Sometimes we hit a point in our lives when we get stuck in a funk and don't know if we'll ever out. In moments like those, only the strong survive. It takes a lot of perseverance to make it past the pain and struggle. The following stories are about people who defied the odds and managed to improve their lives for the better, despite being in a bad situation. Read on for some inspiration:
#1 Snowball Effect
About 10 years ago, a guy walked into my credit union, sat down at my desk and said, "I need help." He sure did. Thee dude had thousands and thousands of dollars in high interest, unsecured debt. This debt was costing him over a thousand dollars a month in payments. He and I got to work. We consolidated, we refinanced, and we had a fun little credit card execution ceremony.
All said and done, we saved him about $500 a month in payments. We put together a plan to use half the savings to continue putting toward the debt for a snowball effect and to save the other half in an account I would lock up for him. Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago, I saw him at a community event. He told me he is completely debt-free (including his house), and has savings for his children to go to college. We hugged and chatted. he never did give me a secret gold coin or grant me three wishes, but I was beaming, so that's good.
#2 On The Way Up
He stopped playing League of Legends. No, seriously. A friend of mine used to spend basically all of his free time in LoL. If he wasn't sleeping, eating, or in class, he was in a game. And the weird part was that he didn't actually seem to enjoy playing, either, like it was compulsive or something. No matter if he won or lost, he'd be crabby about it. Even in the rare instance where he wasn't playing a game and got invited to a social event, his sleep schedule was so messed up he usually wouldn't make it anyway.
He finally decided to try giving it up for Lent, and just never went back once he realized how much of a negative effect it'd been having on him. He started eating better (because he wasn't just going for whatever microwave stuff he could eat while playing), exercising (because now he had time and energy to do so), taking care of his appearance better (because why would he have shaved, showered regularly, and done laundry when he was just sitting in his room all day), sleeping a normal amount, and actually connecting with people beyond just seeing them in class. The transformation was honestly impressive. He went from one of the most stereotypical depressed neckbeard freshmen I've ever met to a happy, healthy college kid in the span of a couple of months.
#3 Finding Balance
I knew a guy in my Master's program who was overworked to the point of exhaustion. He had to keep a job as well to pay for all his bills and student loans, on top of taking five high-level classes per quarter. We had an e-mail chat group with me, him, and like five others. One day, we all get an e-mail from him saying he was sorry he wasn't going to be able to help us finish our project and that he was dropping out of school and we wouldn't see him again.
All of us really liked the guy and we told him as such. We also told him things he probably didn't hear too much, like "you are a vital part of our group" and that we relied on him for not only his work but his general input as well. A few hours later, he e-mailed us back saying he thought it over and was not going to drop out, and he was sorry for clogging our e-mail feed with his stuff.
A year or so later, his girlfriend (who became a mutual friend) told us that not only was he simply thinking about dropping out of school at the time of the e-mail but actually walked to a bridge to end his life that day. He's a high-level Manager at Amazon now with a wife and two kids.
It's fun to check up on his time to time and see how happy he now is. I don't know if us just showing him gratitude that day helped him step away from the edge, but I'm sure it helped at least a bit. It makes you realize that people just don't tell other people how grateful they are for them enough. Always let people know the nice things you are thinking of them.
#4 Comparative Success
My coworker dropped out of high school and basically just became an addict until he was about 21, working odd jobs and occasionally being homeless. After that, he decided to take a brief web development course (I think it was an intense 9-month course or something, basically a full-time job) and now he works in web development with me. He'll sometimes mention how he thinks my four-year degree is impressive, how he regrets wasting all his time, etc. But I think it's pretty impressive to go from where he was.
#5 One Call Away
A very close friend of mine decided to call me at 3 a.m., sobbing uncontrollably, word vomiting about all of the problems he was facing. I sat there and talked to him until around 10 a.m. We went that afternoon got him checked into some rehabilitative care. Fast forward a year to having lunch with him and having him grab my hand, half sobbing, telling me that me answering the phone is what stopped him from ending himself. Please, be like my friend. If you are ever struggling, please. Just make a call. To anyone.
