Big Jim prepares for journey of a lifetime

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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - A local man is about to set out the journey of a lifetime.

Jim Downs, known to most as "Big Jim," is a man on a mission. A mission to hike the Appalachian Trail. At a rate of 12.5 miles per day, Jim says the nearly 4,000-mile journey will take him 8-10 months. But this journey is about more than himself. Since he was just 12 years old, Big Jim has been addicted to drugs.

In December Jim graduated from the Panama City Rescue Mission's recovery program. The turning point in his life came when his best friend, Alex Peters, passed away from a drug overdose.

"I knew the beginning of addiction, I knew the process during through my life," said Big Jim. "But what he gave me was the end result. That was the key moment where I understood what I needed to do. what my purpose was. That was the gift Alex gave me on his last breath"

A month and half after, Jim suddenly woke up one morning, with a voice telling him to go for a walk. "I started walking five miles a day, every morning at five in the morning," said Big Jim. 'And that walk turned into walking across America."

Jim hopes his walk will help bring awareness and resources to help build more free recovery programs. He will start his journey February 1st, wearing his friend Alex Peter's old cowboy hat.

"So Alex is going with me," said Big Jim. "Because he's the one that started all this."

Big Jim's walk has been made possible with the help of a a supportive community who made sure he has whatever he needs to reach his goal.

You can follow along with Jim as he travels on his website,