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Springfield man cycles 3,300 miles across America to promote recovery


A Springfield resident and recovering addict recently completed a 3,300-mile bicycle ride across the United States to raise awareness about drug overdoses and addiction.

OPIOID WAR: Progress made against drug overdoses in Clark County but war not over

Tim Derr, 51, began his journey along the bay of the Atlantic Ocean in Baltimore on Aug. 8. A little more than three months later, Derr dove into the ocean at the Santa Monica Pier in California on Nov. 16. Along the way, Derr would stop in different towns, attend recovery meetings and encourage others by telling his sobriety, he said.

“It was one of the most amazing and spiritually fulfilling things I’ve ever done in my whole life,” Derr said.

Derr spent 27 years in prison in both Ohio and California for various offenses, he said. He was released from prison in March of 2013 and immediately came back to Springfield.

He had been clean for six years, but when he returned to Springfield, he started drinking and using drugs again, he said.

“I went back to what was familiar and I didn’t understand I was an addict,” he said.

MORE: Springfield addicts support group hosts toy drive for homeless shelter

In December of 2014, Derr hit rock bottom when he found himself sleeping in his car. On Jan. 1, 2015, Derr began treatment at McKinley Hall and has been sober ever since. He’ll celebrate three years of sobriety on Monday, he said.

“Recovery gave me absolute absolute freedom back,” he said. “I just wanted to give back to the recovery community.”

He began raising money for a cross country ride earlier this year, where he purchased his bike, Betty. Multiple local businesses also donated items for a fundraiser, he said. He rode 20 to 30 miles per day in preparation, but wasn’t prepared for the West Virginia mountains, he said.

“They were brutal,” Derr said. “They were very unforgiving.”

Initially, Derr wanted to follow a rigid schedule, but decided it was more about the journey than the destination, he said.

MAP: Where drug overdose deaths happen in Clark County

“In trying to keep with that, I was really going to miss out on the journey itself,” Derr said.

He connected with hundreds of people, he said, including one man in Winchester, Va., who he stayed with for a week. While there, the man asked him to connect with another man also staying there who had recently gotten out of prison and was struggling with his recovery.

“His words were, ‘He needs some of the juice you got, some of that freedom and peace’,” Derr said.

The man is now celebrating five months clean, Derr said. He was able to stay connected through Facebook.

“It was awesome to see him get it, so to speak,” he said.

RELATED: Overdose deaths affect western Clark County, rural areas, too

Derr doubled his Facebook friends from about 2,200 before the trip to about 4,400 friends afterwards, he said. The total journey was about 2,700 miles, but he rode an extra 600 miles in towns and cities across America.

“My legs are in awesome shape,” Derr said. “It hurts to even look (at my bike) sometimes.”

One of the greatest things about the ride was that he was able to accept who he was, including his faults, he said.

“I spent so many years of my life being unkind,” Derr said. “Violence was a huge part of my life. I just don’t have room in my heart today to be unkind, to not be understanding and empathetic to people who are struggling.”

While he was on the ride, Derr lost close friends to the opioid crisis, he said.

“It takes people losing people close to them to hit their bottom,” Derr said. “Everyone has to hit a bottom before they can climb their way out of it. … It gives me more incentive to want to give back and try to help people. All I can do is carry a message and tell my story and hopefully someone can learn from that.”

Derr is going to dedicate his life to nutrition, exercise and mentorship for people in recovery, he said. He plans to begin working with the Families of Addicts group in Springfield to work with other recovering addicts in the community.

“(Nutrition and exercise) has been an essential part of my recovery,” Derr said. “To be able to mentor others and feel I’m worthy of that today, it’s really big. I want to help in any way that I can.”

SPRINGFIELD’S OPIOID WAR

Clark County leaders: Drug ‘emergency’ first step, more action needed

Clark County Jail inmates to learn about life after addiction

DeWine: ‘Never seen anything like’ drug crisis hitting Ohio

Churches unite to open recovery house in Springfield for addicts

Springfield hospital grant will increase screenings to battle opioids

‘Perfect’ Springfield couple battles addictions, finds recovery

Springfield native living clean, successful after prison, addiction

Addicts, family members share stories at Springfield recovery banquet

More prevention needed to curb opioid epidemic in Springfield

New program seeks to reach Clark County overdose patients, save lives

Safe h ouses for Springfield overdose patients might save lives

Drug epidemic wreaking havoc on Clark County businesses, economy

Drug crisis traumatizing children in Clark County, state

Money used to fight Clark County drug crisis at risk

More than 100 Clark County law enforcement officers to get Narcan kits

Springfield examines officer, medic safety after Ohio police overdose

Demand for, debate over Narcan soars in Springfield

20 more overdoses in Clark County during 25-hour stretch

Clark County sees another big spike of at least 40 overdoses in 5 days

Clark County leaders pledge to fight addiction stigma, OD crisis

Clark County to charge addicts who OD and don’t seek treatment

Overdose epidemic spreads, strains Springfield first responders

Clark County drug overdoses double in 24-hour spike



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