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Sobriety.... One year later... Please Read.

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Old 10-02-2013, 08:16 AM   #1
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Sobriety.... One year later... Please Read.

I debated about posting this for a while. But, in the end I think it is too important to just pass up.

Let me preface this post with... I'm not looking for any accolades or recognition. I hate that. I got sober for myself and my family and that's it. If what I say helps one other person then what I post will be worth it in the end.

A few years ago I was diagnosed with PTSD. I have worked for the Fire Dept for 20 years. 5 years as a Fire Fighter, 5 years as a Driver (engineer), and 10 years as a Captain. I moved up the ranks pretty fast and have never been on a slow company in my career. My Company that I'm assigned too averages 2000-2500 runs a year so we are pretty busy. In 20 years I have seen some pretty horrific things and there are some things that you can't un-see.

I have watched a man kill his infant son by grabbing him by the feet and slinging him into a brick wall on the side of a apartment complex. The police couldn't reach him in time and we had just arrived on scene when this happened. But I saw the impact right when it happened.

July 3rd 1996 a man was changing his locks on his rent house because he was having trouble with his renter. The renter pulled up at the time he was changing the locks and pulled out a shotgun and shot him point blank range in the chest. The shooter then went into the bathroom and shot himself in the head with a 22 cal. pistol. The shooter was still alive when we got there. Do you know how hard it is to work on someone that has just done that to another human being? I was hoping that the owner didn't have a wife or children. He did.... A young wife who was pregnant and 3 small children. 4th of July will never be the same for them and one of his children will never know his father. I think about that every 3rd of July.

I could go on and on with many stories but it would take up the entire forum.



This was My Trigger:



Sept. 11, 2011. Ten year anniversary of 9/11. Made a run on a unknown medical in a neighborhood in our district. Arrived on scene only to hear a woman in one of the back rooms of the house counting... 1...2...3...4...5...1...2...3...4...5... I was first in the room and a woman in her early 60's was giving CPR to her 27 year old son in the floor. I took the woman out into the hallway while we were setting up because she did not need to see what we were about to do to her son. The last image she is going to have of her son was this and I didn't want to make it worse on her or her husband. Understandably she is beside herself and screaming. I have to be the voice of reason in times like these and gather as much information as I can. This one was tough. And there is a reason this one was tough.


She looked exactly like my Mom....



The ambulance arrived on scene and we worked him for quite some time. We sent our Firefighter to the hospital with the Ambulance and I remember climbing back into the pump and for the first time in my career I looked at my driver and said "That really bothered me".

After this run everything that I had kept locked away in whatever compartment in my brain overflowed and I couldn't gather it back up and put it back where I had kept it all those years. I prided myself on being able to do the hard runs and come back with no issues. That was no longer the case.

I spiraled into a deep depression and started self medicating first with Alcohol then whatever prescription drugs I could get my Doctor to prescribe me. I knew I had a problem and sought help with treatment but that didn't seem to work. Partly because I wasn't honest enough. I'm a Firefighter, I'm supposed to be the one helping people not the other way around. But I couldn't get the screaming from that woman that looked like my mother out of my head.

It all came crashing down one day about a year ago. I went out to eat with some friends and arrived at the restaurant at around 11:30am. At 2:30pm my wife sent me a text and asked if I was still there. I told her yes and that I had only had 2 beers. In reality I was probably working on #5 of the 32oz beers. To top it off... every time I would go to the bathroom I would take a Xanax or pain pill for the extra effect. Needless to say, I don't remember anything. At around 5:00 pm I called my wife and said she needed to come pick me up (at least I was smart enough for that) but I couldn't tell her where I was. She played me the voice mail the next day and I was unintelligible. Lucky enough she found out where I was and picked me up.

I don't remember any of this except this one part. In the middle of the restaurant I passed out and my head hit the floor so hard that it snapped me out of it for a split second. I remember thinking... Damn that hurt and I've never been here before. I don't remember anything after that. My wife said that I tried to grab the steering wheel of my truck as she was driving and run us into oncoming traffic. I have no reason to doubt her.

I remember waking up the next morning and calling my wife. Lets just say it wasn't a good conversation. I have never been more ashamed of myself than I was that day. I knew that I had just hit my "rock bottom". I had 2 ways to go. In the grave or take care of this once and for all.

