SMS teacher raises awareness about substance abuse

SMS teacher raises awareness about substance abuse
Posted on 09/05/2012
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Salem County resident begins quest to run 7,000 miles, increase awareness about substance abuse

Published: Tuesday, September 04, 2012, 9:58 PM

SALEM — Some run for fun, some for exercise.

But for Salem Middle School teacher Brad Spicer he runs to save lives, his own and others. 

On Aug. 7, Spicer began Project 7000. 

The quest to run 7,000 miles in a year will create awareness and make a stand against substance abuse.

Spicer said that substance abuse nearly destroyed his life. His moment of truth came on Jan. 2, 2011 — that day his recovery began.  

“That day I ran from the house and through the swamp to get to a liquor store. By the time I had reached the highway, my father and brother were there. They forced me into the car and took me home,” he said. “I was destroying my life and the lives of those who loved me. I realized that my family could no longer live with my addiction. I knew I could go no further.

“Running helps me find peace,” he continued. “I don’t run for medals. I run for those who struggle with addiction. I run for those who have lost hope. I run for me.”

Spicer has teamed up with The Herren Project, a non-profit organization founded by former NBA basketball player Chris Herren. The Project helps individuals and families 
struggling with addiction.

“Most importantly, I want to inspire someone struggling with addiction to find the strength and the courage to start their own journey to recovery and find sobriety,” Spicer said. “It is my goal to raise a $1 for The Herren Project for each mile run during Project 7000.”

To run 7,000 miles in one year, Spicer must average about 20 miles a day for each day of the year. He said that it will be a daily challenge, not unlike fighting addiction. “I have to face each day with optimism and vigilance, just like someone in recovery does daily,” he said. 

“Coming out about my addiction wasn’t without anxiety,” he said, adding that it is another step to moving forward and hopes that it will open doors that will allow him to help others.

In September 2011, Spicer created Project 5000.  He ran 5,000 miles in under a year. 

During that period he worked to stay sober while teachings others about the dangers of substance abuse and the hope of sobriety.

On his road to recovery, Spicer has run seven marathons, been named a Nike Runner of the Week and qualified for the Boston Marathon. “When I began, I could only run a few minutes each day,” he said.

It was by chance that Spicer caught the Chris Herren story on ESPN early in his recovery.
Herren, a former NBA player, whose career was cut short by substance abuse had turned his life around. His story inspired the newly-sober Spicer.  

“What Herren said resonated with me, it was a surreal moment,” Spicer said. “I love basketball and have played it most of my life. I’ve coached. 

“If Herren turned his addiction into something positive. I could too,” Spicer continued.

Like Herren, Spicer has a supportive family who stood by him. “I can tell my story today for one reason. My wife, Marlaina, and family never gave up on me,” he said.  
Spicer said, that like Herren, he realized how much his family needed him.

“I realized that my sons needed a father, my wife needed a husband, my mother needed a son, my brother needed a brother and I needed me,” he explained.
Spicer said that at his lowest moment he knew he had do something. “That’s when I decided to run,” he said.

Spicer said that it was important to remember where he began. “When I started to run, I picked up the same pair of sneakers that I just ran through a swamp in and laced them up. I did not wash them. I wanted to look down at those ridiculously smelling and stained sneakers and remember.”

In January 2012, Spicer set out on his daily half marathon. As he completed his run, his son ran toward him holding out a card.

Spicer said that as he opened the card a quarter fell out. The quarter represented his first year of sobriety.

“Substance abuse is a huge problem in this world and especially in our communities,” he said. 

Each day Spicer works to spread the message that recovery is possible and not a dream. 

More information about Project 7000 can be found at