It was always completely manageable. And in hindsight, you know, I look back, and I think I trained so hard at basketball to keep my secret of addiction. You know, I think I played so hard and put so much time into it to kind of mask a struggle. And, you know, 19 years old, you know, that geographical cure of moving 3000 miles away? You know, that that only, You know, that's temporary. Right. And once, you know, I got to Fresno, and started meeting people. And, you know, one thing about one thing about drug addiction, you know, there's a universal language. Yeah, you know, you figure it out pretty quickly. Yeah. Where to where to find it? You know, so after about a year, they're focusing on my recovery, focusing on on my addiction, and doing really well. You know, I slipped up again, and, you know, untreated and veered away from my program, and started engaging back into partying and drinking. And with that came cocaine.
Karen Ortman 11:31
And at some point, you were drafted by the Denver Nuggets, continued using drugs. How were you able to hide it? Or did you? Could you hide it?
Chris Herren 11:46
No. My time with the Denver Nuggets was probably my healthiest time, just because I had really good teammates who wanted me to do so. Well. Yeah. You know, and kept a close eye on me. Yeah. And they would be right. Like, they were, there were serious red flags, like I would go on road trips. And, you know, when everyone was going home, at one o'clock in the morning, two o'clock in the morning, I was going back out to another club. So there were there were definitely moments that year that my teammates would see me and say, oh, like this, he takes it, he has another gear. But for the most part, that was my healthiest. And, you know, I was introduced to oxycoton in that time period,
Karen Ortman 12:31
because of an injury.
No, No, not because of an injury, because, you know, a mutual friend of mine who I grew up with who you know, in 1999, they would just come in around nobody had any real education or knowledge of you know, about the drug. You know, I was just told that, you know, it's like taking five Vicodins or five Percocet in one pill. And so I was introduced to that, and I went back for my second season with the Nuggets with you know, depending on you know, oxycoton and physically addicted. And shortly after I was traded, so,
Karen Ortman 13:16
right to Boston.
To Boston and it was like a dream come true. You know, here I am this this, this local kid who you know, had this really rocky road. I mean, I was you know, in Sports Illustrated as a local Boston kid for Boston College. I lose that and to rise again and be a become a Boston Celtic.
Karen Ortman 13:39
That brings you home that to your environment?
Chris Herren 13:45
sadly right, sadly, I knew Yeah, let's share I am with everybody celebrating this this unbelievable moment. You know, of a dream come through. And, you know, I'm sitting there in silence. Knowing that I have this raging substance use issue. And there's no way I'm going to be able to manage it. And it's gonna, it's gonna, it's gonna get worse. Here.
Karen Ortman 14:11
You overdosed. And this is after you came back to Boston, you overdosed four times. Did you believe that your drug use would kill you?
You know, it started getting to that point, right. Like, I think the first the first overdose in 2004. Again, you know, it wasn't, that wasn't the headline and if you if you go back and shows you, you know, where we were at the headlines in the Boston Herald after they found me slumped over my steering wheel with with heroin. The headline was, What a Shame. You know, and that and it just shows you where you know, as far as the stigma and attached to it, that I don't think I don't think a newspaper could get away with that today. Yeah, so What a Shame. And, you know, I chalked it up because it wasn't common wasn't you weren't hearing about people overdosing. And, you know, I just chalked it up to like a bad batch or one time thing, it will never happen again. And it didn't for a little while. But what happened to me was, you know, you eventually, you know, become multi substance, right? And my vodka drinking increased. You know, I would do anything to shut the noise off, right? I mean, my wife, she would find, you know, cough syrup, and Benadryl packets, and NyQuil, and whatever I could get my hand on at night to just shut the noise off. But, but when you start drinking, you know, a couple of pints of vodka per day, and mixing heroin with it, you know, you are at an extreme high risk of overdose.
Karen Ortman 16:06
Yeah. Is it fair to say that you were you were consciously using drugs to self medicate? And I'm not talking about in the context of like an injury of physical injury, but you talk about noise in your head. I mean, there were clearly things whether you were in touch with them or not, there were things going on mental health wise, did you have an awareness that this would be this is the only way that you could sort of quiet that?
Chris Herren 16:39
Well, you know, I think what happens eventually, you know, you've you live in this world, like, the first stage, you live in this world, like, you're not, you're not even in it, right? Like you don't even want to really recognize that you're doing the things you're doing.
Karen Ortman 16:56
And this doesn't, as an addicted person you're talking about?
