I suppose it was just a matter of time before I found this book. First, I am a basketball fan and the mother of 3 youth and high school players. I have taken my love for the game so far that I have agreed to serve as the President of Jefferson Girls Traveling Basketball. Second, my son Jack recommeded this book to me after watching the ESPN show “Unguarded” at his school in Utah. Finally, you add a book recommendation from my brother David who played basketball around the same time as Chris Herren and there you have it: the perfect Tri-fecta. I had to read it.
Chris Herren’s book “Basketball Junkie” is everything you would expect it to be. Chris tells his story of what it was like to grow up in a house and in a town that was filled with zealous, competitive basketball fans. He also gives us his warning signs; he couldn’t sit still for class, had a hard time concentrating in school, and faced constant pressure to perform in basketball. He talks about what it was like to be recruited by college scouts and how uncomfortable he felt having them in his home town.
Much of the book is centered around basketball and the high profile life he led. There are a few funny parts where he talks about what it was like to be a white player. He says: “It’s a funny thing being a white basketball player, because right from the beginning you’re fighting racial stereo types. White players are always suspect, always assumed to be not athletic enough.” According to Chris, you start out being called “tough and hardworking” but it’s not until they say “the kid can play” do you know you’re finally accepted.
For me the more interesting part of the book was his journey through drugs and alcohol to sobriety. And it was this part of the story that was exposed to my son Jack.
It’s been rewarding to know Jack better in these 8 months that he has lived in Utah and it’s ironic that I know him better now that he is many miles away from me than I did when he lived at home and slept just down the hall. It’s also scary to me, because I see Chris as an adult version of Jack. And while any mother would be proud to claim Chris now, I am not sure I could have lived through the many years it took him to find sobriety. While I enjoyed the book and recommend it, I wanted to know more about the relationships with his mother, who has since died and with his wife who stood by him during all of this. He touches on both topics but it left me wanting more.
Addiction raises more questions than any book can answer. Why are some more vulnerable? Chris says that many of his friends drank more and took harsher drugs than he ever took, so why did it consume him? Chris also went to several rehabs and treatment centers but why did he decide to finally end his battle when he did? For someone who wants answers, this has been a very difficult topic. I will end this post with a thought from Chris’s book.
“No one sets out to be an addict. No one sets out to ruin their life and the lives of all the people around them. …It happens over time, sure. But it also happens when you don’t address your issues.”
We are getting ready to welcome Jack home for a one week family visit in July. Sean and I are excited, nervous and hopeful about our time with him. What will he be like? Will he obey our rules, respond positively to us? What if he doesn’t?
If his therapy and treatment continue to progress as we hope, he will come home for a 2 week visit in the early fall and graduate from Liahona a few weeks therafter. He will return to our family as a new young man. It’s scary and it’s exciting. I hope I can continue to learn and nurture my son as well when he is down the hall from me as I have been able to do with him in Utah.
Thanks for sharing your story, Chris. Well done.