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Crystal Cathedral

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Guest Interviews

Eric Le Marque

Edited By NA

2059 07/19/09

Eric Le Marque (ELM) is a former Olympian and professional hockey player. After Eric's professional hockey career ended, Eric's life fell into a downward spiral. A series of poor life choices led him to a full fledged addiction to crystal meth. One of his poor choices included climbing Mammoth Mountain alone, only wearing a light jacket. Eric was soon caught in a snowstorm and was stranded for eight days in subfreezing temperatures. Today, he's here to share the inspiring story of his rescue and his decision to get his life back on track with God. His story is told in his new book, "Crystal Clear."

RHS: My guest has a book out and the cover says it all; Handsome, strong, Olympic, but two artificial legs. Eric Le Marque, welcome. You walk wonderful.

ELM: Thank you, Dr. Schuller.

RHS: You walk great.

ELM: Thank you, sir.

RHS: I have a daughter that has an artificial leg. She was in a bad accident and they had to amputate it, but you walk without a limp.

ELM: Well the Lord has blessed me with athleticism and it's a glory to Him that I'm here today.

RHS: You're a Christian.

ELM: Absolutely, sir.

RHS: Wonderful. You got to the Olympics, right?

ELM: Yes.

RHS: Then into professional hockey?

ELM: Yes, at that time they were allowing professionals into the Olympics. I played in 1994 in Lillehammer, Norway.

RHS: Wow.

ELM: Yes, it was quite; it was the Olympics. It was quite something.

RHS: Wasn't that a risky sport?

ELM: You know go figure; it was but you know I had plenty of training my whole life and I was able to achieve and enjoy it for all it was worth so I had a good nine year run.

RHS: What are the chances of making a professional hockey team? There are a lot of kids listening to you now, and that's the question they're asking.

ELM: You take a team of top players and there may be a hundred players that make it to the professional ranks but unfortunately nowadays you'll lose a third to drugs and alcohol.

RHS: Really? That many?

ELM: That many and you'll also lose a third because they become disinterested, or they've been driven by their parents their whole life, or maybe they've gotten into the opposite sex because both boys and girls are playing ice hockey today.

RHS: Really?

ELM: And then you'll get the third that actually make it, those who sacrifice and set outside things aside and have the diligence to do what it takes.

RHS: So they pay a price.

ELM: They do pay a price.

RHS: Is it worth it?

ELM: Absolutely. I mean I never realized until a couple of years into it how fortunate I was getting paid to do something that I love, plus the opportunity to give back to the community. And I never thought that I would then take it and throw my entire life away.

RHS: Okay, you were such a pro athlete. Pro athletes don't get into drugs.

ELM: Well that's the story of my life is after my career, I thought it was okay to experiment. And that's my message is its never okay to experiment because within a year I went from alcohol, to marijuana, to cocaine, to crystal meth and an addiction to snow boarding, which carried me up to Mammoth Mountain where I was trapped for eight days, fighting for my life.

RHS: Tell us how that happened. You went up to Mammoth Mountain, for what reason?

ELM: I was basically a small meteorologist and a storm chaser, living for myself, doing what I wanted for myself. I would build my body up and then tear it down at the same time. So I found myself rushing to the mountain after I'd just been released from jail for a meth possession.

RHS: How did you get into jail?

ELM: I fell asleep, actually, with crystal meth in my lap, trespassing on somebody's property and ended up spending five days in jail. And just as I was released, I was also addicted to something that was more seductive, something that is another form of powder that fell from the sky, and that powder was the powder of snow boarding.

So after getting out of jail, I rushed up to the mountain and I went ill advised and unprepared. I had been around the world snow boarding, doing what I wanted for myself and as I wished, living a very sinful and selfish life. And I found myself in a storm that had done a one hundred and eighty degree turn and trapped me on the mountain for eight days.

RHS: Alone.

ELM: Alone with nothing.

RHS: You had food?

ELM: I had no food and no water. I had a $20 bill, a key to the borrowed cabin I was using, and a small amount of crystal meth with me, and that's it.

RHS: So what did you do? Here you are, alone.

ELM: Here I am, alone and I'm stranded.

RHS: And you know you're alone.

ELM: I know I'm alone, I know nobody's looking for me and I realize that it's the one and only time that I had forgotten my two way radio and torch lighter. I also know I'm in serious trouble. So I make shelter. I tried to make a fire but I can't do anything except keep myself off of the snow the best I could.

I ended up trying to free myself from being high the night before and what happened was I practically rode off a cliff. I ended up getting an additional nine miles lost, and I was stalked by animals (wolves), fighting hypothermia, fighting frost bite, and now being stalked by animals.

RHS: Really, literally?

ELM: Literally.

RHS: What animals?

ELM: I had three wolves that had come up on me. I also had four pieces of Bazooka bubble gum in my pocket and I had just eaten two pieces and immediately put them in my pocket. And as I was looking for shelter, trying to find a place to settle in for the night, figuring this is going to be a story to tell the boys one day in the locker room playing men's league hockey, I saw two wolf-like animals running next to me. They were just in their element and I'm walking with my board, realizing I was just incredibly vulnerable. And then there was another wolf sniffing at my pocket, right where the gum was.

RHS: Literally?

ELM: Absolutely.

RHS: His nose at your pocket?

ELM: His nose was at my pocket. Actually two weeks before I was lost, there was a skier who became lost for two nights and they found just his legs. He was mauled by an animal. So in my mind, all I'm thinking about is that story and it sent me into a frenzy and a panic.