#6 When There's A Will
I worked with a guy at AutoZone that had two sets of kids and two sets of child support payments. He worked 40 hours with us and then 30 to 40 hours at a grocery store just struggling to survive. It turns out that he was like nine hours away from a degree he had begun a decade earlier and he just randomly mentioned it to a coworker while they were stocking things.
The managers at both stores knew his situation and worked his schedule together to get him the hours he needed. They started a tuition fund that anyone could donate to and both sat him down to say he needed to finish his school. The school put together a pre-requisite class for him, which he made an A in, and off he went one class at a time. One year later, he walked the stage with a marketing degree and turned his whole life around at 41 or 42.
#7 The Right One
A friend of mine met the right girl. He had been mostly insufferable for years- overly needy and demanding of his friends while simultaneously annoying and picky and abrasive at the same time. He met his now-wife and he mellowed out 100% and is now cool to be around again. Sometimes all you need is someone to be there to support you.
#8 Scared Straight
It might sound weird, but... they spent a night in jail. A friend of mine had been a little bit of a jerk in the past few years. He was a good kid at heart, but he had a terribly addictive personality and was hanging out with bad people and was in debt to all his friends because he was buying way too many bad things. He lost one of his two jobs for showing up tipsy too much... you get the idea. He just sucked at saying "no" to people and his self-control suffered for it.
Well, he ended up getting a DUI, and as part of the punishment, he had to spend the night in jail. I never used to believe in the whole "scared straight" thing, but it seriously worked. I picked him up the next day and he looked like he'd seen a ghost. He just kept saying, "I never want to end up like the people I saw in there, man," while shaking his head.
It's been almost a year since then, and he's been totally on the straight and narrow. He got a promotion at work and is making the rent on time. I haven't seen him have more than a couple of drinks in a sitting at a time. He hasn't really elaborated on what he saw that night beside a couple of stories about some real tweakers, but whatever it was, I guess it set him straight.
#9 The Best Decision
My cousin's life was spiraling out of control. She was dating a loser, got hooked on illicit substances, and she lost custody of her kid. She ended up taking her mom's car without permission. My aunt got her arrested and my cousin spent two months in jail waiting for trial because my aunt refused to let anyone pay the bail. My cousin got her act together and she has been clean for at least two years. She has custody of her son back as well. Everyone was upset at my aunt for getting her own kid arrested and then just leaving her there, but it was the best decision.
Sign Up For Our Newsletter
Stories that matter — delivered straight to your inbox.
#10 A Powerhouse
My dad left my mom and she was solidly depressed for a year. Then suddenly, she exploded with self-improvement. She joined a bunch of volunteer positions, met a bunch of new people, became part of the 'in' crowd in her city... She literally goes out every night with her friends and has a lover that pays for her trips to Europe where they travel around on a motorcycle. Also, she joined a gym and lost a bunch of weight. She actually started taking care of her appearance. It's strange to think just a couple of years ago I would hear her sobbing in the shower and now she's this powerhouse!
#11 Good Motivation
It's really easy to surround yourself with people who are absolute failures, and then excuse all of your own failings with, "Well, at least I'm doing better than so-and-so." One of the best choices I ever made for myself was making friends with some people who I thought were "too good for me." Turns out, having friends who encourage each other to be better people really pays off.
#12 Up From Rock Bottom
I woke up on May 15 flat freaking broke, unemployed, and living in a weekly apartment I was about to lose. Today, I have a full-time job (with insurance) and I am typing this on a computer in my break room. When I get paid on Friday, I'll have money left over from my check two weeks ago. Amazing how quickly your life gets better once you stop putting your entire check up your nose.
#13 Go With The Flow
My lifelong friend went down a bad path in his early 20s. His personality was always "go with the flow," for better or worse. He became part of a terrible group of people that routinely did awful stuff in order to score. Imagine robbing your own grandmother, that caliber of desperation. After a stint being locked up and getting clean, he stopped talking to anyone from that group. No communication whatsoever.
He lived with his mom, found a job he could walk to since his driver's license was long gone and started getting in shape physically. He did counseling, broke his habit, got into martial arts as a positive outlet for his energy. Talking to him now, he says breaking contact with all those people was the only way he made it out.
