Howard Bennett: “It was a miracle”
by Glen Doss, Major –
The image of doom and dejection, the man, 37, gazed grimly around at the cold, empty house which his father had been renting. “I have absolutely destroyed my life. I just don’t want to live anymore,” he thought. “I can’t imagine living without drugs, but I don’t want to do them ever again.” Shocked suddenly at the realization he no longer desired to get high, he shook his head in wonder.
“It was a miracle,” declares Howard Bennett, reflecting on that pivotal moment in 1995. “Ever since I was 13, all I ever wanted to do was get high. Now, my dad, because he couldn’t handle me, had moved out. For two days I sat in a house I wasn’t supposed to be in. I had never felt so alone.”
Howard’s difficult journey to this moment of revelation and despair had begun in Los Angeles where, early on, he found he was excited by “secretiveness—doing something that was not allowed.” The younger of two boys from a “not very religious, middle-class Jewish family,” he remembers, nevertheless, at a young age attending Temple.
By age 13, he was “smoking pot regularly,” and, at 17, he says, “I was selling cocaine out of my room. There was a need in me, some hole that needed to be filled, and life on life’s terms was not filling it.”
After high school, he attended UCLA for a year, then “got an incredible opportunity to start a company in San Francisco which took off.” Although he found the experience to be very exciting, he nevertheless felt empty. Asked to represent the fledgling company in Europe, when he arrived there, “I had to find the street in Amsterdam where at any coffee shop you could buy heroin.”
Back in the U.S. he switched from heroin to methadone. Upon getting married, he tried to break the habit, but “when my wife found out I was trying to quit an addiction she didn’t even know I had, she couldn’t accept being married to a drug addict.” They were soon divorced.
Checking into a rehab program, Howard says, “for the first time I felt out of control.” Now placed on a prescribed maintenance dosage of methadone, he continued using the drug for six years.
Starting a quickly successful computer consulting business, Howard observes that, true to form, “at the peak of the success I once again felt very empty, and the striving for an ever better high took over.” Then, “I bought a rock of crack cocaine.”
Soon “enslaved to the drug,” he moved in with his parents. Not long afterward, his mother took ill and died. “While the police and medical examiner were there, I was in the bathroom smoking crack,” he adds remorsefully.
In 1995, relieved amazingly—while sitting in his father’s empty apartment—of the obsession to get high, Howard afterward came upon an acquaintance and asked him something that had been on his mind. “I asked him why he was so different—he didn’t drink; he didn’t smoke; he didn’t mess around with women—and he told me he was a Christian. As he talked I realized that as a child I had been interested in Christianity but had completely forgotten it.”
In August 1995, Howard checked into the San Diego ARC. The following Sunday at the nearby San Diego Center City Corps “I felt a strong tug on my heart and went to the altar.”
Shortly thereafter, late one night at the ARC, says Howard, “I knelt in the chapel and gave my life to Christ. I knew instantly that he was there—that the connection that I was seeking with God was complete when I put Christ into the picture.”
In March 1997, Howard committed himself to Salvation Army officership and the following August entered the School for Officer Training. Today Captain Howard Bennett is administrator of the San Jose ARC.
“I realized I had the same decision to make that the Jews of the New Testament period had—as to whether or not Jesus is the messiah,” he observes. “The evidence in my mind points toward ‘yes, he is.’ Over and over again in my life he demonstrates that truth.”