Earlier in the week I talked about Chris Herren, the former pro basketball player who was to appear last night at the Pine Belt Arena and talk to parents and students about his battle with drugs. I was not planning on doing a follow up but after being among the nearly 1,000 people who turned out to hear his story I just felt like I had to talk about this.

Most of you are not familiar with the 36-year old Massachusetts native who was the subject of an ESPN documentary titled “Unguarded”. However I can promise you that those who were fortunate enough to hear him will not soon forget his incredible story.

Herren’s tale about his 14-years with drugs and alcohol is certainly not unique but it’s the honesty in how he tells the story that makes such an impact. Like most of us he sat in an auditorium when he was younger to listen to speeches about the evils of substance abuse and he admits to tuning them out. If only he had listened than maybe the first time he was offered cocaine as an 18-year old freshman at Boston College he would have had the strength to say no.

A high school hoops prodigy, Herren admitted that he had experimented with marijuana and alcohol but that first cocaine experience was different and it wasn’t long before the white powder became his worst enemy.

Later it would be prescription drugs and before long heroin…again probably not an unusual path for a drug addict to take. However what resonated with me and others was that he chose drugs over the millions of dollars he could have made playing basketball.

Herren told a story about the night he was to make his first start for the Boston Celtics which is the dream of every kid from New England. Yet minutes before the game he was outside the arena in his warm-ups waiting for his dealer to drop off the fix he needed.

He never preached to the audience and didn’t pretend to have all the answers. What he did was simply take us on a journey which truly displayed the power of the addiction. I was so overwhelmed that I stood in line afterwards to have him sign a copy of his book “Basketball Junkie.” I asked him what he would be like today if he never used drugs and with a smile on his face the married father of 3 said “it doesn’t matter and I don’t think about it.”

Today some 1,500 juniors from the three Toms River High Schools will get to hear Chris Herren’s story and if it helps one then he’ll feel it was well worth it. His appearance in Toms River this week was made possible through the generosity of Pro Source, a vitamin and supplement company based in the shore area. Company president Bob Chinery should be applauded for giving so many the opportunity to hear a story of despair, inspiration and hope.