Q&A with Founder of Herren Wellness, Chris Herren

An extraordinary basketball player, Chris Herren was a celebrated star in his native Fall River, MA before graduating high school. He went on to play at Boston College and Fresno State, two seasons in the NBA – including one with his hometown team, the Boston Celtics – and seven seasons overseas before losing it all to the disease of addiction.

With the unwavering support of his family and friends, Chris has been sober since August 1, 2008, and he now shares his story with the goal of making a positive difference in the lives of others.

His recovery journey has been documented in the bestselling memoir, “Basketball Junkie,” the Emmy-nominated ESPN Films documentary, “Unguarded” and in countless local, national and international stories by The New York Times, The Boston Globe and Sports Illustrated, among others. In 2019, Chris released “The First Day” film an innovative approach to prevention and wellness education with a look into the struggles facing our youth today. Through Herren Talks, Chris has spoken to over 1 million students and community members, sparking honest discussions about substance use disorder and wellness.

In 2011, Chris grew his vision of support for others when he founded the nonprofit Herren Project. Through the organization, Chris and his team empower schools and communities to make healthy choices, while also guiding families through recovery. Most recently he founded Herren Wellness, a residential recovery program that helps guests lead healthy, substance-free lives. His inspirational message and organizations have helped thousands of people.

Website: herrenwellness.com

Facebook: @chrisherren24 | Twitter: @c_herren | IG: @c_herren_ 

Q. If you are in recovery, what was your Drug of Choice? When did you stop using?
A. My recovery date is August 1, 2008. Since my teenage years I struggled with alcohol and drugs, which progressed to pills, then heroin and vodka. Being a high-level basketball player managing a serious emotional and substance use disorder, I always had this internal battle. This past August, I celebrated 12 years sober.

Q. Do you think addiction is an illness, disease, a choice or wicked twist of fate?
A. I truly believe that addiction is a disease that is multi-layered. It can be brought on by a traumatic experience, genetics plays a part and it always starts with one drink or one blunt. The scary thing about addiction is that you don’t know who it will impact until you pick up. 

Q. Do you log on to Zoom 12-Step meetings? How often? Do you share?
A. Zoom meetings have become an unbelievable resource for people in recovery and their families during the COVID-19 pandemic. To be able to connect with people in recovery through a virtual meeting has been such a gift and one that I am fortunate to participate in through my nonprofit, Herren Project. They offer virtual recovery meetings every night and online support for families. When I join, I choose to listen and be present. I feel like I share my story often enough and a meeting is my time to provide support.

Q. Have you added anything to your Tool-kit to help keep you sober during the pandemic?
A. The pandemic has been challenging for many people like me in recovery; an emotional roller coaster. I have focused on my nutrition, fitness and keeping strong connections to people in recovery. I am blessed to be able to be around early recovery and people with long-term sobriety every day at my wellness centers. 

Q. Where did you grow up?
A. Fall River, Massachusetts

Q. From what school or teacher did you learn the most from?
A. Mr. Mikolazyk was my 5th grade teacher. He was the hardest working man that I knew as a child, dedicated to his kids and the field of education. He was also my coach and committed to making me a better basketball player and person. 

Q. If you had an extra million dollars, which charity would you donate it to?
A. No question – Herren Project. Since 2011, my foundation has awarded over $5M in in-kind scholarships for substance use treatment and treatment related-expenses helping over 2,800 individuals and 1,300 families. They provide online recovery meetings nightly, family support groups, have distributed over 1,000 healing packages to families impacted by addiction and over $53,000 in scholarships and grants to high school students making good decisions. The impact would only be greater with an additional million dollars. 

Q. Have you started any new projects in quarantine?
A. In November I opened a second recovery center in Warrenton, VA, 55 minutes south of Washington, DC, through a partnership with the PATH Foundation. The 21-bed historic manor house is located on 50 acres and offers holistic wellness services that include acupuncture, yoga, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, physical fitness, nutrition, life coaching and recovery meetings. With my speaking schedule limited to virtual events, I was able to be on-site for much of the construction, planning phases and opening. 

Q. If you were ever to retire would you prefer to live by the ocean, lake, river, mountaintop or in a penthouse?
A. The ocean. Elements and surroundings are healing factors in your life. The water brings to me a sense of calm, peace and healing. 

Q. Who has been the biggest influence on you throughout your life?
A. My Uncle Chuckie; he is not my uncle by relation, but my father’s childhood best friend and he has always been there. Coaching basketball, driving me to AAU, at my college games, visiting us overseas, celebrating birthdays and holidays and throughout my recovery journey. I am grateful to have him as part of my family. 

Q. What is your favorite APP?
A. Can I name 3? Instagram, 24 Hours A Day and Big Book

Q. Are you bingeing on any TV series? If so, which ones?
A. I have nothing…do you have any ideas? I have binged most of the shows out there!

Q. Which film have you watched most?
A. In recent years it has been Silver Linings Playbook.

Q. Who is your favorite sober celebrity?
A. Dax Shepard. His willingness to show transparency and talk about his relapse, addiction, illness and recovery is so needed and valuable. Recovery can be fragile and it is important to share, ask for help and know that you have a whole community of support just waiting to give you a hug and high five; a community of recovery to help you focus on another 24.

Q. Who is your favorite band/composer/musical artist?
A. Lionel Richie. He is soul southing and his music is timeless.

Q. What is your FAVORITE City?
A. Boston. I am a deep-rooted Massachusetts kid through and through.

Q. What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
A. “Pray for a slow recovery.” and “I can’t help you if I can’t hear you. Use your voice. Share your struggle.” 

Q. What is the best piece of advice you’ve given?
A. The advice that has been given to me around my recovery: if you are looking for wisdom, beautiful quotes and a new way of looking at things, sit in a 12-step meeting. 

Q. What is the proudest moment of your life?
A. Most important day/moment: The day I got sober. The proudest day/moment: Celebrating my one-year milestone. I never thought it could be attainable. 

Q. If you were putting together a time capsule from 2020 what 5 things would you put in it?
A. Hand Sanitizer, Mask, Big Book, Laptop, Vaccine