This week’s HTYH is a continuation of Sandy B.’s story who was a USMC pilot before becoming a credit union lobbyist in Washington D.C. The base psychiatrist finally came up with my diagnosis: He said, “You have a latent childhood fear of flying that has manifested itself after 14 years of flying.” He said, “You can no longer fly an airplane.” That about killed me because all of my training was centered around flying. I needed a new specialty and after about three months of waiting, new orders from headquarters arrived. They said: Report to Georgia for air-traffic-control training. I went to school in Georgia while my chronic alcoholism progressed and after graduation, was assigned to a military base in Japan as a forward air-traffic-controller. I was supposed to be bringing in aircraft in bad weather while they couldn’t see the run-way. A perfect job for a practicing alcoholic; fortunate for me, and the airplanes the senior enlisted men politely said, “Sir, we sincerely hope that you never personally talk to an airplane. Please put your personal things wherever you want and let us do our job.” I said, “OK.” but now I was barely surviving. I couldn’t eat much and lost fifty pounds, I stopped hanging out with friends and avoided happy hour. I was drinking vodka with juice trying to get nutrition from the fruit juice and a little soup. I began to freak-out at that job too and was seeing really strange things.
About fifteen years after I came to A.A. I ran into some of my fellow officers from that squadron at an A.A. meeting and they were really excited that A.A. saved me. They said, “Sandy, we knew you were dying, but there was nothing we could do for you. Anybody who knows the U.S.M.C. knows they won’t leave their dead behind; they go back and get them even if it costs two more lives, but these guys wrote me off. Nobody in the Navy, at that time, knew anything about chronic alcoholism, or about any solution for it; if you had it you were doomed.
I came back to the United States and went to school in Quantico, Virginia. I had a Grand mal seizure, bit my tongue and was taken to the hospital for three weeks to determine why I had had the seizure? While hospitalized, I went through delirium-tremens and started seeing and imagining all sorts of weird things. I imagined the C.I.A. was trying to break me with all of these tests so they could lock me up for the rest of my life. None of it was real, but fear and paranoia totally overwhelmed me. I was running around the hospital screaming at people so they put me in a straight jacket and restrained me for six more months.
So that’s my story. In military hospitals alcoholism didn’t exist because they had no diagnosis, or solution for that malady. Three of us incarcerated at Bethesda Hospital were alcoholics, and they had us locked up with crazy people. They didn’t know what to do with us so they said, “Why don’t you just stop drinking?” I said, “Stop drinking?” Do you think that’s my problem? What’s wrong with you; are you crazy?” Anyway, the local A.A. group from Bethesda, Maryland talked their way into the hospital and set up an A.A. meeting there. It was around August or September 1964 when a corpsman came into our ward and said, “All drunks fall in,” and he took us to our first A.A. meeting. Here were all of these alcoholic’s telling their story and it was great; I loved it. I didn’t think I was an alcoholic, but I thought they had a wonderful program. Eventually we were allowed to go home at night and on weekends and I started drinking again even though they said my career was over if I took another drink. On December 7, 1964 I called the Quantico Inner Group Office and they sent a Marine Captain to my house. To be continued…
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