After losing his sister, Brittany, to a drug overdose in 2014, Brett Bramble decided to walk across the country to raise awareness about drug addiction. In 2016, Brett followed the American Discovery Trail and walked from Delaware to San Francisco, California, to honor Brittany’s life. Brett is now gearing up for another walk for the same cause, starting in Key West, Florida, on January 27, 2018 and ending at the United States-Canada border in Maine.
Hey everyone, welcome to another episode of Ready for Recovery. I’m your host, Trey Dyer. We have an awesome show planned for you today featuring our guest, Brett Bramble.
Brett has an amazing story. He grew up in Atlanta, Georgia. His sister Brittany was his best friend. The two of them were virtually inseparable.
Drugs and alcohol were a big part of Brett and Brittany’s lives growing up. In 2014 Brittany died at the age of 28 from a heroin overdose after the person she was with didn’t call for help because they were scared of getting in trouble with police.
After Brittany’s death, Brett decided to become proactive about raising drug addiction awareness and began attending rallies and events for the cause. Still, Brett wanted to do more.
Around the first anniversary of Brittany’s death, Brett had an idea that stuck with him. He wanted to walk across the entire country, talk to everyone he could and raise as much awareness about addiction as he possibly could. He wanted to do it for Brittany, to honor her life and save others from the same fate.
In 2016, Brett followed the American Discovery Trail starting in Delaware and walked across the entire country, ending in San Francisco. Media outlets, newspapers and even the Atlanta Falcons picked up on Brett’s story and spread word about his journey across the country. Brett was able to talk to hundreds of people about his journey and why he is doing it.
I was able to catch up with Brett recently to talk about his plans for the future which include walking across the country again in 2018.
Hey, Brett. It’s Trey from DrugRehab.com. How you doing, man?
Hey, Trey. Doing good.
Thanks for agreeing to join us today on the podcast and glad we get to get back in touch and see what’s going on in your life.
Yeah, for sure. It’s been quite exciting.
Well good, man.
What was Brittany like?
My sister was great. She was a year and a half younger than me. We were always very, very close. I mean, we used to tell people we were twins and they believed us. She was one grade lower so I used to tell everybody she failed just to be funny. We had a good connection, a strong connection. Like you know that game cranium or whatever?
She was going to draw a line and I knew what it was. You couldn’t beat us in that game.
Well, do you have any favorite memories of when you and Brittany were kids?
Like I said, she was a year younger, so all her friends would come over and she would get mad at me for flirting with her friends.
Just the typical teenage guy thing.
Yeah, you know, teenage thing. We’d go to the football games and always run around and act up and we have some stories from that.
Alright, so transitioning a little bit, when did you and Brittany first start experimenting with drugs and alcohol?
Like, when we got into kind of middle school age, our parents moved out to the Gwinnett County suburb of Atlanta where the schools were known to be good and, you know, good sports. No drugs and all this stuff. Well, that was a lie.
More money means more access to drugs.
More money means more access, and we’re kids. We don’t know what’s going on. We’re just there. And so, you know, one friend smokes weed, we smoke weed. Big deal. We hide it from our parents, no harm no foul. Didn’t seem like we were doing anything that bad because most of our peers were doing it too.
I was drawn to the rebellion side of it. That was definitely something I enjoyed was the fact you told me not to. I won’t lie.
You think Brittany was in the same mindset?
I think it was a little different for Brittany.
One, unfortunately, I think she did it because she looked very much up to me and I was doing it so she probably thought it was cool.
I mean for me it was smoking and drinking, same with Brittany. Our father drank a lot, which I only say that because we were brought up thinking that drinking was OK. Like it was, everything he did involved drinking and he had a fun life. I mean, It was a good life. So we kind of thought that, along with a lot of American society, that it’s OK to drink everywhere you go.
Yeah, that’s like normal American culture. So you know, I think it’s really easy for people to get kind of ingrained from a young age that this is normal.
And that’s all it was for us. It was very normal. And then also what was normal at the time that we were in school was pain pills. This was the newest thing.
For me, it was kind of weird, I was right on the line. I was one year ahead of my sisters. I remember smoking, I got into that crowd that just straight-up up to no good. We weren’t there yet because we were still in middle school, we didn’t really know what we were doing. But it was that crowd that now, like in hindsight, I could pick out that crowd in a middle school and be like “OK, they’re going to have a tough high school.”
