For 10 years, DJ Hurst was hooked on prescription painkillers. 

Which eventually progressed to shooting heroin every day. 

“I wasn’t some working guy with a pill habit,” DJ said. “I was the epitome of what you’d think of if you heard the word ‘junkie.’ All the way out there; a daily miserable existence. One day I decided that I was tired of getting my ass handed to me and made a decision to get clean. I didn’t have the luxury of going to a treatment center. I did it myself. No detox meds. No rehab. Just guts and grit.”

On his second day of detoxing, DJ walked into a gym weighing less than 160 pounds – skin and bone, nearly dead and as weak physically as one could imagine. 

“I looked at myself in the mirror that day and for the first time in months, I promised myself I would never turn back,” he said. “For the next few years, I relentlessly busted my ass in inferior gyms, alone, and with no coach or training partner. I took myself from a dope-sick, skinny kid to a 260-pound man benching 500 and making a serious run at pulling 800.”

About 18 months ago, DJ moved to a new gym to be around legitimate, like-minded lifters and began prepping for a meet. He was peaked to have a big showing and his goal was to finish by pulling his fist 800-pound deadlift. 

“But 10 days out from my meet, on my very last pull of my entire prep, I tore my right distal bicep tendon,” DJ said. “It sucked but I went back to that original promise I made to myself that first day in the gym that I would always move forward.”

DJ had surgery to repair the tendon on Jan 11, 2018. Less than a week later, he was back in the gym under the SSB bar. He SSB squatted five days per week for five weeks until his arm was out of the brace. 

Exactly eight weeks post-surgery, he pulled 700 from the floor. 

“By that summer, about 6-7 months after surgery, I worked my way back up to benching 500 and making a run at an 800 pull,” he said. “But in August, I pulled a 780 lifetime PR and tore my left glute medial in the process. This muscle tear facilitated the process of rhabdo, which is where a toxic protein is released into the blood stream and somewhere in the process contracted a major blood infection that attacked my organs. My leg swelled up to three-times its normal size and I couldn’t walk.”

DJ went to the ER to have emergency surgery, still only thinking something was wrong with his leg. But he found out his kidneys were also shutting down. They took him to ICU, put a tube in his neck and immediately started dialysis to try to get his body to a point that it could withstand surgery so his leg could be saved – which was in danger of being amputated. 

“I finally went in for surgery with a ‘no greater than 25% chance’ of both living and making it out of there with my leg,” he said. “Thankfully I was able to keep both my leg and my life. I spent a total of three weeks in ICU. The infection ate my body alive. I went in weighing 275 pounds, and three weeks later I was just 200 pounds, using a walker to walk.”

That was in September of 2018. In October, DJ was cleared to lift weights again. 

“Just over three months after being released, almost dying and losing 75 pounds, I’m back up to my 270-pound body weight,” DJ said with a smile. “That’s 70 pounds in 90 days and I just pulled 750 from the floor. My goal is to get to my strongest point ever to match what I feel internally.”

DJ said his favorite APEMAN shirt is SUFFERING UNLEASHES GREATNESS. Not because he considers himself “great,” but because he truly believes without the many years of suffering, he would not be as driven as he is today. 

“You can always get back up better than you were when you got knocked down,” he said. “My entire life has been a series of exactly that. I am not the best lifter. I am not famous. But I am the epitome of what your brand stands for. The shirts and the meanings behind them are literally what I live every day of my life. I normally could care less about brands, or belongings in general, but I identify with APEMAN so much that I have no choice for it to be my favorite. I live my life to show people, mostly the younger dudes, that you can overcome anything and that you always have a choice how you respond do any situation life throws at you.”