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Local woman shares her story of addiction, recovery and faith

Local woman shares her story of addiction, recovery and faith

January 13th, 2018 by Ashley Gardner in Texarkana News

Joy Lentz began taking prescribed painkillers after an auto accident. At the height of her addiction, she was using illegal drugs and was incarcerated. She has turned her life around and hopes sharing her story can inspire others dealing with addiction.

Photo by Kayleigh Moreland /Texarkana Gazette.

It started out innocently enough.

After a car wreck in 2007, Joy Lentz was prescribed painkillers to deal with an injury. She started out taking half a pill twice a day when she was hurting. Gradually, she took more and more until her need for opioid painkillers spiraled out of control. By the end of her addiction, she was taking 10 hydrocodones at a time, several times a day.

"Before that wreck, I'd never taken a pain pill," Lentz said.

That's how easy it can happen.

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Lentz, an outgoing girl who grew up going to church, never could have imagined the road pain pills would take her down. In the height of her addiction, she stole from her family, started using other drugs including methamphetamine and cocaine and went to prison four times.

"My life was just a roller coaster," she said.

When she got out of prison in July 2014, she had every intention of staying clean. She moved in with her mother, who'd been raising her two children.

"I came home and was trying to be the person God created me to be and that my children needed me to be, but because I'd been gone, my children didn't know how to accept that," Lentz said.

Stress pushed her over the edge, and she started using again.

"I would take the pills. It relaxed me and chilled me out and made me not worry about all the craziness," she said.

She was spending $200 on her habit, stealing pills from her mom who'd had surgery, and then she hit rock bottom.

"I was stealing pills from my mom and I'd meant to replace them, but she ran out and discovered what I was doing. I tried to blame it on my son. So here I am putting it on him. That's when I stopped and made the phone call. I found a suboxone clinic in Little Rock and made an appointment," Lentz said. "I packed all my stuff, called my best friend and asked to come stay with her. I knew it would be a big deal when I left, and it was. I didn't speak to my mother or my kids for three months."

Suboxone is an opiate used to help people addicted to opioids break the habit. It's given to people through a medically supervised program where counseling and drug testing are required.

It prevents withdrawal symptoms including nausea, diarrhea, muscle-cramping and generally feeling miserable.

Lentz said suboxone has been a big help to her recovery. She's been clean since January 2015.

"It doesn't make you feel anything. You don't feel weird at all, and it doesn't alter you. People who have the problems I've had, our bodies don't make certain chemicals anymore because we've abused it and tore our bodies up. Suboxone is an opiate, but the way it's broken down, you don't get that feeling off it. You don't get high," Lentz said.

There is more to recovery than suboxone, though. Lentz credits her sobriety to her relationship with God and Celebrate Recovery, a 12-step group that's biblically based.

"A big part of my recovery is God. When something consumes you like that and you take it away, you have to have other things. For me, that was God and Celebrate Recovery," she said.

Celebrate Recovery has helped her get to the root of her problems and the reasons drugs appealed to her in the first place.

"It breaks it down. Everything we do in our lives is rooted in something, and it helps you see why you've done the things you've done and work through issues you have," Lentz said.

Life has drastically improved in the past couple of years for Lentz.

"My life has done a complete turnaround. I have a functioning, wonderful relationship with my boyfriend. We have an 18-month old daughter together. God has blessed me because I changed my life," she said.

She knows there's a stigma associated with her past, but she wanted to share her story in hopes that it could help someone who's where she once was.

"Everybody knows Joy has been to prison. Joy's done drugs, but now they also see me and how I'm living this amazing life. If I can do it, anybody can. Do I get judgment from people? Yes, I do. There were people I hurt along the way, but all I can do is continue my life and show them I'm real this time and I'm doing good. It's not about what people think. If we worry about that, we will never get up," Lentz said.

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