The latest bare facts and figures from the World Health Organization:
● The harmful use of alcohol results in 3.3 million deaths annually.
● Alcoholics Anonymous https://www.aa.org
● ALA-non https://al-anon.org
● Adult Children (ACoA, ACA) https://adultchildren.org
● How childhood trauma affects health across a lifetime. Nadine Burk Harris
Recovery Support Apps
● Sober Grid https://www.sobergrid.com
● Pink Cloud https://gopinkcloud.com
● Calm https://www.calm.com
● My Life https://my.life
A professional pilot courageously reflects on addiction, vulnerability, resilience and recovery and what that conscious journey encompasses. Join me in conversation with a commercial pilot, Laurie. Her story spans the USA then expands around the world as she went from discovery to recovery in 2015. Laurie serves aviation through sharing her conscious journey and recovery story with the aviation community and help other pilots find recovery in particular and others generally through service and sponsorship.
The latest bare facts and figures from the World Health Organization:
Resources & Links
Recovery Support Apps
About the Guest
Laurie, a commercial pilot, has been in sober since 2015. She shares her story, recovery and how she serves as a worldwide sponsor.
About the Show
Podcast Host: Life & Leadership: A Conscious Journey with Michelle St Jane
A podcast for Global and Re-Emerging Leadership creating community/tribe, a circle of influence, transcendency of compassionate leadership in the world and wider universe. A unique destination for learning about Leadership + Conscious Stewardship + Legacy.
Intro: [00:00:00] You're listening to life and leadership, a conscious journey. The podcast that shares wisdom and strength. Join your host Dr. Michelle St Jane's weekly conversation on how to have a positive impact for people planet and the wider world. If you want to live a life of intention to be proactive with your time and bring your vision for the future to life one today at a time you were in the right place at the right time. Let's get started.
Laurie (AA): [00:00:37] Hello everyone. My name is Laurie. And it's only by the grace of God in Alcoholics Anonymous, that I'm alive, sober and recovered from a hopeless state of mind and body. I have a sobriety date, which is September the seventh of 2015. And in that very short amount of time, there's been no need or obsession to pick up a drink or a drug.
[00:00:54] I have a sponsor who has a sponsor. I, myself am a sponsor. I'm actually a three legacy sponsor. Alcoholics Anonymous is composed of 36 spiritual principles. That is something that's very important and dear to me. I share that with my sponsees. My sponsors are also sponsors. I sponsor about 24 people. I regularly speak to another 30 or so every day. I have a service sponsor because service is also very, very important to me.
[00:01:20] I have a home group and I'm just absolutely delighted. So delighted that technology allows us now to participate in our sobriety, despite this pandemic. Like I said, I have sponsees from all over the world. Europe in Australia even South Africa.
The big book of Alcoholics Anonymous, which is the basic textbook for alcoholics and recovery says in the forward to the fourth edition, in any meeting, anywhere AA share experience, strength and hope with each other in order to stay sober and to help other alcoholics modem to modem or face-to-face.
[00:01:54] AA speak the language of the heart and all of its power and simplicity. In 1960, Bill Wilson, was one of the co-founders of Alcoholics Anonymous. He wrote “nothing matters more to AA future welfare than the manner in which we use modern communication. It can produce results surpassing our present imagination.”
Here we are in 2021, dealing with a pandemic. How we have this amazing situation where we can gather together and continue connecting with each other.
All I can share with you is my experience. I can only share with you my truth and my reality in Alcoholics Anonymous while I was active in alcoholism. I'm not an expert, I'm a fellow traveler. I do not profess to know anything about Alcoholics Anonymous or the big book.
When I first walked into the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous, I would hear people say all the time, “Hi, my name is so-and-so and I'm a grateful alcoholic.” Oh, my goodness. This used to absolutely infuriate me. I couldn't for the life of me understand how anybody could be grateful. They were in AA. I mean, what were you grateful for? You couldn't drink.
I wanted to drink. I couldn't. I wasn't very happy. I wasn't very grateful. I came to AA not to stop drinking, but to teach me:
You know, drinks that had lots of things, like pieces of fruit and umbrellas in it weren’t for me. I was a hardcore scotch drinker. I was a whiskey drinker. I would rather get my calories from hard liquor than from these fruity drinks.
We have a saying in AA, “wine is fine, but liquor is quicker.”
I came to AA because I figured those guys were the professionals. They knew what they were doing and could give me pointers on how to be a more responsible drinker.
