The Regret of Honesty: A Policy of Truth?

I’m an airline pilot-turned “alcoholic.” In a world full of heavy drinkers, you might think that a poor career move; you’d be right. In September of 2009, after a rather rowdy three-night stay in Honolulu, HI, with a ‘head-full-of-booze’ and a few ‘hard earned’ stories to entertain the other crew-members on our flight back to the mainland, it occurred to me that perhaps my drinking behavior needed closer examination. In a moment of unusual honesty, alone in my layover hotel room, I made an unusually ‘non-alcoholic’ decision.

The airline industry is quite literally awash in shameless, alcohol-fueled antics, some of which would rival most college campuses. Fortunately, ours garners significant attention, we have the benefit of real oversight, and an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) called HIMS (Human Intervention Motivation Study), should we care to “volunteer” for evaluation, treatment, and an eventual return to work and resumption of our otherwise productive lives. It is, in fact, a ‘functionally alcoholic’ industry.

I made the decision to ‘pick the phone up,’ not fly intoxicated, and exchange my intact career for a chance at what was described by HIMS as,”…the right thing to do to salvage your career…,” not knowing then, what I know now, was a decision I would come to regret with increasing frequency. At first, only every other month or so, and now, it carries the interminable weight of regret-by-the-second. I did do the right thing. I did what the situation required of me. I did what the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) and HIMS would want me to do. Yet, after four years of not flying, of having been “grounded” without pay or benefits, I was terminated by my airline in September of 2013.

Should I have told the truth? Should others now tell the truth (at this airline, and industry wide) knowing that they could be destroying (and not ostensibly saving) their own careers? When is ‘honesty not the right policy’? Unemployed (and now, unemployable) what duty did I owe to those in my life (e.g., family, and those that used to rely on me) to remain employed? To what extent should one go to honor these types of responsibilities? How does one reconcile such events, and move beyond what is identity crushing regret?

Radio Interview with, "Two Moms on a Borough."