Chris Herren 16:58
Yeah, okay. Yeah. And, you know, especially when you're a professional or a professional athlete and have resources, right, you can, you can walk into that world for a few minutes, get what you need, and then walk back out of it. But, but when you lose that, when you lose that, and, and you now in that world more than you're in the other world, you realize pretty quickly how sick you are. And, you know, I, I knew that I was waking up every day. And I was taking a chance of dying. And I was chasing death, to feel that feel. And, you know,
Karen Ortman 17:41
To feel what feeling? Chasing death to feel what feeling?
for, for the relief that heroin gives you? Right? whether it's physical relief, emotional relief, you know, and just trying to, you know, it's interesting, right? So there was a time I had a lot of money. And I would meet drug dealers, and they would say to me, you know, Chris, you have access to you could go to the bank right now and pick out 20 grand and buy six months worth of drugs from me, but yet you come every day. And, you know, I went every day because I wanted every day, I wanted that day to be my last day. You know, like, I never wanted to stay in this. You know, every day I woke up saying, you know, this is it. I'm done. I'm done. And, you know, that's why I met a drug dealer every day for 10 years straight.
Karen Ortman 18:40
That's interesting. That's an that's interesting way of to approach addiction that way is interesting. You're you're married during all of this, at least your professional career, right?
Chris Herren 18:54
Yeah, since my senior year of college.
Karen Ortman 18:58
and three kids? What was the response from your wife, and your children if they were old enough to understand what was going on during the years of your addiction?
You know, I think it's, you know, my kids. So Christopher was nine, when I got sober. And Samantha was seven. Both of them emotionally, you know, felt my addiction. They physically, you know, witnessed it, there's no doubt about that. So, so they, they, their awareness was that they knew something was wrong, something was off. You know, my wife was in constant, you know, safety mode. She was protecting the children protecting their heart protect protecting their emotions, protecting their future, try In her best to manage both worlds and, and, you know, anybody who, who has been in a relationship with anyone with suffers from from addiction know that, you know, we all suffer together. And and you know, she was not she was not at her healthiest because of my addiction. And you know, a lot of this that I tell families all the time and, you know, my mind around my addiction was focused 24 hours a day. And my wife didn't have that luxury because she was taking care of children she was working, she was trying to find our groceries and pay bills. And I was just trying to find a way to to hide it, manage it and make her believe that I wasn't involved in it.
Karen Ortman 20:55
Which I'm sure she didn't believe.
Right. But But there were times right, you want a timely way. You know, like I tell people like, you know, I probably three years into my heroin addiction I was I was going for runs every night. You know, like, you know, I would go for for three to five mile run and come back sweating. And my wife would be like, wow, you're getting in good shape. You know, so you would you do anything you can to kind of create a smokescreen?
Karen Ortman 21:25
Tell me about August 1, 2008.
August 1, 2008. My youngest, it's his birthday. I was home, I relapsed. My wife took one look at me, and she sat in the hospital with our newborn baby and our two children. She just looked at me and said, I can't do it anymore. You know, you broke my heart, you're not breaking our kids. And I can't, as much as I love you, I can't be in this, I have to protect all of us. And I'm not helping you, and you're not helping yourself. At that time, I was currently in treatment, I had went home for the birth. And I really had no place to go. So I went back. And, you know, I was in Rhinebeck, New York, and at a place called Daytop, and I went back that day, and you know, by the grace of God, and, you know, beautiful people and and people who are willing to, to to be to mentor me and coach me and you know, I've been sober sent. You know, gratulate me on this? Yeah. Awesome. I mean, you know, to be coming up in my 13th year of sobriety is, is pretty amazing. So August 1, you know, it's a special day, it's a special day for everyone in our house. It's it is the, the most important day, because as people some people may know that, you know, without that day, there was nothing, right? Family fractures and, and we lose and we feel a certain way, and pain is reintroduced and suffering and, you know, so, you know, that day is is is the day in our household.
Karen Ortman 23:39
So since that, and again, congratulations, that's an amazing accomplishment. And I'm proud of you, even though we just met today. At some point, and I don't know, between August 1 in 2008, discussions began about your work on the film Unguarded. So how was the idea for that film born?
