Pilots Are Heroes Even In Recovery!

I spoke in front of 300-400 airline industry people this week who were involved in a very successful recovery program, HIMS. The HIMS program long-term success rate is nearly 90% with over 4,200 pilots successfully treated and returned to the cockpit with close monitoring. On average, 120 pilots are identified, are successfully treated and return to work. The reason for this success is continuum of care. They get 5 years of treatment, monitoring, peer support and there is a huge consequence of never again being able to do what they love-fly an airplane. This is a treatment model that works, and this is the same model that is applied to physicians and in the drug court programs. Both of these groups also have great success in terms of recidivism and providing the folks that complete their programs with a foundation to build on in recovery.

Again, the reason is because there is a continuum of care. Treatment is a long progress, 28 days in rehab just doesn’t cut it and most people can’t afford it anyway. So what are we going to do America, are we going to get serious about treatment or are we going to continue fanning the flags of a lucrative, fairly new industry. We have good treatment in this country, the elements just aren’t put together properly.

One of the pilots came up to me after I spoke and I told him that in early recovery I was a passenger on a United Airlines flight trying to get into Denver during a snow storm. It was a great objective lesson for me in my early recovery. I sat in seat 32 C, next to my young children, terrified and convinced the only answer was to get up and have a long conversation with the pilot flying the plane. I resisted the impulse, but in that moment I understood my fear was based on my lack of control. This was a great revelation, but I still get scared on airplanes.  I guess I still have control issues.

I asked the pilot if it was difficult to be public about his recovery, his answer surprised me. He said, “Absolutely not! I tell everybody, I am proud to be in recovery and I don’t care who knows it.” I said to him, “Don’t people look at you kind of funny, you are a pilot and even with me, I’d be thinking, what if he relapses and was flying my plane?” He laughed and said “No, I don’t even think about it and I have never seen anyone look at me funny.” As he walked away I thought to myself, boy our recovery movement needs guys like that.

Let me be clear, one of the great hero’s of the past little while was a pilot, Captain Sully, the guy who landed that plane in the Hudson. Let’s face it, guys who fly planes, even though it’s just a job to them, are a little heroic to us and its good to know that those of them who are in recovery are willing to stand up and say so.

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~ by Christopher Kennedy Lawford on June 10, 2010.

One Response to “Pilots Are Heroes Even In Recovery!”

  1. You requested quotes about survival etc … But sometimes we need to be reminded that we are the heros we have been waiting for. My favorite quote reminds me that I am a hero as a single mother and business woman.

    I read it often and it inspires me to go on. It is the definition of a hero is by Victor Hugo in Les Miserables:

    ‘’ La vie, le malheur, l’isolement, l’abandon, la pauvreté, sont des champs de bataille qui ont leurs héros ; héros obscurs plus grands parfois que les héros illustres.’’
    —Victor Hugo, Les misérables.

    Some more quotes re a true hero is : http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/hero.html

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