Former Celtic tells Nashua students ‘Don’t do drugs’

Staff photo by Grace Pecci Former Boston Celtics player Chris Herren on Friday addresses the freshmen of Nashua High School North and South. Herren spoke about his struggles with substance abuse and addiction, while urging students to steer clear of the path he took.

NASHUA – Chris Herren, who played basketball at Boston College and for the Celtics before drug addiction caught up with him, hopes Nashua’s high school freshmen do not find themselves in a similar predicament.

Friday, Herren brought his message to Nashua High School North to address freshmen from both North and South. Herren has spent the last eight years speaking out against addiction.

“My message is always tied into prevention. It’s understanding where addiction begins, rather than focusing on the end of it,” Herren said. “My favorite group to speak in front of are high school kids. I think it’s the greatest opportunity to make a difference and impact.”

Herren said his battle with addiction began at the age of 13 and lasted for years. He eventually sought treatment and has been sober for more than 10 years, he said.

Herren said he always thought to himself, “I’ll never be that guy that does heroin.” But his battle with drugs resulted in four overdoses and multiple felony charges.

Now, he works to reach kids who are in the same situation he was – and asks them to say no to drugs.

“I have scars on my arms, but honestly, physical pain is nothing compared to the emotional pain you put your family through,” Herren told students.

He asked students to think back to what they thought about drugs and alcohol a few years ago, when they were children.

“I could be completely wrong, but I know there’s a bunch of kids in here right now that used to sit around with their grandparents or ride around with their parents and see people drinking or smoking and say, ‘That’s disgusting.’ All of a sudden, it’s not disgusting anymore. Now, it’s changed because you do it. Now, it’s time to act like it’s no big deal.”

He praised the students who will go through high school and even their whole lives choosing not to drink or do drugs.

“The kids in here that feel like outcasts, those kids that will choose not to smoke or drink a day in their life, those kids to me are heroes,” Herren said.

During his presentation, Herren told the students of stories he had encountered over time from other children. He told them about young kids who watched their parents battle with alcoholism, people who saw their friends die from overdoses, and friends of his who grew up to be heroin addicts and lost it all.

Herren brought the idea back home to the students by having them imagine the face of a younger sibling or cousin who looks up to them. He told them a story about a 14-year-old who died from taking pills. He wanted to be like his big brother and do what he was doing. His older brother survived. He did not.

“Do you really want your little sister to get to high school and behave like you?” Herren asked the crowd. “I wish someone had walked into my school and pulled me aside and asked, ‘If you’re so happy, if you’re so confident, why do you have to do drugs?'”

Herren said he hoped to get through to at least one student who may be headed down the wrong path or is surrounded by temptations.

“My goal is that one student, at least one student in this class, gets off the bleacher, goes back to class, and sits at their desk thinking to themself, “I’m not going to be that person. My family has done so much for me.”

Herren called the students to action before taking questions from the audience.

“I hope some of you walk out of here and challenge yourself to be better than who you are right now,” Herren said.

Grace Pecci can be reached at 594-1243, or gpecci@nashuatelegraph.com.

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