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  • Writer's pictureeschaden

Controlled Flight Into Terrain...

I heard this term the other day and while it is used to describe an aeronautical malfunction, I realized that it also aptly describes my bottoming out with addiction.  Perhaps this may not be everyone’s story but it is mine.

A controlled flight into terrain speaks of when everything looks right as far as the plane’s instruments and everything seems to be operating as it should, but then it crashes into the mountain or land anyway.

And that is exactly what happened to me.

Everything in my life seemed to be going just fine.  I was engaged, I was in law school, I was working and supporting myself for the most part (my parent’s helped me a great deal but for a 22 year old I was doing ok).  My life (flight) was cruising along just fine.  By all accounts of living, I was doing ok.  Until I wasn’t.

Seeming without warning or real climax, I just plummeted into the earth, crashing my life, my mental and physical health into the ground.  All my instruments read ok.  Everything appeared to be under control until it crashed.  No one saw it coming, including me.

No one knows exactly why this happens.  Sometimes it is just a fluke, but then they have a term for it so it obviously happens more than a fluke.

There are seven major reasons why a plane that is completely under the pilot’s control suddenly crashes to the ground...

1. Single-Pilot Operations.

This would describe my descent into addiction and madness so well.  I was flying solo, no God, no spiritual living or belief.  I was operating all by myself and fucking shit up on the regular.

2. Faulty Judgment / Poor Decision Making. 

Um...fuck yes.

3. Low altitude flight in unfamiliar areas.

My whole life was trying to fly under the radar and everything, even the most familiar felt unfamiliar to me because I was so drunk all the time.

4. Procedural errors during flight operations.

I made  A LOT of procedural errors during my attempts at flying solo.  In fact, one might even say that I was just one giant procedural error after another.

I definitely, at 22, lacked training.  And skill.  And knowledge.  And humility.

6. Inflight Decision Making.

Anyone looking at my life back then could and would tell you that my inflight decision making was poor, if most of what I did could be called decisions at all.  Really I was just a reactor, waiting to be set off which happened often...very fucking often.  I was a ticking time bomb most of the time, prone to great swings of emotion, followed up with insanely drunk moments of rage and apathy.  It was really such a lovely existence (insert eye roll here).

7. Lack of Preflight Planning.

Yeah, I had no preflight planning.  I mean, unless flying by the seat of your pants could be considered planning.  I was just winging it.  I was just moving forward in life anyway I could and just dealt with life’s blows by bobbing and weaving.  There was no preflight plan.  I just kept falling up and then finding myself in a place or station in life that I felt completely unworthy to be at.  Honestly, I do not know how the fuck I got through it.  Dumb luck and a great deal of grace.

I don’t think I have ever heard a term that more aptly describes my own descent into addiction and the attendant madness.  My life was super controlled right up to the point that I crashed into the ground and was rendered almost lifeless.  I hung in the balance for sometime too, like a survivor of a plane crash might.  Hovering between living and dying and not being completely convinced as to which one was preferable.

Unlike most people, I survived my controlled flight into terrain.  I am here all these years later to tell about it.  Many others are not so lucky, metaphorically and actually.  Most people do not survive plane crashes.  The height from which you drop and the speed with which you do, most assuredly kills you dead.  So too with addiction.  The heights from which we plummet are great and the speed in which we decline would be truly amazing if it wasn’t so fucking sad.

I am grateful for the grace that pulled me out of that controlled flight into terrain (cfit as they call it).  I know it was definitely the grace of doubt in my mind.

And today I know not to fly solo.  To run my faulty judgment and decision making by someone else.  I really do try to keep a 30,000 foot view of my life and get my bearings when in unfamiliar terrain.  I work hard to correct my in flight procedural errors and consult with others constantly.  I understand and believe in the value of training...and I know that I will never be done with the training.  I will always need a refresher.  I run my inflight decision making by a couple of people who are experts in the field of recovery.   A therapist, a sponsor, women and men who have more “air” time than me.  Totally helps to keep me on track.  And I spend a great deal of time preparing for this whole life flight thing.  I spend the time before takeoff to make sure that I have what I need for the mission.  I am not just taking off, unprepared and saying “fuck it, we will see how this goes...” Well, at least most of the time and only in some areas. LOL.

So it is no doubt why I haven’t had another near brush with death by controlled flight into terrain...nothing is ever guaranteed but when you put the work in, amazing things come to pass for you and countless others...this is the great fact for us addicts.  



Call me if you ever want to know the way.

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