#14 Out Of Grasp
A friend of mine escaped her ultra-religious family who didn't allow her to get an education. She ran away, earned her GED while working two jobs, earned her undergraduate degree (that's where I met her), and she now is in graduate school for biology. I have a few friends who escaped really religious families, but her story is probably the most harrowing and impressive.
#15 Letting My Walls Down
I had a severe anxiety disorder. I spent hours in the hospital hooked up to ECG machines thinking I had a heart condition. I could barely function as a person and started to develop paranoia. With my now husband’s encouragement, I went through a 12-week counseling program. On my 11th week, my counselor told me I didn’t have to come for the last session if I didn’t want to because I had improved so much. I’m a totally different person now. I no longer have panic attacks and I feel as though I can actually live instead of just cowering in fear all the time.
#16 Good For Each Other
I broke up with my ex-fiancée and started dating my now-husband on the same day. I went from arguing every day and feeling worthless to gaining confidence in myself, becoming independent, having mature discussions instead of yelling and fighting, and not being able to imagine a more fulfilling life. I really lucked out in finding him and I've worked hard to keep him. I think he feels the same way about me. We just make each other better people.
#17 The Missing Link
Last year in school, I was getting really, really bad grades. I wouldn't have passed if not for the mercy of my teachers. I posted online about my aversion to working and the intense sense of dread I get just knowing I have to do something for school. Some commenters suggested I might have ADHD. I got prescribed Vyvanse almost immediately after going to the doctors and I am now in my junior year of high school doing great. Last year's GPA was 2.6. This year, I have a 4.2.
#18 Count To Three
About five years ago, I started doing this little mental trick... If there was some small thing I needed to do, I just counted to three in my head and did it. Stuff like "1,2,3: put on my workout clothes," or "1,2,3: empty the dishwasher," or "1,2,3: answer that email," or "1,2,3: turn the TV off." I promised myself that every "1,2,3" would be something I could achieve in less than 10 minutes and that I would never fail to do something once I finished the countdown.
I was amazed at how many of life's problems were solved by overcoming those little moments of inertia during the day. My level of motivation before and after that shift was night and day. It made a huge difference in my health, career, financial state, etc. I know it probably sounds silly, but my life made a massive and quick change for the better once I adopted this strategy.
#19 A Crazy Turnaround
I had a friend that had an addictive personality. He was incredibly smart but he liked to party too much. During his junior year of high school, he got in a car accident, broke some bones, and got addicted to the painkillers he was prescribed. He spiraled downwards after that and barely made it out of high school. Most people lost contact with him and thought he would just be another lowlife.
A few years after high school, one of our mutual friends took his own life and he took it very harshly, but it was enough to change his attitude. He took up an interest in investments and decided to move away from his burnout friends to attend a college. He graduated in less than four years and ended up working for a reputable bank earning six figures. Now, he's always posting his luxurious vacations on Facebook. It was a crazy turn around for him.
#20 Life-Changing Advice
In middle school, there was a guy who was always goofing around in class. He would get in trouble a lot and he didn't seem to care about school at all. Once high school came around, he was suddenly taking advanced calculus classes and he ended up getting into a really good school after graduating. I always wondered what caused the change, until one year there was a little snippet in the yearbook about him where he said that his cousin basically just told him to stop messing around and start caring about school or else he wouldn't end up in a good place in life. So that's what he did.
#21 Life Is Good
My freshman year in high school was full of bad decisions. I was getting D's in easy classes and not caring about it. Within the first week of sophomore year, I reconnected with some old friends and realized that I was a loser. I ghosted all of my friends and started hanging out with the new group, and that got my life back on track. I'm going to a good school and I'm working on a dual engineering major now. Life is good.
#22 Take That, Dad
I quit my minimum wage job and stopped talking to my abusive dad. Some nine months later, I got hired into my current job, got my driver's license, bought a brand new car, and have started losing weight gradually. It's been two years and my car is a little over half paid for. My dad has no idea how awesome my life is. I plan to keep it that way.
