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 some people in different ways; 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. 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 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 too, am suffering from alcoholism. I too, was a closed door alcoholic. I lost my job at an EMS service for missing days on the job. I was lucky to keep my volunteer fire fighting 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 due to 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.
Station house link http://www.stationhouseretreat.com/
Don Prince is an ex-chief of the Brookhaven FD where he served 16 years. He served as station lieutenant, first and second assistant chief. Since moving to South Florida, Prince is co-founder and outreach coordinator for Station House Retreat, a recovery program exclusively for first responders. He can be reached on his cell at 561-282-8685 anytime day or night.