I picked my (then) 7 year old daughter up from school that day and took her for some ice cream. I told her everything that I had done. I needed to be held accountable for my actions from this day forward and it started with my Daughter and my Wife. I took 3 months off of work to get sober and I have not had a desire to drink or use since that day. I will not lie and say I am now just living day to day. I have the life I used to have and now the life that I am living and that takes adjustment.

In 20 years we have had 6 people commit suicide on the job. That is one person about every 3 years. Not a very good ratio in my opinion. I very easily could have been number 7. We have also had many people fired from the job because of drug abuse and testing hot on random drug tests. It is almost never the young member that test hot. It is without fail, someone that has between 15-20 years on the job and they are handling the stress in a self destructive way. I just got lucky and didn't overdose to a point that I couldn't come back. It is becoming very apparent that the fire ground is no longer the most dangerous place on the job.

I personally believe that the only way to get yourself (myself) out of this mess is to actually hit that rock bottom. I was one of those people that thought PTSD was complete and utter bull shit. I'm looking across the field from the other side of the fence and see that I couldn't have been more wrong. I have learned to deal with it in my own personal way and I am extremely lucky that I have a great family support system. No one knew what I was going through until that day.

I hope none of you ever have to deal with this because it is truly hell. From the Military, LEO, Firefighters, Paramedics, to most any line of work it can happen and it can happen fast.

Please feel free to PM me if you feel so inclined and I'll give you my phone #. Getting it off your chest and knowing that there is someone else out there with your problem is the first and best step in this process. Some of you out there might think less of me and I honestly could care less. If what I posted helps one person then it was worth the embarrassment and shame on my part.

Thank you for reading this long winded post.
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Old 10-02-2013, 08:31 AM   #2
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Good to hear you climbed out from rock bottom brother. I haven't been on for that long relative to you, but I have seen a couple things that the normal person just doesn't see.

It's definitely nothing like the movies, I'll say that.

Matt
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Old 10-02-2013, 08:47 AM   #3
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+1000 for you sir. just hearing about the father throwing his baby against the wall makes me cringe and makes me want to leave work so i can go home and hold my 10 month old son close. i cant imagine what you guys go through will all the fucked up shit in the world not saying i havent seem some crazy shit but im sure you've seen alot more being a firefighter and all. glad to see that your recovering and that you realize your family is more important and that that daughter needs her father
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Old 10-02-2013, 08:55 AM   #4
Saw things so much clearer once you were in my....
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Quote:
Originally Posted by richardbui23 View Post
+1000 for you sir. just hearing about the father throwing his baby against the wall makes me cringe and makes me want to leave work so i can go home and hold my 10 month old son close.
That is something that you can't describe (nor should you) that you can not make yourself forget. I wasn't married or had children at the time but it still stuck with me. Now the issue that I have is every child that I run on I automatically put my daughters face on them. Having children changes everything.

As callous as it sounds I used to approach any rescue with the idea that I was working on "something" and not "someone" if that makes any sense? No different than working on a car engine. I know what to do and training takes over (the same way I can rebuild a 350 Chevy engine in my sleep). I can no longer do that and I tend to get a emotional attachment to the people that we run on sometimes. I will often go the the hospital after shift change just to check up on them.
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Old 10-02-2013, 09:00 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by B.Turner View Post
That is something that you can't describe (nor should you) that you can not make yourself forget. I wasn't married or had children at the time but it still stuck with me. Now the issue that I have is every child that I run on I automatically put my daughters face on them. Having children changes everything.