#23 Just Live
Leave your comfort zone and familiarity. It's how I broke up with an emotionally abusive partner, how I landed a part-time job that turned into a career, and how I met a guy that makes me happy as hell. I'm an introvert, but it took me about six months to go from depressed to happy. And it was just because I finally made choices without calculating all the outcomes first. Just live.
#24 A Leap Of Faith
Leaving their comfort zone by leaving a dead-end, easy job and trying literally anything else—a new academic endeavor, applying for a job they might not be qualified for, relocating for work, etc. There's risks involved, it might be tough but that's how you grow. Sometimes you just need to take a leap of faith and see where life takes you.
#25 Always Make Your Bed
Not someone else, but a personal habit I picked up. I'm not sure how much this helps other people, but I just started making my bed every morning. I was pleasantly surprised at how much more productive in the mornings I became. Now making my bed is almost like hitting the "I'm not tired anymore" switch in my brain. I know it's all mental conditioning, but I think it really works. Takes like 30 seconds once you get the hang of it.
#26 A 180 Turn
I don't mean to brag, but I think I've switched my life around pretty well in the last six months. I was dating an addict, getting wasted every night, eating terrible food and not paying any of my loans. I have 100 bucks left to pay off my last loan, I dumped the no good addict (who is now in jail), a wonderful human came back into my life, and I just moved into my own apartment where I am cooking up a storm!
#27 A Weight Loss Journey
I managed an apartment community where one insanely obese man splintered the bottom of his shower from simply standing on it. We replaced it at no charge, but the embarrassment got to him. Within a week, he found a dietician and started walking around the community. Within a few months, he bought a bike and started riding around the neighborhood. Within a year, he dropped what seemed to be at least 100 lbs. Within two years, he managed to achieve a weight that's less than mine now.
#28 Becoming Adults
I'm really good friends with my two neighbors who are a married couple. We partied together for a long time but they always partied way harder than everyone else. They would get blacked out on work nights, get DUIs, etc. I would often be witness to their intense tipsy arguments with each other and our group of friends worried that they might divorce. The dude even set his kitchen on fire one night while cooking under the influence.
One day last year, out of the blue they decided to cut it out. They quit everything. Since then, they've been promoted at their jobs, they seem to be closer to each other than ever, and the girl even dropped close to 100 pounds. They've saved a bunch of money and now they're on vacation in Thailand having the time of their lives. Our friend group still parties moderately so we don't see them at all as often anymore, but I understand. I'm just so proud of them for turning their lives around like that, it's really kind of inspiring me to do the same.
#29 That Little Push
While I was getting divorced, my best friend (who I was living with at the time) said: “Hey, why don’t you try to go to business school?” 10 years later, I’m making six times what I was making before ($300k vs. $50k), I remarried, I have two beautiful kids, and life sucks way less. Not fast, but certainly consequential. Sometimes, it really pays to take your friend's advice.
#30 A Good Influence
I started dating the woman that is now my wife. Ever since we've been married, I stopped drinking constantly and I started really trying to make something of my life. I got a good job, started to get to know people in the industry, then got a better job. I bought a house and now we're selling it to buy our second house.
#31 Discipline Over Brains
I realized I was failing out of college and said, "Screw it, I'm enlisting." I was fat but I figured that'd work itself out. I did pretty well for myself. I got out, went on to one college, then to another college, got an AAS, graduated summa cum laude for my BA, and just recently I finished my MA. As it turns out, the world doesn't care if you're smart. The world cares if you're disciplined.
#32 A Lifestyle Change
About two months ago, a good friend of mine was diagnosed with diabetes. To be considered diabetic, your blood A1C needs to be at a 6.5 or higher. His was at an 11.3. This friend needs Xanax to have a finger stick done, or he'll be out cold. Needless to say, he wasn't having any of the needles and insulin talk. What he did instead was this; he completely changed his diet to very strict low-carb, no sugar one and over the last two months, with the help of a few oral meds, he lost 30 to 40 lbs. He also lowered his A1C to a 6.3. So, technically, he's not diabetic anymore. He cured his own diabetes.
