WARREN, Mich. – A musician turned junkie, Kenny Spear used to steal from his family to feed a spiraling addiction to opioids.
Spear was on a fast track to the grave.
But seven years ago, God removed the drug obsession from him.
“I didn’t want to live like that anymore,” said Spear, who has been clean and sober since Oct. 24, 2012. “I was tired of living in fear. I was tired of being sick, and sad, and angry, and lonely, and tired. I was tired of that, man.”
Now, Spear uses his troubled past to help others overcome destructive behaviors, especially teenagers. As the executive director of Positive You, he uses his platform to implement a social and emotional learning program to shift the negative culture.
Friday morning, Spear held an all-school assembly inside the Bill Fox Gymnasium at De La Salle Collegiate, where he captivated students with his powerful and moving testimony. Earlier this year, De La Salle engaged in dialogue with Spear’s Detroit-based company to develop comprehensive in-school programs to combine the best of prevention and youth development.
Spear and his associates – including Super Bowl-champion Greg Jones, who also talked at De La Salle on Friday – will hold assemblies each month at the all-boys school. The next is scheduled for Jan. 31.
“Today's assembly with Positive You was great,” De La Salle Principal Nate Maus said. “The students were able to hear from those who have struggled with a variety of issues in the past. Through finding their ‘why’ in their relationship with Christ, and seeking mentors, they have been able to turn it around and be successful in different ways. I look forward to the next student assembly in January and planning the parent seminar as well.”
In the long run, senior Joe Gjonaj is hopeful that Spear’s programming will be beneficial to the entire student body.
“As a community, when you hear a speaker for one time you might blow it off a little bit,” Gjonaj said. “But to have him here every month, multiple times, I feel that that can touch way more people than just the one-time assembly.”
Spear tells how he was a student at Michigan State University when he became addicted to drugs, dropped out, hit rock bottom in a drug house on Detroit’s east side, and got into recovery.
“I decided to change,” Spear told the De La Salle students. “I was willing to receive principles in my life that would alter my attitude forever. I connected with mentors. I started working on me. I tried to understand the thought process that proceeded the poor decisions that I made. What in the hell is going on in my mind for me to act this way, and to do these things? What is the compulsion that’s leading me to do this?”
In the next four months, Spear will take De La Salle students through a learning platform that introduces creative methods to encourage students make healthy choices and discover their purpose. Many topics to be addressed will be bullying, drug resistance, and building healthy connections with their peers. Spear worked with De La Salle administration to design programs that will address the school’s immediate and long-term needs.
Gjonaj was impressed by Spear’s hour-long presentation.
“He obviously has a very good background story that he shares with a lot of people,” Gjonaj said. “He has a very powerful voice in the way he talks to all of us – it’s moving. It was really good to have someone like that come out here and speak some goodness into all of us. I just appreciate him for that.”
After all the tragedy and all the harm that he went through, Spear stopped seeking quick fixes. He stopped listening to the noise. Now he shares that messages with teenagers and others.
“You guys all have something special to give the world,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be music. It doesn’t have to be athletics. There’s something profound happening right now. God is going to do something really incredible here. My life has changed because I found that. Greg Jones has changed because he found his yes. He was willing to grind. I grind every day to feel like this.
“What young men like you guys haven’t been getting, and what the culture has absolutely abandoned you guys on receiving, is that thing that’s going to sustain you guys moving forward – individual responsibility. That’s what it is. If you want to experience life, pick up your cross and carry it. Go through the suffering. Go through the hardship. Go through the tragedy. It’s easy to vape. It’s easy to goof off. It’s easy to be that. But carrying responsibility, walking forward honorably, those are the things that really change the heart and mind. That’s what has been able to change mine.”