Part 2 of 4
The effects of manic-depression and alcoholism almost led Dr. Sproul to suicide.
The Illinois native recently discussed how life changing experiences finally turned around his self- destructive behavior and redirected him down God's chosen path.
The intellectually gifted Sproul graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1967 with a degree in engineering mechanics. After getting his masters in engineering from the University of Michigan the following year, he continued his career as an aeronautical engineer.
While still in the Air Force, Sproul taught engineering at the Air Force Academy for four years. But he wasn't completely satisfied in his work. The thought of being a doctor had entered his mind and he'd even taken some night classes as pre-med prep.
"As trite as it may sound," Sproul said, "I wanted to do something to work with people rather than computers and slide rules."
He resigned from the Air Force in 1975 and entered medical school at Southern University Medical School in Springfield, Illinois.
"It's ironic," Sproul said. "I married my wife, Roberta McCormack, in 1970 while I was an engineer in the Air Force. She was a nurse and said she promised herself she would never marry a doctor."
After completing his three year residency at Union Hospital in Terre Haute, Sproul opened his Family Practice office in Brazil in 1981.
However, the self control needed to complete two difficult fields of study was not there in Sproul's personal life. As a matter of fact, much of his life was out of control.
Recognizing that he had symptoms of manic-depressive (bipolar) disorder, Sproul did not seek the help of another professional but chose, instead, to treat himself.
"It's not illegal or unethical for a doctor to treat himself as long as controlled substances are not involved," Sproul explained. "But it's not very smart."
Every aspect of his professional and private life was effected by his manic-depressive highs and lows. And he was not even aware that his "social drinking" had escalated into daily use to try to cover up his depression and unhappiness.
Sproul's chaotic life began to spiral downward. His 23 year marriage ended in divorce in 1993. A quick second but tumultuous marriage ended after two years. Guilt had made him give his first wife more financial support than she'd agreed to in the divorce settlement.
He felt the need to try to keep her and the kids in their accustomed lifestyle and provide the means for his kids to get an education of their choice.
Sproul continued to try to support his children and first wife and maintain two separate residences. And he tried to ignore and hide the manic-depression and his increasing alcoholism although it was evident to everyone around him.
"I still felt I was coping and getting by and didn't need any help," Sproul said. "I thought I could just keep going and would not give God control. But He was breaking me down."
Sproul's life changed drastically in 1996, when his medical license was suspended due to alcoholic addiction and severe depression.
"I was forced to go for treatment in Mississippi for six months. When I lost my medical license, I also lost my job and health insurance. So I had to pay the cost of the treatment in Mississippi which was between $12,000 and $15,000 a month. That took about every penny I had left.
"By the way," Sproul continued softly with no evidence of bitterness, "it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I had sunk pretty low and God was trying to show me the way back up. I was about ready to start listening."
Tomorrow: Dr. Sproul's downward spiral continues.