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Grapevine : November 2011
I was the first commercial air- line pilot ever to be arrested and sent to prison for hav- ing flown drunk. As such, I received media coverage that shook the entire United States, Asia, and Europe. I found myself stripped of my career and my FAA credentials. I went broke within 30 days and was in the Atlanta Federal prison within nine months of the arrest. Fortunately, I entered treatment the day after the arrest and worked hard on my sobriety. Although I was newly sober, I had expended count- less foot-pounds of effort and energy on my recovery, and I would need ev- ery bit of it. When I asked the prison officials if there was an AA program in prison, they assured me there was. However, I quickly discovered that truth is the first casualty in prison and there was no such program. There was, however, a one-hour, once-a-week video that constituted the prison "program." There was no meeting, no discussion---just the video. Twenty-six of us walked in, saw the video, and then walked out. Back on course Booze takes a Native American pilot's wings away, but AA gives him back the sky That was it. Once outside, the other 25 laughed and planned their next drunk party or drug deal; they were there because they got certificates for attendance and hoped they could maneuver those into more halfway house or other prison advantages. I was there desperately hoping for something that would maintain or advance my recovery. I later fought to start an AA group, and the prison administra- tion did all it could to sabotage our meetings and discourage us. But we persevered. There was no added ad- vantage for attending our meetings. The only people who came did so be- cause they wanted sobriety. Initially, I went to the video pre- sentation each week hoping I could connect something to my recovery. It was the only game in town, it was all I had, so I went. I walked in the second week and the video was en- titled, "For The Honor Of All." It was the story of a band of Shuswap Indi- ans in British Columbia. They were known as the Alkali Lake Band and had gone from 90% alcoholic to 90% sober in a period of 10 to 15 years. It was a phenomenal presentation. aagrapevine.org 31