THE FREEDOM TRAIL

Tom Legge (Bruce 02) gives an account of his experience completing The Freedom Trail in aid of The Royal British Legion: a journey which marked a significant turning point in his life, following 3 years of drug, sex and alcohol addiction. Tom gave this speech to the Royal British Legion when presenting his fundraising efforts to the Charity.

Last year, I awoke after trying to kill myself or rather, kill the schizophrenic alter ego I had created over a secret three-year period of drug, alcohol and sex addiction. This included a spell in prison in South Africa; homelessness in three countries; porn and paid sex addiction; robbery; kidnap; theft; abuse; loss of colour in my eyesight and much more.

I believe I was saved by my guardian angel. I was in shock and went into a coma. I came out of it and went into a recovery programme called Quantum Sobriety Rehabilitation (www.quantumsobriety.com) where recovery focuses on meditation, yoga and quantum physics. On my second day in rehab I had a spiritual awakening so powerful it changed every aspect of my life in the space of two hours. It helped me grieve, forgive and let go of so much and turned many negatives in my life into positives and sent me down a new path of a spiritual life. I finished rehab and wanted to focus on helping other people in order to be happy myself.

I was a little at a loss as to how to start and who to help, so I researched my options and stumbled across Discover Adventure, who run The Freedom Trail. The Freedom Trail is a beautiful and demanding trek in the Pyrenees which follows the Chemin de la Liberté, one of the toughest WW2 escape routes from Nazi-occupied France. Local people risked their lives to help the thousands of allied servicemen and Jewish refugees fleeing to safety along this route. The trek is arduous and steep and takes in spectacular scenery of cirques, rocky ridges, beech forests and mountain lakes. It is an incredible trek with a poignant undertone and provided the perfect personal challenge and a way to help others by fundraising for the Royal British Legion. After I’d booked, I began to question if this was the right charity to start with: should it be the first one I help, what do they really do?

I felt in my heart, and do to this day, that without the brave people that fight and die for us in conflict we would not have our freedom. Without freedom, nothing would exist. No other charities, no life as we know it, so it seemed the logical place to start.

Then came the training! I had five months until the off and had to figure out the best way to get fit for the challenge. I had just come out of the most detrimental addiction my doctor had ever seen. I was as white as snow and had psoriasis all over me, bones protruding, no muscle, I weighed in at just under 9 stone. I had no strength, my eyesight was blurred and I was still mentally fairly disabled. My schizophrenia had been borderline controlled in rehab and I had been concentrating on mental recovery since April. So getting fit for the trek was to be a task and a half!

I hit the gym four times a week, with a personal trainer at the beginning. My trainer tested me and he found that I had to rebuild ALL my muscles and bones. So I was doing a routine of weights for the whole five months but I wasn’t allowed to add much weight of any kind to each practice. Very boring! My training also included a trial run in Snowdonia.

I needed to get my sponsorship up and running and decided to start a blog, to document my recovery. I started writing in very honest and open detail about areas of my addiction. You can read my blogs at www.happyleggy.com

It took a hell of a lot of courage to link my blog to a Facebook page, open to all, and then link it to my sponsorship for donations. However, it worked beautifully and gave others an insight to my journey.

I continued for seven months, wrote 12 blog pages, I posted letters, drafted donation pages and added personal touches to as many family, friends and businesses as I could think of to try for those extra pennies. I am so grateful to everyone who helped me and I am proud that I raised just over £6,000 for the Royal British Legion.

Now for the trip itself. I decided that I wouldn’t tell anyone about my past problems and chose to do the trip for the Legion and not me. This was a little tough as all we did for 8 days was talk and walk! We had a couple of scares, falls, slides, trips, mini accidents and tumbles. The trip was truly inspiring and the universe spoke to me throughout, in an extraordinary fashion! There were some tough moments: the terrain tested us all as did sleeping rough. That’s why it’s a challenge. It pushes you to a new level. Survival becomes part of your day and team work is essential. We bonded so quickly as we realised we depended on each other.

My kit was all very basic as I couldn’t afford to buy anything flash. Basic was fine. My bag broke on the first day and our Northerner guide fixed it for me using parts of my bag. There is a huge amount of resilience in the company and team. The people were awesome, many will be friends for life!

I kept to my routine of recovery each day and was up two hours before anyone else meditating and doing yoga with affirmations in what can only be described as a fathomless beauty of different views each morning! The rest of the team did catch on to what I was doing and around half way into the trip, I had gone from a recovering drug addict to a yoga teacher! Even Alan, our most ridiculous team member of 69 years of age, joined in, albeit with much animosity towards me!

The trek inspired me to do a challenge either for myself or for a charity once a year and for that I’m very grateful. The experience has encouraged me to help the Royal British Legion more and if I can, either with the poppy appeal, seminars or awareness talks, I will!

I believe there are three things in this world that will make you happier than you can possibly imagine: forgiveness to yourself and others; have no secrets and have gratitude for what you have.

Do the things you love because it makes your heart beat faster and your eyes glow. No matter if it’s hiking, yoga, gardening, painting, sex, meditation, photography, going for walks, helping others – just do it! Do it as often as you can because that’s what life is about, creating as many passionate happy moments as possible. Don’t let anyone stop you from doing the things you love – not even yourself!

Tom Legge (Bruce 02)

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