RHS: How did you get out of it? How did you get through it?

ELM: I just shouted out and tried to appear to be as large as I could. That was some of the advice that I had learned from being adventurous and an extremist, but here I was, all by myself and completely vulnerable to the animals that were about to feed off of me.

RHS: Did anybody know you were out there?

ELM: My parents knew that I was going up there and that I had to be back by Tuesday for a court appearance. Once I missed that court appearance on Wednesday, then my dad went up on Thursday. But I had already been out there a week trying to survive. And not only was I battling all the elements of the mountain and having death come after me, but I was also coming off of an extremely highly addictive substance.

RHS: Wow. Did you make yourself a cave?

ELM: I did. You know it's incredible.

RHS: In a big drift?

ELM: In the snow well around a tree I was able to use my snow board. I really identified with Tom Hanks in the movie "The Castaway." I identified with his relationship with Wilson the volleyball because my snowboard was such a tool and a comforter. It reminded me of my staff, if you will. I was able to shave down bark and dig into a tree well so eventually on the fourth night I was able to completely keep myself up and off of the snow. That's what kept me alive and helped me to stay somewhat dry.

RHS: How were you rescued?

ELM: Search and rescue had done all they could.

RHS: You were listed as..

ELM: I was listed as dead by this time.

RHS: Really?

ELM: They figured nobody can survive in these conditions. I had faced temperatures that were subfreezing and I had dressed for 27 degrees and a fresh powder day. And like I'd said, I forgot my two way radio and torch lighter so now they were bringing in the National Guard to do a body recovery.

And like an angel of deliverance, here comes this giant black hawk chopper that is just over this giant peak. I had found my direction back and was hiking back up a steep mountain and by the time I got up to the top, just as I was ready to make my way over and down towards Tamarack Lodge, this black hawk helicopter came out of nowhere and they scooped me up and took me to the hospital.

Now the story starts. After my second night in the subfreezing temperatures, I had peeled my frozen socks from my feet and I knew I would lose my feet to frost bite. And what happens to an Olympic hockey player that is stripped of his feet? Now I wear two prosthetic legs but praise God, I've got an amazing wife named Hope.

I wasn't married at the time and it's incredible; this is the story about my near death experience and walking through the valley of the shadow of death and out the other side. It's a story of addiction but it's more than that. It's a story of how sometimes you have to lose part of yourself, maybe even the part you love the most, and for me those were my feet.

RHS: Oh your feet, that was your life!

ELM: They were my life but my feet were taking me to the depths of hell. It was evident that I was going down and I was going down fast. But today I'm married to an incredible wife and I've got a great stepson who's ten years old. He's into hockey so I can still enjoy the sport. I also snowboard while wearing the prosthetics; I go with my wife and stepson. In addition, we have a beautiful baby boy who's two. It's all by God's grace. He has blessed me with athleticism.

RHS: He's real?

ELM: He's more real than ever. Even while I was on the mountain, there were so many instances where I saw the two sides of the light and the dark. I felt the mountain stalking me, but I also felt God carrying me, lifting me. I really felt Him giving me the wisdom to do what I needed to do to be here today because really I shouldn't have survived. When I got to the hospital, my body temperature was at 86 degrees. Usually you freeze up or seize up and your organs can die at 90 degrees. A week later, my temperature went to 107 degrees so thank God I was able to sustain not having a stroke at that time, as well.

RHS: Now how long were you in the hospital before the amputations?

ELM: It was just about a week.

RHS: Really.

ELM: Yeah they did everything that they could. I knew while on the mountain on that second day, when I peeled off the skin of my feet, I looked at my feet and I fell back in the snow and I'll never forget realizing; I think it was less than 48 hours after I was out there and I thought two things.

Number one: you're not as tough as you think you are. And number two: you're going to lose your feet. And all I know is that at that time, I closed my eyes and believed God superimposed "help yourself" on my eyes and that became my mantra. So I immediately rang out my socks.

My story goes into detail in the book. Writing the book was tremendously healing because now it's incredible to have the opportunity to touch families that are infected, people who are infiltrated with drugs, and that's my mission. I want to be the face that brings attention and awareness to what became popular in the 60's, that its never okay to try drugs, its never okay because one drug leads to another drug, that leads to another drug, and drug abuse opens up a giant door for a demonic force that wants to come in to kill and destroy not only you but your family.

RHS: But if they're addicted, what do they do?

ELM: There are several avenues that they have now but I think you just have to admit it and quit it.

RHS: Admit it and quit it. Now that's a good line.

ELM: Thank you, Dr. Schuller.

RHS: Thank you. Why did you come? I've never met you before. I didn't know your story. It's in this book; I got the book and an amazing story. The trouble is if you start reading it you can't quit. But you didn't know me and I didn't know you and you said yes when you were invited to come.

ELM: Well it's my pleasure to be here and I admire your ministry and your commitment forever to Christ.

RHS: Thank you, thank you.

ELM: Thank you sir.

RHS: Thank you.

ELM: God bless you.

Copyright Hour of Power 2009. This interview was conducted by Robert H. Schuller from the pulpit of the Crystal Cathedral and aired on the Hour of Power July 26, 2009.

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  1. youngeone writes:

    ERIC, Thank you for coming forward and sharing your testimony of the graciousness of our GOD, HE does speak to us , HELP YOURSELF and ADMIT IT AND QUIT IT are great thoughts to hold on to , thats when GOD can get through to help us ,How we need HIM ,OUR GOD IS FAITHFUL . Thank you JMC.

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    07/20/2009 17:49:33

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