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'Old friends' - the Jimmy Lont story | News

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'Old friends' - the Jimmy Lont story
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HOLLAND, Mich. (WZZM) -- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 105 people die every day in the United States from drug overdoses.

In fact, since 2010, drug overdoses have become the leading cause of death annually in the U.S., more than death by falling, gun violence or traffic accidents.

This story is about two West Michigan men: one who survived drug abuse, and his close friend who did not.

One of the men will tell his story from beyond his addiction, while the other will tell his from beyond the grave.

Jimmy Lont graduated from Holland Christian High School in 2008. He was one of the best football players ever to wear a Maroons uniform. To this day, Jimmy still holds several records at Holland Christian.

But Jimmy's record-setting football career wasn't completely all his doing; he had some help.

"After eighth grade, I started drinking; then the marijuana use started soon after that," Jimmy said. "I'd smoke it once a week at first, but once my sophomore year started, the marijuana use was every day."

The drinking and weed eventually led to an addiction to prescription pills.

"A couple of my friends at school said, 'Hey, take these with weed and alcohol, and it will get you totally messed up,'" Jimmy said. "It would make you feel invincible."

Jimmy would mix the pills, weed and booze before Holland Christian football games, allowing him to make bone-crushing hits on the field, which left him seemingly unfazed.

"I never thought any of these things were bad," Jimmy says. "I didn't see any bad consequences to what I was doing."

Jeff Christensen was Jimmy's friend and played football with him at Holland Christian.

"He had the whole future," said Bill Christensen, Jeff's father. "He was groomed since he was 16 years old to take over [Christensen Fiberglass]," said Bill, referring to the family business located in Holland, Michigan.

"Jeff idolized Jimmy," said Shelly Christensen, Jeff's mother.

Jimmy and Jeff split apart after graduating from high school. While Jeff went to work at the family business, Jimmy went to college at Ferris State University.

"I met all sorts of people who just liked to do the same drugs that I was doing in high school," said Jimmy, referring to his new social sphere at Ferris. "I dove even deeper into drugs."

Jimmy decided to advance his drug habits and tried methadone.

"When you first start taking methadone, it bubbles up in your stomach and you throw up," said Jimmy. "I just felt like it was the next step in my partying evolution."

When methadone started to become hard to get at Ferris, Jimmy decided to try a much cheaper drug.

Heroin.

"It was cheaper to buy a gram of heroin than to go out and look for methadone," Jimmy said." Heroin was the best girlfriend I ever had; she never left me; every time I called, she was there; the feeling never changed; I always knew what I was going to get."

Jimmy eventually became a drug dealer, selling marijuana so he could save up enough money for his heroin addiction.

"I would snort two lines of heroin, then go hang with my friends and drink fifteen beers, then come back to my apartment, snort two more lines of heroin before I went to bed," Jimmy said.

Jimmy would eventually quit college at Ferris State because he needed a job so he could make money to buy more heroin.

Jimmy's family knew of his drug abuse, so they sent him to a treatment center in Grand Rapids, where he detoxed for three days.

But he found a way to prove to the doctors that he didn't belong there.

"I did everything I could to make my heart beat slower, not show any symptoms, so I could get out of there," Jimmy said.

Jimmy also met a girl at the treatment center who taught him how to shoot up heroin.

"I had been afraid of needles my whole life, and was afraid when she shot me up the first time, but the second time I was done with the fear," Jimmy added.

Heroin became Jimmy's lifestyle.

"When I'd see my mom, or any family member, I would try to be nice to them so they'd give me money so I could go buy more heroin," said Jimmy.

Jimmy eventually reconnected with Jeff Christensen, who also was experimenting with drugs.

"Jeff was no saint," said Bill Christensen. "He did some things I didn't know anything about."

One night, Jimmy and Jeff met at the Burger King restaurant on 16th St. in Holland to do a drug deal. Jeff bought heroin from Jimmy.

