Michael Phelps is described as one of the most decorated Olympians of all time. However, at the height of his career, Phelps began what was to eventually become a public battle with alcohol abuse. In his own words he told NBC reporter Matt Lauer… “I sent myself down a downward spiral,” Phelps said.” A struggle with low self-confidence and loss of interest in his burgeoning popularity as an Olympic swimmer led Phelps on a dangerous binge drinking journey.
Conflicts with his coach and a run-in with the law that lead to a DUI represented a warning sign to him that he had to get something under control. When asked if he viewed the time of his arrest as a “cry for help,” Phelps answered, “I believe so. Yeah. I really do.” Help for Phelps, meant checking himself into a treatment center for 45 days.
Michael Phelps’ Rehab Story reminds us that alcohol can derail anyone’s life. Even a 22-time Olympic medalist can find it difficult to deal with the stress of competition as well as the demands of success and fall into the trap of a substance abuse lifestyle. Also, it is not uncommon for some individuals battling alcohol use disorders like Phelps to be unsure as to exactly where on the substance abuse scale they fall.
Although Phelps described himself as a “binge drinker” when asked if he was an alcoholic, he inferred that he was not sure if he met the criteria for alcoholism or not. Drinking that is often viewed as a harmless recreational activity has become a serious health problem among both student and adult athletes.
Susan Bruce, Director, Gordie Center for Substance Abuse Prevention Department of Student Health University of Virginia and David L. Wyrick, PhD, Director, who work closely with athletes, say they understand the toll alcohol abuse can take in terms of loss potential from both an athletic and academic stand point. Studies show that as a demographic, athletes are particularly at risk for abusing alcohol even more than their non-athlete peers. In fact, student athletes experience more frequent negative consequences of alcohol abuse than their counterparts such as unintentional alcohol-related injuries. These accidents can severely hinder performance by as much as 11% in some cases or end an athletic career entirely.
Fortunately, as people like Michael Phelps continue to share their struggles with alcohol and other substances of abuse openly, more ways to address this problem are emerging. Dissemination of more information about the dangers of drinking and highlighting the importance of getting into treatment is helping bring needed awareness to this problem.
Seeking treatment early, before the alcohol abuse result in devastating consequences, is paramount. Successful alcohol rehabilitation programs are comprehensive in nature and address the different social and cultural environment that feed this pattern or behavior. Evidence-based recovery programs offer effective strategies that has the power to effect positive change. After 45 days in rehab, Michael Phelps was happy to say that he had a new lease on life. Phelps who Phelps said he didn’t care about his training before the 2012 London Games where he won six Olympic medals reported that he is training with more enthusiasm today, than he has in the past. “I am happy to turn the page to the next chapter in my life” he said. And, according to Lauer, Phelps is a different guy to the person he has interviewed in the past.
Fortunately, Phelps’ alcohol abuse story has a happy ending because of his decision to commit to the time it takes to appropriately address the problem. In essence, Phelps recovery story is a testament that Alcohol Rehab treatment can halt the negative cycles of addiction and make a significant difference in the individual’s approach to life.
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