I have been afraid of flying ever since my first flight at the tender age of four, when my grandmother bounced me on her lap as the plane taxied down the runway. She got through the second verse of ďJingle BellsĒ before I threw up.
   Not anymore. After 50 years of weenie-like behavior, Iíve conquered my fears. And like any returning hero, Iíd like to tell everyone how I accomplished this miraculous transformation.
   Actually, thatís not entirely true. Thereís some other possible explanations, but drugs are a good start. To be specific, it was anti-anxiety pills (preferably Xanax, but Valium will do) that did the trick.
   I became a user about a year ago. I had tried everything (like being brave) and it hadnít worked. I hated flying, and I was pretty darn sure I was going to die in a fiery crash. I read books, gobbled statistics, beat myself up over my weenieness---nothing worked. So I reluctantly asked my doctor for a prescription.
   Not being a big druggie, the results at first were mixed. I was pretty careful with the dosage, so I was still coherent, which meant still fearful. So I had to step it up.
   Our flight to Dublin last summer was my epiphany. This was a 10 hour flight. There was no way a plane could stay in the air that long. A half-hour before boarding, I had to double the dose.
   Bingo. The plane taxied to the beginning of the runway, and as we waited for takeoff, I fell asleep. I canít begin to explain how good that felt.
   It was the best flight Iíve ever had. I realized I didnít have to help get the plane in the air and keep it there. I had no control, and I liked it.
  Xanax became my little friend. Iíd put a couple in my pocket as we rode to the airport for the other flights on the trip, and Iíd reach in every so often, just to make sure they were still there and ready for me.
  When we got to the airport, my 18 and 19 year old sons would be all over me. They had seen my transformation on the first flight, and they wanted a piece of the action. They had inherited my fear of flying (my daughters had not) and they wanted the cure.
  How could I refuse? A half hour before boarding, we would gather together. Iíd make sure no one was looking, and then hand them half of what I was going to take (why spoil them?) and weíd hold the little pills up and jointly recite our motto: ďThe family that takes drugs together stays together.Ē
  Theyíd ask for a bigger dosage, but being the responsible father I am, Iíd refuse. I had to make sure there was more than enough for me, in case there was turbulence.
  Remarkably, all three of us became better flyers over the course of the trip. Weíre all having trouble remembering things, but Iím sure that will improve over time. Especially since I havenít renewed the prescription and all of us have taken flights drug-free since our Xanax-fueled summer.
   Obviously, Iím exaggerating a bit. But the anti-anxiety medication did prove to all of us that we can relax on a plane and it will still make it to its destination. Thatís a big step.
  I almost look forward to flights now. I no longer think much about when I was seven years old and my father pointed to a huge airplane sitting on the tarmac and asked, ďDonít you wonder how those big heavy things get up in the air?Ē
   I wondered for 50 years. No longer. I have newfound confidence in wings and engines and pilots and air traffic controllers and flaps and rudders and cabin pressure. Iím even pretty darn certain the captain is going to remember to lower the landing gear before we hit the ground.
   Drugs can be a beautiful thing. Got a headache---take an aspirin. Got an irrational, unsophisticated, ridiculous fear of the safest mode of transportation known to mankind---take a Xanax.
  Iíve still got a couple left, just in case, but I donít plan on using them. If you see my sons, though, tell them Iím tapped out.


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