Back to Work Conditions

When I called Northwest Airlines and asked for help with my drinking, I didn’t care if I ever got into another cockpit ever again.   I was told that if I “come forward,” and asked for help, there was a chance that I wouldn’t fly again.  But in July 1994 I didn’t care anymore – I had had enough…

The first think I had to do was complete a 28-day program at Hazelden, in Minnesota.  Then I was told, having been assessed as “alcoholic,” I had a choice:  I could either drink, or fly – but not both anymore.  And that was fine with me…

I was “off line” (grounded) for 10 months, and never missed a pay check.   In addition I had several “hoops” to jump through in order to get back to work.

First I had to remain sober.  They told me that it was Northwest’s policy that they would give me 1 relapse.  That was kind of a relief as I sure as hell didn’t want to drink anymore.  (When I told my friend Joe about this policy he remarked, “Hey Holliker, if you do decide to drink, give me a call first.  You were a fucking riot when you were lit!”  Swell…)

Then I had to attend ‘Aftercare’ once a week, for 3 years.  I think I may have missed 1 or 2, at most.  I actually enjoyed Aftercare, and learning about his disease of alcoholism.

Once a month I had to meet with our Chief Pilot in Detroit, and every 2 weeks or so (minimum) I had to make contact with my Northwest ‘sponsor.’  Then I had to fly up to Northwest  Headquarters in Minneapolis (Mecca) and meet with the company Medical Officer, once a month – for a year or so.  (More on this jerk later…)  And finally I had to meet with a “shrink” once a year, for 3 years, to determine how many brain cells I had fried during my drinking days.

I didn’t mind any of these ‘conditions,’ except my ‘audiences’ with the company’s medical officer.  Today, with 18+ years of sobriety, I can look back and now think, “What an idiot…”  Oh well, moving on.

While I have ‘little love’ for Northwest upper management, I am totally grateful for the opportunity I had to attend Hazelden.  I know of folks who have gotten sober through AA alone, but it’s a great deal tougher.  And so my journey into sobriety began…

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