And that was me. I was in that thing. I remember pushing my mom’s car out into the street so we could start it where they couldn’t hear it and then drive all the way to downtown and go to these underground raves with fake I.D.’s and pick up ecstasy. You know, we’re 14, 15 years old.
Brett says that while he never developed a substance use disorder, his behavior was problematic and created consequences for him.
Yeah, for me it led one thing to the other. I don’t think I ever was addicted to a drug. I think I was more addicted to the life. And for me, I ended up getting in a lot of trouble because it was that rebellion that was driving me.
I mean, I still had a lot of stuff that I was dealing with. I was molested at 12 years old is when it started and it was ongoing until I was about 16. Didn’t tell anybody, you know, and I was dealing with that. Confused about my sexuality as a teenager.
Like I said, it was bigger than drugs. It was more so rebellion, acting tough. I don’t know what it was.
Maybe a combination of all of it.
And me just being naturally stubborn. So I ended getting in trouble. I ended getting in trouble — a lot of trouble with the law. A couple felonies and served two years. And I got out.
In there and after I got out, that’s when I was like “I’m done with drugs. Just completely done.” I kept drinking because like I said before, I thought that drinking was OK. Just growing up with that. And you know, I was just hanging out with friends. That’s what we did. Everybody drank.
But anyways, I wasn’t using drugs, which was a big progress step for me.
Would you say, you know, today we have a system where most people who go through that process, they’re not rehabilitated; they’re just stuck in a cycle of going back to jail, back to prison. For you it actually sounds like a good motivator.
It was, but I totally agree with what you just said. It’s a revolving door.
In fact, when I got out, I still had five and a half years of probation, and in those five years I violated three times on mindless nothings. One was leaving the state, one was having beer in my refrigerator when they came by and looked at the house. Silly, stupid crap.
No new charges. Just like “OK, oh, you’re doing good, well there’s some beer, let’s just throw you in jail and see how that works for you.”
I’m doing 30, 60, 90 days, having to restart everything. I’m renting, I’m working hard with a criminal record doing everything I can — not getting any help at all. Nobody offered me any kind of classes, programs like that.
Now I was required by court to do some group therapy when I first got out, and I learned cognitive behavioral therapy. Whether I wanted to or not, I had to do the program. That was just a given.
And it was one of those things I just picked up. When I first heard it, everybody else in the class was giving the guy a hard time. I was sitting there listening like “man, I really like this. I need this.” And I knew I needed it.
And I paid attention to this cognitive behavioral therapy and I did my homework. I started noticing myself using it in day-to-day life and years later, I’m starting to notice progress. I stayed away from drugs. Stopped hanging around other people that did it. For me, that’s what I had to do.
Then when my sister came to me — and I knew she was smoking and using pills — and it didn’t seem to be life-threatening, it didn’t bother me. But she came to me after I was already set and established. Had a nice house, I was in west mid-town Atlanta, nice place.
How old were you at this point?
Late twenties. Twenty eight-ish.
So, I had already had a few years of recovery in my own words at that point. I had a daughter and that kind of did it to me.
Nice. What’s her name?
Brooke. She’s seven now. So, I haven’t done a drug since she’s been born.
That’s awesome, man. That’s what it’s all about, right?
Yeah it is. For me, it’s really nice. It’s the better option for sure.
But my sister came to me. She said look I’ve been taking these pain pills. I like them. I needed them, my back hurts. But now I’m using too much. I don’t feel like myself.
Basically she was telling me she was addicted to these pills. I had no idea what that was like because I just remembered I took all those pills, I did all that stuff. But when it was time to go, it was like, “OK, just put it down.”
She’s sitting there telling me “I’ve tried that Brett, it’s bigger than that.”
And I was like “alright, well I’ll try to figure this out with you.”
I had an extra room at my place. I said “look, come stay with me and I’ll get you a job and a car. We’ll get you on track. Just stay away from the people you’ve been talking to.”
I had this whole thing planned out like a rational person can do, but it just didn’t work that way for her. Her mind was hijacked. She was addicted to a drug. It was hard for me to see because it was something I didn’t really understand.
Right, so this is all painkillers at this point?
For the most part at this point.
And by the way she did not come live with me. She knew the option was there, but she knew there was no drugs allowed in my house. And that was the rule. That was the one rule.
Because of that rule, she didn’t spend more than one night at a time. She wanted to, she loved it there. It was a cool spot. She loved it, but the drugs had her hooked more.
