As a guard in the college and professional basketball ranks, Chris Herren knew a thing or two about finding his shot and distributing the ball to others. In Herren’s life free from drugs, it’s all about the assists now.
Herren, 36, whose promising basketball career was cut short by opiate addiction, founded The Herren Project last year to help individuals and families affected by substance abuse. The foundation is now connecting with treatment centers, starting in Herren’s native New England area, that know of an individual who could benefit from extended care but who faces financial barriers.
“We’re not funded for people who need $20,000 for 30 days, but if a counselor or staff member would like to see somebody be able to go to a sober house, we review it,” says Herren. The Herren Project is working at the outset with centers it already has built a relationship with, but hopes to reach out to others in the future.
In a sense, Herren has swapped roles from what he faced in 2008, when after a highly publicized arrest he found himself broke and desperate and received a hand from NBA Hall of Famer Chris Mullin. Because Mullin, who himself had overcome alcoholism during his playing career, reached out to Herren, he would make it to the Daytop Village therapeutic community program that year. After completing primary treatment, Herren would go to aftercare facilities managed by the Massachusetts-based treatment organization Gosnold.
“If not for the generosity of Chris Mullin and his family, who knows where I’d be?” said Herren.
Through a difficult personal journey that spanned several U.S. and international stops during his professional career, Herren never lost the support of his wife and family. He is quick to cite the benefits that recovery has brought to his wife and children, so it comes as no surprise that he wants The Herren Project to support treatment for parents wherever possible.
“The face of addiction shouldn’t be the addict—it should be the family by the addict’s side,” Herren says.
Herren’s story recently has been chronicled in the memoir Basketball Junkie and the ESPN documentary Unguarded. Herren also is now running a basketball training academy, but it’s clear that he’s taking to the foundation’s work with the ease of a jump shooter perched at his favorite spot on the court.
“We’re taught early that we can’t keep it unless we give it,” says Herren. “In our soul, we are givers. That’s when the beauty of recovery kicks in.”