.........This ain't nuth'n
||Chief Billy Goldfeder
By now, you have probably read about the
16 year old female Newcastle (WY) Fire Explorer that was tragically killed
Thursday evening when the water tender she was riding in rolled over and
pinned her underneath, as they were responding to a fire. Naturally, the
incident is still under investigation. The
firefighter who was driving the tanker
has been arrested on charges of Driving Under the Influence. My comments
below are triggered from this story. My comments are based upon first hand
knowledge of similar problems...this ain't nuth'n new.
I am writing this while being extremely
sensitive......not as much to the people who have drinking problems (or
drug problems) but to those who have to work with, live with or deal with
those that have the problem....and feel frustrated, lost, afraid and knowing
that "one of these days" something is going to happen. Like in Wyoming.
Those of you who know me, know I am pretty straight when it come to drinking
and drugs. Actually, I have been buzzed about 3 times in my life-total....not
driving but drinking what my kid calls "foo-foo" drinks. Yeah-exciting
guy, huh....but please don't take these comments as coming from one who
isn't close to the problem.
The issue that stands out is that some
members were quoted saying "we knew he had a problem" and like many obvious
issues-people are very naturally afraid to confront it. Trust me-thats
an understandable excuse as people just don't
wanna get involved as it may not pay off...it
happened to me a few times...I have confronted a few over the years-offering
a "doorway" to help solve their problem...typically through EAP....there
was even one employee w/a major drinking problem a few years ago who I
(we) tried to assist and it bit me in the butt-real hard. Would I do it
again? You betcha..but it sucks. Did my actions do any good. Nope. Our
old friend "denial" reigned and all reports are that the problem continues-on
duty...as no one at any rank wants to confront the issue....sometimes even
the EAP folks are clueless. You won't see any problems when ya ain't look'n.
There's nothing harder than helping an
addict who won't help themself. Confronting someone with a dependency issue
is incredibly difficult. Confronting someone in an atmosphere of "good
old fun'loving boys'n girls" (read: our fire service) is near impossible
and occurs at great risk to all involved. Everyone knows it's an issue-but
no one takes it on for fear of bs such as retaliation, not being liked,
being targeted or related issues. Sometimes it's just easier to let "someone
else worry about it...after all, it probably won't effect me"...yet.
I also grew up w/a Dad (who passed away
a few years ago, who I loved dearly and miss terribly) who drank heavily
most of my young and early mid-life. After years of some pretty bad experiences,
I made the mistake of talking to his Physician about it (when I was in
my early 20')-and boy oh boy-did I pay for that!! My Dad went nuts and
made it clear that he did not have a problem...and it was none of my (or
anyone else's) business. This was after years of watching him do stuff
that drunks do...including hundreds of attempts to drive.....hell, some
day's walking was a challenge. I also have some other relatives with extremely
serious related issues. Although I have never had to face these issues
personally-I have had some very close loved ones and friends that have.
I also "grew up" in a few firehouses 20+
years ago where this was a normal daily activity. I remember riding with
many a firefighter and/or officer who were absolutely trashed, one with
his can of "Busch" beer right up there next to the siren box....another
who mistook a tree for his house-and tried putting his key into the tree-to
get in the "front" door....another who was driving at night-was told his
lights weren't on-and promptly put on the wipers, yelling happily "thanks
Billy"...and drove off-still no lights but wipers wiping like hell. I have
dozens more of those kind of stories-probably like you. Of course,
back then, no one thought anything was
wrong. Back then-it was comic relief. Times have changed....sorta.
This piece I am writing is not about slamming
the Newcastle Fire Dept for not dealing with it....someone else can do
that. Besides, they are suffering pretty badly....but so are the folks
of that little girl. On one hand, this commentary is not about blaming
anyone. This is a real, real tough issue. On the other hand, an aspiring
firefighter is dead due to a fully predictable problem. I am writing this
since I figure numerous people are out there saying "yeah-it could happen
here too at our FD since ____ has a similar problem." People who have a
dependency problem do not think rationally. Someone said to me
yesterday, the next time someone thinks
about getting on a fire truck when their blood alcohol limit is probably
higher than that of the legal limit for influence or intoxication ...they
need to think again.
That's the whole problem. They can't. They
CANNOT. If they could, they wouldn't do what they are doing. They are UNDER
So what's the answer? Well-it's a big problem
and I don't have the answer for any one specific situation, but I do have
a few suggestions on what "those who are not under the influence-can do
about those who are under the influence"...with the least amount of personal
and professional risk-but while also avoiding another death.
I went to GOOGLE.com and searched "Helping
an Alcoholic" , "Helping a Drunk" and a few other related words.....and
came up with a few items that might help. Below is just one of the items
I found. Again, the purpose of me writing this today is the fact that,
like me, I figured there are a few out there that have to deal with the
issue...of dealing with people who have dependency problems...and aren't
sure where to look. I will tellya one thing-don't try fixing the person(s)
you know with the problem yourself-odd's are it won't work. Try some of
the agencies you find on the search-they can help you-or contact your
own local EAP type agency-and if they
are clueless, try another group. Just keep trying and never give up...in
spite of the obstacles. Maybe if you have some suggestions-you can post
them on some of the various fire service FORUMS.
Odd's are-someone can benefit from your
And if you are a witness to it starting
to happen, such as someone responding to a run who shouldn't...stop it.
Call a boss...shut off the apparatus....close the door....even call the
cops as a last resort if ya have to...call someone. Just stop it. No-it
ain't easy-this is the part of "courage" that isn't perceived as heroic
or "glamorous."... Stop it anyway. "But we have to go on the run and he's
our ONLY apparatus driver"...don't go. Call out of service. Another company
will pick up your run for ya. Stop the immediate problem.
The goal is simply to minimize the opportunity
for anyone being injured or killed due to a firefighter under the influence
.....D.U.I. is bad enough...responding Firefighters Under The Influence
As always, our hearts and deepest thoughts
and prayers go out to the family of Fire Cadet Andee Huber, as well as
the Officers and Members of the Newcastle Volunteer Fire Department....as
well as to those who have to deal with this
kind of issue either personally-or with
someone they care about.
How Can I Assist Someone
I Care About...that has a dependency problem?
(Courtesy of A.A.)
1. By offering to help the sick alcoholic
to get in touch with A.A. through the telephone listing or other
means available, explaining that this will entail no obligation to become
a member. Give them local A.A. and Al-Anon phone numbers.
2. By offering to attend A.A. open meetings
with the alcoholic for informational reasons. They are welcome.
3. By explaining to individuals that only
they themselves know whether they are really alcoholics and suggesting
a talk with someone from A.A. to help clarify the problem.
4. By talking to the sick alcoholic always
in terms of suggestion, avoiding threats or duress, since the decision
must and can be made only by the alcoholics themselves.
5. By acquiring a better personal understanding
of A.A. through attending some A.A. open meetings and reading A.A. literature,
including the book Alcoholics Anonymous. It can be explained that
the Big Book is generally accepted as
A.A.'s basic text, first published in
1939, issued in a second edition in 1955 and a third in 1976, and available
for purchase at most local groups or on direct order from the General Service
Office, Box 459, Grand Central Station, New York, NY 10163.
6. By passing the book and other A.A. literature
along to the sick alcoholic, as interesting and worthwhile reading matter.
7. By using their influence in the community
to help other nonalcoholics toward a better comprehension of the problems
and needs of the alcoholic and of the help that is avalilable in A.A.
8. By calling A.A. anytime they can be