by Peggy Sweeney
The Sweeney Alliance
An open letter to a friend who is struggling with addiction.
I think of you often. Tonight, I decided to put my thoughts on paper.
When I was in my early forties, I was a young wife and mother with three small children. Due to circumstances at that time, I planned my suicide because I thought that everyone would be better off without me. I felt hopeless. Helpless. I believed I was a failure. To my children. To my husband. To everyone I loved.
That changed one morning. I was determined to make something of my life. I vowed that I would never let anyone suffer alone with depression without offering them my help.
Now, almost thirty years later, I have had a wonderful life most people only dream of having. Yes, there were unpleasant days, but I never gave up on my dream. I never let fear stand in my way of helping others.
I tell you this because I believe you are allowing fear to decide your destiny. Fear of failure. Fear of disappointing family and friends. Sadly, fear may destroy the many blessings you have. Fear may end your career. Fear may cause you or someone you love to be injured on the job. Fear may drive you to an early grave.
There are two reasons why I am passionate about helping first responders cope with the mental stress of the job: traumatic loss, grief and addiction. First, I have had loved ones take their own life because fear made them believe they would be unsuccessful in achieving their goals. But, as I tell people, it’s not always about death. Sometimes, it’s about choices they make.
Second, it’s my daily struggle about losing my son, Tim, to addiction. Where is he? Is he safe? We, his family, have not heard from him in over four years. I try to stay positive and pray he has sought help. He had dreams of becoming a chef and opening his own restaurant. I believe fear is destroying his future. It may destroy his life. I don’t want that to happen to him. Or you.
I know you are fearful that people will be disappointed if they learn you are an alcoholic. Honey, they already know. On the other hand, they are fearful of telling you that they know because they don’t want to hurt your feelings. Or they don’t know how to get you the help you need. Or hundreds of other reasons.
Friend, you carry a lot of weight in your community, whether you are a firefighter, police officer, dispatcher or medic. Within your community, there are many men and women who share your problem and have the same fears you have. They have lost their identity and their families. Think for a moment what impact YOU would have on them if you stopped letting fear control your destiny. What if you took the lead and sought help for your addiction. Talk about saving lives! The possibilities are endless.
I will continue to pray for you, as I do every night for Tim, that you will turn your back on fear and seek the help you need.
With much love and many HUGS
P.S. Two of my personal choices for pubic safety officers and first responders needing help for addiction and post traumatic stress:
Warrior’s Heart – PTSD, Addiction and Chemical Dependency Treatment Center for Veterans and First Responders in San Antonio, Texas
About the Author: Peggy Sweeney is the founder and executive director of the Sweeney Alliance. Since 1997, she has taught the Grieving Behind the Badge program for emergency responders and public safety officers and their families. No stranger to grief, Peggy is a bereaved mother and has grieved the death of a much-loved family member following his suicide. Peggy has written numerous articles on grief, has hosted support groups for bereaved parents, spouses and teens and has counseled the bereaved in both group and individual settings. With her expertise as a bereavement educator, combined with her experiences as a mortician, firefighter and EMT, she brings a unique and noteworthy presence to each and every situation. Peggy is the recipient of the Comfort (TX) Volunteer Fire Department 2014 Firefighter of the Year award.
“Never Let Your Fear Decide Your Destiny” ~from The Seven Sisters, a novel by Lucinda Riley