Hundreds showed up to hear Chris Herren, a former NBA player, speak about his battle with drug addiction at the John Carroll School Wednesday evening.
Harford County, like many other counties in this country, is fighting a battle against heroin. Thirteen people have died this year after overdosing on the drug, including three in a 19-hour period this past weekend.
Officials invited Herren in the hopes that his story can help others overcome their struggle with heroin.
Some would have said Herren had it all, he was a high school basketball star, played in college, then was drafted in the NBA, but his addiction held him back.
“I spent $25,000 a month on OxyContin,” said Herren.
After his run with the Boston Celtics ended, Herren tried to revive his career with a stint playing professional ball overseas, but his addiction followed him there.
“There was no neighborhood off limits for me. I mean I did drugs in Tehran, Iran. I did drugs in Bologna, Italy, Istanbul, Turkey, Beijing, Shanghai, China, you name it, I did it. I can find it anywhere, it's a universal language,” said Herren.
Herren overdosed four times and survived. He said it was while he was in treatment that he made the decision to permanently turn his life around.
“The breaking point for me was when a counselor told me I should play dead for my family. I was 32 years old, I had two children and my wife was eight months pregnant, and he told me I should fake my death and let them live,” said Herren.
That night was eight years ago and he's been sober ever since.
While he doesn’t hide anything about his past, he said when he talks to kids he focuses less on the worst day and more on the first day.
“We have to get them in the beginning rather than focus on the end. I think we need to focus on self-esteem and self-worth and teach them how to go through those moments in high school without drugs or alcohol involved,” he said.
Herren also has a message for athletes prescribed painkillers: “It was my road. Painkillers to heroin was the road I took.”
Harford County officials plan to share that same warning on four billboards around the county starting this summer.
“So coaches know, and parents know that if your child gets hurt to be careful with that kind of pain medication because we're finding that it does create an addiction that later on can lead to heroin use,” said Harford County Executive Barry Glassman.
The billboards will be installed in August before the beginning of the school year.