Instead AA taught me these things called the steps and told me that drinking was not my problem, but my solution. My solution to everybody always told me that drinking was my problem. You got a problem with drinking. You have a problem with alcohol. But it was Alcoholics Anonymous that told me that my problem was not alcohol. But that alcohol was my solution.
Now I absolutely loved alcohol. I love everything about it. I will never deprive anybody of their last drink. In fact, if I had known my last drink was going to be my last drink, there would have been a lot more fanfare. There would have been a news crew that would have to document it. But that's not the way it happened.
I absolutely loved scotch. I loved the way it looked in a glass in a crystal glass as the sunshine through. And, you know, the colors would refract. I love the way that it smelled the smokier the better. I love the way it had its effect on me. Right. I love the way I felt. When I drank whiskey was my best friend and it was my lover. It was my confidant. It was there when I celebrate it. And it was there when I cried. I drank when I was happy. I drank when I was sad. Alcohol transported me to this place of comfort and ease and alcohol did for me when I could never ever do for myself.
The big book says that alcoholics drink primarily for the effect. Right. Booze was magical. It made me taller and made me younger or made me thinner or whatever that case happened to be. And it gave me the sense of courage and self-confidence and alcohol transform me into the person I could never be on my own. Never.
From a really early age I always felt really different. I felt like an outsider. I used to think that I was adopted. I used to look for differences between myself and my sisters. I would scrutinize every detail of our faces. Absolutely convinced that we were mixed up at birth.
[00:05:27] Well, there's no doubt that the three of us are sisters, no doubt whatsoever. We look exactly the same even now. There was a time I used to think that I was the only human being on earth and everybody else was a robot. I had all of these thoughts before I even started kindergarten. You see, my life had been a series of events that continuously reminded me how different I was from everyone else.
[00:05:49] I felt separated, isolated, terminally unique, and I could never, ever put my finger on it until I walked into the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous, where I was told that what I had was a spiritual malady, right. The spiritual malady, as I described, it made me feel irritable, restless, and discontent. Irritable, restless, and discontent, like a dog circling, looking for that, you know, really prime sleeping spot.
[00:06:14] I was told that there was a solution. That I could get rid of this irritability, this restlessness, this discontentedness. If I was willing to get thoroughly, thoroughly honest with myself and engage in this program of recovery known as the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. The spiritual malady also manifested itself as an inability to be still to be comfortable in my own skin.
[00:06:36] I am in constant motion, right? If it's good here, then it's gotta be better over there. If one transatlantic move is good than two or three, much better, my story is filled with geographical moves. And if one degree is good, well guess what? Four or five even better than where I currently happen to be.
[00:06:56] So getting over there would make me happy. But when I got there, there was absolutely no satisfaction, no satisfaction and alcohol, once again, became my solution.
I drank because alcohol provided that ease and comfort with the discomfort of not being satisfied with my current situation. Now I used to believe that it was the eighth or the ninth drink that got me drunk. If I could stop drinking at six drinks, I would be okay. But six drinks would come and go. I ended up with this feeling of incomprehensible demoralization. Why does this keep happening? Why does this keep happening? You know, I want to stop at six drinks and I just couldn't. I couldn't stop at six and the eighth and ninth drink would come and go and I would be drunk again.
[00:07:40] I could never understand that. And it wasn't until I walked into AA that I was told that it was the first drink that triggered this allergy or this phenomenon of craving. You say the first drink insists on the second, which demands the third and screams for the fourth and so on and so on and so on.
[00:07:57] I didn't know that, right. I always thought that I could control my drinking. But I have this, this unusual physiology that when I take alcohol into my body, something bizarre happens that I can't stop. In association with that, I also have this really weird mental thinking where my mind tells me that the next time I drink, it's going to be different.
[00:08:19] So if I can stop drinking for a period of time, I justify to myself that I will be able to:
Now I'm a mother. I have given birth naturally. To this day, I cannot tell you how uncomfortable birth was. I have no relative memory of the pain of childbirth. You see, I think God gives women amnesia so that we have more babies. It's his way of tricking us into having more children. In the big book, it says something to the effect that we as alcoholics are unable at certain times to bring it to consciousness with sufficient force, the memory of the suffering and humiliation of even a week or a month ago. We are without defense against the first drink.
[00:09:08] Wow. And that really defines who I am. I have this spiritual malady and alcohol helps me deal with that irritability. Also, that spiritual malady, does it make me alcoholic? What makes me alcoholic is that once I start drinking, I can't stop. Once I have stopped that my mind thinks that I can drink again safely. It's quite a conundrum because the most insane thing that I can ever, ever do is pick up a drink, stone, cold, sober.