Anyway, she comes over one morning. She was with my mom and she’s like “look, I almost died last night. It was a drug overdose, heroin.”
That was the first time I had heard the H-word in my life in relation to somebody I love.
I had no idea what to do. She was saying it, too. She was like “I don’t want to do this. I don’t even like it. I know it’s going to kill me.
What was that moment like where she’s staring you in the face and she’s also staring addiction in the face and basically saying “I want nothing to do with this, but I don’t have a grasp or control of this situation.”
It was amazing for her. It was hard for her. She was ashamed. It was hard for her to say, and I knew it.
She knows I wasn’t judging her or condemning her. She knew I understood because I know her. Whatever she told me, I get it. She’s not going to lie to me. I felt her struggle, but didn’t know what to do about it.
And she was hoping I did.
Do you think that was the hardest part about her addiction: wanting to help but not necessarily having enough knowledge?
Yeah, it was frustrating. I don’t hold myself at fault for that. That was a society thing. Until I was affected, I didn’t think I needed to know.
But unfortunately, I wish I would have because three weeks later, she overdosed and died.
It was around three weeks after her first overdose that she overdosed again. She was with somebody; she was using with a guy. And this guy was just scared to call for help, and she just laid there for hours on end before he finally got enough courage to bring her to the hospital, and she was announced dead on arrival.
This was March 15, 2014 is when she died.
The 9-1-1 medical amnesty law in Georgia passed like a freaking a week or two before that happened, which was just weird. I mean it’s not like anybody would have known anyway.
That’s part of what I’m doing now is trying to get that law known but we’ll talk about that later.
Anyway, she’s dead. I get a call and it’s the worst moment of my life. Literally, the closest person to me — gone.
I mean, this was your best friend.
This is everything. She was it. There’s no way. I was like “my mom’s going to kill herself, I’m not gonna be able to — what are we going to do?”
It’s the worst. It’s the worst thing ever. It really is.
I mean thankfully, other people came to us. Of course, everybody is like thoughts and prayers. Whatever, thanks.
And I know they meant well. It was just that was really tough.
But people came and were like “look, I’ve lost somebody too.” The people that understood a little bit.
There was a woman, and she’s a family friend so we’ve known her and her family, there’s a woman who lost her daughter to a drunk driving accident. This was years ago.
I remember I was at my mom’s house that morning after and when that woman walked into my mom’s door and I looked at her and I knew why she was there, for some reason that was the moment I knew my mom was going to be OK. The efforts of that woman just to be there were way bigger than she thought it was going to be.
For me anyway, like I knew we were going to be OK somehow, someway.
Brittany’s death ignited a desire in Brett to become vocal about drug addiction, and he started to tell people about it immediately.
I used the funeral as my first opportunity to speak out about the fact that she died from substance use.
After Brittany passed, you kind of got like a purpose. Really involved with spreading addiction awareness. What were some of things you were doing? I saw one article where you repelled off a building or something like that for addiction awareness?
None of this happened overnight, it was a long process.
When she died, I dedicated myself to trying to prevent this from happening to other families — especially after I learned that there’s over 100 families everyday going through this and the numbers are just climbing.
So I started to attend events in and around Atlanta. Anything that had to do with addiction, drug education, prevention, whatever, harm reduction, anything. I got to meet all the people. I’d go up to the person running things and be like “hey, I lost my sister. I really want to help. I want to be a volunteer at your next event.”
And I’d do that. I’d hang around. I’d volunteer. I’d do events to raise money. And like I said I did, I repelled off of a sky scraper for Shatterproof, they kind of do federal policy change trying to get laws passed.
I got involved with that community. I started to learn, educate myself and it felt good. It felt great. But it was definitely not enough. I knew I needed to do more. I knew I could do more.
One late night, Brett was up late and was doing a lot of thinking. It was the first time that he thought about a journey that would change his life.
Almost after a year after she passed, I had the idea — it just came to me in like a three-in-the-morning sleepless night. I had the idea to walk across America.
I thought it was absolutely insane, almost as crazy as you think it is now.
You weren’t watching Forrest Gump were you?
No, I’m sure it was part of the influence.
You know I had been reading a lot of books and seen a lot of movies in that recent time about big adventures, grand adventures, purpose-filled things.
I remember seeing “The Way,” the movie “The Way” where Martin Sheen I think it is, he loses his son on a trail and finishes the trail for him.
