Norfolk, Va. - Two decades, plus a few years, Les Smith used to come into our homes via the television set.
These days he comes in the company of potential buyers in the competitive world of real estate.
For those who say, “We miss you on TV” he says, "It’s nice when people say that! I would like for them to think of me in my new career now,” says Smith.
He has a new career and his communication skills from his television days seem to make his next chapter a natural fit.
But what prompted the career change? Les doesn't shy away from his truth.
“I don't think you appreciate life until you get banged up a little bit,” says Smith.
One of the last times we enjoyed les and his flawless delivery was during the calm after the storm in the aftermath of the Suffolk tornadoes in April 2008.
Les and I go way back. We anchored together in the 1980's. You might say we grew up together in the business.
We've shared the triumphs and travails in our public and personal lives, but what I didn't know is my friend of more than 2 decades was experiencing turmoil as damaging - on a personal level - as the wreckage he reported on during one of his last assignments.
“I didn't quit the news business; I quit life,” admits Smith.
He disappeared from the airwaves without explanation. No one knew why. One day he just didn't come back to work.
And when he re-emerged, it was as if his personal screen went dark. He didn't know it yet, he was suffering from depression.
Click on the video below to see the raw interview:
"I like to think of it as a drain. When you first start circling the drain is wide and slow, and when you get closer to the drain it becomes short and fast,” says Smith.
"I did it with lots of things: alcohol, relationships, spending, you name it, a lot of people who battle depression use all these things to try to take the pain away. I ended up in a hospital in NYC, where I was working and I really wanted to die. I was trying to die,” says Smith.
Alcohol was one of the instruments that nearly took his life, but the endless stream of booze led to an awakening.
"Emotionally, physically, and most of all spiritually, I was down to nothing and I believe that when you are down to nothing God is up to something,” says Smith.
That something turned out to be Youth Challenge in Newport News. Les credits the program here with turning his life around.
"My relationship with Jesus Christ has given me hope, which is something I didn't have for a long time,” says Smith.
I see something new in my old friend, not just the ease with which he describes every detail of his listing to potential buyers.
I recognize it as an inner peace that says, “Yes my friends I’m in a good place now.”
"In Psalms, David writes, 'He rescued me because he delights in me, that's a lot better way to live life then what I was living before,’” says Smith.