So, you know, Jonathan Hawk, who's the director, a friend of mine, Kristen, Liz Mullen, had an idea that the 30 for 30s were just coming out. And Liz molen kind of spearheaded it and said, You know, I have a friend in New York City who does 30 for 30s she directs them. He produces them with ESPN, and she made the introduction. And you know, how it went was initially, Jonathan Hawk was intrigued by the fact that you know, I found recovery and, and then I also started teaching young children how to play basketball, and she I built this business, she was going to film, the connection, the relationships, you know, the work that I was putting in on my recovery, as well as teaching kids the sport. And as he filmed for multiple months, I started, I started getting phone calls to speak. And, you know, Jonathan said to me one day, like, hey, do you mind if I film you speaking. And I had just started. And so he filmed a few of them. And then his creative mind, he said, I'm not even I'm going to, we're going to tell your story. And we're going to tell the world, you know, how you tell it, and what you went through. And that's going to be the 30 for 30. So it was a complete shift, we change kind of the direction. I personally had no idea of the impact. I had no idea of what it would do to my life, how it would affect it and change it. And, and then and know that, you know, it would be kind of the film and most treatment centers that people watch.
Karen Ortman 26:10
I'm not surprised at all. And can you explain to listeners what 30 for 30s means?
So 30 for 30 is a series that was started for the ESPN 30 films on the 30th anniversary. And so they kind of strategically went after a bunch of well known relevant stories of today from the past that would that would speak to to, to their viewership. And I was fortunate, I was fortunate to get chosen, I was fortunate to partner with Jonathan Hawk, you know, and that film has, you know, I've had such great, you know, influence and impact. And I think, you know, I was one of, you know, one of the first to really talk about heroin. Yeah. And, you know, and what it was doing, and, and, you know, creating that conversation, to not normalize it, but destigmatize it.
Karen Ortman 27:10
Yep. What year was that film made?
Chris Herren 27:14
That film was made in 2012.
Karen Ortman 27:18
Okay, so four years after your sobriety? And when did you start teaching kids how to play basketball?
Three years, so I was about two, three years old when I started teaching children how to play. You know, but, but that being said, right, so, here I am, traveling the world doing 200 events a year telling my story, and the majority are to high school and college aged kids. And, you know, five years into that. I felt that I was kind of also contributing to the stigma by telling my story.
Karen Ortman 27:58
Chris Herren 28:00
Because I think we put so much focus on the worst day, and we forget the first day. And what do you know, I just think the way we've educated our children is to tell them how bad it is, in the end, rather than ask them why it began. And if we can talk about the beginning, if we can show them what it looks like, in the early stages,
Karen Ortman 28:26
the beginning of addiction, or the beginning of your first impulse to start pursuing substances in the first place?
Chris Herren 28:36
Yeah, the emotion, the self esteem, the self worth, you know, the the risk, that you're willing to take the lies that you're, you have to tell, you know, the disappointment, the personal promises broken, you know, like, that. That's the first day. And that's why, you know, I came out with me and Jonathan Hawk did another film, you know, and, and that film is The First Day that's what it's called. And that's where I started seeing the impact. That's where, you know, kids started really becoming, you know, attached to attracted to that message. And that was something that we both did together, you know, five years after unguarded, and, you know, that's the film that, you know, not, you know, like you said, oh, God is spoke to athletes and people suffering from substance use disorder. First day speaks to parents and I want to speak to the children, you know, and students,
Karen Ortman 29:46
Where can someone find that film?
First day.com it's on Vimeo. You know, it's, it's, I think, you know, if your listeners Think because it's so much about self awareness. It's so much about self esteem and self worth. And, you know, false confidence. And, you know, and that's what I tell high school kids and college kids all the time, like, you know, if your family really should keep eyes on, you could watch you, you know, for for a month, you know, and watch the decisions you're making and the things you're doing. You know, how worried would they be? That's a good point on how, yeah, and like, you know, would your little sister, You know, want to follow in your footsteps if she got to know the real you, you know, when you're in your dorm room that night crying yourself to sleep, but pretending everything's great.
Karen Ortman 30:48
Yeah. without explaining your response. Can you answer this question? Do you know the how and why it began for you?
Chris Herren 30:58
Karen Ortman 30:59
okay. I think that's good. That's, that's success.
Chris Herren 31:06
You know, it's a lot of self reflection. Yeah. Gayle King, right. Sally Rose. The Morning Show. asked me to do a segment called Note to Self. And at the time, I think Oprah and Maya Angelou and Dale Earnhardt Jr. There was only like six people that have done the segment. And I was, I was number seven.
Karen Ortman 31:28
That's an honor.
