by James “Jimmy” Thomas
Police Officer, Shift Supervisor
Ontario, Canada Provincial Police
**very sensitive material for some readers**
As a police officer, we are hired for our Type A personalities. Within the sub-culture, we can quickly believe that we are “invincible” and don’t dare show vulnerability or mental illness. Canadian statistics show that 1 in 5 of us will suffer from a mental illness in our lifetime.
Thank you Peggy Sweeney, Don Prince and the Station House Retreat team for allowing me to contribute to their blog site. My story isn’t very different from many others in emergency services. Anyone working in the fire, medical or policing professions will see some horrific sights in their careers. Over time, some may become affected by the jobs that they are entrusted and expected to perform. That doesn’t make them weak or less than anyone else. It makes them human and for reasons yet to be clearly proven; some will become afflicted with an Operational Stress Injury. This is my story and a plea to never allow false pride to keep you from reaching out for help if you need it. Continue reading Pride Kept Me from Reaching Out for Help→
Billy Padden attained his bachelor’s degree in Health and Physical Education from West Chester University. During his time at WCU, Billy achieved ambitious athletic goals, going on to claim two National Collegiate Boxing Championships and three All-American titles. Billy joins our team with an incredible amount of experience in the field of therapeutic physical activity and its effects on substance abuse recovery.
As a teacher, counselor and coach for the students of Glen Mills Schools, Billy developed his life’s passion of sharing the gifts of education and exercise with others. Later in his career, he worked as a Probation Officer for the City of Philadelphia, specifically lending his skills to the city’s Intensive Drug and Alcohol Unit. Billy became one of the department’s leading advocates for the development of addiction recovery-based programs in impoverished parts of North Philadelphia by leading the Philly B.A.D. (Boxers Against Drugs) Program at a local gym in the city’s Kensington section.
Billy’s coaching career provided him the opportunity to work with a vast array of individuals including mentally handicapped adults, Special Olympians and some of the world’s greatest elite athletes. He believes that physical activity at any level will enhance the addiction recovery process and improve overall quality of life. Today, Billy celebrates several years of sobriety.
*featured image – HBO’s Larry Merchant interviews Billy Padden after winning National Collegiate Boxing Championship
Don Prince had a sixteen year career with the Brookhaven Fire Department in New York. During his career, he progressed through the ranks as badged driver, station lieutenant, first and second assistant chief, and finally, as chief of the department. Don managed a two-station department with 80 members with approximately fifteen apparatus. He conducted educational programs for civic organizations and homeowners associations, orchestrated and facilitated informational sessions about compliance and safety within his department as well as working with local government agencies.
Don is proud to have served as a first responder during the 911 attacks at the World Trade Center. He is a former New York State certified EMT and has experience in patient care and compliance.
Don is a member of the Delray Beach (FL) Chamber of Commerce and a former member of the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 36. Don is also a person in recovery from long term alcohol addiction. He now dedicates his life to helping others find their path to recovery as he has, and regain peace and purpose in their lives.
When I joined the fire department in 1996, I was battling alcoholism and drug addiction, but attempted to really make an effort to get sober, and did so for a few years. I was quickly promoted in rank, and trained by the best in extradition procedures. My company called me “Jaws”.
I loved being a firefighter, but the reality of the alcoholism and addiction was too powerful for me to do alone. I was not participating in any 12 step program and eventually relapsed, got sober, relapsed…..the same old story. I managed to put together about ten months of sobriety until September 11, 2001.
Our fire department was the first rescue squad on scene from Connecticut on that horrific morning. We were on “the pile” for a little over two weeks. After passing the psych evaluation, I was off to the races drinking myself into oblivion. In November of 2002, I retired after driving an engine full of water to a fire (alone and drunk) and almost tipping it over on a carload of children. For a long time, I suffered from post traumatic stress and trauma from 9/11 and all the sights and sounds that we all go through in our profession.
Today, I am sober and loving life to the fullest! I can still hear the sound of hundreds of PASS alarms going off under “the pile,” but I have the tools to deal with them today. My sobriety date is February 3, 2004. I have not found it necessary to pick up a drink or drug since that day.
Steven is a retired firefighter lieutenant from Connecticut.
She walked into the station,
The girl with her legs mangled a year ago
Wrapped impossibly around the pedals
Folded like an accordion by the weight of the dash
Smashed and broken
When her car slid gracefully across the ice
Headlong into the fire truck. Continue reading Miracle→
I am not sorry any longer
I stand with strength; I have done nothing wrong,
It is not my fault.
I have done everything in my power to do Good.
I am not responsible for the traumas I faced.
It is not a weakness that I have empathy.
Don’t feel sorry for me or sad. I made my own decision to give myself to others.
But it’s time to take care of the “Self”.
I ask nothing from you that you cannot give in good friendship.
If, I seem weak to you or lost, just walk up, shake my hand and say good to see you brother.
That’s all it takes.
If you can’t do that, then go your own way.
I wish you good fortune, and may the gods be with you and your families Always.
Learn more about Station House Retreat a safe place for first responders
There seems to be an epidemic spreading more and more each day
Although it’s not contagious people are dying anyway
It’s not heart disease or cancer, Alzheimer’s or even dope
This disease is caused from believing there’s no hope
This thing I am referring to causes one to believe
That no one cares about them and it causes them to grieve
When they feel life has no meaning and that nothing can be done
They may take an overdose or go out and get a gun
Then their friends and family deal with grief of their own
And if they don’t ask for help they too may soon be gone
Lord, help us to pay attention and always be alert
Fill us with your compassion for those who really hurt.
About the Author: Joye Atkinson is originally from Sumter, South Carolina. For over 30 years, she has been writing from personal experience, and for people who have been through severe hardships. This is her gift, and her purpose is to encourage those who are hurting to let them know they are not alone and there is hope. She currently resides in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
by Kristi Tausinga
Patrol Officer, Enforcement Compliance Division
Arizona Department of Transportation
I just wanted someone to believe me. I wanted someone to care. My intention was not necessarily to harm myself, I just needed help. However, I didn’t know how to ask. I am a cop and cops “don’t ask for help”. We’re tough, not allowed to be weak or show weakness.
I don’t know why I took all the pills. I guess I was hoping that my husband would find me passed out on the living room floor. I had been telling him I had an Opiate addiction, but he did not believe me. I guess I did “too good” of a job hiding it. I figured if he found me passed out, he would call an ambulance or rush me to the hospital. THEY would tell me I needed help, which is okay. Then it would take the “weakness” off of my shoulders. I could blame it on the doctors and not have to tell anyone it was ME asking for help. No, not asking, CRYING OUT FOR HELP. Continue reading “I am Tough, and I Don’t Need Help”→