by Don Prince
Doing what we do is an amazingly rewarding sacrifice of our time, and the commitment that we make when we sign up to be a part of something that, over time, grows within us and becomes part of who we are. Time spent helping strangers, time spent training and being a part of a family outside of your home. Time away from your home and loved ones which, at times, can put a stress on those relationships. Time away from your regular job (or second job) which, for some, can even put the pressure of a financial burden on us at times. Add in to the equation the effects of PTSD, which is always a possibility lurking in the shadows of what we do.
We all handle these pressures differently. For most of us, it’s all in a day’s work and we can deal with it and move on to the next day with little or no impact on our regular routine. There are, however, some stresses that affect different people in different ways and letting go of what is going on in our heads isn’t so easy. It can build and build until we need an escape. Something to help us let go, even if only for a few hours. And it works for a while. It did for me.
But then you start to realize that being numb isn’t the answer, how much of a waste of time it is. The fact is that by the time some of us come to this realization, it can be very difficult, if not impossible, to quit on our own. We continue to try and control what we are doing, which is very seldom successful and our lives start to change for the worse. Trying to hide this condition, and the embarrassment that goes along with it, from our families, co-workers, and our brothers and sisters at the firehouse becomes even more of an added stress that compounds our situation to a breaking point sooner or later.
Here are just a few of the responses I received from all over the country as a result of the original publication of this article…
“Hello sir. I read your story on the firefighter page. I too am suffering from alcoholism. I too was a closed door alcoholic. I lost my job at an EMS service for missing days. I was lucky to keep my volunteer firefighting gig. I overdosed while on a heavy four day binge. I ended up in a hospital for a few days and a week in detox. You never think it is an issue until reality hits you in the face. I know of alcoholism being an issue in emergency services but yours is the first story I’ve ever come across. I wish you the best my friend. Thank you for sharing. It helps a lot of us struggling to stay afloat.”…..Patrick T.
“It’s almost impossible to explain how devastating it is to lose our careers, our identity. I had to hit a horrible bottom just like you in order to ask for help. That’s something I just didn’t do. Until I could do that and talk about the devastation of losing my career I was a chronic relapser. My sobriety date is 4-13-12.”…John H.
“I have felt many times that it is my fault. I must be doing something wrong in our marriage where he’s not happy and that’s why he drinks at home. I just have a hard time wrapping my brain around this as I don’t drink at all and don’t understand the addiction.”…..Mary S.
The amazing thing about all of this is that none of us has to let it go to the point of losing our wives, husbands, families, jobs or the bond of the brotherhood that we cherish so dearly. All that is required of us is to take one step out of that cage that holds us captive and realize that we don’t have to live this way any longer, and that we can recover.It’s a bold, brave move to make, but ultimately, the vast majority of us wish that we would have changed things sooner than we did. I am one of those people.
Please take a moment to think about what is going on in your life today, and how you are living day by day. Ask yourself if you are living life to the fullest, or are you just getting by because of regret and that feeling of hopelessness. Help is available to anybody, at many different levels in order to get us back on the beam and be there for those who depend on us….
Please stay safe and God bless you all.
About the Author: Don had a sixteen-year career with the Brookhaven Fire Department in New York. He managed a two-station department with 80 members and fifteen apparatus. He is a former New York State certified EMT, a former member of the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 36 and is proud to have served as a first responder during the 9/11 attacks at the World Trade Center.
Don is a person in recovery from long-term alcohol addiction. He celebrates his sobriety by assisting others in getting help for their addiction. Don is a Nationally Certified Recovery Coach, an Advanced Clinical Intervention Professional, and a Peer Support Specialist. You may contact Don through his website, Sober Coach Don, and Facebook. He is available to answer your questions anytime, day or night, at 561-282-8685.