Chris Herren 31:28
I thought it was gonna. Yeah, and I thought it was gonna be this, you know, 500 words. And you got to, you got to let it you know, put 500 words reading a note to your younger self. I thought it would be easy. And it was one of the hardest, most emotional things I've ever done in my life talking to that little boy in a bunk bed.
Karen Ortman 31:47
Wow. That's deep. Do you believe that? You could be tempted at any point? To use again? Drink?
Chris Herren 32:04
totally. Yeah, of course. I mean, listen, you know, I'm wired to seek relief. You know, like, I need relief. Yeah. Now, it's what for my find that relief in, you know, is, you know, is a decision that I have to make, how I find it is, is different than how I used to find it right. But But that doesn't mean there's been many nights. You know, what, 10 years sober. I'm sitting in a hotel room. And I'm sitting at the edge of my bed, and I'm tired, and I'm lonely. And I'm hungry. And I'm sitting down, I'm saying, you know, I'm at a, I'm at a Residence Inn Marriott, which has beer and wine in the lobby. You know, what I'm saying to myself, I would just love to shut the noise off tonight. I would love to not think about tomorrow, and just crash. And, you know, those, those are moments that I will always have.
Karen Ortman 33:00
So how do you overcome those moments now?
Chris Herren 33:04
Talk about it, you know, not be ashamed to say I was sitting at the edge of a bed, you know, with my head in my hands crying and thinking like, you know, I need relief. You know, you can walk around and say, I'm 10 years sober. And, you know, I'm good for the rest of my life. And, you know, that's, that's the furthest thing from the truth. You know, and, again, you know, and the fact that in and I can admit that I can admit that I'm wired to seek relief.
Karen Ortman 33:37
What advice would you give a listener? Who might have an addicted person in their life? Someone that they love and addiction has taken over their life. But from somebody who's now sober, what what advice do you give that person to manage that sort of situation in their life? If there's anything you can tell them?
Chris Herren 33:57
You know, as I sit here, you know, coming up on 13 years sober, you know, I have I have loved ones in my life who suffer. You know, my dad's an alcoholic, he's been an alcoholic my whole life. Yeah, you know, and here I am, I have people right now living in my Wellness Center that have my outreach. And, you know, I walked into that Wellness Center and sit in meetings with guests, you know, who look just like my dad who suffer from the same illness my dad suffers from, and, you know, I've been able to impact them. And you know, they found a connection through wellness, and in my program, and, you know, now living healthier, better lives connected to people that love them, and totally open to, you know, new relationships and, you know, but yet my father lives 12 minutes from my center, he's never physically seen it, he's never been to it. Being one, that it's one of my proudest accomplishments of my life, you know, here I am, like 13 years ago was on food stamps, you know, and, and chasing death for a feeling and overdosing, and 13 years later, you know, I have this beautiful property in Massachusetts, and one in Virginia, where people, you know, have faith and trust to go there to get their life back. And, you know, my father's never seen it. But so the advice is, you know, to protect, you know, like, I have to, I have to protect my recovery. You know, I have to protect my emotion I, I can very easily get caught up in my father's alcoholism, and the history and the trauma, that that's attached to that. And I did for a long time. But over the last couple of years, I've had to, to separate myself, and kind of walk away from it a little bit.
Karen Ortman 36:06
So maybe somebody who has that person in their life, they need to walk away from them? Sometimes, absolutely. Absolutely. Sometimes, it's necessary to walk away a little bit. I think, you know, I've always struggled with that, you know, because people, people look at me, and sometimes, you know, as I'm speaking about addiction, they're gonna ask me the question about enabling, and, you know, I just, there's no, to me, there's no clear line, right? It's so subjective.
Chris Herren 36:39
It's so subjective. Yeah, everybody's heart is different. It's different histories different. You know, so, it's so, so subjective. So for me to tell anybody, oh, you're enabling - like Who am I? Yeah, you know, I can I can comfort people and help them. But I'm not, I'm not going to tell them when to shut the door, and walk away. You know, a lock the house,
Karen Ortman 37:02
right? Well, they're looking at you, I guess, for the expert to give that sort of expert opinion. But
Chris Herren 37:10
yeah, I'm a person in recovery. Yeah. Who is really passionate about recovery. And, you know, I can tell my experience, talk about my strength and hope and I can do all those things. But I've been around it. Yeah. So so. So there is plenty of experience. But when it comes to being an expert, and from a medical standpoint, that's for someone else, my whole goal in this, when I started was, was to be part of the solution of breaking down the stigma of addiction, that was my, that was my primary purpose to show people that no matter how far how low you go, that, you know, you just because you have heroin attached to your name, doesn't mean you can't have this beautiful fulfilled life.
