Pastor Rick Warren has heard his share of inspiring stories about people reading “The Purpose Driven Life.”
That comes with the territory when you write a book that sells about 40 million copies and gets translated into 85 languages.
But the leader of Saddleback megachurch in Orange County, California, was surprised when he watched the ESPN feature “The Evolution of Michael Phelps” and learned that his book played a major role in helping the superstar recover from a personal collapse that left him considering suicide.
“I haven’t met Michael Phelps yet,” said Warren in an interview. “A mutual friend gave me his cell, but I thought the last thing he needed was for me to bother him during the Olympics. …
“The key is that he was honest and he did a turnaround. … Wherever he is in his journey, I’d love to hear about it. You start where he is.”
Phelps was brutally candid with ESPN about his frame of mind in September of 2014, after his second DUI. He thought this was his “third strike” in life.
“I was a train wreck. I was just like a time bomb, waiting to go off. I had no self-esteem, no self-worth,” said Phelps. “There were times when I didn’t want to be here. … I just felt lost. Where do I go from here? What do I do now?”
The crisis came after the most decorated Olympian in modern history ended his hasty 18-month retirement after a weak, by his standards, showing in London in 2012. After the arrest, Phelps hid in his bedroom for five days. “I didn’t eat. I didn’t really sleep. I just figured that the best thing to do was end my life,” he said.
Phelps ended up at The Meadows treatment center, near Phoenix. A Baltimore friend and mentor — future NFL hall of famer Ray Lewis, an outspoken Christian — sent him off to rehab with a copy of “The Purpose Driven Life.”