JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - He’s riding a bike across America, not for fun or fitness, but to raise awareness of a problem that’s growing in our country: the curse of addiction.
WLOX caught up with Big Jim Downs as he pedaled his way through Jackson County.
Big Jim has bike riding down perfectly, but at one point, his own life was anything but perfect. He was an addict for 34 years.
“I was feeding two beasts. I would get really high on meth, and then I would drink to be able to take the edge off. I’d get too drunk and do a bunch more meth,” Jim recalled.
His own turning point was born of tragedy.
“It was when my best friend, Alex, when he died of an overdose while I was in recovery. He was my mentor, my best friend in recovery,” he explained.
He continued, though determined to change.
“When I left that program, I left with everything on my back with a feel of an assignment from God to not go back to the old neighborhood, the old job, the old friends, because I knew waiting there for me were the old habits,” he said.
Those old habits are a thing of the past, and Jim has a new calling.
“I want everyone to know that there is life after addiction. There is life after recovery,” Jim said.
On his 15,000 mile journey, success comes from one turned around life at a time.
“People are coming on board, and we’ve been able to place, right now, we’ve been able to place four people into recovery. Give them the resources they need and one person in detox,” he said.
Jim’s final message is one that comes straight from the heart.
“We have made mistakes. We have made horrible decisions in our lives. We let addiction take over, but we’re not going to let our past define our future. We are going to break the stigma. We’re going to make noise. We’re going to recover out loud, and we’re going to show just how strong we are,” he said.
Big Jim began his ride at Ft. Myers, Florida on Jan. 1, and will visit 48 states returning next January. He averages about 50 miles a day.