As callous as it sounds I used to approach any rescue with the idea that I was working on "something" and not "someone" if that makes any sense? No different than working on a car engine. I know what to do and training takes over. I can no longer do that and I tend to get a emotional attachment to the people that we run on sometimes. I will often go the the hospital after shift change just to check up on them.
and for that i love you. you are saving people and im glad to see your treating as such although i do understand the mentality of something instead of someone so you yourself dont get hurt if something happens but all too often nowdays people dont see it as that and do seem to care enough anymore. and agree 1000% that kids changes you before if i wouldve read about a father doing that to his kid i'd just say thats fucked up and dumb but now when i read those things i imagine someone doing that to my son and i cringe and tear up (i dont care if that makes me a wuss for loving my son that much). my son is my everything and that will never change and i commend you on the difficulties you must face daily. its not an easy job physically emotionally or mentally but those who do it and do it with compassion, that i respect
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Old 10-02-2013, 09:00 AM   #6
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That was exactly what I needed to read this morning. My life has just taken a turn for the worse because of my own actions. Reading that helps me to be able to put it into some semblance of perspective. Thank you for taking the time to post that.
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Old 10-02-2013, 09:04 AM   #7
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As someone who is about to enter either military or LEO (coming from a comfortable cubicle job)...thanks for taking the time to post this. I have quite a few friends in public service field work, and have a ton of respect for what you guys do.
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Old 10-02-2013, 09:07 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by richardbui23 View Post
i imagine someone doing that to my son and i cringe and tear up (i dont care if that makes me a wuss for loving my son that much).
Wuss???? No sir. Not one bit.

Let me put it this way. I was teary almost the entire time I was posting it. If that makes me a Wuss so be it. I don't care. If I'm honest, it took me about 2 mins to hit the "Submit Reply" button.

It's pretty personal information and I'm embarrassed and ashamed of the things that I did and how I handled the situation. But it needs to be out there. Others need to know that they are not alone in this.
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Old 10-02-2013, 09:07 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Boone Taco View Post
That was exactly what I needed to read this morning. My life has just taken a turn for the worse because of my own actions. Reading that helps me to be able to put it into some semblance of perspective. Thank you for taking the time to post that.
You are most welcome my friend!
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Old 10-02-2013, 10:27 AM   #10
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Keep it up B.
thanks for your service. I have lived through a fire and lost almost everything I have.. the job you do to save what little you can makes a differance that you may overlook from time to time, but I can tell you that its not overlooked when something of value is saved with the work that you do by the people that you serve.
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Old 10-02-2013, 12:47 PM   #11
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I went to Colorado last week for a Union Pacific Rail Car School for Haz Mat for the Fire Dept. As we made our introductions I spoke briefly about this subject and that if anyone saw me with a beer in my hand to come over and knock it out of my hand and punch me in the mouth lol.

That said... It was a group of Firefighters from across the country. There was no judging and Union Pacific asked what I liked to drink. I told them that I usually just drink coffee or Diet Coke. Every night in the Hospitality room there were large tubs of any type of beer you could want. All open bar. And then there was a special section set aside just for me with Diet Coke sitting in it. Now everyone there pretty much drank but there were no jokes made and every time someone got up to get a beer someone would bring me back a Diet Coke without me even asking. Very cool bunch of guys and I highly respect them for that.
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Old 10-03-2013, 04:29 PM   #12
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I commend you for getting sober. Realizing you have hit bottom then having the strength to get up and get yourself clean/sober is something too many alcoholics and drug users never do. I have worked in felony probation for the last 14 years and see too many people never climbing out of that hole. You posting this and admitting to what you have seen and where you have been does not make you a wuss. It shows the inner strength you have and the love for yourself and your family. Keep taking it one day at a time and know that there are people out here thinking of you and your family.

Ken
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Old 10-04-2013, 07:12 AM   #13
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Thank you Ken!
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Old 10-04-2013, 07:29 AM   #14
...'cause I...am Shauncho
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I'd have read a 20 page post from you...all because it meant you are still alive. Glad to see you're handling things and not letting it control you. Congrats on your sobriety and I wish you all the best.
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Old 10-04-2013, 07:55 AM   #15
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I'm glad to hear that you are doing well after going through so much. I cant even begin to imagine being in situations like you have been through. I would never be able to handle anything like that; I am way too emotional of a person. I know working in military, police officer, firefighter, etc must be a very stressful (and often thankless) job and PTSD would probably be common, especially after years of the stress.

This might be a stupid question and forgive my ignorance, but are there protocols set for counseling, like say for example you are witness to a traumatic event they ask you to sit down with a counselor?

Thank you for your service. Best of luck in your recovery.
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Old 10-04-2013, 07:57 AM   #16
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B. Turner

Man I want to commend you for changing your life for the better, and turning a negative into a positive. I hope people read your post and get a new perspective on public employees. Good job man.

