Co-founder of Amend Apparel: Aaron Lentz’s Life Story.
Whenever I’ve been asked to share my story at meetings, recovery centers, or with my sponsor, my initial reaction is always mixed with both anxiety and excitement. Excitement because I know sharing my story can help others recover, but also anxiety because I know I will be going over all the terrible things I went through before I made it into rehab. If recovery has taught me anything, it’s that pushing through those uncomfortable moments will help me grow as a person and keep my recovery strong. I decided to write this because we can only keep what we have by giving it away, you know that lovely paradox.
Growing up I had what you would consider a very typical childhood. My mom stayed at home and took care of my three siblings and I, while my dad worked. In general, we were very spoiled and I never went without anything I needed. Most of my days were spent playing hockey and traveling around the Midwest for tournaments. I don’t ever remember my parents fighting or having any real problems when I was younger. I have fond memories of my childhood and really could have not asked for much more…..then I was introduced to drugs and alcohol.
Age 13 was the first time I ever drank alcohol, coincidentally this was also the same age that I would first get in trouble with the law. One night, myself and three of my older friends, snuck out of our houses and met up with each other. We didn’t have anything in particular planned when we first met but as the night unfolded we came up with a “great” idea. We used industrial plastic wrap that my friend stole from his mom and wrapped it between two street signs. This created a sort of clear wall in the middle of the street. After finishing it was around 2 a.m in the morning and we sat behind some nearby bushes waiting for a car to come. Our idea was that the car would hit the plastic wrap, get covered by it, and the driver would have to get out and unravel it all. But to our luck, on that back country Wisconsin road, a guy and his girlfriend came barreling down the road on a motorcycle. The couple hit the plastic wrap and totaled their bike. Thankfully, no one was seriously hurt but they did have minor injuries.
Later on, the authorities would find out we were responsible and I would be sentenced to a month in juvenile detention at the age of 14. As if being a freshman in high school wasn’t hard enough, I would be attending school during the day and after school returning to juvenile hall. Looking back, this was where I started to view myself differently. I began thinking I was one of those kids that got in to trouble because it was the cool and fun thing to do. Around this time is when I started drinking alcohol and smoking weed almost every day.
A lot of things would happen throughout my time in high school, too many stories to count. Everything from skipping class, printing fake lunch cards, selling weed, to almost dropping out – the list goes on and on. I’m sure many people can relate to this. The next major event in my life would be when I was sentenced to 3 years in prison when I was only 18 years old.
Like I said, the stories of what I did go on and on. It’s important to mention that when I was 16 I was in a very serious car accident. I ran a stop sign and hit another car with a family of four inside of it. Riding in my passenger seat was my best friend at the time. We were on our way to a dodgeball game with some of our other friends. I ran the stop sign, t-boned the other car and slid down a twenty foot ditch into a telephone pole. Everyone involved in the accident had to be helicoptered to the hospital except for me, I walked away.
As a result of the accident, I would be charged with two felony counts for reckless driving with intent to injure. As part of being charged with felonies and posting bail, I had to see a parole officer every week. I was drug tested to make sure I was not using drugs, but being the addict I am I could not stop smoking marijuana. I also got drunk almost every day before school my senior year even though I knew the consequences. Every time I failed a drug test I was charged with two more bail jumping felonies. When it was all said and done, I failed so many drug tests that I had 14 felonies. Finally, about a month after I graduated high school they revoked my bail and I was sentenced to 3 years in prison.
When I was sentenced, I was fortunate enough that the judge gave me the option to enter an “earned release” program. This was a boot camp style program that was run by ex-military sergeants. This program was centers red on both physical training and it was where I was first introduced to what addiction was. Of course, at this time, I thought I didn’t relate to any of it and just went along with everything so I could get out of prison early. I went to my first AA meeting when I was there and I remember thinking I didn’t need that at all. I was definitely wrong.
After Jail and Start of College
I got out of prison at 19 and started going to college. I did really well in school for the first two years and maintained sobriety. I drank on the weekends but that was pretty customary for a college kid to do. Eventually, like these things tend to do, I started to take things further. As soon as visits with my parole officer happened with less frequency, I started smoking weed and drinking off and on.
A few years of this went by, and the summer of my sophomore year in college, I was introduced to OxyContin. I was going through a break up with a girl at the time and a friend of mine asked if I wanted to try it. I remember feeling very sad but as soon as I snorted a line, I was happy! What started as a weekend thing, started to creep into Monday. I progressed a little more and my 3 day weekend became four. Within a few months, I was doing it every single day without a break in sight.
The Bad Times
I became completely lost in the drug. My entire life was focused on finding ways and means to get more and it took complete control of me. I didn’t even realize it was happening. My grades fell, I was doing the bare minimum at work and I didn’t even care about a social life. I just wanted to feel numb. After a while, with the help of some late night Google searches, I realized I was addicted to the drug. I tried many times to stop using. I would lock myself in my apartment on the weekends, turn my phone off, and tell myself if I could just go a few days without using and I would get through it. That never worked. After many times trying to stop, I gave up hope of it ever happening and just accepted the reality that I would be using forever.
I dropped out of school and moved back in with my parents in an attempt to get clean. I had absolutely no money and no legitimate way of earning it. This led me to steal from the people I love, constantly lie, and do all the things I never thought I would end up doing. Eventually like everybody else, I started using heroin because it was stronger and cheaper. This accelerated all the bad shit that was happening and sent me spiraling out of control. Finally, after living this cycle of bullshit day in and day out, I knew I needed to get help. I couldn’t do it anymore on my own.
One night, high out of my mind, I Googled “exotic rehab locations”. Not really sure why I thought to do this but I started searching. I ended up finding a rehab in Costa Rica that was about a third of the price of the rehab an hour from my house. My Dad and I called the place the next day and started considering it. I didn’t want to just think about doing it any longer, I knew I just had to go. The next day, I was on a plane to a rehab in Central America that I knew nothing about. This was the start of an entirely new life for me.
A New Start
Rehab was where I started to learn about a new way of life. I met other people who were struggling with the exact same thing as me. Through all the classes, going to meetings every day, and working with a sponsor, I started to have hope again. That was something I did not have for the longest time. Don’t get me wrong, it was extremely hard at first and I wanted to give up many times but because of the great people I surrounded myself with, I was able to do it. Working on myself day in and day out, and keeping my recovery at the center of everything I do, I was able to accomplish a lot of great things after getting clean. I went back to school and earned a degree in information systems and technology from the University of Wisconsin, I started a web development business, I am a co-founder of a recovery related apparel company called Amend Apparel, I live in the beautiful country of Costa Rica, I’ve traveled all of the world, and I am currently engaged to the love of my life. After all the things I went though, I live an amazing life today. I don’t take anything for granted anymore and I am grateful for every day I get to live. I hope telling my story can give hope to others and help at least one person on their journey in recovery.
Written By: Aaron Lentz
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