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Their Story, Your Story

Buzz Aldrin

Buzz AldrinBuzz Aldrin has been sober now for twenty-two years and he understands very well how difficult it is for a recovering alcoholic to retain sobriety.

"It's like a bank account, you're accumulating sobriety and you're accumulating a desire to protect that"

In an interview for the BBC One series 'Booze' he explains how important it is for figures like him to "appear in public and be proud of their status of recovery".

For this reason he has associated himself with recovery programmes, in particular organisations within airlines.

"There's a risk if someone wants to be known as recovering and then they have their ego boosted... and then they trip and fall."

"There has always been a competitiveness in my life"  real 56k

"It's a problem for them and it's a problem for the organisation and that's a risk one takes when you ask people to make use of their name... to support something."

Buzz traces the origins of his alcoholism back to his mother and father.

"I had two parents... who had traits of alcoholism in varying degrees and it adversely affected my mother's life in particular."

Celebrity status also brought pressures that Buzz relieved through drink:

"You gain a degree of notoriety and you begin not to be able to do things without people knowing what you're doing, you're more on show."

On his return from a triumphant Moon landing, Buzz found himself being paraded in front of the entire world.

He was forced on a tour of duty and held up as an example of excellence and achievement.

"You use alcohol, as everyone does, to socially loosen up, to be lubricated, but the thing is a bit more pronounced with those of us who are alcoholics.

"I felt imposed on, maybe by these sets of conditions and I guess maybe that led to a sense of frustration and depression."

It took Buzz a few years to realise that he was not only battling depression but also alcoholism and that the two problems were part of the same vicious circle.

"I didn't understand that alcoholism was the problem, but I knew that I had a tendency towards depression."

"I was in need of some medical attention"  real 56k

He reveals how his new lifestyle, after the space mission, granted him a sense of freedom that he was not accustomed to after so many years of military discipline.

"That was a little bit too much freedom for this person who had such a structured life up to that point."

Buzz admits that his gradual descent into alcoholism became both a cause and result of his broken marriage and the breakdown of his family.

He stresses the importance of recovery programmes for alcoholics:

"I think recovery organisations are essential. I still participate in that because I enjoy the sharing that takes place and the friendship."

He emphasises how society's understanding of alcoholism as a disease has come a long way in the last fifty years:

"It was an unacceptable thing in those days. People were just too proud to ever acknowledge that something they were doing was inappropriate or maybe adversely affecting their lives."

He understands the importance of taking advantage of the help that is available.

"There's just a tremendous increase in opportunities for understanding difficulties that some people will have."

For Buzz, his ability to maintain sobriety is one of the great achievements of his life, perhaps even greater than the one that made him famous in 1969 when he took his first steps on the moon.

He explains: "It's been one of the greatest challenges that ever came along in my life, it was one of the more difficult things to do."


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