My story started way before I entered EMS. I have battled alcoholism and addiction for well over half of my near 42 years. Before I was 22 I had accumulated 2 DUI’s and spent several weeks in a treatment program. That stent of sobriety lasted about 7 years. In the middle of a very successful career I began drinking again. It took maybe a week to be as worse as I was before. This time I became involved in drugs. I ended up selling and trafficking cocaine. I was a train wreck waiting to happen. I had everything I could possibly want. A great job with great benefits including a house with all utilities paid.
Like most of us that drink and go on days of alcohol and cocaine binges I lost the job. I ended up homeless with only my dog and truck. I ended up moving back home with my parents (after a few weeks of my dog and I sleeping in my truck). My parents gave me several “must do’s” in order to stay there. I had to stay sober, find a job, and my most feared of all – go to church. I gave in and actually made some pretty good friends. Things were looking up and I returned to the career I was shunned form before. I ended meeting my wife at the church I was so adamant about not attending. We had been married for 2 years and expecting our first child.
During this time I decided to get into EMS. Just before my EMS career started I was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis. If you’re not familiar, it’s an autoimmune disorder that causes crippling joint inflammation mainly in the lower back and lower extremities. After a couple years of NSAIDs, weekly injections, and immunosuppressants my rheumatologist started me on hydrocodone. I was initially hesitant about this due to my history of substance abuse but I was in constant pain and this helped. Being an EMT I was only taking the opiates on my off time.
After 3+ years as an EMT I I started paramedic school. By this time we had two young girls and I was working an extremely busy 24/48 shift with a service that runs over 100,000 calls a year. It didn’t take long for me to completely exhausted and living in pain 24/7. My rheumatologist sent me to a well respected pain management specialist. I was placed on Percocet 4 times a day and an extended release powerful opiate 2 times a day. After a little while on that I started to really enjoy the feeling I got. Pretty soon I was going through my percocets in one weeks time and crushing my time released meds. Soon after I began buying stronger meds off of the street. Just as many “junkies” do when the supply of prescription meds are limited I switched to heroin. Not only was I injecting 30mg oxycodones I was also injecting heroin.
Keep in mind at this point I’m finishing paramedic school and became a practicing paramedic. Scary huh? Well my world came to a crashing end when my wife was about to take our children and leave me and my secret life was uncovered by my employer. I was given several chances to admit I had a problem and let my service send me to rehab. I declined so I was let go. Before the addiction took hold I was an exceptional employee so the state and police were left out. I ended up going back into the rehab and at this point I’m over two years clean and happily married. I’m even working for the service that fired me again.
It’s not easy to admit we suffer. Its not easy to admit we are not in control anymore. We are suppose to always be in control. We are suppose to be the helpers, the heroes, the rocks of society. Sometimes we give to much, we care to much, and we forget ourselves. We can not take care of others until we can take care of us. It’s not a sign of weakness to admit defeat. The weakness comes from not. There were many times I wanted to kill myself, give up or just run away. I even tried to change states once. What I found was I was the same no matter where I was. Don’t suffer in silence. Ask for help. Take a chance. You’re not alone.