BILLINGS — During three separate testimonies to the congregation at Harvest Church in Billings on Sunday, former Denver Bronco wide receiver Vance Johnson shared his story of recovery from addiction in hopes to inspire others.
“It’s the promise I made after I got clean that it would not be about Vance anymore, but that platform that I was able to get to in my career and the fall that I had, what better way to go out and show people that your transparency is actually offering hope to folks. To see that being famous doesn’t make you get there, all it does is show you another way that you are going to get to the top. So when you crash, that if something good is going to come from it. The Bible says, 'What the enemy means for evil, God means for good.' So I'm using what the enemy meant for evil in my life to be transparent and show the hope to so many," Johnson said.
Johnson had a 10-year career in the NFL as a wide receiver for the Denver Broncos from 1985 to 1995. Overcoming an abusive upbringing to rise playing football, Johnson open with the congregation about his struggles with addiction and thoughts of suicide and personal family struggles before and after the NFL.
Johnson has been sober since 2013. Over the past seven years, he's shared his story to more than 500,000 kids aged middle school to college and a number of church groups.
Johnson said his story is important to share now, especially as the world emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic and tries to repair fractured relationships brought on by isolation.
"There’s been an influx of suicides, relationship, marriages, kids struggling because they weren’t able to go to school. So, more than any other time, the world needs the hope and that’s why as a man of God, I just want to go out and be transparent with my story. Being a former professional athlete and struggling and dealing with the things I had to deal with, transparency is transformation. That’s why I’m reaching out to the church body especially, because I want to pour into them, because it’s their job to go out and share the hope with so many that are suffering," Johnson said.
This trip to Billings was not Johnson's first time in Montana. He said he used to come up and visit during the football off season to get away from the Denver fans. Now, Johnson serves as a uniform inspector for the NFL, stationed at Allegiant Stadium with the Las Vegas Raiders.
Johnson also works as a recovery ambassador for Oglethorpe, a Florida-based mental health and addiction treatment organization that operates facilities across the country. Johnson works with a facility in Las Vegas that bares his namesake, the Vance Johnson Recovery Center.
Johnson laid out the details of his recovery story in his book, "Uncovered: Why Becoming Less Became Everything."
To learn more about Harvest Church and its wide variety of counseling programs, visit its website by clicking here.