#33 Breaking Free
This is somewhat cheating since it's about myself, but I had very bad social skills and self-esteem as a kid, so much so that in public I needed someone to order stuff for me or to ask the seller questions. Then, I went to university where I was forced to do these things on my own and interact with people. I didn't realize how much I changed until a friend of mine pointed out that when we went to go phone shopping, he was ready to do all the talking and was dumbfounded when I ended up doing all the talking with the sales guy.
#34 The Proud Ex
One night, I did the best I could to convince my then-girlfriend to sign back up for high school. She had dropped out of due to depression. The day following our conversation, she signed up for high school and graduated within about a year. Following that, she went to university and then on to grad school. Even if we're no longer together, I'm so proud of her.
#35 A New Perspective
This isn't particularly fast, but I doubled my GPA from freshman year to sophomore year. In freshman year I never hung out with people. I didn't make friends, I didn't study, and I spent all my time gaming. I took a year off school, then realized I didn't want to work minimum wage jobs for the rest of my life. I became really motivated to work hard. I'm in finals week now and will probably end up with a 3.4 or so. I'm really proud of myself for getting my stuff together. Taking a year off really helped me put things in perspective and grow up.
#36 The Right Way
The fastest way I improved my life was to look up the basic tenants of weight loss calorie intake management and give it a go. Turns out, my concepts of weight loss were completely wrong. I lost 115 lbs in 14 months and my life has been completely turned around. All because I took 30 minutes to work out a diet plan. I'm honestly freaking annoyed with myself that I spent so much of my 20s as an ignorant, morbidly obese man.
#37 Seeing It Through
One of my part-time employees was going to school because his parents made him. He freaking hated it. He wanted to make his trade his profession, but installing tile floors didn't really facilitate a degree. About a year before he graduated, he invited me out to lunch and asked if he could go full-time. I said that would be great, but I told him that we were all pretty excited for him to graduate. After the semester was over, he told me he was ready. He worked full-time for me for about three more years, started his own business, got married to his high school sweetheart, and popped out a kid. I'm so freaking proud of him. He calls me once a few months to thank me for giving him the opportunity.
#38 Whatever Makes You Happy
I changed my life by getting bariatric surgery. Before surgery, my anxiety was always sky high and I had regular bouts of depression, both a direct result of how I felt about my body. I felt so stuck and hopeless. I was already active, but I couldn't seem to get my eating under control. I constantly yo-yo dieted. I finally said, "Screw it." I went to Mexico, paid cash for the surgery, and lost lots of weight in a short amount of time. Here I am two years later and I have kept every pound I lost off. Gone are my anxiety and depression. I have run countless miles, became a blackbelt in taekwondo, moved states, switched careers, and I look fabulous in a bikini. I have never been healthier. My entire life drastically changed from that one decision to have 85% of my stomach removed!
#39 After The Storm
My life was saved by playing Diablo 2. After Hurricane Katrina, I lost everything; my job, my car, my home—I had insurance with Allstate and they said that it was a flood and not a hurricane... So even though I had got hurricane insurance, they couldn't do anything to help me. A few days after the storm, I logged into my battle.net account and sold everything for $1500. I bought a car, drove to a casino, got a job, and I've been there for almost 12 years now. I also met my wife there and we have three kids together.
#40 Finally Awake
A friend of mine constantly looked tired and sleepless. He napped all the time during the day. You would literally have to shake aggressively him to wake him up, and even then he could still fall asleep anywhere super fast. I asked him about it and he told me he felt tired all the time because he couldn't sleep at night. He figured he just had insomnia or something but refused to go to a doctor about it. One day he had a legit mental breakdown after a few drinks. We basically had to babysit him all night and I'm convinced it was because of his constantly exhausted state.
Not long after that incident, he went to the doctor about his sleep and it turns out he had been living with severe sleep apnea for years. The doctor told him he was basically on the verge of a heart attack or stroke because of it. Now he sleeps with a special mask at night and he has completely changed for the better. He visibly has way more energy and his performance in school went through the roof.
