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Getting it Back

May 2, 2017

Captain Michael Morse, retired, Providence Fire Department

Being sober is far better than not being sober. This simple truth is next to impossible to convey to a person struggling with addiction. The thought of living without their intoxicant of choice is horrifying. When confronted with the possibility of living life on life’s terms with nothing to buffer the wretchedness of it all people like me take the easy road and crack a cold one, mix a strong one, fire up the bong, heat up the spoon, lay out a rail  or pop the prescription bottle. Some of us do all of the above. None of us will thrive until we find the strength to do a searching moral inventory, discover why we rely on things that alter our consciousness and then find the courage to start over.

Us firefighters have a little trick we use on an emergency scene; Plan B. When what we are doing to mitigate a problem is not working, we always have a Plan B. Most of the time that plan is formulated as things are falling apart, but we know that it is there, and will be a complete plan when needed. Being addicted is a lot like responding to emergencies. We know how to quell the fires that drive us mad; drinking and or drugging. We also know exactly how effective that strategy is for short term success. Problem is, somewhere in the deep recesses of our minds we know that Plan A will ultimately fail.
Engaging Plan B is usually done only when all is lost. Nobody wants to scrap the methods they have learned, trained for and perfected until there is no other choice. But even the most stubborn firefighter knows when what he or she is doing simply is not working. The evidence is right before our eyes, and impossible to ignore. Shifting gears in the middle of a fight is a daunting task. Giving up and starting over seems like a monumental waste of time and energy. Seeing the situation clearly is the catalyst for change; backing out of a burning building and deploying master streams in a “surround and drown” attack is not defeat, it is making a choice to live, and save the exposures.

Timing is essential-waiting too long to engage a new plan is catastrophic, both on the fire ground and in our personal struggles. It is nearly impossible escape a collapsed building with an empty pack, and it is equally as difficult to resurrect a spirit that has been destroyed by substances. Fighting fire is dangerous, exhilarating and ultimately satisfying. So is fighting addiction. We talk about fires, practice fighting them, learn everything we can about the behavior of combustion, bask in the glory of a good job and anticipate the next one with child-like enthusiasm.

The fight of our lives when we battle addiction is done internally, in a half-hearted way.

We put off the inevitable until we have to do it or lose everything we cherish. We prefer to not think about it. We definitely don’t talk about it. We might make an attempt to learn about it, but it is simply no fun facing our demons, so we wait, and stay stuck in a cycle of highs and lows that is simply unsustainable.

Enter Plan B; Being sober is far better than not being sober.

Once I wrapped my head around that little fact I started believing that what I gained from sobriety far outweighed what I lost. My own experience showed me that what I lost was significant. I would not have continued doing what I was doing for over twenty-five years if it had no merit. I’m not comfortable in crowds; drinking helped. I don’t sleep all that well; drugs helped. I am plagued with suffocating anxiety; drinking and drugs helped.

What I gained in sobriety far outweighs what I lost. I’m still a little uncomfortable in crowds, but now instead of avoiding them I simply stay alert and understand that most of the people that make up the crowd are just as uncomfortable as me. My sleep has improved, probably because instead of sitting around in an intoxicated state I’m active most of the time and exhausted when it’s time for lights out. My anxiety level is nearly non-existent now that I know that I have control over my impulses and will get through the day on my own power and not be beholden to substances that do not have my best interests in mind.

Shifting gears at any point in a struggle is a worthy endeavor. Ultimately it is the better choice to do so before all is lost. My original plan of getting through this existence without any outside help failed miserably.

Plan B materialized out of need; I simply needed to put my ego aside, reach out to another human being that I trusted and start the journey toward getting the life I knew I was missing back.

Don’t wait. Call us now.
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