My mother who was in her eighties is still incredibly proud of the fact that all of her babies slept through the night. From the moment we got home from the hospital my mother put whiskey in our baby bottles and she would put whiskey on our gums while we were teething. We got it as a hot toddy when we were outside playing in the cold. And for some reason, she only used it as a general disinfectant when we were out playing at the park and sort of clean our hands with it. I remember getting alcohol underneath my [00:10:00] fingernails. I could suck it out from underneath my fingernails. It was absolutely delicious. My mom used to make this concoction and it was grilled onions, vinegar, and whiskey. She used to give it to us when we weren't feeling well. Needless to say, I faked being sick a lot as a kid. I faked it because I wanted that whiskey already at a really early age. I knew whiskey was somehow the answer to all my troubles. I had to deal with my sisters, for quarter which was a lot of money way back in the day, I would take their dose of homemade whiskey. For me, it was a huge, huge win, right? Because not only did I make some money, I also got the extra doses of whiskey. It said that whiskey is an acquired taste. Not for me. I loved it from the get go. Absolutely loved it. As far as I'm concerned, it's truly the nectar of the gods.
In the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous. I hear a lot of people talk about the progression of their alcoholism. The progression of their illness and how consequences eventually started catching up with them. My experience is somewhat different.
[00:11:03] I had consequences from the very beginning. From the first drink I got blackout drunk and got pregnant at the age of 14. That baby was placed for adoption at birth. Without tools, I turned to the only thing that provided any source of comfort and that was alcohol use.
Alcohol was reliable. I knew exactly how much to drink to get me to where I needed to be. But alcohol started to turn on me and I was a daily drinker from the time I was 15 until I got sober. I put myself into dangerous situations just to be able to drink the way that I wanted to.
When my husband and I were quite young, we had a baby and she died at 29 weeks of gestation. She was a stillbirth. Without tools, I, once again, turn to alcohol.
As my drinking progressed, I began to cross lines. I began to cross lines I never thought I would. Our big book of Alcoholics Anonymous talks about having moral and philosophical convictions galore. I have these convictions, honestly, I did. I was just unable to consistently abide by them. My standards of behavior began to drop. I started to justify my actions.
I am a commercial pilot, and I did the absolute unthinkable. I drank and I flew. In 30 years of being a professional aviator, I had never, ever crossed that line. But see, what you guys thought of me was way more important than doing the next right thing.
[00:12:22] You know, I had an ego, the size of California and I was willing to risk the lives of everybody just so that none of you would know I had a drinking problem. I did the most insane thing of my life. I actually flew and it was an absolutely beautiful day and nothing happened. Thank God.
[00:12:39] I was absolutely baffled by what I had just done. But the big book of Alcoholics Anonymous talks about this jumping off place. Where we, as alcoholics would realize that:
We couldn't live with alcohol.
We couldn't live without it.
We would know loneliness as never before.
We would wish for the end.
When I pulled myself together and I got into my vehicle and the tears, I'm rather [00:13:00] dramatic, you know, looking like Tammy Faye Baker with these big black streaks of mascara running down my eyes. I saw a car parked in front of me and this license plate started with AA dash something.
[00:13:16] That was the first time I recognized a sign from God and I crawled into the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous. My higher power, which I choose to call God, has a wicked sense of humor and uses what I call GOD shots to get my attention. I'm not the brightest person on the planet and it takes me a while to figure things out. But when I do, I stood up and I paid attention.
You see alcoholism was the baseball bat that my God used to get my attention. I walked into the rooms at AA, hoping that they would teach me to drink like a lady, but instead I found God.
First as the gift of desperation, the G O D gift of desperation, which in turn became a group of drunks, G O D group of drunks, and then good orderly direction, G O D to finally an intimate vertical relationship with a God of my understanding.
[00:14:06] Now that understanding came as a result of working the steps and as a result of strong and powerful sponsorship. Step 12 in Alcoholics Anonymous says “having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we try to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all of our affairs.
[00:14:26] For me, step 12 is a three-part step. The first part is a promise, right? It's a promise. If I do the first 11 steps with a sponsor who has experienced in the big book, I am guaranteed a spiritual awakening. The first 11 steps are directions for finding a God of my understanding. There are conditions I have to be thoroughly honest.
[00:14:48] There can be no half measures and I have to be fearless. But if I was willing to do the work outlined in the book, I'm guaranteed a spiritual awakening. And for someone like me, that was really cool. And why, because as a pilot, where do I spend my time, way up there in the sky and where is our God up in the sky?
