Part 3 of 4
Alcoholism and bipolar depression had impaired Dr. Sproul's ability to practice medicine. The Indiana Medical Association gave him a choice in 1996. He could go to an alcoholic addiction treatment facility for six months in Mississippi and have his medical license suspended for one year. Or he could refuse the treatment and have his medical license revoked for life.
"I was forced against my will to do this," Sproul said. "I had no real choice. The treatment program was designed specifically for medical professionals. I was forced to go to the 12 step meetings and was exposed to the concept of the higher power. That's where God became important in my life.
"I was put under the care of a psychologist and a psychiatrist. I was forced to look at myself like I'd never done before," Sproul continued. "I had to look at all of the things I'd done. The people I'd hurt along the way.
"We had to do a feeling journal every day, acknowledge our feelings, good and bad. We had to make a list of everything we were thankful for every day.
"And everyday we had to go one on one with another addict and talk about everything. We had to completely open up and share our deepest thoughts. That was tough."
Actually it was a five year program. Even after his license was reinstated, for the next four years Sproul was still under the control of the Impaired Physicians Program of the Indiana State Medical Association. He had to see a program counselor weekly and he had to submit to random urine tests to check for alcohol in his system.
Sproul normally prided himself on being in control of his life and destiny. "There was nothing I was in control of in 1996." he said. "God was trying to take control. I got to know God real well down in Mississippi."
At the treatment facility Sproul was advised not to return to Brazil and not to have any kind of a close relationship with a lady for a year. But he didn't listen.
He returned to Brazil and reestablished his relationship with the lady he'd been dating previously. "I was taking control back from God."
With his medical license restored, Sproul quickly found work. Lots of it. He took a five and a half days a week job running a walk-in clinic for Regional Hospital in Terre Haute. The clinic had been floundering, having only six-to eight patients a day. When Dr. Sproul's faithful patients heard he was back, they flocked to the clinic. He was seeing 40-50 patients a day. He also got part time jobs at two emergency rooms.
"I was working myself ragged," Sproul said. "I should not have been in Brazil. I should not have been dating. That was not the path God wanted me to take but I ignored Him. I started getting depressed again.
"I lied to my girlfriend a couple times. The truth would have served as well but a lie seemed quicker. She lost her trust in me and started pulling away.
The excessive working, trying to keep a relationship with my children, knowing I was losing my girlfriend. It was more than I could handle. That's when I bought the gun."
Sproul never tried suicide again but he still had demons to face and the downward spiral continued. He'd been sued in 1991 by a former patient for treatment she'd received in 1990.
The case came to court in October 1997. Another physician and three registered nurses testified that Dr. Sproul had done everything medically correct and reasonable. And he still believes the suit was not justified. But the jury awarded the plaintiff $2.2 million.
He lost his medical liability insurance. Without the insurance he lost all of his jobs and could not find other employment. Throughout the next year he was hospitalized twice for depression and suicidal ideation.
"My faith in Christ was not strong enough to sustain me through all of that," Sproul said. "I still wouldn't turn my life over to Him."
In March of 1999, Sproul headed to Myrtle Beach with his two sons. They arrived Saturday afternoon and Sproul found a little church close to their condo that had Saturday evening services. He looked forward to attending.
He was extremely disappointed that night when he realized the Saturday services were only during the summer season.
Feeling down, Sproul was not yet ready to leave. He sat down on a concrete bench in the church's meditation garden. He thought about things and prayed.
"I got into some serious meditation with God," Sproul said. "I was no longer suicidal, but I needed to know what my life would be."
After about an hour Sproul noticed people going into the church. Curious, he walked by and a man came up to Sproul and introduced himself. It was a regular Saturday night prayer group of some residents who lived there year round.
"I had been crying and my eyes were red. It was obvious I was upset. God was working through those people. They made me come into their prayer group.
Tomorrow: Dr. Sproul lets God take control.