This week’s HTYH is a continuation of the late Sandy B’s story. Sandy was a USMC pilot before becoming a Credit Union lobbyist in Washington DC: I was in college before I tasted alcohol; I walked into a new world and my mind said, “You should’ve started drinking this stuff in grammar school.” I felt like a different person and had something witty to say about every subject and everybody suddenly liked me. I felt the “new me” had been released from the bondage of anxiety and social pressure. I said to myself, “If three drinks made me feel like this, I wonder how 20 would make me feel? I over-served myself and ended up in the men’s dorm puking my guts out and was passed-out before the white-porcelain-throne. I sat on my bed the next morning feeling miserable and sick with a stabbing pain in the back of my head. The thought occurred to me, “Are you going to drink that stuff again tonight?” In less than a second my mind said, “You’re darned right I am.” That axe sticking in the back of my head and vomiting was a small price to pay for the wonderful transformation I experienced.


The largest percent of social drinkers (85-90% of the population), can take alcohol, or leave it because it doesn’t magically transform their personalities. Social drinkers have a defense mechanism that detects poison and they become nauseated, disoriented and feel out-of-control after a few drinks. But for me, alcohol, at least in the beginning, made the world a wonderful place. Alcohol seemed to fix all of my social problems. I had no idea that I was reacting differently to alcohol than other guys, I thought we were just partying and that it affected everybody the same way? But it was not because as my alcoholism progressed, I started getting arrested, it had a horrible effect on my grade averages, no more athletics, I just drank. I barely graduated college; only by the narrowest margin. The Korean War had already started and so I had two choices, either join the military, or get drafted. A group of us guys were drinking beer one night when one of them said, “Let’s enlist in the Marines; Let’s go.” That recruiting sergeant must have rubbed his hands together and said, “Oh boy, are these wise-guys in for a big surprise.”

After six months of basic training I became a platoon leader and really loved it. At last, I found a place where I belonged. Never before had I felt like that and one day we were shown a training film about pilots who were laughing and drinking in a bar, they all wore leather jackets and silk scarves; they were dog fighting with their hands. After the film finished, I went to the Navy officer who showed us the film and said, “I want to be a pilot.” He said, “Are you certain because you’ll have to sign up for three more years.” I said, “I liked that movie and I want to try that.”

Earlier that year I met a young woman in Bradford, Connecticut; we got engaged and then married after I passed the tests for flight school. We boarded an airplane in NY City for Pensacola, FL. About halfway through my very-first flight I became terribly airsick and I was ten-times sicker during my first training light in an SNJ Trainer. I wondered if I had the right stuff to become a pilot. After five or six miserable training flights the motion sickness went away and I became very good at what I was doing. I graduated at the top of my class and after 18 months of intense training earned my wings. I was transferred to Korea, but the war ended. There was nothing left to do except party hearty in Japan and fly high-performance airplanes. I was having the time of my life in Japan and savored every moment of being a member of that fighter squadron. To be continued…

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John Barleycorn

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