Michael Phelps—the most decorated Olympic athlete of all time from swimming in four Olympiads—was so despondent in September 2014 that he thought of ending his own life, he revealed in an interview with ESPN Magazine.
Around September 2014, a photo emerged showing Phelps using illicit drugs. The scrutiny was compounded by the fact that he had also been arrested twice for drunk driving—the last arrest occurring on Sept. 30, 2014 when Phelps said life “hit rock bottom.”
In the aftermath of these very public mistakes, Phelps retreated to his home and considered suicide. Phelps said he was thinking, “This is the end of my life… How many times will I mess up? Maybe the world would be better without me.”
“I had no self-esteem. No self-worth. I thought the world would just be better off without me. I figured that was the best thing to do — just end my life.” Phelps said.
But then his long-time Christian friend, NFL star Ray Lewis, came to his rescue. Lewis called Phelps and told him, “This is when we fight. This is when real character shows up. Don’t shut down. If you shut down we all lose.”
Lewis convinced Phelps to seek help at a rehab facility outside Phoenix and also gave him a copy of “The Purpose Driven Life,” by Rick Warren.
After a few days of rehab, and of reading the book, Phelps called Lewis. “Man this book is crazy!” he exclaimed. “The thing that’s going on…oh my gosh…my brain, I can’t thank you freaking enough, man. You saved my life.”
Phelps told ESPN that the book “turned me into believing there is a power greater than myself and there is a purpose for me on this planet.”
Phelps’ life turned around from there. The book also helped convince him to reconcile with his estranged father who had abandoned his family when Phelps was just 9. Then, three months later, he asked his long-time girlfriend, Nicole Johnson, to be his wife. Last May 5, Johnson gave birth to Boomer Robert, their firstborn.
Reflecting on the turn around his life was experiencing Phelps said “This is a new journey. I truly can’t wait for the next chapter of my life. And I don’t know the last time I’ve said that.”
Phelps is currently competing in the Rio Olympics, where he has added to his all-time best Gold medal count, winning a staggering 4 additional Gold Medals.