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Big Fires Start Small

October 7, 2016

thinking about lifeThere comes a time in a person’s life when they know that everything is about to change.
Me, I was the person who drank 20 leagues beyond prudence. When the time comes, we have probably known it for years – we’re on a one-way path to alcoholism or addiction. We feel it, live it, disguise it, and wish it away.

Being a firefighter, I had that extra resistance to change. Most of the firefighters I know bask in a time warp of our own making, loving our traditions, and clinging to the way things used to be. It is a strange way of life, but has worked well since the beginning of the fire service. Hundreds of years of tradition unimpeded by progress goes the old wisdom, and we laugh at our unwillingness to let old habits die. When change creeps into the fire station it can be incremental, subtle, and a little frightening.

People like me, genetically predisposed to the disease of alcoholism, do not have the luxury of waiting for this type of soft landing.

But we try. We can waste another day, and fool ourselves that everything is just as it should be, and life is fine; except for the occasional detour into intoxication. We can remember fondly the fun we had, and the things we did that we would have never dreamed of doing without a little help from our genie in the bottle. We can live our shortened lives drowning in the illusion that we create by overindulging, and romanticize the drunkenness, and laugh at ourselves and our actions, and blame the drink.
But the truth is that every day we nurse our disease is another day wasted. Worse still, it is another chance to throw everything we have accomplished away. Like it or not, we are not in control of the addictions that get in our way. Bad things tend to happen to a person impaired; traffic accidents, mistakes at work, words chosen unwisely, people hurt, dreams shattered, income lost, and wellbeing exposed to disruption.

The bell is tolling, and it will not stop until we respond.

For people like me, the time to make the change is now.

Getting honest is the first hurdle. Facing the fact that we are killing ourselves slowly, and losing out on a lot of what life has to offer is painful. Living a life of denial is worse. White knuckle attempts at sobriety are the typical answers to the calling in our minds telling us to man up against the drink:

Just don’t drink. It’s simple. Quit being a coward. Nobody is putting the bottle in your mouth and making you drink. I will not drink.

Until I do.

getting treatmentI say, screw failure. Once I finally admitted that the drink was winning my personal war, I called up reinforcements, people and programs that exist for the sole purpose of shoring up our defenses, and beating the enemy once and for all. It can be hard for a firefighter to ask for help, to admit he or she may not be able to handle the addiction alone and may have to depend on others.

That’s when we need to go easy on ourselves, and remember the importance of teamwork. We know that a solitary firefighter stands little chance of putting out a house fire and rescuing the occupants. When we have somebody getting the roof, another doing vertical ventilation, more throwing ground ladders, others doing search and rescue, another manning the pump, then we have the luxury of stretching the line into the inferno, calling for a charged line and opening the gate to finish the job.

So, let’s get on with it, shall we, and get this sobriety thing done.

Time is ticking, and we know far too well that small fires lead to big ones. It takes a team to put those fires out before all is lost.

American Addiction Centers’ firefighter helpline operates 24/7, at 1.888.731.FIRE (3473). This free, confidential helpline will always put you in touch with a veteran firefighter who is in recovery, knows the ropes firefighter treatment, and can help firefighters start building their sobriety team.


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