"ONE PILOT'S STORY" ARCHIVES
Looking Good on the Outside By Tom D.
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A letter to my Colorado friend in recovery
Recently your life has experienced some turmoil. You dropped out of Captain upgrade training due to illness and perhaps other pressures. You made some errors in judgment regarding attendance at some of the training sessions. The company leaned on you to postpone your bid. I certainly wish you no ill will. I do, however, wish you serenity and calmness one day at a time in this program of Alcoholics Anonymous. Let me tell you why:
When the time came for me to take that all important step and commit to the training and scrutiny of upgrading to the left seat at my airline, I was also in turmoil in my life. I had recently been hired by my airline after experiencing the bankruptcy at my previous one. I had small children and a wife depending on me for their livelihood. I had to sell my home in one state and move to another state to rent. My life was in a state of shock but worst of all; I had been relapsing in my program and had started to drink again, after a long period of sobriety.
When the opportunity came for me to upgrade, my ego bid for it immediately. Fast growth back in the late 80’s resulted in many pilots moving rapidly from the right to the left seat and I didn’t want to be left behind. Unfortunately for me, I should have paused, reflected on my current situation, and slowed down a bit. You see, I had a chip on my shoulder, instead of a chip in my pocket. I was angry, upset and fretful of my situation, still reeling from the bankruptcy, blaming the industry and anything else I could think about except accepting what life had given me. . . an opportunity to slow down and reassess. Instead, I jumped into training with both feet on fire.
I went to class. I immediately questioned the training program. “Why do they do it this way! Don’t they know this is wrong, why don’t they ask me the right way to do things?” I entered the simulator thinking I was too smart for this. Just let me fly the thing around a bit and give me my type rating. Why are we wasting all this time? I obviously know what I’m doing. I’ve been a First Officer for nine years; I can be a Captain, no problem.
Well, guess what. I was wrong about everything. My arrogant ego got me in trouble from the very beginning. I thought I could do no wrong. Until I was given remedial training time and again, then my judgment was questioned during the flying phase and finally the final blow came the day in the Chief Pilot’s office when I was told that I will have to go back to the line as a First Officer and take some time to cool off.
Well, that did it. How dare they tell me I can’t make Captain. My distrust, anger and frustration accelerated. I wasn’t going to meetings, had no sponsor, and had no way to express my emotions in a healthy manner. Soon after, I went on a bender during an overnight, waking up in the morning in the hotel the way I always had: a hangover, tired, upset and alone.
Time to shorten up my story. My wife and others recognized my problem. Hell, even my five year old daughter knew something was wrong. She came up to me one night at
home, put her arms around me and said, “Daddy, I’m sorry you didn’t make Captain”. That did it. As I burst in tears I knew something was wrong. A little five year old could see it, I couldn’t.
My entry to rehab was a gift that I opened the very first day I got there. I soaked it up, let it happen, found what I needed. Toward the end of my aftercare more than one year later I once again accepted the bid for Captain upgrade. I entered training with an attitude of gratitude. I was unhurried….and unafraid. I experienced true acceptance for the first time. The result was a successful journey with a new type rating in my pocket and an extra stripe for my uniform sleeve.
My calmness, serenity and acceptance saw me through. The results were a natural extension. I told my higher power that nothing would happen to me that the two of us couldn’t handle together. And I am writing this now to show you that it will work out for you too. You will get the chance again. And when YOU have that new type rating and extra stripe, then you will know.
See you on the line,
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