Anyway, there was some influences but there wasn’t anything at that specific time. It was just a random thought and it seemed silly but it was in my heart. It was there and people say follow your heart, well that’s what I was doing. I was like “screw it, I’m going to follow my heart. This is what it’s telling me to do.”
And I committed before I even knew anything about it. I was like, “I’m going to walk across the country for Brittany.”
And I knew right then and there I was going to do it, I just didn’t know how.
I thought I had read something like, you wanted to hold yourself accountable, so you posted it on Snapchat so you would have to own up to it or something like that.
That was kind of one of the ways that I told my friends and acquaintances. I Snapchatted like I’m going to walk across America for Brittany.
Kind of just feeling for their reaction, just to see what other people thought about it. And of course, everybody is like “there he goes again, being stupid.”
He very much supported it. Mom, again, she’s worried, but this is nothing new. I just stay doing crazy stuff.
Once they started to see how serious I was about it and some of the good things that were taking place because of the exposure, they were all about it. They knew Brittany would love it. Some of the families we were able to reach and help out, that’s just why.
So how did you prepare for the walk then? What’d you start doing to get ready for it?
A lot of the preparations were reading and watching YouTube videos.
Different places to go, different people who have done it maybe?
Right, I would talk to people who had done it before. It’s a great community of people, because there are a handful of people who do it every year.
They call us crossers, U.S. crossers. You know, because some people walk, some people run, some people do bicycles. It’s just a great community, and they’re always willing to help someone who’s going to do a future walk.
I’m in there preparing. Talking to as many people as I can, reading as much as I could and of course walking. Figuring out gear. Going camping by myself, I’ve never done that. Like I’d camped before, but who camps by themselves? I’ve never done that.
Yeah, it’s definitely a group activity usually at least.
Right, right. So like I did. Just got used to that.
And I’m glad I did. There were some things I learned that would have been very costly to have to go through out on the open road.
Did you start gathering supplies and stuff?
Yeah, I spent almost 10 months preparing.
So I had the idea, and I knew it was a big idea. I wanted to go right then and there, but I was like “look man, this is serious. If you still want to do this in six months, then we’ll really do it.”
So for those first six months, I got very, very excited just reading, doing everything, but I wasn’t fully committed yet. Kind of just, maybe. Maybe.
But after a while, I was like “look, I’m still super excited about doing this and everything’s falling in line. I’ve got support. I’m doing it.”
And by that point I felt a lot better about my preparations and how to do it. So once I felt confident in my abilities to do it, I started to plan the route.
That’s when I found out about the American Discovery Trail which is a little-known trail that stretches across the length of the country coast-to-coast. It’s not like a turn-by-turn direction. I think they have turn-by-turn directions, but they’re all wrong because it’s a big country, it’s a big deal.
But they do connect you to bike paths, long roads that have wide shoulders or sidewalks. It’s a good guide. You still have to do a lot of the stuff on your own, day-to-day decisions. But it was a good guide. They have volunteer ambassadors in every state so you had somebody to kind of help you out.
Nice, that’s sweet, man.
Yeah, that was a good choice. A good option. I stuck with that, I got prepared.
And then on the two year anniversary of her passing — boom! I was up there.
I started in Delaware on the Atlantic Ocean. We had 20 to 30 people, friends, families. We had people that had heard about it who had also lost somebody. They came out with their whole family and they brought gifts and money for me and showed support right off the jump.
That never ended, that support didn’t end the whole time.
Well, that’s awesome man. So what did you have with you when you took off?
Way too much stuff.
I mean, it was ridiculous. I had way too much stuff. I remember the second day kind of going through an inventory like “I’m not going to need this at all.”
I don’t know, I thought I needed a whole eight months’ worth of supplies, but I very soon realized there’s a Walmart or a gas station or a grocery store every town. Especially on the east half of the country, it was very accessible to resources believe it or not.
That’s good. Guess you’re never too far from the first world right?
Right, you know. There were some stretches but nothing serious. Especially east of the Rockies.
After that it was different, but I was a little more equipped by that point. But I had a jogging stroller that I carried all my stuff in, which was a lot easier than doing the backpack, being that I had so much stuff. And I was going for such long distances I figured it would help to have the jogging stroller.
I named it Lieutenant Dan because I had to embrace the Gump.
There you go, homage to Gump. Now you had your dog with you, too, right?
