I am a sober alcoholic, and in my never ending quest to live a rich, full life and experience sobriety to its fullest, here is what I did a couple years ago on the 4th of July.
The air at 13,500 feet is cool and dry. It is a welcome relief from the stultifying ridiculous heat and humidity that I have been exposed to for the past two and a half hours while waiting (and sweating) for the opportunity to make my first tandem skydive jump. I am nervous and I guess I am supposed to be scared. I say the Serenity Prayer over and over as I pace back and forth. About to walk through my biggest FEAR, I feel secretly special.
As I watch the first group of jumpers descend (from way up there), I feel the excitement and anticipation build. They came in for their various landings; several make it look easy. One guy dislocates his shoulder during the jump (he looks to be MY age); another skims his foot across the pond as he zooms in for a smooth-as-silk landing. I can almost feel how they are feeling, the rush of adrenaline! Indeed, I feel that I am about to have an experience that will change me.
After watching load after load of jumpers come in for what looks to me like the ride of their lives, and landing perfect two-point, seemingly effortless, no hands, “hey, ma, look at me” landings, I am ready to go; but still, I wait. Patience not being my strong suit, I begin to pace back and forth again, which makes me sweat; so I sit, which somehow makes me sweat more. How soon are we going? “Are we on the board yet?” becomes the question of the day.
Finally we are called. Time to suit up the purple and green jumpsuit and the harness. The jumpmaster, as he is called, gives me his talk about how, as HE is wearing the parachute, HE is now my new best friend. Ha ha, right you are, good buddy! Hopefully, I will be securely hooked to him as we dive out of the plane together. I realize I have no choice but to trust the process and have some faith.
There seems to be a slight problem, however. At 59 years old, my shoulders are chock-full of arthritis, which means I have no flexibility in them. According to the jumpmaster, flexibility is a very valuable commodity at altitude. No worries, though, we can still go. I just have to arch as far back as I can because we want to be stable in the air as we descend. Because if we are NOT stable, if we are, let’s say, on our BACKS coming down, the chute will NOT open. And if the chute does NOT open, we will be IN TROUBLE. In other words, there will be no perfect and seemingly effortless, two point, no hands, “hey, ma, look at me” landing for us. Surrender is my only hope.
The experience of doing this jump was, of course, awesome and I feel I was in some way changed by it, which, of course, I had hoped would be the case.
As I write this, however, I am angry, angry at my addiction, which robbed me of half my life. My sobriety date is October 17, 1984. It took me twenty of those years, sober, to become the person that I would have been if I had NEVER put all of that alcohol and all of those drugs into myself.
Anyway, I am feeling sorry for myself. I am disappointed that I may not be able to make a solo jump because of my shoulders. If only, if only….blah, blah, blah, poor me….and so it goes.
My mind can be my worst enemy; it can be a terrible thing, forecasting bad news without any facts, projecting failure before I even start. OR, and there is an OR here, I could NOT listen to those voices this time, voices that say those bad things, those evil ones who TALK ABOUT ME as though I am NOT there.
All right, here is the deal, I will NOT give up, I will NOT quit. I want to do this, and my experience is that I can do almost anything that I put my mind to.
My name is John B. and I am a grateful sober alcoholic….and a SKYDIVER!