Sam still vividly recalls the horror of living with an out of control, violent alcoholic father.
“We were always walking on eggshells,” Sam, who is named under an alias to remain anonymous, remembers. “Everything we did had to do was perfect — at least to his way of thinking. He could flip out and become violent over even the smallest thing. We were always terrified.”
His father’s drinking and abuse continued to spiral downward even when it seemed it couldn’t get worse.
“Alcoholics Anonymous teaches us that alcoholism is a progressive disease,” Sam explains. “That was certainly the case for my father and later for myself.”
When Sam was 16, his father committed suicide.
“After he took his life, things changed dramatically in the family,” Sam says. “All the intense pressure was lifted but it’s like we all went a bit nuts.”
Later that year, Sam discovered alcohol and girls.
“I was the life of the party. I quickly fell into the pattern of drinking heavily each time out.”
He continued to drink heavily in college.
“That’s where I met the love of my life — my wife Michelle. In the early years of the marriage, I tried to control my drinking but it was progressive. Michelle and my friends would tell me that I needed to control myself and to just cut down. It never did any good.”
In the spring of 1999, Sam’s six-year-old son accidentally drowned in the dugout at their acreage outside of Calgary.
“After his death, my drinking really got worse. I was just going through the motions. I would work, eat dinner at home and drink scotch to oblivion. I was just existing.
“I was into real estate development at the time. I was a recreational pilot and I would fly for business. In 2010, my intention was to sell my real estate and business and retire at an early age but I felt I didn’t have anything to live for,” Sam says.
“Pilots have a rule ’12 hours from bottle to throttle.’ I was getting ready to fly from Regina to Kelowna. As I was calling in my flight plan to air traffic control, I was buying booze at the liquor store. I filed a flight plan without considering the proper amount of fuel and without properly reviewing the weather conditions. I ended up flying into icing conditions without they capacity to de-ice. I was 52 — the same age as my father when he committed suicide. I didn’t realize it then, but basically, I was heading towards unconscious alcoholic suicide.
“I was drinking a cold beer before the wheels were off the ground.”
The flight quickly turned into a nightmare.
“Air traffic control was onto me because I was slurring my words,” he remembers.
He landed the plane with the plane sputtering due to lack of fuel. He hit the tarmac at 160 miles-per-hour instead of the usual suggested speed of 60 mph. The plane bounced approximately 100 feet and taxied down the runway at breakneck speed. It was an extremely rough, dangerous and reckless landing but he made his getaway before the police could apprehend him.
The next day, Sam finally admitted to himself that he had a problem.
“I checked myself into a two-week day program through AADAC in Calgary. That’s where I was introduced to Alcoholics Anonymous. I struggled with the program for a few years. My ego would get in the way.
“Finally, four-and-a-half years ago, on the anniversary of my son’s death, I quit for good,” Sam says.
“At that point, I realized I had to change everything. I ended up really embracing the program, instead of working at it half-heartedly. I accepted the hard reality that I cannot drink. I got a sponsor and things started to change.
“Today, I have such a good life. My relationships with my wife Michelle and the kids are better than ever. We have relationships built on honesty and trust.”
Sam still goes to meetings regularly.
“They keep me grounded. But now I go because I want to give back,” Sam says.
“I love helping another alcoholic, especially someone new in the program. When I help another alcoholic it also helps me stay sober. That’s the beauty of the program. It’s a way of life way better than I could have ever imagined.”
District 70 of Alcoholics Anonymous presents the 46th Annual Vernon Roundup June 8-9 at the Trinity United Church, 3300 Alexis Park Drive. The theme is Gifts of Sobriety and features speakers from Al-Anon and Alcoholics Anonymous. A.A. Roundups are open to the general public.
Tickets are $30, which includes registration, continental breakfast, lunch and dinner. Registration starts June 8 at 5 p.m. and June 9 at 9 a.m.
For more information, call chair Dai at 250-550-5178 or email email@example.com.
Free RV parking available until 9 a.m. on Sunday. No hookups.