I would like to share my story of how books have changed my life.
First, I think I should give you a brief history of my life. I am a 45 year old man who has been an addict since the age of 10. Drugs were introduced to me by older kids in the neighborhood. They thought it would be funny and "cool" to see me stumble around saying and doing goofy things. I didn't make it past 7th grade and ended up in prison at the age of 18. I have since spent 28 years in and out of prison for crimes committed to support my addiction.
At the age of 43 I was once again in prison. I was severely depressed and had no hope for ever breaking the cycle of drugs and prison. I was completely alone and contemplating suicide. That's when I saw the last 30 minutes of the movie The Diary of Anne Frank. I was moved so much that I went to the prison library looking for a copy of her actual diary, but they didn't have one. I heard about an interlibrary loan project that might be able to help me find a copy, and in 6 weeks I had this smiling little angel in my hands.
I read her diary in one sitting and I have not been the same ever since. This little girl made this grown man cry. This little girl held mirrors up to me from every angle, making it impossible for me to avoid myself any longer. All my self pity and blaming had disappeared. This little girl smacked me across my face and forced me to wake up.
I'd like to share one of the many quotes by Anne that helped change me forever. "If you know you are weak, why not do something about it? Why not train your character? Because it's easier not to."
It has been 2 ½ years since I first found Anne Frank and a lot has happened with me since then. I wrote everyone and anyone with requests for more books about Anne and the Holocaust in general. I saved my prison allowance and purchased several books of my own. I had never read this many books in my entire life.
I gained an education from these history books that changed my life forever. My depression lifted. I admitted myself into an intense six-month in-house prison drug and alcohol and behavior modification program from which I graduated. I completed a course in basic automotive technology and I have spent the past 8 months in upholstery class recently completed my first reupholstered chair.
I must also mention the effects all the other books [about the Holocaust] have had on me. One in particular is Alicia: My Story by Alicia Appleman-Jurman. She survived the Holocaust, but her story was like nothing I had ever heard. I will no longer complain about prison food or clothing. I am completely aware of how fortunate I am and this awareness will never leave me.
I owe so much to Anne, Alicia, and the 6 million other beautiful souls [I read about]. The only way to honor them is to devote the rest of my life to helping others. I now have a purpose in life.