I had my dog Domino. Domino did great. She’s a little black lab, black lab mix I guess. She’s a little rescue dog. And she did great, had a lot of fun.
We made sure to take good care of her. Sometimes she’d ride in Lieutenant Dan. But she was outperforming me all day. I just had to take care of her feet. I had to get her shoes at some point.
So she’d walk alongside you off-leash the whole time?
Yeah, most of the time. That was part of the training, too, was getting her ready. And by the time we were ready, she was a go-getter.
Even to this day, if I go walking she’s right there at my left, at my heel.
That’s good, man. Very good to hear.
And it was fun. She did good.
And like I said, I’d give her breaks. I’d let her ride in the cart and she liked that.
My word was “get in.” If I said “get in,” she’d just run and jump right in the front.
Pretty good trick. Will she still do it now? Have you busted out the cart since the walk?
Absolutely. I’ve done a lot of speaking after the walk, so I’ll break it out every now and then and Domino loves it. She’ll just get in and ride.
Cool. Alright, so back to life on the road, what was the hardest part in general about being on the road?
When I was actually out there on the walk, nothing was hard.
I mean it was all hard, but I was so set to deal with that kind of stuff, to handle obstacles no matter what it was, it really didn’t matter.
But in hindsight, now looking back on it, I think traffic was the hardest. People were just a-holes.
Traffic was tough. I don’t think they knew, sometimes, most of the time. But just getting super close and going super-fast for no reason.
Were you along roads a lot, or were you on trails?
I tried my best. Safety was my top priority as far as route picking. I tried my best to pick the safest roads possible, but every now and then you had to get on a little stretch that wasn’t ideal.
Was hoping to get a little assistance from people. All you have to do is slow down or move over a little bit and everything works, but I wasn’t getting that.
Some people were cool. Some people even stopped and were like “hey, you OK?” Those people are awesome, but there’s very few of them.
Once you’re behind the wheel, it’s kind of a different mindset, and I get it
For sure. Now let’s talk about some of these awesome people and just the people you interacted with in general.
How did you tell people when you’re talking about addiction with people on the road, how would you strike up conversations? Were people coming up to you and asking you about stories? What was the general deal out there?
So yeah, Lieutenant Dan was a jogging stroller and so people thought I was pushing a baby on the side of the road.
If they didn’t call the cops on me, which happened a lot, they’d stop. People would stop and be like “hey, is everything ok? What are you doing?”
And I’d be like “actually, I’m great. Thank you for stopping, that’s very nice, but I’m perfectly fine. I’m choosing to do this believe it or not.”
And I’d tell them I’m walking across America and I’m doing it for my sister who died from a drug overdose and I kind of wanted to tell anybody about it and see where it goes.
Nine times out of 10 we’d end up crying and hugging on the side of the road because they were affected, too. Not so much as lost somebody, but that happened, too. A lot of people lost someone, too.
Ninety percent of people knew someone directly affected by addiction and in a bad way.
So you would be out there and realize how wide spread the problem was?
Coast-to-coast. Literally everywhere. Mountains, cities, oceans, towns, deserts — everywhere in between all of that — everywhere was affected.
And different drugs. The opioids weren’t out in certain areas yet but they were coming. If it wasn’t the opioids it was meth.
They’re just a little behind some of the other stuff and it’s just a matter of time.
Now we were talking about how people wanted to help you. Did you ever rely on others for help along the way, receive any acts of kindness from strangers or anything like that?
I had started this mission completely prepared to be self-sufficient. I saved up money. I had everything I needed. I could have done it. I could have slummed it out and been fine.
But people were not having that. People were like “no, we need you in a hotel tonight. We need you in our home with a meal and a shower. We’re going to hook you up.”
I really didn’t have any say-so in the matter. They were like, “you’re not sleeping on the side of the road,” and it was great.
I really got to meet a lot of great, wonderful people along the way from all aspects of life.
Nice. So do you have any funny stories or unique moments from the road?
One of my favorite stories is, I was in Nevada. Nevada is what they call it out there.
Yeah, Nevada. I was on highway 50 through the whole state of Nevada and highway 50 in that state is called the loneliest highway in America.
From state line to state line, there’s only six towns. So, I’d be walking five to six days between towns.
And these towns aren’t Atlanta. These are old mining towns that have like 30 people left in them. So resources were slim, but I was good by then.
I’m on the loneliest highway in America, I’m enjoying the crap out of it. I really loved it.
