I didn’t get a “scholarship” to the program of recovery from alcoholism. No DUIs, not court-ordered, nor any ‘work-related issues,’ nor ‘wife-ordered’ – I was just ‘sick-n-tired of being sick-n-tired.’ I would get up in the mornings, or at that time, “come to,” and ask God, “Please God, don’t let me drink today.” Then often, I would be having my first beer by 8:30 or so.
I had often heard, “I don’t drink before noon, so I must not be an alcoholic.” As many of us have, I suppose. Well, my mind is not ‘wired” like yours. My thought was, “If you’re not an alcoholic, what’s the problem of having a beer before noon? Especially if it’s your day off!” And I was fine with that line of thought – until the bitter end.
I always thought I could quit at any time – that I could just walk away from alcohol. But, in my heart, I knew better. And therein, part of the continuing torment I lived with. The subtle denial. However, I did have a plan!
As a child I had seen an old black and while film wherein the central character had to see a doctor. When the doctor sat down with him to discuss his condition, he told him, “Ed, if you don’t quit drinking, in 6 months you’ll be dead.” Why that resonated with me; I didn’t know – but it did.
As an airline pilot I had to take a physical every 6 months. So, I figured that I would just keep drinking until the doc told me I was approaching my 6-month “death window!” And that was my plan! It’s amazing I survived because the docs I saw had no idea what I was doing to myself. And, of course, I didn’t tell them. Well, duh…
So, one morning I called the minister at our local Lutheran church and asked if I could come over and talk with him. He graciously agreed, and off I went.
After 45 minutes or so of talking with him, he asked, “Bob, why are you so angry?”
“I don’t know,” I replied, “and that pisses me off, because I’m not an angry person.” Or so I thought – but I was…
He then suggested that I see this “shrink” he used for members of his congregation – for people who were suffering from the same things as I was.
When I got home, I called the guy and made an appointment. Then I got very drunk – to celebrate the fact that I was finally doing something proactive for myself! (I told you, we do not think like normies – normal folks.)
It took 3 weeks before I was able to see the guy. On Thursday, 28 Jul 1994, I had my last drink. The next day I went in to see the shrink. He gave me a battery of written tests, then we sat down for a consult.
The next day, Saturday morning, I went back for the results. I knew the results though – I was assessed as ‘alcoholic.’ I didn’t hear much after that, I was lost in thought. I didn’t need to hear much…
I came home then, and shared the results with Sue. We talked a bit, then I called Adrian H., a fellow pilot at Northwest.
I had flown with Adrian earlier on the DC-9, and liked the guy. I happened to see him about 5-6 weeks earlier, in Detroit, in civilian clothes. I asked where he was going, and he told me that he had just returned from ‘Hazelden.’
“Wonderful, what the hell was that?” I asked.
He then went on to explain it was the facility Northwest Airlines used to send alcoholics to for 28 days of treatment. I was shocked! Adrian? YGBSM! But I listened as he explained what he had been through the past 6 weeks or so. I remember standing there in complete admiration of him, and total disgust for myself – for not having the courage to come forward as he had… So, it was natural for me to call him that Saturday morning, and ask about Hazelden.
One of the things the shrink told me was, that if the FAA found out I was alcoholic, there was the chance that I would never fly again. I didn’t give a shit. I was so “down” at that time, I didn’t care if I ever got in a cockpit, ever again. It was then I realized what alcohol had taken from me – my childhood dream, along with so many other things. And I knew I had to ask for help. I was sick-n-tired of being sick-n-tired…