This I Believe

Jonathan - Winnetka, Illinois
Entered on June 9, 2007
Age Group: 50 - 65
  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

I believe that people can change. I believe this with all of my heart because I have witnessed these changes in myself.

I spent much of my forties angry. I was angry at work and at home. I coped with this anger by self-medicating myself with excessive amounts of alcohol.

Drinking fed my anger and my isolation. Like other problem drinkers, I justified my drinking. I worked hard, I put up with a lot, my wife didn’t always behave the way I expected her to, my kids didn’t appreciate that all the time that I was spending away from home was necessary to pay for our home and lifestyle.

I was scared to show my anger in public. So, I worked hard to shut if off. I wound up shutting off the display of all of my emotions. As a result and, as I learned much later, I came across as a cold, uncaring individual.

The drinking took a toll on my family. My drinking left me unable to provide the support and attention they needed. The little that they did see of me was often when I had too much to drink.

My day of reckoning sounds like the punch-line of a bad joke. I fell off a stool, while changing a light bulb. The stool flipped over and whacked my shin really hard. As I sat on the floor, howling, watching a blood blister form beneath the skin, and feeling incredibly sorry for myself, it literally hit me that I could have injured myself very seriously. I still have a scar on my shin, more than four years later.

The thought that I could fall off a stool and die while drunk never really occurred to me before. I realized how lucky I was.

I stopped drinking.

Since then, my relationships with my wife and my children have improved dramatically. I no longer rage at the world because it is not as it ought to be. My job frustrates me much less and satisfies me much more. I assiduously cultivate my friendships and I make the time to run regularly with my buddies. I share my feelings with others much more easily. And, I no longer believe that people will view personal information that I share with them as a weapon to be used against me.

My colleague, Cate, recently sent me an e-mail. It made my heart sing. “I have noticed a change in you the last few years,” she wrote. “You just seem more at ease, more generous with subordinates. You’re still the smartest guy in the room but a bit less interested in demonstrating it. I was actually quite frightened of you when I first met you some 6 years ago; I doubt that you would have the same effect now.”

E-mails like this one are why I believe that people can change.