#41 Out With The Old
My sister was in a really toxic relationship with a complete basket case. The dude was a wannabe tough guy and he was always putting her down. She is a very outdoorsy person and she loves going on hikes, working in the forest, etc. She's even studying to become a forestry biologist. He had zero of her interests—he never went with her on hikes, he hated the forest, he was not very fond of animals... They never ever got along, but they refused to break up because it'd leave him with nothing.
One day she met a nice guy at her new job, who was super into hiking, loved working in the forest, loved animals almost as much as she does, and genuinely enjoyed her company. Not to mention he bought his own truck with the money he saved up. (it was a used Toyota, but still impressive). I think that was a wake-up call for her. I think she realized there are decent men out there and she could have one if she wanted to.
She immediately broke up with her old boyfriend and started dating the new guy the same day. We were a little worried at first because breaking up with one guy and immediately going to another is usually a bad sign. But after getting to know him, he ended up being a nice guy with a sense of humor and decent social skills. They've been together three or four years now and so many of the issues my sister was dealing with have dissipated, she's more financially independent, doing well in her classes, has a better outlook on life.
#42 Social Media Cleanse
I deleted Facebook and drastically changed the way I use other social media. God knows how long I spent every day just scrolling through Facebook, but I didn’t realize how unhappy it was making me until I stopped using it. I thought I would miss it but I haven’t for one second, and I’ve seen massive improvements in my mood, anxiety and overall happiness. It’s weirdly freeing.
#43 Forgiveness Heals All
Apologizing to someone I'd hurt. It changed me and my life drastically, and that's not hyperbole. I married the person I apologized to and now I have a completely different life than I did before. Everything may not be perfect, but my home is with him. Nothing can heal a soul so much as being forgiven. Life can only get better from here.
#44 One Of The Lucky Ones
My cousin was an addict. I don't know what sparked her desire to change, but she went to rehab, started hitting the gym four days a week, and is now the kindest and most loving vegan I've ever known. To my knowledge, she's two years clean. In the back of my mind, I know that her risk of relapsing, just like any former addict, is still high. I hope she never touches that stuff again.
#45 A New Leaf
My dad had a moment of clarity that he was prioritizing drinking over his children and spending too much of his army salary on drinks. That was 1993. He quit cold turkey and doesn't think it was that big a deal that he's now gone 24 years sober. I don't remember much about him as a tipsy person, but I know he was a terrific and loving dad my entire life. I'm glad my family was able to flourish in part because he refocused. I'm also glad he's alive today because who knows how long he'd have lasted had he not gotten out of it when he did.
#46 Experiencing An Epiphany
I watched a close buddy of mine get taken to the woods by his dad when he was 21. He was held hostage in a cabin for over a month until he wasn’t totally out of his mind, and then he went and joined the military. He came back after four years and became an epic salesman. Today he’s married to a beautiful woman, he's been on TV many times, and he has lots of money from his successful career.
#47 A Moment Of Clarity
One time, a woman wanted to merge onto my lane without using her turn signal. Another car wanted to do the same, so I let them because they used their signal. She was baffled why no one let her in until she saw the other car merge in. She then used her signal, and like magic, the cars let her in. Knowledge is power. I hope that the woman's life is improved after that moment of clarity.
#48 Forced To Grow Up
My stepsister dropped out of high school and was going down the addiction path that is incredibly common where I live. She got knocked up by a guy and decided to keep the kid. Once she was pregnant, she cleaned up her act and really turned things around. Now she is getting her GED. She's also married to the father of her child and is working towards a college education.
#49 New And Better Habits
My girlfriend developed a pretty bad anger problem before we were together. I picked up on it quickly and explained to her that she should talk to someone because she's the type of girl who can make the whole room smile with her happiness. She got help, learned her triggers, started communicating more effectively, and developed some really strong coping skills. She's amazing.
#50 Find Your Life Bender
Falling in love with a form of exercise. I myself found flatwater kayaking about seven years ago and it seems to be the wellspring from which I now flow. I’ve lost 30 lbs, my attitude is better, I have something to look forward to every day off, and I’ve been able to strengthen my body. 50 years of injuries and sore spots are slowly fading away. My balding has stopped, but sadly not reversed... I have something cool to share with friends and others I love. This is my life bender—go find yours!