This is 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 and 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 30 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. It could be the fear of failure, or the 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 injury 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 grief and addiction. First, I have had to live with the death of a loved one due to suicide because fear made him believe he would be unsuccessful in achieving his goals. But, as I tell people, it’s not always about death. Sometimes, it’s about choices people make.
Second, it’s my daily struggle coping with losing my son, Tim, to addiction. Where is he? Is he safe? We, his family and close friends, have not heard from him in over five years. I try to stay positive and pray he has sought help. He had dreams of becoming a chef and opening a restaurant of his own. I believe fear is destroying his future. It may ruin 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 afraid 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.
My dear friend, you carry a lot of weight in your community, whether you are a firefighter, police officer, dispatcher or medic. Within your community, some men and women 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.
My endorsement for police officers, firefighters and EMS needing help for addiction and post-traumatic stress is to contact Don Prince at 561-282-8685. He is a former firefighter in long-term recovery from addiction, Crisis Intervention Specialist and Admissions Consultant for Warriors Heart.
(“Never Let Your Fear Decide Your Destiny” is taken from “The Seven Sisters,” a novel by Lucinda Riley.)