Karen Ortman 37:59
Right? I I so appreciate you saying that. Because I that is my goal in life as well, to, to you know, to remove the stigma from so many subjects. And I know that you have to go shortly, but I just want to ask you, you talked about your wellness centers, the Herren Wellness Center in Massachusetts, and then I know you opened one in Virginia, and there's a website associated with that. But there's also the Herren project that I would like you to just speak on very quickly, if you wouldn't mind.
Chris Herren 38:37
The Herren Project was started. You know, I was, I was young, ambitious, sighted. I wanted to to help, like, help others the way I was helped. So my wife and I decided to start putting some money away and scholarships and people to go to treatment. And what we've seen what we saw was such a demand that we couldn't personally afford it. So we started this, you know, nonprofit, and, you know, out of a little basement with five people and, you know, now, that idea, that purpose, that mission, you know, has now is been, you know, helping, reaching impacting people for the last 10 plus years. And, you know, the idea of sending one person to treatment has been now I believe we've eclipsed the 5,000 people that we've been able to impact and send to treatment
Karen Ortman 39:50
what an accomplishment and what a what a purpose you serve for people who are suffering from addiction. And I, I applaud you.
Chris Herren 40:05
I grew up in it, right. So So meaning, meaning that, you know, you just the way I changed my presentation, you know, I had to change the way, I helped people and impacted people. And, you know, initially it was about scholarships and people to get to treatment. And then, you know, I realized the family has been silenced. And, you know, sadly, people drop their loved ones off that treatment, and then I'll see him for 30 days. And I'm saying to myself, why aren't they more involved? Yeah, you know, why isn't the people that love them more involved, and, you know, so now the heroin project, you know, there's 26 support groups for families a week. You know, we have, you know, over 1,000 schools nationwide, that are a part of our prevention, you know, mission, you know, and, and the network that we've created for people, you know, not only in getting them into treatment, but supporting them in sober living and providing them with recovery coaching. So as time project expanded, I realized, you know, we have to cover the whole spectrum, and I have an unbelievable staff that kind of took that mission and, and live it every day and has done such a great job with it.
Karen Ortman 41:32
That's fantastic. And the Herren Projects. Anybody can Google the Herren project and find all of the resources available? through your, through the Herren project? And it's, it's amazing, I've, I've checked out your website many times for many different reasons, some of which to provide resources for people that I know who need it. So again, I thank you, is there anything that I haven't asked you that you would like to share with our listeners?
Chris Herren 42:09
Um, no, I think we've covered it. You know, and I'm just, I'm just so grateful. Right? Like, anytime, again, like, like you mentioned, you know, like, our hearts are connected. And, you know, that's why people, you know, it's so special, like I said, all the time, when I hug people who have suffered in any way, you know, you feel like you feel like you've just like to heart become one. And, you know, our mission is to serve and to help and, you know, to destigmatize this and show people that, you know, just because doesn't mean it's over.
Karen Ortman 42:52
And you have a very empathetic way about you that I'm sure really touches people who need it, and need to feel understood. And, and, and know that you believe in them, and that you're really there to help them. I think that's an awesome quality.
Chris Herren 43:11
You know, I just, that's great. People taught me like, how to love myself again, and they love me when I couldn't love myself. And I think that's a huge, you know, part of this. Yeah. You know, love people, so they get to love themselves. And, you know, we, we suffer so much and our family suffers so much that, you know, that, that that's like, the most beautiful thing in the world is that, you know, when you help someone suffering from addiction, you're helping, you know, 10 to 15 people that just adore that person. And love and love that person. So, you know, the hearts you heal, is is, you know, it's tough to tough to, to, to, to attach any data and numbers to that button, the heart, the heart heal is just amazing.
Karen Ortman 44:00
Absolutely. I I so appreciate you coming and talking to me today and sharing your story, very personal story, the way in which you've used your life to help others and be of service and destigmatize the subject of addiction is so admirable. So, again, thank you so much to my guests. Thank you for allowing me. I really appreciate and thanks to all of our listeners for joining us for today's episode of you matter if any information presented was triggering or disturbing, please feel free to contact the Wellness Exchange at 212-443-9999 or our Department of Campus Safety and their Victim Services Unit at 212-998-2222. Please share like and subscribe to you matter on Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or Tune In.