AA: “The Troop Who Rides One In”

The Troop Who Rides One In

“We should all bear one thing in mind
when we talk about a troop who
rode one in.

He called upon the sum of all his
knowledge and judgement.
He believed in it so strongly that
he knowingly bet his life on it.

That he was mistaken in his judgement
is a tragedy…not stupidity.
Every supervisor and contemporary
who ever spoke to him had an
opportunity to influence his
judgement.

…so, a little bit of us all of us
goes in with every troop we lose.”

Author Unknown

I came across this very early in my flying career.  It really had a profound effect on me.  Then in later years, as an instructor pilot, there were many, many occasions where it made me pause; to think what I was saying to the “new kids.”  I again came across it a couple years ago, and copied it into my ‘Big Book’ (the Book of AA).  Today is again resides in my subconscious – and quietly guides me as I talk with the ‘new kids’ coming into ‘the program.’

‘Hurt’ is an feeling I have always struggled with – still do today to a certain extent.  Not so much “physical” hurts, but “emotional” hurts, for sure.  In my ‘past life,’ I would go to any lengths to avoid ‘hurt.’  When it was unavoidable, I would drink.  One way or another, I was not going to tolerate anymore hurt.  When I came into sobriety, ‘hurt’ was here.  ‘Hurts’ from my past that I had buried, and new ‘hurts’ as the fog in my head began to clear.  In sobriety I had to learn how to deal with ‘hurt’ in a healthy way.  Allowing myself to ‘feel’ my ‘hurts,’ to wallow in it a bit, and then let it go is how I cope with it today.

A source of hurt I am faced with today is the occasional loss of new friends I meet in the program (of AA) through ‘relapse.’  Growing up in the military as a kid, then serving a 20-year career on active duty, I always contended wth folks walking in and out of my life.  I suppose “friends” have always been my fondest treasures, although I often did not know how to show it in the past.  Nonetheless, as they would move away, or I would be transferred to a new station, I would feel ‘hurt.’  It was always as if I was losing an extension of me, a part of me…and I would drink.

Today I find myself disturbed when I hear of a friend who relapses, who ‘slips, who ‘goes back out.’  It is no less painful than losing a friend through a geographical move – or an aircraft accident.  And this is where the aforementioned verse helps.  It’s a tool I use to help ‘let go.’  If I know in my heart that I did my part; if I was the best friend, or the best sponsor I could have been, then I am “okay” with it all.  It doesn’t mean the loss is any less ‘hurtful;’ it just means I’m “okay” with it.  If, upon self-examination, I discover I could have been a little more caring, a little more approachable, a little more honest – then I have an ‘amends’ to make.  And this is “okay” also; it’s called “growth.”  I am not responsible for someone else “picking up” again, but I am responsible for how I conduct myself when I am dealing with another – I am responsible for my part.

I have often thought that ‘relapses’ are like aircraft accidents.  We don’t measure the aircraft accidents that we prevent; only the ones that occur.  So, we never know how many we have prevent over a given time period.  And so it is with relapses.  We never know how many we prevent because of something we have said, or something we’ve done – something that someone else picked up on, and didn’t drink that day.

If someone can reach back and recall some little thing I’ve said in a meeting, or a tid-bit in passing, and not drink – then I have done my part.  And for that one day, we will not be faced with the ‘hurt’ that comes with ‘every troop who rides one in…’

Dec 1999

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