It’s all desert, there’s mountain ranges. It’s like high desert, so you go over mountain ranges and then you’re in this desert valley. You could see the next mountain range ahead of you. It’s just beautiful, just this two-lane road with dashed yellow lines straight ahead. Mountains all around you.
At night you could see every star in the universe. The Milky Way. It’s just incredible.
But anyway, I’m coming down off of one of these mountains coming into a valley and a guy pulls over. He had a white pickup truck.
Cool guy. He’s just like “hey man, what’s going on?”
And I tell him what I’m doing. I think he was on a hunting trip with his dad. Just a cool, outdoorsy kind of guy. He loved what I was doing.
He’s like “look, I live in a town a few miles ahead which is about a couple weeks for you.”
He said he lived in a town called Dayton, Nevada. He said “look, when you come here, here’s my phone number. Call me. You can stay with me.”
I said “Awesome, that’s something I look forward to. Thank you very much.” No big deal.
A couple days later, I’m still in the desert, and I get an email from his wife who he told about me. She works at a school. She works at an elementary school.
She’s like “I heard what you’re doing, and if you don’t mind, I’d love it if you’d come and speak to the kids. We’re having our drug awareness week, the Red Ribbon week.”
Oh nice, good timing.
I’m like this is freaking perfect.
She’s like, “If you’ll come to the school, we’d love to have you speak.”
I’m like, “Absolutely. That’s what I did this for.”
So I spent the next week and a half in the desert kind of preparing what I was going to say and finally made it to Dayton, Nevada, where I got to their house. They’re just awesome people.
They have a son who’s overseas in the Marines, so I stayed in his room, and what an honor to do that. They talked about him. They’re really cool people.
They took me out to dinner, did my laundry. We did everything, got everything good to go.
The next morning, we woke up early, and they had wild horses in their yard. I’m like “what in the world is going on?”
They’re like “Yeah, these are wild horses. They’re in our neighborhood all the time.”
I’m like “This is not normal!” It was a really cool moment.
On top of the wild horses, this day was going good.
We get to the elementary school, and I was prepared to talk to the 5th- and 6th-grade classes all together. They have 6th grade as part of their elementary.
So it was a big auditorium, I guess it was their cafeteria — filled with the 5th- and 6th-grade class. So, about 300 kids overall.
So I get up. I had them set up a big map of the United States. I get up there with Lieutenant Dan and I’m talking. I’m telling them kind of some of the fun stories. I’m telling them about the walk, what I’m doing, a little geography in there. And I really have their attention. They’re having a great time with this crazy guy that’s walking across the country who happens to be at their school.
And then I’m like “Hey, I want to tell you why I’m doing this.” And I ask them “If you have a brother or a sister, raise your hand?” Most of them did.
And I said “Well, my sister passed away and I’m doing this for her because I loved her.”
And of course they’re sad and you can tell on their faces. My next question was, “Can anyone guess how she died?”
Cancer, car crash, I heard a few. But one of the little smart kids saw on the side of my cart, he’s like “Drug overdose. Drugs.”
I’m like “Yes, you are correct. She died from a drug overdose and what that is is she used drugs and she used too much and she stopped breathing and she’s dead.”
There wasn’t much else to say. I kind of said I’m sad, I’m glad I get to do this about it. But my message was clear.
It was like “I’m doing this walk, but I’m doing it because of my sister, and my sister died because she used drugs.”
As far as prevention goes, that’s a strong message.
Yeah, were they receptive to that?
Absolutely, I saw some of them in tears.
And I went to a question-and-answer after this. All these kids were raising their hands asking questions. Most of them were about the walk and they were good questions. I was so surprised. They were better than some of the adult’s questions I get.
A few of the kids raised their hands and they would ask about drugs. They really wanted to know. They were interested in learning about ways to prevent that, and I was excited about that.
But one girl raised her hand and… sorry, I’m tearing up.
One girl raised her hand and she said “My mom died from the same thing.”
Sorry… and I just…
How old was she you think?
Like 11, 12.
And my sister had three boys, and her oldest was this girl’s age
I did everything I could not to lose it right in front of the whole audience. Of course, I bent down and told her to come talk to me after I was done. We did, I gave her a big hug, but there’s nothing you could do.
It just goes to show you that everybody is affected, and there’s a whole generation of kids that are growing up with their grandparents or in foster care because of this crisis.
We got to do more.
We got to do more.
