Alcohol rocketed him to disaster
but this pilot is coming back down to earth on wings of sobriety
By Corey S.
I wanted to be a pilot since the age of 4 when I first rode on a Braniff 727. The crew let me come into the cockpit. I was mesmerized by all the switches, gauges and levers. Those 3 gentlemen were Gods to me!! The short time shared out of their day made my decision for me. I grew up watching "Top Gun", "Iron Eagle", and "Final Countdown" waiting for my chance to get into the air. It was all I ever wanted to do. It was my dream, my goal in life to be a pilot.
I drank to get drunk from the beginning around the age of 13. I was a “party-er”. Alcohol made me whatever I thought the current crowd wanted me to be. It made me fun, an expert on many subjects, wild and crazy and therefore, popular. They wouldn’t like the dull, boring, and glum Corey. I lived to have fun and party. Fun it was through my teens and early twenties. A pattern of destruction began to develop oblivious to me. I soon began to get into trouble with the law, girlfriends, friends, my job and the college that I attended. I just thought that’s part of what happens when you get drunk and have fun. I always managed to work my way through these situations never seeing the common denominator…..KING ALCOHOL. I was an intelligent, honor student by day and an out of control, party animal by night or weekend. I was indeed a real Jekyll and Hyde as the Big Book states.
I managed to make it out of college without a prison term and a Bachelor’s Degree!! However, my alcohol and partying got in the way of my dreams of flying. I got my Private when I was 18 and a freshman. During my esteemed 4.5 years of “study”, my goal of having my Commercial was no where close. My life took an interesting and much needed (to find out later) detour to the oil fields. There I worked my way up to be the youngest project manager in my company’s history before resigning prior to getting fired for my troubles with alcohol. I didn’t think of it as a problem because my goal of quitting after this project to start my flying career just got moved up a month or so. I had been bitten again by the flying bug a year or so earlier and had completed my instrument, commercial and multi while working my job.
My home life was a mess. My selfishness and all of my “isms” had nearly destroyed my marriage several times. I was unhappily married, in a job that wasn’t my dream, stressed out over money and the wreckage of my past and future! My drinking became my way of dealing with these problems even though I didn’t know it. My wife had finally had enough. I was faced with a decision, booze or my family. I gave up drinking, no thoughts- no problem, or so I thought. About this time I had begun Flight Instructing. I decided that aviation and my family were too much to risk over alcohol. I went a long time without a drink on self-will. Since I was “doing so well” (outwardly) my wife and I decided that we could limit and control my drinking. I was allowed to drink at special occasions a handful of times during the year. My birthday, weddings, etc. At every one of them, I made up for lost time! I was frequently going to the store for more after trying to limit myself or I was the last one partying at functions looking for companionship. My tolerance was amazing. When the time came to drink I never let anyone down…out came the animal….more crazy and destructive than ever. Drinking and partying were no longer the fun they were. I had become a blackout drinker now and was doing horrible things while drunk with little or no recollection. Once I started drinking, I couldn’t get enough booze in me. I had to fill this hole in my soul. After a few repeat performances, the joint control experiment with my wife ended. I swore never to drink again. I was once again dry and running on willpower. I was one miserable person but I couldn’t figure out why. I could see that I had a problem with alcohol but it wasn’t every time and I didn’t drink everyday therefore, I was not an alcoholic.
In the mean time, I had worked my way up from CFI, to jump pilot, to charter, to fractionals and now a major airline. All was going according to MY plan. At every job, something was wrong. “If I could just get to the next company, all of my problems would be solved.” I said this countless times. Here I was now, at a major airline, the top of the “game”. So what was still wrong with me? I wasn’t happy. Economic stress, stress of the job, selfishness, and ego were wearing my dryness down.
Finally, on a layover after a long day I decided that it would be OK to have a beer at dinner with the crew. Within 6 months of this decision, I went from 1 or 2 beers with dinner and a false sense of control, back to partying and black out drinking. It happened so quickly. This is what cost me my job. I ended up getting fired from the best job in the world showing up for duty after being out too late partying. My world ended. My life was over! What would everyone think? My wife didn’t know I was living this lifestyle on the road. Neither did my mentor who got me my job interview at the airline. Now, I had a lot of "getting honest" to do and that feat looked as high as Mt. Everest!!
First, I got honest with myself: I was an alcoholic. I needed help. Unfortunately, it was too late to save my job, my licenses and my medical, but not too late to save me. My family once again stood by me….GOD BLESS THEM! I went to treatment and got an education. I had my spiritual experience there after hitting bottom. I discovered I could be spiritual without being religious. I discovered that the GOD of my childhood, that I fired, was still waiting for me. I cried out for help and HE was there. HE relieved me of all of the guilt, shame, remorse and the “crap” I felt about the past. HE also relieved me of my fear of the future. Over the next several hours after my plea, a huge weight was lifted. A euphoric feeling and peace came over me. I knew everything was going to be OK.
I got home and got to work on me. I went to an IOP program, got an SAP, an AME, but most importantly, a sponsor. I have worked the 12 steps that were suggested as a program of recovery and I continue to work on me. I am my biggest problem. Along the way, I found my old career to come in handy! God blessed me with a fantastic job. Now I know why I had to go to the oil field years ago instead diving into aviation. I needed fellowship and support and there was no local nest of BOAF. God blessed me with pulling one together. I now know I am not alone. Thanks to my brother’s in BOAF and AA, by sharing their experience, strength, and hope, I have hope and a better knowledge of myself. I know I need the program of AA to stay sober…all of it, not a buffet plan, not my job back, more money or a geographical cure. I needed to experience a dry life to know that alcohol wasn’t my problem, it was my solution. I needed to experience a dry life to know that I could not stay sober on will power alone.
Today some of the promises have come true and some are still in progress! Losing my job, one of the things I loved most, was the best thing that ever happened to me. Thanks to the miracles of this program I have a new job, a greatly improved family life, and life on life’s terms. I have a solution that doesn’t involve alcohol. I have a sponsor and a sponsee. I get my “kicks” out of working with others instead looking for it in a bottle of booze. I am on a path to return to aviation IF IT IS GOD’S PLAN FOR ME. I am OK with it if it is not. I pray every morning for God to run my life and for his will to be done…not mine. I tried mine already and have seen the results. I try to do the next right thing during the day and at night I give thanks to God for all that I have. I need AA and I need my God.
My life, my careers, and my marriage have been like a bottle rocket. I shot up quick, bright, and fast with an occasional dip and little or no guidance. I had quite an explosion!! Now, I am floating back down to earth on reality with a firm foundation beneath my feet. My path as I descend is uncertain to me but is guided none the less. Where I land, I am not sure, but it will be Gods will and that is what matters to me.
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