Editor’s note: This is the first in a three-week series. We’ll explore the confessions of prisoners who say poor decisions, drugs, and alcohol abuse changed their lives forever.
The first time Stan Martovitz got drunk, he was in eighth grade.
From weed to prescription pills to heroin, his addictions grew worse. The man who once wanted to become a lawyer saw his dreams evaporate before his eyes.
Today he wears a brown jumpsuit issued by the Grafton Correctional Institution, and is nearing the end of a seven-year prison sentence for aggravated assault.
Martovitz was one of four inmates who shared their stories Tuesday with students at Amherst Junior High School.
“We have these (Department of Rehabilitation and Correction) uniforms on today because we knew exactly what we weren’t supposed to do and we kept doing it,” he said.
It’s all about decisions.
Martovitz said he chose time and again to give drugs power in his life.
He doesn’t want anyone else to walk his path.
The Cleveland native grew up in a bad neighborhood but with a good family that always showed him love. He earned straight A’s in school. Learning came easy to him.
But when he began to use marijuana, he didn’t think it was a big deal because he had relatives who did far harder drugs.
“Eventually what we’re doing isn’t enough. You have to smoke more and more to get high,” he said.
It’s a story that Amherst students apparently know well.
When Martovitz asked how many know someone who is a drug addict, almost all the hands in the junior high school gymnasium went up in the air.
While it’s horrific, it sadly isn’t surprising.
About 20 to 25 percent of high school seniors admit they use drugs, while 60 percent say they received, kept, or used drugs at school, according to Lorain County coroner Stephen Evans.
One in six Lorain County residents — regardless of age — abuses narcotics, he said. Evans’ office confirmed there were nearly 70 overdose deaths in 2013.
At the end of his eighth grade year, Martovitz’ father was killed in a car crash. The son dealt with the pain by drinking every weekend and smoking everyday.
It didn’t make his problems go away.
His addiction grew, and Martovitz in high school became a dealer to support his body’s increasing demand for drugs.
He dealt in suburbs like Amherst.
“I didn’t care who I was poisoning,” he said.
Still, Martovitz did well enough to enroll at Ohio State University. While there, his grades dropped. Worse, he made the mistake of selling to an undercover police officer.
After a stint in prison, Martovitz returned to school and received a degree in criminal justice. He said he still wanted to be a lawyer, but soon ended up in front of a judge again — this time for failing a urine test.
“Drugs and alcohol changed who I was as an individual,” he told Amherst students. “I didn’t even find out who I was until back in prison. I got sober.”
His descent was not over, though.
Back on the wagon on St. Patrick’s Day 2006, he got in a fight and bashed a man in the head with a gun. He managed to stay low until that July, when investigators caught up with him.
Martovitz said he led them on a high-speed chase through the neighborhood where he grew up. That was his low point.
Now behind bars, he has 16 months left until he can return to his family.
“There’s no such thing as a time machine,” he said. “All you can do is learn from your mistakes.”
Martovitz is trying to become a new man. He has the support of other inmates who have made the same kind of poor decisions and regret them every waking hour.
But he still deals with guilt. He said one of the hardest parts of his time in prison has been realizing how it’s affected his family.
There have been other pains, too.
Just 10 days prior to his visit to AJHS, one of Martovitz’ close friends died of an overdose.
“She didn’t know how precious she was and beautiful she was,” he told students. “I’m telling you this because you are special, you are beautiful. If anyone ever tries to tell you different, they are lying.”