[00:15:07] Right, looking down on creation. My sponsor told me that not only was I, not God, I wasn't a Demi God and I wasn't even a goddess. Absolute ego deflation, which I needed because without that, I could have never found this power that has ultimately changed my life.
The second part of step 12 is to carry this message to alcoholics and what is this message did for me, and only for me. Found in the forward to the first edition of the big book, says “we have Alcoholics Anonymous or more than 100 men and women who have recovered, recovered from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body to show other alcoholics precisely how we have recovered is the main purpose of this book.”
[00:15:51] My first step, that I'm powerless over alcohol, that my life is unmanageable as a result. Of somebody doing their 12th step, the sponsor who understood the facts about him and herself, that they can't drink safely and that they knew how to work the steps so that I could have the same experience.
[00:16:12] As a result of that, I have a responsibility to take other people through the steps. To watch a fellowship grow among us. The message is hope and recovery, that we can be happy, joyous, and free. We get this recovery through engaging in a 12 step program to fill our lives with a power that's greater than ourselves. I couldn't have done that without good sponsorship.
The book also uses the word ‘approached’ 28 times. I have a responsibility as a sober person in Alcoholics Anonymous to go out and find the newcomer. The person who still sick and suffering. The person who doesn't know that these rooms exists.
[00:16:52] I go to windup joints. Pre COVID, I’d go to places where we wind up. When we drink. I go to jails, I go to rehabs, I go to detox and I look for that new person. I share with them my experience, my strength, and my hope, because that's all I have, my experience. I also watch out for that newcomer in a meeting, whether it's brick and mortar or it's virtual.
[00:17:16] I look for that face that I don't recognize and I will say to them, “hi, are you new? Yes. Welcome. Here's the coffee. Here are the bathrooms. Here are the donuts. Come sit beside me. Here's a meeting schedule. Let me introduce you to some people. Let's go for coffee.”
After the meeting, I go and talk another new face and say “Hi. Are you new?” If they responded “Yes, I'm just visiting.” I’d respond with “welcome. Here's the coffee here are the bathrooms here. This is the donuts. Here's a meeting schedule. Here's my telephone number. Come, please sit here beside me. Can I assist with a ride? Is there anything that you need while you're visiting?” Another new face, I’d say “Hi, are you new”? Sometimes they responded “No, I have 30 years and I'm just coming back to meetings.” I say, “Welcome. We're glad you here. Here's the coffee. Here are the doughnuts. Here are the bathrooms. Let me introduce you to some people, please, please come here and sit with me.” See that's my responsibility to look for those newcomers and without even letting them know that they're being sponsored. I start to take them through the work because a newcomer has no idea what they need.
[00:18:20] Right. We come into a AA as, as, as infants. As an infant, all I can do is cry. I can cry with frustration. I need to be fed. I need to be changed. You know, I need to be loved. I don't have any other words. I don't have a vernacular. I don't have a vocabulary to let you know what I need, but having been through the steps, then having had that spiritual awakening, I know what the newcomer needs, and I'm able to give that to them.
[00:18:46] Now the third part is step 12 is to practice these principles in all of our affairs. This is the real challenge in my life. These principles, like what these principles try to employ in my life, tolerance, compassion, patience, forgiveness, love Goodwill, humility. Honesty consideration restitution, acceptance.
[00:19:10] Before I do anything, anything at all I always ask myself about what I'm going to do. Does it conflict? Or does it oppose my spiritual principles? If they conflict, I don't do it. You say I want to live in harmony and joy. I want to be a producer of harmony rather than confusion. You know, I don't want to live in conflict and hate.
[00:19:31] Life is way, way too precious. I'm always filled with an enormous amount of gratitude. Grateful is what I am and gratitude is what I do.
Alcoholics Anonymous is a spiritual program of action for me, AA means action and accountability. I make the decision daily to be happy and to be grateful.
[00:19:50] Look, that doesn't mean that life is always peaches and cream. I lost my father in sobriety. I lost my beloved pets in sobriety. I had a home flood that created quite a bit of stress. My husband and I had been physically separated as a result of COVID. My children are spread out all throughout North America.
[00:20:09] My father-in-law passed away and we were unable to attend his funeral. I don't have to drink about life. You see Alcoholics Anonymous has given me this opportunity of perspective and choice.
When I was drinking, I had no choice. I was a slave to King alcohol. Alcohol owned me and now I have choice in my life.
[00:20:32] Restitution is an enormous spiritual principle in my life. And restitution follows the ninth step amends. Now, when I made amends to my husband, I asked him, is there anything else you would like me to do? And he got down on one knee and he asked me to be his wife. We had already been married for 20 years and he asked me to be the wife that I hadn't been to him.
