Freddie Johnson: 'The God of Many Chances'
By Kara Lavengood
The 700 Club
"I reached under my shirt. I pulled out a pistol and showed it to him. I said, 'Now, you see this? I’m going to put it back in my shirt, 'cause I don’t want anybody to get hurt.'"
That sounds like the work of a hardened criminal, but Freddie Johnson was a professional musician. This was his first in a string of robberies, and it all started with one little pill.
"I’ve never felt anything like that in my life, the physical euphoria," he tells The 700 Club.
His girlfriend, who soon became his wife, introduced him to the powerful drug dilaudid, a synthetic form of heroin. From his first experience with the opiate, he knew he’d crossed a line.
"I knew that that was something serious. It was a door that I should have never stepped through. At first, it only took a half of a pill, but then, the body builds up a tolerance to it and it takes more and more."
Freddie found a dentist who agreed to write him virtually limitless prescriptions for the drug.
"He started writing me prescriptions for 600 tablets of dilaudid every day six days a week."
With that number of pills, Freddie and his wife could fuel their addiction, and then some. What they didn’t use themselves, they gave to Freddie’s cousin, who sold them.
"In just no time at all, by most people’s standards back then, I was rich. We’re supporting our habit, and my cousin was bringing me about $10,000 or $12,000 a day in cash."
Eventually, police caught both the dentist who’d written the prescriptions and the pharmacist who supplied the pills. Without a source, Freddie was in a painful situation.
"The physical pain involved with having to kick an opiate habit is indescribable. From the crown of your head to the bottom of your feet, you’re in agony. Nothing will make it go away except the opiate itself."
He recalled hearing the name of a wholesale drug distributor . He opened the Yellow Pages and searched for its address.
"I said, 'Okay, I’m going to go rob one of these warehouses.' I had never done anything criminal like that, but I determined that I can’t deal with what’s going on. I’ve got to have some pills. I went in and robbed them, stole several thousand tablets of dilaudid.Within about four weeks, I had to rob another drug warehouse."
He robbed 12 warehouses, spanning eight states over a ten-month period. He raked in between six and seven million dollars worth of prescription drugs and was personally injecting more than 125 tablets a day.
Still, he knew what he was doing was wrong. He’d been raised by a Christian family and knew about the love of God.
"Money does not buy you any peace. I had plenty of money. I never had one moment of peace. I can remember Christians telling me, 'Freddie, if you don’t change, you’re going to hell.' I know that. I’m on a train that’s going too fast to jump off of right now. I didn’t know. Once you become addicted, it’s not an easy thing to stop. I knew that it was going to come to a bad end."
He was right. It wasn’t long before his crime spree came to an adbrupt stop. He says, "I was out on bond in five states. I had gotten picked up on some of the charges. Once they charged me with one of the robberies, it was kind of like tipping over the first domino."
Freddie was convicted of his crimes and sent to prison. He served five years in Texas and 13 in Louisiana. The other states where he was wanted allowed him to serve time concurrent with what he was already doing. During that time he and his wife divorced.
"When you get arrested and your freedom is taken away from you, it is a shocking, demoralizing, traumatic experience."
Freddie was released when he was 50 years old. He got a job and started attending church. But then he got a double ear infection. The doctor, even knowing Freddie’s prior addictions, urged him to take a potent painkiller and he did.
"I got addicted again as a result of the pain medication for the ear infection."
For a while he maintained a seemingly normal lifestyle. He met and married a Christian woman and even helped with a prison ministry through his church.
"God helped people through me, but I was not committed to the Lord."
When he couldn’t get anymore refills, he robbed a pharmacy. He recalls, "I never thought I would ever do anything wrong again. I could not imagine ever doing something like that again. It just was beyond my comprehension."
When the cops showed up at Freddie’s house, he wasn’t there, but his wife was. She was in shock. She knew nothing about his addiction. She says, "I was clueless. He was functioning, working, getting up in the morning, doing everything that someone who doesn’t have an addiction does. I didn’t know where he was and it was a very horrible time."
Freddie turned himself in, knowing he might spend the rest of his life in prison. In a public jail cell, waiting to hear his fate and in the throes of drug withdrawal, he made an important life decision.
"I talked to the Lord, and I said, 'I’ve always known who You were. I can’t take this anymore. If You’re a merciful Lord, which I believe You are, will You please forgive me and please take my life? I cannot stand this pain anymore.' The next day I was able to roll over and get up on my hands and knees. I crawled over the bunk. I put my head on it and knelt there. I began to pray. God touched my consciousness."
When his court date came, the judge sentenced him to six years. "I knew that the Lord had intervened."
Freddie served his time and walked out a new man. He’s been drug-free for more than eight years.
"The difference is now, I have the Holy Spirit dwelling within me. I didn’t have that before. I knew that all the other times before I had never surrendered."
His wife says, "He totally submitted to the Lord. He would not make a move without first praying about it. That’s really what a Godly man does."
"Some people would say that situations are hopeless," Freddie says. "I would tell them that’s a lie from the pits of hell. If you are breathing, there is hope whether you know it or not. The Lord Jesus Christ is not the God of a second chance. He’s the God of many chances. Hopefully this will touch people’s lives. If He helped Freddie Johnson, He’ll help me."
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