"I think what the country is going through right now is, in a way, what I went through with my alcoholism," he told Times reporter Mark Leibovich. "You can either live or die. You have a choice."
Beck, who started his career as a radio talk show host, began his tenure at Fox News the day before President Obama's inauguration in January 2009. Now, the conservative commentator is one of the most-watched presences on cable news, attracting an average of two million viewers a day and raking in millions of dollars a year by way of his television and radio shows, speaking engagements, magazine sales, and merchandising.
"I have not prepared my whole life to be here. I prepared my whole life to be in a back alley," said Beck of his commercial success.
Referring to himself as a "recovering dirtbag," Beck continued: "I am as close today to a complete and total collapse as I was on the first day of my recovery."
Beck spoke about troubled years during his youth, and the ensuing road of alcohol abuse and suicidal thoughts that eventually led him to the Mormon faith. "You get to a place where you disgust yourself... Where you realize what a weak, pathetic and despicable person you have become," Beck said. "Every day I prayed for the strength to be able to drive my car at 70 m.p.h. into [a nearby] bridge abutment."
By the mid-nineties, Beck said he had reached a "moment of recognition" that inspired him to change his life - and in 1998 he met a woman, Tania, now his wife, who wouldn't marry him unless he to joined her in finding a religion.
"You need people to be able to reach out and connect and say, 'Let me help hold you when you're stumbling, and you hold me when I'm stumbling, because what we're going through now is a storm of confusion,'" Beck said.
These days, Beck has been known to tout his faith as "the most important thing" in his life, and frequently brings God into the conversation on his show -- a tactic which may or may not have endeared him to some of his colleagues at Fox News, many of whom have complained that he is "embarrassing" to the network, according to Leibovich. (Last month,
The story also reports that Beck's show is unpopular among potential advertisers.
American economic collapse is also a common theme on Beck's show - and he has been known to reference a "bunker" where he will retreat when the country reaches a tipping point. The bunker, Beck admits to the Times, does not exist. (Though, per practices associated with tenets of the Mormon faith, he does store large quantities of food on reserve.)
"Am I actively engaged in survival training?" Beck asked. "No. Should I be? Maybe."
Lucy Madison is a political reporter for CBSNews.com. You can read more of her posts here. Follow Hotsheet on Facebook and Twitter.