Michael Phelps, Team USA flag bearer at the Olympics opening ceremony Aug. 5 in Rio De Janeiro, was heavily influenced by Rick Warren’s The Purpose-Driven Life during rehab after his second arrest on a drunken driving charge.
BP file photo
Michael Phelps competes in the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, where he won eight gold medals.
“It’s turned me into believing that there is a power greater than myself, and there is a purpose for me on this planet,” Phelps said about the book in an ESPN feature.
The most decorated Olympian ever with 23 medals including 19 gold to his credit, Phelps originally retired after the 2012 London Olympics. He was arrested in September 2014 for his second Driving Under the Influence offense while attempting a comeback. In the days following the arrest, Phelps locked himself in his room, eating and sleeping little, as he evaluated his life, he told ESPN.
“I just figured that it was the best thing to do to just end my life,” Phelps said.
But after a conversation with his friend and former Baltimore Ravens star Ray Lewis, and at the encouragement of other loved ones, Phelps decided to enter rehab at The Meadows outside Phoenix. Lewis gave Phelps a copy of the book before he left.
Phelps spent 45 days at The Meadows, often calling Lewis to talk about some of the content he was reading and sharing with others in rehab.
After completing the program, Phelps worked to rebuild his fractured relationship with his father Fred, who divorced Phelps’ mother when Phelps was 9. He also resumed his training, eventually qualifying for his fifth Olympics. Phelps’ U.S. teammates elected him as the flag bearer for the opening ceremony. He secured his latest medal Aug. 7 in the 4×100 meter freestyle relay swimming competition.
Phelps credits The Purpose-Driven Life for much of the good he experienced in life during and after rehab.
“It helped me when I was in a place where I needed the most help,” he said.
Since its 2002 release, The Purpose Driven Life has sold more than 40 million copies and has been translated into 50 languages, including Afrikaans, Arabic, Farsi, Rwandan, Sango, Swahili and Zulu, according to Bible Gateway.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tim Ellsworth is associate vice president for university communications at Union University in Jackson, Tenn.)