Now I can't say that I am a LEO, FF, etc..., but as a nurse working Trauma ER for 6 yrs (before going to graduate school), I can definitely relate to horror stories of patient and situation interactions. I have had many a cases that made me go home and talk with my wife about how it affected me. The images of certain things get stuck in your head forever no matter how hard you try to forget. An example being having 4 LEOs come in on three different occasions within a 6 month period, with two of them deceased and the other two are now at desks, one of which I personally knew his fiancé.

Now I didn't say all this for sympathy or recognition, but I wanted to point out that you explained a ginormous aspect of our jobs that the majority of people are unaware of. I agree that the "something" mentality was a big part of my care until you a) have an interaction that hits way to close to home increasing your empathetic approach or b) have young ins. Addiction and substance abuse are nothing to mess around with especially when your job is helping people who are in crisis or an emergent situation. So never worry how people perceive your success over abuse story. I have much respect for you.
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Old 10-04-2013, 08:05 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joneill03 View Post
This might be a stupid question and forgive my ignorance, but are there protocols set for counseling, like say for example you are witness to a traumatic event they ask you to sit down with a counselor?
We had protocols for any person that felt they needed help or had a difficult patient or situation, but I didn't know but a few to use it. Some were embarrassed to go saying "I don't need a shrink because I'm not that bad". But in reality talking about it really helps, even with the little things.

However, when a colleague from our department came into our ER and died, everyone received mandatory counseling.
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Old 10-04-2013, 08:20 AM   #18
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Wow man, this is a very inspiring and informative post.
I am turning 21 soon, with no idea what I want as my career and I stopped going to college after I graduated high school.

I never knew the dark side of different occupation, until I read your post. Definitely something good to keep in mind for the folks that is not in the field of those type of jobs.

And I am sure most people would just keep it to themselves instead of taking it public, let alone tell their best friends or family members. I guess it is natural for humans to keep their problems to themselves.

I am glad you got back on your feet and living a happy and healthy life with your family.
God bless you and your family members.
And thank you for posting this up.
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Old 10-04-2013, 08:25 AM   #19
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What you have said in this post is so true, what is seen can not be on seen. I was a fire fighter for 18 years before I hung up my gear. Similar path as you described, firefighter, engineer, lieutenant, captain and asst. chief. There are still calls from many years ago that I can still see in my mind as if if was yesterday. The odd thing is the sounds and smells that you remember too. On evening my engine got dispatched to a plane crash, we were the second engine to arrive on the scene. There were 22 people on a plane that hit the ground at 250+ miles per hour. Amazingly, 5 people survived, but as you can imagine, it wasn't a pretty scene. One of the main things that stuck in my head was the smells, pine sap, jet fuel and well, part of the plane was on fire, so you can figure out the other smell. To this day I can still smell it. After that call, the guys on my crew seemed it hang out a lot and discuss it. We were pretty open about how we felt, not really any mucho crap saying "it didn't bother me", it bother all of us. This seemed to really help me come to terms with what had happened. It helped to focus on the positive things too, five people got to go home and see their families because of what we did that night.

Like you said, I could go on for ever about the same thing from other calls, but the important thing for other firefighters, police, paramedics, soldier, and anyone it these type of jobs to remember is that what you see can not be unseen, and it will build up, and you will have to deal with it. Don't be afraid to talk to someone and get help. It doesn't make you weak or a wuss.

B.Turner, I'm glade that you have figure out how to deal with things and you're pulling yourself up. Hats off to you for posting your story here of everyone to see. Hopefully it will help someone that is having problems and make them realize that there is hope.

Stay Safe!
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Old 10-04-2013, 08:56 AM   #20
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Law Enforcement: SeaBee
Joined: Oct 2008, #10408
Location: SW Florida
Gender: Male
Posts: 421
Front sight's Tacoma Gallery
Hats off to you B. In my time n the Military and my career in LE I've head three friends commit suicide. You really showed the metal your made of. Some people hit rock bottom and throw their hands up. Some people hit bottom and get back up, like you did. You have more testicular fortitude then most, especially for sharing it.

As far as being macho and saying that calls/situations don't/won't affect you, you either have never been to a nasty call or that call/situation is coming.

I've been on a few calls where it literally feels like some one dumped a bucket of cold water over me. There are situations that your mind does not want to process.

Hats off to you B.
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