Center on Addiction CEO, “Chris Herren has rediscovered his purpose – now we’re helping more kids find theirs.”
As a former college basketball player, I was familiar with Chris Herren. In the mid to late-90’s he was one of the best players in the country. An incredible force to watch on the court. But, his career as a professional athlete was cut short due to his substance use disorder.
When reporters or fans talked about Chris following his exile from the NBA, they told a story of a talented athlete who never reached his full potential. Yet, that’s a narrative I can’t disagree with more. Chris has rediscovered his purpose and he is reaching courageously for his full potential. While it’s no longer evident in ankle-breaking crossover dribbles or buzzer-beating three-pointers, I see it in his passion for helping people understand the true root of addiction and finding hope in the darkness of this disease. I have worked with young people for more than 20 years and have known some powerful truth-tellers. Chris is among the most powerful I have met.
Chris speaks truth to our spirits: “high school is hard!” “Yes, there is struggle in life! And that is ok!” In doing so, he speaks with a deep vulnerability to his struggle – to his why – and how it caused him to drink and use drugs at a young age. In sharing his very personal story of his “first day,” he reveals how he has found his way back to his purpose.
This is why I am proud that Center on Addiction is partnering with Chris to present his new documentary: The First Day. In this film, Chris speaks to high school students across the country about struggle, about addiction, about recovery, and about finding purpose. The film is powerful and sheds meaningful insights with a compassionate focus on the reasons why young people turn to substances in the first place, rather than dwelling on later stages of addiction.
I anticipate The First Day will help parents, teachers, coaches and all caring adults cultivate a deeper understanding of how to lovingly support the kids in their lives as they deal with the pressures of growing up. At our organization, Center on Addiction, we connected with the film’s message to understand why our kids decide to try alcohol or drugs, instead of reactively focusing on punitive consequences.
The First Day powerfully communicates many of the principles we have been researching and espousing for years. For example, we know that focusing on the “first day” matters because 9 in 10 adults with a substance use disorder begin using substances before age 18. We also know that less than 2 in 10 people who need quality care are actually getting it, so encouraging everyone to talk about their struggle and their need for help can make all the difference. It did for Chris. This film will help us begin to change the odds for many more young people.
Our partnership with Chris and the Herren Project includes making evidence-informed companion materials and resources available to schools and organizations that purchase the film. These materials include a discussion guide for community groups, a teacher toolkit and lesson plans, and resources and programs for those seeking information, help and support, whether they be individuals or families.
My hope is that more schools and communities incorporate this film and our resources in a meaningful way in order to facilitate real conversations around the “first day” – not waiting until the worst day. All young people deserve the chance to reach for their purpose and to achieve their full potential – just like Chris is doing now.
Creighton Drury is CEO of Center on Addiction