PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Jim Downs, or "Big Jim" as he's known to most, is on a big journey.
On his custom bike, he plans to visit the capitals of all 48 states in the continental United States to raise awareness and provide recovery services to those struggling with addiction saying, "You never know what the next day is going to bring, who is going to find recovery, who is going to find help."
Downs is a former addict himself, struggling with addictions to meth and alcohol for 34 years and he says the stigma around addiction needs to change in order to get those who need it on the road to recovery.
He added, "It wasn't being in jail, it wasn't being behind bars, it was the actual learning of the twelve steps and learning about faith and learning through a program. If we want to change the environment, we need to change the way we approach things."
He is no stranger to big trips. Back in 2017, he walked the 4,000-mile Appalachian Trail in honor of a friend he lost to addiction.
He says it took a little convincing before he was ready for another adventure. He said, "Something just started stirring in me. I started having conversation with Big Papa upstairs and I just felt that he gave me an assignment, 'You're going to do it again."'
Downs credits his faith as a major driving force in his journey.
He added, "I wanted to step out on faith and let God kind of direct my life and he has done an amazing job."
The journey will not be an easy one. Downs' brakes failed on his bike and he lost a flip flop Sunday afternoon, but he says the community is reaching out to keep his wheels turning.
Downs said, "There is a gentlemen out of Ebro that will be coming down at 2 o'clock on the west end of the beach and he is a bike mechanic and he is going to repair my bike."
With 47 states left to go, Downs is putting the pedal to the pavement and pushing on and he wants others to follow in his footsteps and bike trails.
Downs said, "No matter whatever situation it is, you dust yourself off, pick yourself off, you dust yourself off, and you keep going."
He also added, "If I reach one person, then this ride was worth it."
Big Jim's trip will end on January 4th, 2020 in Fort Myers. If you'd like to get involved and keep up with his journey, click the link attached to this article.