Anyway that was a long story, but it starts from a simple act of kindness. This guy stops to help this strange man pushing a baby stroller across the desert, and look what it led to.
It’s all about connection man. It’s all about reaching people and really getting down to them because we have the stats out there. We have the government reports that say “yeah, this is bad,” but I think its guys and gals on the frontline just like you that are going to make the real difference.
And I think so, too. It’s the connection. Human connection, universe connection that we need.
There’s people doing better stuff at the grassroots level. And it’s about human connection. It’s about showing people that these numbers are freaking people that are loved. And it needs to stop right now.
Right, these aren’t just numbers. These are people and these deaths exponentially affect people in this country.
So after that, after Nevada, you had to be pretty close to the end by that point right?
Right, so yeah.
Nevada, went through Carson City, over the mountains again. California, boom, boom, boom.
I had all these people, it was absolutely incredible.
I thought — leading up to it, I was a little nervous thinking “oh, I may not feel this moment of joy,” just because I’m in the moment. Usually I feel things later, just how I’ve always been.
I was in that moment, man, and it felt great. It was pure joy, I was happy, I was proud. I had family with me. I had my daughter with me.
Now where does the Discovery Trail actually end? In San Francisco?
In San Francisco, yep.
Nice, it ends at the ocean?
I had everybody meet me at the Golden Gate Bridge because from the start of the bridge to the ocean was like six miles. And I challenged everybody.
I said “Look, I’ve done 32 hundred of these things, you can do six with me.”
So we walked. About 20 or 30 people all walked with me. More of them met me at the end because not everybody wanted to do six miles.
So yeah, we walked from the bridge down through San Francisco to the beach and it was cool. It was a great moment. I enjoyed it very much.
I took a few days and I got back home and spent a couple months kind of just figuring out what the heck I was going to do next. You’d think I’d have made a plan along the way, but I didn’t.
I got back and I started to use the story to open doors to go speak locally and connect with local organizations to just bring what I had to offer as far as education goes, and it really worked.
It’s a cool story, it’s not some old cop telling you not to use drugs. It’s just a different approach.
And prevention’s not the only thing I could do. I was speaking to drug courts. People who have already made the choice to use and now it’s like “alright well you got this going on. I can teach harm reduction, too. I don’t care, I’m not judging. I just want you to stay alive.”
So it’s after your walk now. It’s been what, about a year since the walk?
It’s been a year now, yeah.
I started a nonprofit organization called Freedom to Grow. I have this awesome plan to open a transitional retreat, so this is not just for substance use, it’s not just for addiction. This is for people with troubled pasts.
For me, drug addiction wasn’t an issue, but I still had some stuff I had to sort through and I didn’t have resources or a connection to help me. It was very hard.
So I came up with a program. It’s a nine-month deal.
You stay and live on the property from March to December, nine months, and we grow and raise everything we eat. So it’s like a homestead-type deal.
There’s only 20 to 30 people every year — all males and then all females. We alternate every year.
It’s going to be freaking awesome. The whole plan is absolutely amazing, and I’ve got it sorted out. The plan is solid, it’s going to work, but right now I need land. I’m still working my way up.
But things are going great. Got a good logo, been promoting it. Getting all the marketing. Getting a lot of support connections. Just trying to get one step at a time.
The next step is land. Once we get land we’ll start building.
So you have a board of directors, investors, stuff like that?
Yep. We’re getting there.
We got a good support network.
It’s a deal. We’ve got 501c3 already. Everything’s coming together.
It’s a long process, and I knew that. I don’t plan to open until 2022. If I suddenly fall into a bunch of money, we’ll start going tomorrow.
But it’s going to take me a while for me to get this. I’m not a big money man. I don’t really like it.
I’m trying to make a point to earn it so I could put it into this deal.
And part of this, part of the fundraising is I’m going to walk again.
Walk again, across the entire country — cross again?
This time I’m doing the east coast. So I’m going from Key West, Florida all the way up to Maine — Canada really, the Maine and Canada border. We’re going to go on the east coast.
Oh man, dude you got to come by Orlando and let us host you for a day or something.
You got to drive over to the coast.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Definitely. We’ll definitely come do that. Well, Awesome man.
So I’m starting next month, at the end of January.
And get this, I’ve formed a team of five total strangers including myself. We’ve got five people coming with us. They’re all impacted by this, and they’re dedicated enough to join me on this walk, and we’re going to go up as a team along the east coast and just banging this out.