Jeff had never done heroin before.

After arriving home that night, Jeff Christensen overdosed and died from the heroin he bought from Jimmy.

"After I sold to Jeff, I really felt like my life was going to end," said Jimmy. "I thought maybe I should give the justice system a chance."

Jimmy went to the Ottawa County Sheriff's Department and turned himself in.

"I was arrested for manufacturing and delivering a controlled substance causing death," said Jimmy. "I was arraigned and let go that day on a personal recognizance bond, providing I got into treatment and followed the bond orders."

Jimmy was taken to a treatment center in Brighton, Michigan, where he was given ten days to detox, before being transported back to Ottawa County, where he was told he'd serve one year in jail, and get three years probation.

While in lockup in Ottawa County, Jimmy still managed to find drugs.

"I had figured out how you get them in jail, so I found a way to keep getting more," Jimmy said. "It's just like outside, only [the drug trade operation] on a different rule system."

Nine months into his one-year jail sentence, Jimmy got a visit from his probation officer.

"He spoke to me about his son who has been treated for heroin addiction in Argentina," Jimmy said.

"It was kind of an interesting process, because our rules say that the probationer can't leave the country," said Bill Poel, Jimmy's probation officer. "I went and talked to Jimmy's sentencing judge in Grand Haven, and he said if Jimmy's parents are willing to send him to Argentina, he would allow that to happen."

Jimmy's parents flew him down to Buenos Aires, Argentina, which is the home of CMI Abasto, an addiction-treatment facility which boasts a 100% cure rate for addiction, for those who complete the two-year program.

Jimmy started his treatment in January 2011 and completed it in January 2013.

"I am cured of my heroin addiction," Jimmy said with a smile on his face. "I no longer have any urges to take any kind of drug."

When Jimmy returned to Holland , there were two things he knew he needed to do. One was to visit Jeff Christensen's grave for the first time, and the other was to reach out to Jeff's parents to see if they'd be willing to meet with him.

After spending some time at the cemetery, the members of CMI Abasto, who traveled back to Holland with him, contacted Bill and Shelly Christensen and set up a day and time for Jimmy to meet with them.

"I knew this would help me and my wife," said Bill Christensen.

"For me, it was time to have some closure," said Shelly Christensen.

So, on a Thursday afternoon in May 2014, Jimmy went to Christensen Fiberglass and had an intensely emotional meeting with the parents of his best friend. The Christensens spent well over an hour with Jimmy in Bill's office crying, hugging and apologizing.

It was a meeting five years in the making.

"I had mixed emotions; it was very hard to do, but I'm glad I did it," said Bill Christensen after meeting with Jimmy. "He's becoming the man that Jeff always thought he could be. Jeff really cared about Jimmy, so for now to see Jimmy healthy is a real happy time."

While referring to Jimmy beating heroin addiction, Bill said, "It's almost like Jeff's last successful mission has happened right before my eyes."

Five years after watching Jimmy Lont be sentenced to prison time for selling a fatal dose of heroin to their son, Bill and Shelly Christensen have decided to join Jimmy on his quest to help save people from drug addiction.

"For me to hold a grudge and not support Jimmy and not show alliance with him would be foolish," added Bill Christensen. "Jimmy knows what it takes to beat heroin; what an asset that is to our society."

While at the cemetery visiting Jeff's grave, Jimmy told his friend, "You did what every best friend should do: you somehow managed to help me become the best me, even in your passing."

Jimmy Lont's mission in life now is to become the first American-born philosophical coach at CMI Abasto in Argentina, so he can help people overcome their addictions.

If you're suffering from addiction, or know of people who are, there are team members from CMI Abasto in West Michigan right now.

They've set up a local phone number: 1-800-579-5578.

CMI is also planning to host a public meeting at the Place Residence Inn Hotel by Marriott, 631 Southpointe Ridge Rd. in Holland.

The meeting is Monday, November 10, at 8:00 p.m.


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