Thursday, February 23, 2012

Drunk in the Fire Station?

I was asked by a reader if I was ever drunk at work. That is a difficult question to simply answer with a yes or no. In the early days before my alcoholism had fully bloomed, I did show up to work hung-over frequently.

By the standards now in place in the modern world, I’m sure I showed up under the influence. Nobody can drink all night long on a Friday, from 8-9 o’clock until 2:00 am and show up to work at 7:00 and be sober. It’s impossible.

Following my first divorce and my second for that matter, I crawled in the bottle for comfort, for an anesthetic, for relief. I wouldn’t recommend my treatment plan to anyone.

As a quick sidebar I would like to take a moment and address any firefighting brothers or sisters that read this. If you are having a problem with alcohol or another substance (those pain killers you got for back injury?) and it is causing trouble in your life, guess what you have a real and deadly issue in your life.

Please seek help now! It isn’t being weak, frail, feeble, pathetic, defenseless, exposed, or powerless when you ask for help. Trust me I was real strong right up until I tried to kill myself, and years later when I didn’t have the will to live and simply welcomed death by booze is when I learned what true
powerlessness is.

You are not alone in the struggle and if you don’t feel safe doing this at work or in public, please ask me (719-231-1756). I give my solemn oath as a brother in our strange addiction that I will protect your anonymity and I will tell you my story and you can tell me yours, I’m a good listener.

My first divorce was in 1992, the fire service was beginning to wake up to the alcohol problems in the world in general and in the service specifically. But the old ways were still tolerated, by the powerful.

One morning my best drinking buddy and I had been at it all night and closed down the bars. We had struck out with the ladies and were very drunk. We both worked at station one downtown and rather than drive home and risk a DUI or being late for work, we decided we could just walk to station one and pass out there. Kill two drunks with one fire station.

We came to the next morning conveniently at work. We had lockers there with uniforms, a full bath facility and understanding friends, not a bad gig, who else gets to go to work early so they are there when they wake up?

So I was safe or so I thought. I had the misfortune to share a locker right next to our new fire chief, and he was an early to work kind of executive. As I was getting dressed he came in to change himself. I tried to avoid him but no luck, we exchanged some chit-chat. I was terrified for two reasons, first he was an unknown quantity. He hadn’t come up in our organization, he came from California so I had no idea what his cultural background was, how he treated this kind of situation.

Second, I knew I still reeked of booze, badly, I hadn’t had any coffee or breakfast yet to dampen my odor. I finished up and scooted around him holding my breath. Station one was a very old station and had a layout like a maze, I went and hid. He went to the office and found my two immediate supervisors.

The new chief didn’t have much awareness of me then, but that would change in the years to come. A harbinger for sure. He told my captain and district chief that he felt I was under the influence and wanted me to get help, but first he wanted me tested.

I was called to the office by my bosses. They knew about the divorce and that I was having trouble dealing with it. In true old school form they asked if I was drunk. No I assured them, sure I’d been out drinking last night, but nothing different than any other Friday night.

My district chief didn’t like the new chief, he was an outsider and the last thing that was going to happen on his watch was for Timmy to get jammed up by the new guy. I was one of his boys, I had all of his computer passwords and handled all of his emails and reports for him, we went way back.

So he came up with a plan, first no testing was going to take place, I’d given my word and that was all he needed. My heart jumped I knew I had a BA and would have been dead in the water if tested. Second I was going to write up a statement about my activity of the night before, he would reprimand me and that would be that.

Today I’m still friends with the chief that wanted to help, and my protector died less than a year after retiring, I believe from a broken heart as he was forced by age to retire and the loss of his beloved job killed him.

I look back at that day and I ache, for if the chief had gotten his way, I would have been spared years of drunken agony. But then I wouldn’t be the man I am today and I wouldn’t be here to try and help those still active in their disease. Maybe God still has a plan for me. I may not be saving lives the way I used to, but if I can save them this way, then so be it. Who am I to question God?


Jenn said...

I think it is awesome in your endeavors to share your stories that you are willing to reach out to another brother (or sister) in need if they need help!! That is so honorable.

Honestly--I have been there--shown up for work under the influence. It was as you say--up all night the night before partying and going to work the next morning before the hang over could kick in. I've been there--although at the time--those jobs were "disposable" because I never intended to stay at them any length of time beyond college. Still does not make it right to drive to work under those conditions.

Great post--and I hope if someone is in need, they will take you up on your offer and they reach out!! Jenn.

Fireman said...

Thanks Jenn, I hope to hear from even just one. The things we live through.

Jo said...

You know by now, I assume, that you have my respect and my admiration. Multiply that by 10 today.

It is always one thing to tell your own story, not an easy thing, but it's very cleansing to be sure. It is quite another to then reach out and ask, "Do you want to tell me your story?" I know from my own life that this can lead to a lot of heartache for the listener because having been down a similar road, you want to get them that help. You want to fix what is broken. Alas, you are not able to do that. The fixing must be done by the broken one. What you can do and hopefully will do is be the bridge for that ONE person to take that first step to recovering.

Corey said...

Great story Tim.... you do have a gift and we all appreciate the fact that you share it with all of are helping more than you know!

November Rain - k~ said...

One day at a time, one step at a time...

Fireman said...

Thanks Jo, Cory and Rain, I know one thing for sure doing this helps me, putting it down in writing has that effect on us alky's.

Dawn Storey said...

Thank you for being so open and honest, and also for being willing to reach out to someone else who might need a listening ear. You never know who's reading.

Fireman said...

You are right Dawn I don't know who might see this, but I'm glad you did :)

November Rain - k~ said...

A touch of the personal side goes a long way. Please accept the blogging Liebster Award, for being green around the gills, with a heart on fire.

You can pick your badge up at Total Image Photography:

Keep writing!

Susan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Susan said...

All I can say is that I am truly humbled by your open admission. My own problems pale in comparison. Thank you for allowing us to see this side of life.

I just wanted to let you know (even thought I think you already do) that I have honored you the Versatile Blogger Award. Please stop by my website and pick it up! You can find it here:

Fireman said...

Thank you Susan and Rain so much. Two awards from my peers is very much appreciated and very unexpected I am honored.