Harlem choir provides life after drug addiction

NEW YORK - The a capella gospel choir at the Addicts Rehabilitation Center (ARC) in Harlem has more than just music in common: All of its members are former drug addicts.

There's Ira Greig, a 64-year-old who started using drugs before he was eligible to vote. Heroin was his drug of choice. And there's Caroyl Grayson who at age 26 was hooked on crack.

"I just kept saying I want to kill myself, I want to kill myself," said Grayson, remembering the day she hit rock bottom.

Carol Grayson, left, Ira Greig, right CBS News

Grayson, Greig and the other members of the choir found recovery at the Addicts Rehabilitation Center. But the support from ARC's gospel choir, they say, would keep them clean.

"As soon as I heard those people, I knew I was connected," said Grayson.

Staying drug-free is the choir's only requirement. The group is under the watchful direction of 90-year-old James Allen. A former addict himself, Allen started the group 40 years ago to help raise money for treatment programs.

"It's (music) a wonderful way to release whatever frustrations and tension that you find in your body," said Allen.

James Allen, 90, the leader of the ARC's gospel choir CBS News

The music fills a void, replacing an addiction and saving lives in the process. If not for the choir Grayson told us she thinks she'd be dead.

The choir has performed in Japan and France and tourists flock to their weekly concert in Harlem where amazing voices, once lost, have now been found.

  • Michelle Miller
    Michelle Miller

    Michelle Miller is the co-host of "CBS This Morning: Saturday." As an award-winning correspondent based in New York, she has reported for all CBS News broadcasts and platforms. She joined CBS News in 2004.