PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- Jim Downs “Big Jim” is traveling to 48 state capitols by bike to raise awareness about addiction recovery.
On Wednesday evening, Downs made his stop at the Arizona Capitol Rose Garden to educate the public about addiction recovery and the opioid epidemic.
So far, Downs has biked 4,500 miles.
Downs struggled with alcohol and drug addiction for 34 years. He began to drink and smoke at the age of 12.
“My addiction took hold and destroyed me quickly,” Downs said. “I was a horrible parent. I’m the one that stuck a glass pipe into my teenager’s mouth and said you’re going to do dope with me.”
The addiction also led to the failures of five marriages, Downs said.
After becoming a Christian, Downs said recovery transformed him from a self-centered, prideful person to a loving, compassionate, empathetic person.
“Let me tell you something about recovery,” Downs said. “It feels really good.”
His message? There is life after addiction.
“I encourage everyone to make a difference in someone's life. If you see them struggling, love on them, don't turn your back on them,” said Downs.
Several speakers shared their road to recovery from addictions of all types.
One of the speakers and recovered addicts Darren Prince first got addicted to drugs as a young teenager and struggled with addiction for years.
“I was arrested four times at the age of 21,” Prince said. “I was beyond the point of desperation.”
Despite a successful career, Prince says he was living a “secret, sick life.”
After an overdose in 2007 in Las Vegas, Prince contacted an addiction psychiatrist.
It was months later when he finally admitted to having an addiction.
“I fell to my knees in my apartment in New York City with the last of my opioids in my hands,” Prince said. “I couldn’t take it anymore.”
On July 2, 2008, Prince flushed his last opioids down the drain and took a taxi to an addiction recovery meeting.
“Through my pain, I found my purpose in life,” Prince said.
This new purpose allows him to spread the message that hope and recovery exist, Prince said.
“Everyone is up for grabs when it comes to substance abuse and alcoholism,” Prince said. “If we could get to just one person today and turn their bottom into their beginning, then I think we’ve all received the biggest blessing.”
Other speakers shared their stories of addiction with gambling, alcohol and drugs.
Author Catherine Townsend-Lyon who suffered from a gambling addiction shared her journey toward recovery.
She attempted suicide twice while addicted.
“It took away my house,” Townsend-Lyon said. “It took away my car. It took away my marriage. I can’t tell you how many times my husband would have to go look for me.”
Townsend-Lyon says his gambling addiction came from suppressing her emotions as a childhood sexual abuse survivor.
She ended up in a crisis center in 2002 after her first suicide attempt and is now 12 years in recovery.
“I’m just proud to be here today,” Townsend-Lyon said.
All who spoke at the capitol shared their stories with the goal to help lead other addicts toward sobriety.
Downs will continue his ‘Ride Around America’ until he’s biked 15,700 miles reaching 48 state capitols.
His next stop will be in New Mexico’s state capitol on April 24. By the end of the year he expects to travel more than 15,000 miles.