Surely the ultimate pinnacle of ‘How I bounced back in sobriety’ stories is winning gold medals at the Rio Olympics? Step forward Michael Phelps who today stood on the top step of the podium to accept his 21st Olympic gold medal.
It’s been a huge personal battle for Phelps. The 31-year-old swimming champion was reportedly so low after his arrest for driving under the influence in 2014 that he wanted to end his life.
He tells Sports Illustrated magazine, “I was in a really dark place… not wanting to be alive anymore. I look back now… I lived in a bubble for a long time.”
Developing and sustaining a love affair with alcohol often means we drift away from the real world in a bubble. We’re not as close to our family and friends as we could be; we certainly don’t understand ourselves as well as we would if we ditched our toxic, needy emotional crutch.
During his stint in rehab, Phelps says he conquered his reliance on booze and in the process had to face up to inner demons he’d long denied. He says, “One of them was that for a long time, I saw myself as the athlete that I was, but not as a human being.”
I’m certain it’s fear of confronting truths about ourselves that hinders many from being brave enough to take up the challenge of sobriety; sometimes, it’s not pretty!
It’s also common for successful people to lose their sense of self as they climb the career ladder, or in Phelps’ case, focus determination in the pool. The blinkers clamp themselves shut and the goal is all we can see. Often, even those who have achieved great success don’t associate that glittering tick with their real self as a human being; it almost stands alone.
The process of admitting a reliance on alcohol – and addressing it – requires the toughest, most incredible honesty.
It’s so inspirational to watch Phelps claim victory again, both in the pool and in his personal life. On his lap of honour today, he climbed through the pack of photographers to hug his fiancée and kiss his three-month-old baby boy, Boomer.
It’s a heart-warming reminder that it’s worth fighting our way through the bubble, even when it’s tough, uncomfortable and confronting.
It’s entirely worth re-joining the world because there are successes waiting for all of us that beat drifting away.
Our triumphs may not be Olympic gold medals, but reconnecting with the world deserves a trophy of its own!
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