Dr. Aaron's Blog

Michael Phelps — From Gold to DUI.

December 29, 2015 Addiction, All, Naturopathic Medicine, Recovery coaching by Aaron Van Gaver

Michael Phelps is one of the greatest (if not the greatest) Olympians ever seen. He is the most decorated of all Olympians, with a whopping 22 medals to his name. With this level of success, fame and fortune, it would seem as if Phelps had a life that the rest of us could only envision in our dreams. But Phelps’ recent struggles with marijuana usage are proof that even the rich and famous are susceptible to the same problems as the rest of us.

To make matters worse, Phelps has also recently incurred a DUI arrest, one that has forced him to take time away from the sport he loves most and reassess his life. After his arrest took place in Baltimore, Phelps decided to enter a six week inpatient program. He also spoke openly about his need to get help.

Citing his repeated lapses in judgement, he talked about the importance of getting his life under control and pinpointing the cause for these repeated incidents. While many had laughed off the photographs that caught Phelps smoking from a marijuana pipe, drunk driving is certainly no laughing matter and deserves to be treated with the utmost level of seriousness.

Feeling disappointment in oneself is normal, but it is not an emotion that most 22 time Olympic medalists are expected to go through. Phelps’ ability to recognize that he needed time away from the spotlight to work on his own personal issues is commendable and should inspire others who are in the same type of predicament.

He acknowledged that swimming is a major part of his existence, but that his sobriety and peace of mind is far more important. The Baltimore arrest, coupled with his public usage of marijuana and previous drunk driving arrest as an underage driver, signals a need for Phelps to pump the brakes (no pun intended) and get back to basics.

While most would have thought that getting suspended from competition by the USA Swimming committee for being photographed with a marijuana pipe would have been the wake-up call that Phelps needed, perhaps his stay at an inpatient clinic will function as such. For those who believe that addiction only strikes the impoverished and unsuccessful, Phelps’ issues are certainly illuminating.

Although he had previously announced that the 2012 Olympics would be his last, he reneged on this decision two years later, perhaps because of the clarity that his stay in rehab had afforded him. His DUI kept him from competing in the 2015 World Aquatics Championships, but he would capture three gold medals at the US National Championships this past summer. Phelps’ determination to leave his troubles behind and resume his quest for greatness is a shining beacon for all those who struggle with addiction.