"I COULDN'T EVEN SPELL AA"
A CANADIAN PILOT TELLS HIS STORY
Greetings, my name is Jack F. and I am a alcoholic
My journey started in a Northern Ontario Gold town as the first son of a hard rock miner. He in turn was a homesteader and one of a family of 9 brothers whose farm house was burnt down on 4 different occasions with the loss of everything they owned. He started school at eleven and went to grade 4 before he started working in the mines. We were not rich, and my parents were party goers but not alcoholics.
My dad had a huge impact on me growing-up. He rarely showed affection, taught us not to show emotions/feelings, and gave little validation for things I did well. However, later on in life I came to believe that he did the best he could from what he had learned growing up in tough times.
Being busy with sports, music, the fairer sex and suffering from a lack of money, I didn’t start drinking until I joined the Navy and eventually became a naval aviator flying off the HMCS BONAVENTURE. I was promoted early, and was selected for a 2 year Exchange Tour with the USN flying from 6 different aircraft carriers. From that point on I would classify myself as a social drinker and for many, many years my drinking was 90% fun and 10% pain. As it says in the Big Book, there were times that I probably could have stopped but chose not to. But finally, after many years of increasing drinking, I came to the point that I wanted to stop but couldn’t. I had crossed over that invisible line never to return to pleasurable and safe drinking. Alcohol had stopped working for me and I was flying on broken wings.
I won’t go into my drinking history except to say that I had progressed to a hellish place when I battled the desperate cravings to drink against my flying responsibilities. I am ashamed to say that King Alcohol frequently won the battle inside my soul. The original state of feeling good that alcohol had once gave me had been slowly replaced by the feelings of fears, anxiety, guilt, dishonesty, remorse, and isolation. I couldn’t discuss or tell anyone about my drinking because of negative career implications. Also, I couldn’t dare believe that my old friend of many years had turned on me. Time after time I drank to re-capture that initial feeling of well being from my first drink as hard as I tried. My mind was filled with thoughts of remorse, and the feeling of impending doom. My health was suffering. I was anemic, was taking blood pressure medication, my liver was failing and my very high tolerance had fallen to the point of one or two drinks and I would be drunk. I also went from being a happy drinker to an asshole, especially to my family who loved me and couldn’t fight back. I was miserable in mind, body and soul, yet strangely was still able to do my job at a very high level. No one in authority would confront me about my drinking. Although I knew I had a problem with alcohol, I didn’t have a solution to my problem even though I had sat through many Drug & Alcohol lectures. I couldn’t even spell AA, and as a senior supervisor I would send people for treatment because I could see they had an alcohol problem, but again, living in denial I could not see my own problem and how alcohol was affecting my life and those around me.
Because my tolerance had fallen so drastically, I rarely drank at lunch time or in public in case some one would see me drunk. However, a friend had given me a quart of PEI moonshine, so one afternoon I went home for lunch to sample this elixir. I was also the acting Second in Command of the Base that day. After a drink of moonshine I returned to work and met with the Base Commander to discuss some things. I thought/recalled that everything went well. However, when my boss returned the next day, he called me in and said the words that I had literally been dying to hear: “Jack, we want you to see the Doctor”. At the sound of these words I felt like 50,000 pounds had been removed from my back. At last the jig was up. I had returned to the Base after my one drink and apparently in a blackout proceeded to tell the Base Commander how to run his base in no uncertain terms. He somehow took exception to this candor. That became my bottom and started me on my Journey of Recovery.
Although I “volunteered” for treatment I was still obsessed with the thoughts of drinking when a couple of days later I arrived at the Navy’s Alcohol Treatment Center in Halifax. However, the night before my treatment started, I had a Spiritual Experience that changed my life. I believe that while sleeping and without me asking, my Higher Power gave me a moment of clarity to realize that my problem was alcohol, not people, places, or things. I woke up feeling at peace with myself and the desire to drink left me to this day.
What it’s like now
During Treatment, I learned that I have a good news, bad news disease called Alcoholism. If I don’t drink I can live a good, sober life. However, if I decide to continue drinking I will die…that simple. I also have a daily reprieve from my addiction and as long as I choose not to drink today I will go to bed sober and wake up the next day to start the process all over again. However, it is sometimes necessary to break the day down into hours, minutes and even seconds to get through the day sober. That is okay.
The greatest gift I have given myself in life was to allow my Higher Power, which I chose to call God, into my life and surrender to a new way of life without alcohol. I had to have my ego smashed and admit defeat to King Alcohol. My best thinking couldn’t fix me but my God could and would if I humbly asked him to. I had to ADMIT, ACCEPT and ACTION myself into a better and sober way of life.
There is too little space here to cover the many “musts” that I had to do to stay sober but they would include, but not be limited to: get and read the Big Book of AA, get a sponsor, join a Home Group, do the 12 Steps, do daily prayers, including the 3rd Step prayer, meditation, attend regular AA meetings, get involved in Service Work, and pass the message of AA on to other suffering Alcoholics. I have learned that to keep it I have to give it away.
Today my life and recovery starts and ends with God and in between I incorporate the 12 Steps and Traditions to the best of my ability. As a result of working the program of AA, the 12 Promises have come true for me especially “ We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves”. Even strong headed pilots sometimes need a little help.
God speed fellow spiritual warriors,
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