Michael Phelps: A Comeback Story
Michael Phelps, the world’s all-time greatest Olympic swimmer, was on top of the world after he broke Mark Spitz’s record of 7 gold medals at the 2008 Olympic games in Beijing with 8 gold medals of his own. He showed millions of people that with dedication, hard work, and eating subway sandwiches, you too could turn into someone great. In 2009 however, a photograph surfaced of him smoking marijuana and that was the beginning of a serious downfall that not only saw him lose several of his endorsements, but also affected his ability to focus and perform at the elite level that made him famous.
In an interview with Matt Lauer, Phelps admitted to having to create a front to get through public appearances because deep down he wasn’t truly happy. He would breeze through interviews as if everything was alright, but he knew he had to make a change. He went on to state that he didn’t want anything to do with the sport of swimming, and wasn’t really sure what he wanted to do. As a child, his father divorced his mother and he felt abandoned by him, and because of this, there were very few people that Michael felt he could turn to. Some say that this is when his personal problems really began to escalate.
He mentioned that he would go to parties, get drunk, and hang out with people that loved the idea of hanging out with Michael Phelps, the Olympic hero, but they didn’t really care about Michael Phelps, the person. Those who really cared about him were terrified about the direction that his life was heading in. On September 30, 2014, he was arrested for his second DUI after leaving a casino in Las Vegas. When he got pulled over, he mentioned thinking to himself, “I’m f****d”.
At that point, even his coach and father figure felt that his opportunity to make a comeback, and become “Michael Phelps” again was over. Phelps admitted to even having suicidal thoughts because he didn’t want the world to have to put up with him anymore. Fortunately for Phelps, his friend and soon-to-be mentor, future Hall of Famer football player Ray Lewis, shared some of the dark times that he went through and what he had to do to get through them while he was also in the prime of his career. Ray Lewis, along with others, convinced him to go to rehab and to re-evaluate his life and the choices that he was making.
Phelps learned a lot about himself, and why he constantly turned to drugs and alcohol while he was at rehab. And after reading “The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth am I Here for” by Rick Warren, he was able to not only rekindle the relationships that his drug and alcohol use had isolated him from, but also the relationship with his father. Phelps also began to re-establish his life and professional goals. He started training hard again with the hopes of returning to the pool and also began a family of his own. All of these life changes helped remind Phelps why he loved swimming so much and what his purpose in life was. It just goes to show you that even though you may make bad decisions in life, you do not have to let them define you. Phelps learned that he was turning to drugs and alcohol to help him deal with stress when there were so many other ways that he could have managed it. This comeback story also shows that when you decide to be dedicated yourself to something, and you are willing to work hard for it, you can accomplish things that maybe you yourself at one point doubted that you could do.