This I Believe

anne - atlanta, Georgia
Entered on February 23, 2009
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: addiction, change
  • Listen to This I Believe on RadioPublic

  • 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 in pain in missed opportunity. I believe that life without these human experiences cheats one from learning and growth. If is from despair and suffering that one can move toward a place of wisdom and peace, a life in which the other feelings are things of the past. Success in life, on whatever level, is most often the result of a succession of failures and disappointments.

I am a recovered alcoholic. I am 37 years old now, and when I stopped drinking at age 34, I was angry at myself for having wasted nearly 20 years of my life drunk, unable to feel, missing out on opportunities that most people my age were experiencing. Alcoholism kept me just outside the normal series of events that lead people from their teenage years and on – getting jobs, and then establishing careers, creating families. I was angry for missing all that and as a result, for being 34 and feeling utterly lost without the relief of numbness that alcohol brings, and no other way available to me to dull the pain. I was starting over too late, and I felt it unfair.

Now though, I am grateful that I am a person who lived on the edge of physical, emotional and spiritual demise for so many years. I feel lucky to have hit my darkest depths because it was only from there that I was forced to move in the opposite direction. I was left with two choices: to continue my path and end up six feet under, or to turn my face up to the sky, feel the wind or smell the earth or simply open my eyes, and to take that first heavy, painful step upwards. My very existence is a result of the choice that I made. I knew that if I continued to drink I would have died soon. I knew that if I became sober, I would be granted another shot at life. In a situation like that there is no ambiguity, no in-between, no room for argument, and that made the choice very simple for me. There were only two very real options to consider, life or death. After many years of waffling between what I falsely believed were options and not indubitable truths, it was narrowed down to just two choices, and now I have peace as the result of the path I chose.

I don’t dwell on my past, but I wouldn’t change it. Some think it crazy that I am thankful to have spent nearly two decades in a sordid, pitiful downward spiral but – this is my story. My painful past is what has given me peace and hope in my present day, and it has also guaranteed the success and fulfillment of my future. Such a gift is rare and invaluable. I believe that the addiction that I trudged through and then overcame brought me to a spiritually guided and blessed life that I lead with both integrity and passion.