By: Paige Havens | GwinnettCitizen.com
A snapshot of Brett Bramble on his 2016 Walk from Lewes, Delaware to San Francisco

Lilburn Man Walks Across America for Addiction Awareness

Brett Bramble grew up in Lilburn in a big family full of lots of love. In middle school, he fell into the wrong crowd and started using. By 17 he was in trouble with the law and ultimately went to jail. It was there, at 20 years old, that he made the decision to get clean and not let drugs define his life anymore.

 Twelve years into his recovery, he had no idea that drugs would circle back into his life. Unbeknownst to him, his younger sister, Brittany, was struggling with addiction. He knew she occasionally smoked marijuana and took some pain pills for a bad back, but he had no idea those pain pills had drawn her into a deep addiction. The family started to notice a rapid decline in her well being. Then she overdosed and luckily survived. It was then they learned about the deep darkness of her heroin addiction. The family didn’t know how to help her. The heroin had a far bigger grip on her than anything Brett had experienced himself.

On March 15, 2014, the Bramble family got the call they prayed they’d never get. Brittany had overdosed again and didn’t survive. As Brett stood to speak before friends and family at her funeral he felt the need to share more about the pain of addiction. Brett tells, “Brittany always had the heart to help others. I knew that she’d want others to learn from her walk.” 

Overdose Deaths in USOverdose Deaths in USTo deal with his grief, Brett began to search for ways to do just that – help others. He was astounded to learn that 175 people a day in the U.S. die from drug overdose. Those deaths impact thousands, of people. Brett knew firsthand the lack of awareness, stigma, and agony that exists for those dealing with addiction. Not just the addicts, but their families too.

His started by engaging with local advocacy groups. He told his and Brittany’s stories to anyone that would listen. He helped raise money and awareness every chance he got. But he wanted to do more.

An idea began to stir in Brett that seemed rather crazy at first. He felt the call to walk across America to reach a broader audience of people. Brett said he told his family, “This is what my heart is telling me to do.” And they embraced his mission. Brett had no idea how he would do it, but he was determined to figure it out.

He spent the next ten months preparing. On the 2nd anniversary of Brittany’s death, Brett laced up his shoes in Lewes, Delaware and began walking towards San Francisco, CA. Eight months, 5 pairs of shoes, and 3,200 miles later he arrived at his final destination. He has many stories to share with people he stopped and talked with along his journey. Brett shared, “Every time I got close to breaking, someone would share words of inspiration and hope that made me keep going. I met so many families who had lost loved ones and they thanked me for what I was doing to help. It was amazing.”

The East Coast GreenwayThe East Coast GreenwayAs Brett took life at three miles per hour, walking 20 miles a day, he had lots of time to think. He began to visualize a transitional homestead retreat center where people in recovery and others with a troubled past could go to heal, strengthen and rebuild their lives. When he came home he put a business plan together and established a non-profit called Freedom to Grow (www. FreedomToGrowRetreat.org) with a mission to build such a place.

His next step is to raise the money to buy the land. To do that, he’s going to take on another cross-country walk, with a focus on fundraising. This time he will travel with a group of five. Three on the team are in recovery. Three are from Gwinnett and two from Missouri. Two are U.S. Veterans and one is a 59-year-old stand up comic that promises to bring smiles along the miles.

On January 27, 2018, Brett and team will begin their 6-month walk along the East Coast Greenway, which spans 2,400 miles from Key West, Florida to Calais, Maine. Brett invites everyone to follow them online at BrettBrambleWalks.com. While Brett doesn’t look forward to the physical strain of the walk, he says, “I’m excited to keep the conversation going on this important issue. It’s amazing to wake up every day and know exactly which direction you are headed with such a clear goal and purpose.”

Published: 2017-12-14 01:40