We’re going to get all the media, all the town leaders. We’re going to get everybody to walk with us. We’ve got a real plan this time.
We also just booked an official documentary deal. This is not us with cameras making a documentary; we have a deal. We have a production company that’s going to follow us. They’re going to come out eight times to do full production, and in between, they’re going to give us cameras to get footage ourselves. They’re going to do a documentary with a certain amount of proceeds going back to Freedom to Grow.
So we’re very excited about this. This is huge, and it’s going to be bigger and badder than the last one.
Last time it was just me and a cell phone, and I was still able to reach hundreds of thousands of people. But now we’ve got a team, we’ve got good marketing. We’ve got better support and we’re on the east coast. There’s no stretches of two months in the desert where I’m not talking to anybody. We’re on the east coast.
Nice, so the route — you’re pretty much following 95 all the way up?
Well I can’t do interstates.
Again, there’s a little known trail called the East Coast Greenway. You can look that up. The East Coast Greenway and there’s a little map.
It’s basically literally on the coast. Like in Florida, I’m going to be on boardwalks and front beach the whole way.
And then it kind of goes inland a little bit through Virginia to go through D.C., Baltimore, Philly. I’ll go through Boston up to Maine.
But it’s basically along the coast. I’ll never come farther than 50 to 100 miles off the coast.
That’s awesome man. Do you have a timeframe for how long you think it’ll take?
The last one was eight months and this one should be six months if we go off the same formula.
Very cool. Dude, that is awesome. What’s going to be kind of the goal of this walk? It’s going to be to raise money for Freedom to Grow all the way?
Correct. I’m hoping at the end of this walk that I could buy land right away.
Where do you guys want to get the land? North Georgia?
Yeah, north Georgia. It has to be in Georgia because that’s where our business is.
I’m hoping north Georgia. They have mountains, I want it to be a retreat.
People have done wilderness therapy programs and stuff like that. And I know those are interesting and work but I want this to be a reward. I want this program to be for the person who has finished drug court and now is like “I want to go to this place. I want to celebrate my efforts of getting out of jail, getting off probation.”
This is a little bit of an after-step.
Yeah. So it gives these people who have cleaned up their lives something to look forward to.
Right, an extra. And develop a connection with the universe in a very cool way.
So you can learn more about that. We have a very basic website just to tell you about what it is. That’s freedomtogrowretreat.org.
And then the walk, if you want to follow the walk that’s brettbramblewalks.com. And then we’re also on Facebook and Instagram, same thing brettbramblewalks.
Are you guys going to be posting, keeping up to date from the road?
Absolutely. We’re going to do blogs and I was hoping to do a podcast of our own, so we’ll see how that works.
But we’re definitely going to do live videos on Facebook. I mean, definitely follow us. It’s fun, it’s positive.
You’ll see all these stories every day, the connection we make with people. You’ll be right there with us.
Also we invite you. If you’re on the east coast, come walk with us, man. We got a bunch of us. It’s a motley crew. Come hang out. Put your feet to the test. Come see how long you can walk with us.
Our main message with this one is that recovery is possible. Everybody has all these good plans, but nobody is really taking action. But people can get better. I think that’s worth supporting.
Absolutely man. There are thousands of people — probably even more — everyday who are getting into long-term recovery and they’re going to stay like that for life. It’s awesome that we’re getting that word out there.
I have one last question, and that would be what do you think Brittany would say about all of this?
There’s moments that I know that she’s beaming.
And you know, this is something that I kind of developed on the last year or two being on that walk. There’s just a certain spiritual connection that I really feel like her spirit has connected me with some of the people I’ve been able to affect along the way.
But I know she’d be beaming, especially when I get messages from people saying “I heard your story, and you’ve motivated me to take that step. I’m going to go get clean.” Or messages like “hey, I was in rehab and I heard your story and it motivated me to stay on the right track.” Stuff like that.
That right there, that’s it man. I know she’s happy. I know she’s happy.
She’s pushing me to do this. That’s for sure.
A lot of people are paralyzed by tragedy and you’ve turned it into something that’s really beautiful so it’s pretty cool dude.
Brett and his crew will take off from Key West, Florida on January 27. To stay up to date with developments from Brett’s journey, visit www.DrugRehab.com.
Thanks for joining us for another episode of Ready for Recovery. For DrugRehab.com, I’m Trey Dyer.
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