How Harmony, Hope and Healing Helped Glenn

Glenn Johnson
Glenn Johnson (middle) with his grandsons.

By Donald Gordon

With 11 cents to his name, 55 year-old Glenn Johnson found his way to the front desk. Glenn asked the orderly for a cigarette, the attendant rolled Glenn a cigarette and handed him a single match.   He continued out to the courtyard and struggled to light it.  As rain fell upon the courtyard, it doused any hopes of igniting the cigarette or of being admitted for drug rehabilitation. In this moment the old song Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child, came into Glenn’s mind.

“Richie Havens opened Woodstock with that song,” said Glenn.  He remembered the period that the hippies called “the dawning of the Age of Aquarius” in 1969 which marked the beginning of his 41-year battle with heroin. But it was on this day that his inner faith was sparked and his relationship with God would begin to light his road to recovery.

Glenn initially started college at Bradley University in Peoria, IL, in 1971 but was later expelled. He revealed that he had been using and selling drugs such as heroin while enrolled.  In 1974, Glenn was offered a full tennis scholarship to Roosevelt University in Chicago. Never having played tennis more than a week in summer camp, he excelled.

“I don’t know how I did it, I would shoot dope and then go play tennis,” he said.  During the seventies Glenn’s drug use would soar and he used every drug accessible at the time.  During this time his drugs of choice were cocaine and heroin.  Though deeply drug addicted, he managed to obtain a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration and graduated from Roosevelt University in 1979.  “I was on the nine year program,” Glenn said.

In 1995, Glenn was crippled in a car accident causing damage to his hips and legs.  It would be another 15 years before Glenn would begin to see the light.

In 2010, at the age of 55, Glenn had gone completely blind. Sadly, Glenn could not remember the last time that he was able see anything, it had been years.  Blinded by cataracts, Glenn could not get off of dope long enough to qualify for elective surgery to save his sight.  Blind, crippled, addicted and homeless, Glenn suffered from dangerously high blood pressure.  “I hadn’t been to a doctor in 30 years, I was one potato chip short of a stroke,” Glenn said.

By God’s grace, Glenn was accepted into a 28-day Drug Rehab program.  So thin that his bones showed, his knees knocked and wearing his girlfriend’s pants, he was determined to get clean without any help from methadone.

“It’s only the grace of God that I would still have things like a liver, kidneys and a heart,” said Glenn.

In October 2010, Glenn’s therapists tried getting him into half way houses in Chicago but nobody would admit him, except Illinois’ very first half way house, ReVive’s Higgins House.  Now with a second chance at life, “The Higgins House is where I learned to be a man about this and I held my two feet to the fire about staying clean,” Glenn said.

“You could see and feel his emotion about having another chance to change his lifestyle,” said Chester Miles, Higgins House Manager. “I got involved with Harmony, Hope and Healing, a spiritual music ministry at ReVive. We’d go to places and sing for people, it was great, there was a therapeutic value to the singing,” Glenn said.

Upon leaving ReVive, Chester helped Glenn find stable housing.  “The lady who is now my pastor today told me that God would forgive me for everything I’ve done but I was thinking you don’t know all that I’ve done,” said Glenn.  He described how one day the pastor began to pray for him and laid her hands on him and his life has never been the same since.

Glenn described how forming a personal relationship with God, God restored his life.  “God had his hand on my life, closing certain doors that guided me here, where he [God] needed me to be,” said Glenn.

Today at 60, Glenn is an ordained minister.  He teaches Bible study and Sunday worship.  He has regained all of his family relationships as well as his peace, love and joy. He said that he is grateful to Higgins House for helping him become a man and being responsible for himself for the first time.