[00:20:56] As a result of that, I get to be his wife. I get to be at home and to put dinner on the table. I get to do his laundry. I get to be the wife, the daughter, the sister, the mother that I wasn't, while I was in active alcoholism.
I had to make amends for flying under the influence. My sponsor kept saying to me, I had finished all of my amends.
[00:21:20] My sponsor kept saying to me, when are you making this amends? When are you making this amend? Finally I called my attorney and told my attorney what my sponsor had suggested. My attorney said to me, what is wrong with you? We've worked really, really hard to keep you out of the jail. Why would you want to do this?
Feeling pretty small, I went to my sponsor and I shared what my attorney had said. My sponsor said, is that so. How free do you want to be? My sponsor said, get on your knees and pray for the willingness to be willing. Sponsors are so wise. I spoke to my husband, spoke to my children. We talked about it as a family. I knew that I could have been arrested, remanded into custody. I went anyway with my attorney, my union rep, my aviation physician and another sober pilot. I stood before this panel and I said to them that I was a sober woman in Alcoholics Anonymous, and that my sobriety was predicated on making right the wrongs of my past.
[00:22:19] I was not there to beg for my job back or to have my license reinstated. I was only there to do the next right thing and that I would accept any judgment or decision they made, but see, here's God working in my life. This man on the panel stood up and said, “I too am a sober man in Alcoholics Anonymous. I know exactly what you're trying to do.” He said, “This is what we want you to do. We want you never to drink again. Never one day at a time, and we want you to help share what alcoholism is and what it isn't in the aviation community and help other pilots find recovery.”
A couple of days ago, I had the privilege and honor of speaking at an AA meeting in Chico, California that butts up against the Beale air force base.
I shared my experience. I am now sponsoring several new pilots in recovery. So I have that experience that I can share with them.
I'm going to leave you with this. In my experience, there is a grand plan. I'm just not privy to it. And that really ticks me off. But you know what? That's okay. Because everything happens for a reason and more will constantly be revealed.
[00:23:26] My son, that child, that I placed for adoption when I was 15, found me several years back. He is a combat surgeon. He currently works for the UN with civilian refugee populations only. My son has helped countless people save thousands of lives and restored humanity, one person at a time. It took me 35 years to understand the divine purpose of his birth. I was a vessel and provided genetics and a womb because adoptive parents nurtured and cared for him. The military trained him and God put him where he would be at maximum use. That is the miracle of my life that I get to see this plan in action unfolding before me. I'm so honored and so privileged to be a part of that plan.
[00:24:12] Sponsorship is an incredible, an important part of this program. Why? Well, because I told you I have that unusual thinking that I think that somehow that I can handle this on my own. I always need an objective third party. I need constant daily supervision. I get that and I accept that. I have a sponsor who keeps me honest, who knows how I try to pull up my covers.
[00:24:37] I have a sponsor who will not co-sign the bull crap that I think is legitimate in my head. I've been taught if I have to justify defend it or rationalize it's wrong. Sponsorship really helps me take care of that. What was so freely given to me through my sponsors, 12 steps.
[00:24:57] I now get to get back working with a newcomers first step through the steps that don't terminate at the 12th. The steps run on an endless loop. We continue to live in them day in and day out.
I live Steps one, two and three on a daily basis. I live Steps 10, 11, and 12 on a daily basis. The things in between that is what gets me honest and cleared of the wreckage of the way I live my life and my bizarre thinking.
[00:25:26] This program has so significantly changed my life. I had surgery a couple of weeks ago and my sponsor and my husband, we're in collusion. That's bad when I can't get away with anything, I can get something passed my husband. But I can't ever get anything past my sponsor, but the two of them together, wow.
[00:25:48] I'm really delighted that I now understand how to take direction. You see, I'm not God. I'm not privy to what goes on in an infinite concept. I'm finite. I am human and I'm okay with that.
There is a point in our book, page 164 says abandon yourself to God as you understand God and admit your faults to him and to your fellows, clear away the wreckage of your past. Give freely of what you find. Join us. We shall be with you in the fellowship of the spirit. You will surely meet some of us as you trudge the road of happy destiny. May God bless you and keep you until then.
This has been my absolute honor and privilege to share with you today. Thank you so much.
Outro: [00:26:38] Dr. Michelle St Jane is a conscious steward of meaningful leadership in the world and the wider cosmos. Tune in every Thursday for real talk around life, leadership and your conscious journey. Be ready to create and cultivate your dreams and wholehearted desires. Your support is valued. Please subscribe, leave a review and a rating. But more importantly, share with your connections.