Reason NOT to drink #5: fear of flying

01Sep09

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Fear of crashing, really. Or is it fear of losing control? Or just fear of turbulence?

Whatever it is, I don’t like flying. There was a time in my career when I flew a lot for work, and I hated it.

I especially despised morning flights to meetings, which meant I couldn’t soothe my nerves with a cocktail or two. Or four.

Back then, I collected Southwest Airlines free drink coupons like I used to collect Bazooka Joe bubble gum wrappers as a fourth grader. When I was a Platinum AAdvantage member, I looooovved getting an upgrade to First Class on American Airlines, which meant free-flowing free booze even before the plane took off. For some reason, flying in First, my self-imposed morning drink ban wasn’t in effect. If all those portly businessmen were doing it, hell, why couldn’t I?

During my drinking-while-flying days, I always made sure to order two rounds at once if, say, the Weather Channel radar had looked particularly ominous over Dallas. That would ensure that I wouldn’t be caught without my back-up if the captain commanded the drink service shut down and the flight attendants strapped into their seats because we were about to encounter some “weather.”

Of course, now that I am sober those days are over, and I’ve had to resort to something else to calm my terror during bumpy flights. Lately that something else has been the Serenity Prayer.

I took a week-long vacation in Maine last month, and it required flying into Boston. The flight out there left around noon. A year ago, it would have been perfectly fine – if not expected – for me to catch a buzz while heading East. After all, 1) it was afternoon and 2) I was on vacation.

But when we hit some serious turbulence over the Southeast, I was white-knuckling it without my favorite anti-anxiety potion. So I tightened my seat belt, took some deep breaths and began chanting the Serenity Prayer in my head.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Of course, when the turbulence increased a few minutes later, my chanting moved from in my head to under my breath to practically shouting it to the passenger next to me. Loudly. Quickly. Repeatedly. Ad nauseum.

GodgrantmetheserenitytoacceptthethingsIcannotchangethe couragetochangethethingsIcanandthewisdomtoknowthedif ference.GodgrantmetheserenitytoacceptthethingsIcannot changethecouragetochangethethingsIcanandthewisdomto knowthedifference.Godgrantmetheserenitytoacceptthethings IcannotchangethecouragetochangethethingsIcanandthewis domtoknowthedifference.Godgrantmetheserenitytoaccept thethingsIcannotchangethecouragetochangethethingsIcan andthewisdomtoknowthedifference…

It became my mantra, and I concentrated on nothing but its repetition. Eventually, I fell into a groove, as if I were singing a favorite song refrain again and again. The unexpected jolts of the plane sometime jarred me from my rhythm, but I always found the groove again. Eventually, the turbulence subsided, and I did in fact feel serene. Best of all, we made it to Boston alive and in one piece, despite my deep-seated conviction at various moments during the flight that we were doomed to be splattered across the Southeastern Seaboard.

I didn’t need alcohol to get me through it. I didn’t disembark woozily, wondering when and where I’d get my next drink. And I didn’t have to deal with an awful hangover aggravated by the dehydrating qualities of airplane cabin air.

I’ve got another flight coming up in two weeks, when I’m heading to Virginia for a mini-reunion with my best college girlfriends at a home football game. (Expect a lengthy post after that trip.) I’m glad to know that I can endure whatever the jetstream throws at us without imbibing. And I recently found an article that has some helpful info on why people fear turbulence, and a great tip for conquering turbulence-induced anxiety that I’m eager to try out.

Not that I’m hoping for a bumpy flight, mind you. I’m not that eager.

*ADDENDUM:

…there was always the curious mental phenomenon that parallel with our sound reasoning there inevitably ran some insanely trivial excuse for taking the first drink. Our sound reasoning failed to hold us in check. The insane idea won out. Next day we would ask ourselves, in all earnestness and sincerity, how it could have happened.      —p. 37, The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous

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2 Responses to “Reason NOT to drink #5: fear of flying”

  1. 1 Sharon

    Great post… I love how you have articulated the rationalization of drinking… so true for me too. For me, life is simpler not drinking even when there is turbulence 😉

  2. 2 Mary W

    I haven’t flown in over 20 years! I never liked flying but I didn’t drink while on the plane. Don’t know why, but I was always a control freak and flying and being drunk wasn’t an option.

    I love that you used the Serenity Prayer to keep you from drinking. I remember an incident in early sobriety where I said the Serenity Prayer to get me to sleep one night. And I didn’t drink.

    Will be thinking of you when you have to come back to VA for the football game. You may be saying the Serenity Prayer in the stands unless you focus on the game and not the drunks around you.

    Great story. Keep up the great work.


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