After 350 miles of fatigue and setbacks, Brent Webb arrived at his destination last weekend a new man.
The Laurinburg native finished his Epidemic Walk Project, a 350 mile walk from the outer banks to Greensboro via Carthage, on April 29. He departed on April 14, commemorating the first year since he set his mind and heart to defeating his addiction to painkillers.
Webb, 31, undertook the project to raise awareness of addiction itself and the program that helped him come clean. After being wounded in Iraq during his service in the Marine Corps, Webb became addicted to prescription drugs. Battling the addiction to no avail for a decade, Webb turned to Teen Challenge, a faith-based program designed to help drug and alcohol addicts come clean. It worked as nothing else had.
Webb’s walk incorporated each of Teen Challenge’s three North Carolina locations, although the staff and students of Sandhills Teen Challenge in Carthage were away at the time.
Having finished the walk, which was several months in the planning, Webb hopes that completing the task he had set out to finish has burnished his own image somewhat.
“Maybe people will see now that it wasn’t just an act for a year,” Webb said. “I was serious about what I said and people can take me at my word now; I set out to do some things and, with God’s help, I did them. There were plenty of times in there where I could have said no, I don’t want to do it anymore because, believe me, there were those times. A lot of times in my past, people couldn’t refer to me as someone very reliable or somebody that whenever I told you I would do something, you could rely on me to do it, because nine times out of 10, I didn’t. Being known as a person that, if they tell you something, they mean it, that carries a lot of weight these days.”
His primary goal, however, was to inspire those currently battling addiction and to rehabilitate the image of those who have suffered from it.
“I would like to think that, if there has been anything proven, it’s that nothing is impossible with God,” said Webb. “Even addicts can get straight and live productive lives. You don’t necessarily have to give up on people because of their lifestyle. With God, anything’s possible, and He can change anybody He wants to, and He can use any circumstances in their lives to accomplish His purpose for them.”
Webb’s trek itself was literally an uphill battle in places.
“I was bitten by an insect in Carthage, so for the last 100 miles I walked with the bottom part of my leg swollen — I wound up getting cellulitis,” he said. “I finished the last 100 miles in just about pure agony. It was a mental barrier, it was a physical barrier — I hit what a lot of runners call your ‘wall,’ you hit a wall where you feel like you just can’t do it anymore, but you have to push through that before you understand that you can do it, you just have to want to.”
The thought of students still working through their troubles in Teen Challenge programs gave Webb the motivation he needed to continue towards his goal.
“I had a lot of men that are in Teen Challenge programs that were looking at me as a source of encouragement for them, that I was an inspiration for them,” said Webb. “It gave them hope that God could use them to do some of the same things. That’s where I drew a lot of my strength from — knowing that if I quit, I quit on them, and I couldn’t allow myself to quit on them.”
Webb was periodically accompanied by Teen Challenge students, with the men of Dare Challenge heading out with him for the first few miles. On his own, Webb became an ambassador for Teen Challenge, sharing his experiences with those he passed by as he walked through the state.
“It’s amazing how, when people would hear what we were doing and why we were doing it, even out on the road we would have people stop and say ‘Hey, what are you doing?’ and we would tell them and they would just take money out of their pocket and they would give,” said Webb. “We definitely surpassed any expectations that I would have planned to have to begin with.” Students from Greater Piedmont Teen Challenge in Greensboro drove down to walk with him through Carthage as well as welcoming him to their program with open arms upon completion of the walk on the afternoon of April 29.
“I finished up at 4:01, right on the money,” Webb said. “We had anticipated four o’clock, but I was a minute slow. At Greater Piedmont Teen Challenge I wasn’t expecting anything other than to sit down and have dinner, but when I got there, there were almost 200 people there. There was a big reception, a lot of love shown, a lot of singing, and people from my home church who had bussed up to Greensboro.”
Although Webb’s experience was physically draining, the Epidemic Walk Project has not reached its final chapter. Webb hopes that other Teen Challenge students can carry on with what he has set out to do.
“I see Epidemic Walk Project going other places or, believe it or not, being an annual thing,” he said. “There are some ideas that God has laid on my heart to do, and take it in some directions that I would never have thought of … allowing other Teen Challenge graduates the opportunity to go out there and do something to give back to Teen Challenge.”