Life is not without its challenges, and no one knows this better than Robert Johnson. Robert, 51, has traveled a rocky road on becoming the person he is today. The New Journey Residential Center resident, who grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, has learned to define his challenges, not let them define him.
Adversity came early in Robert’s life. During his childhood, he was severely abused. “I held this in for many years, keeping it to myself, building up baggage in my life. Events early in my life led to my falling into drug addiction, and spending time in prison,” says Robert. Addressing his past was a liberating experience for Robert. “When I was able to name it, claim it, and let it go, I became free of it,” he says.
Drug addiction caused many trials in Robert’s life. The hardships it created permeated Robert’s marriage. He and his wife separated for a period due to his drug use. “We were, by the grace of God, eventually able to come back together and continue our marriage,” says Robert. This past November, they celebrated 35 years of marriage.
Robert served in the U.S. Air Force, where his first tour of duty was in Misawa, Japan. He was assigned top-secret work, which included translating the Morse code. “I am proud and honored to have had such an important job,” says Nathaniel. He served 7 years in the Air Force.
While still in his addiction, Robert lost both his mother and son. In 2000, he lost his mother to lung cancer. “She was a God-loving woman and wonderful mother,” says Robert. Ten years later, his son was shot and killed. Robert said the losses motivated him to fight his drug addiction.
In August 2012, Robert will celebrate 5 years of being drug-free. He, however, acknowledges that even being drug-free, life still has its challenges. He was saddened by the loss of his father a couple years ago, but says he found consolation in realizing his dad went home knowing that Robert had 3 years drug-free.
Robert came to Bridging The Gap of Georgia in 2010, and spent a year in the program. He says BTGG played a significant role in his recovery and growth. His time in the program has helped him realize that no matter what obstacles and trials come his way, he can muster the fortitude to overcome them. “I am grateful that BTGG believed in me and gave me a chance to make the best of my life,” says Robert.
“We do recover,” says Robert. “I’m a living testimony of that. I could have been dead a long time ago, but by God’s grace, I’m still here. Everyone has a purpose in life. My purpose is to share my strengths, hopes, and dreams. I hope to show others that we can change our lives and have a positive impact on society.”
Robert works as a health care tech and peer support specialist for the Veterans Administration in Atlanta. “My responsibilities include giving lectures and conducting classes on topics such as overcoming addiction, mitigating stress and facilitating a successful rehabilitation,” says Robert. He says that empathizing with veterans encountering addiction challenges comes natural for him as he too has faced those same challenges.
What Robert says he is most grateful for is having today: “I am grateful that God woke me up in my right mind, that I am clean and sober, and in a position to help others.”
In his spare time, Robert enjoys listening to old school and gospel music, and singing in the choir at his church.
In 2011 – 38 years after graduating from high school – Robert received his Bachelor’s Degree in Human Services from Morehouse Collage in Atlanta, Georgia. Robert says that he is really proud of this accomplishment because it took him so many years to obtain. He completed his last semester making the Dean’s List. Robert’s message to the young and old alike is “Never give up on your dreams. No matter what age you are, you can obtain your education endeavors.”
Robert will start his Master of Social Work program this spring at Georgia State University. “I ultimately would like to pursue a doctorate degree,” says Robert. But he said that he realizes the importance of taking things in life one step at a time. It is this focus and certitude that has allowed him to garner the confidence to overcome life’s challenges.