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 I was what 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 TimothyO.Casey@gmail.com (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 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 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?
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