After the 2012 London Summer Olympics concluded, Michael Phelps, the most decorated and legendary Olympian of all time, was quietly struggling with depression and substance abuse. His struggles stemmed from both the pressure of success and a difficult relationship with his father. He began to loathe swimming. He constantly fought with his coach. And he stopped showing up to crucial swim practices.
Phelps — who now has 28 Olympic medals, with 23 of them being gold — was arrested and charged with a second DUI in September 2014. His life had been dwindling on a downward spiral as he spent most of his free-time partying and drinking to counter his depression. After the DUI, he hit rock bottom.
“I was a train wreck,” Phelps told ESPN in an interview, “I was just like a time bomb, waiting to go off. I had no self-esteem, no self-worth. There were times when I didn’t want to be here. It was just not good. I was just so lost.”
The swimmer explained that he simply retreated to his dark bedroom in his home in Baltimore and didn’t eat or drink anything for five days. He began to think the world was better off without him and that the best thing to do was to end his life.
Soon after his arrest, Phelps’ long-time friend, Ray Lewis of the Baltimore Ravens, approached him and convinced him to go to a rehabilitation center. Lewis also gave him the book “The Purpose Driven Life”by Christian pastor Rick Warren.
While reading the book and enduring rehabilitation, Phelps completely rediscovered himself. He accepted he was created by a higher power. He realized he has far greater worth and more of a purpose than he had previously thought.
Like all of us do on occasion, Michael Phelps began to doubt his self-worth. But when he realized how much he is worth in the sight of God, his doubts and thoughts of ending his life were replaced with faith.
We are all precious in God’s eyes. Through deep and true faith in him, we can overcome any obstacles we face during our lives. Our worth is not based on our accomplishments or how the world sees us. It is based on our identities as sons and daughters of God. As we come to learn this, we’ll realize we all must keep fighting when life knocks us down.
After he finished rehabilitation in November 2014, Phelps resumed training for the 2016 Olympics and proposed marriage to his long-time girlfriend, Nicole Johnson. They even welcomed a brand new baby boy they named Boomer on May 5, 2016.
Phelps competed in his fifth and final Olympic games just this last summer in Rio. He amazed his family and fans by adding one sliver and five gold medals to his legacy. His fiancé, his mother and little Boomer cheered him on through each event.
Phelps treaded through the deepest and darkest waters he had ever experienced. But he showed us that by exercising faith in God, recognizing our self-worth and continuing onward, we can always find our way back to the light. It is never too late.
Michael Phelps’ full story is fully documented in the video here.