March 26, 2018
For most, there’s nothing wrong with drinking alcohol occasionally. But when casual use turns into abuse, the consequences can quickly become detrimental to health, home life and happiness. According to a recent study funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), approximately half of fire fighters reported binge drinking in the previous month.
Drinking after a long day on the job or during a department or union social function may seem harmless. After all, a “work hard, play hard” attitude is common in the fire and emergency medical services. But in many cases, what starts off as an innocent attempt to blow off steam, bond with co-workers or cope with stress can quickly turn into alcohol abuse or addiction.
Alcohol may be legal for you to consume, but it can also be extremely dangerous. If drinking has become a habit, you may think you have things under control. But alcohol abuse cannot be taken lightly. Continued, unaddressed alcohol abuse or addiction comes with consequences.
You became a fire fighter or paramedic to help others. Abusing alcohol on or off the clock can compromise your ability to do your job. If you go to work under the influence of alcohol or hungover from a long night of drinking, you won’t be as alert or focused as you need to be.
You can’t hide alcohol abuse from your co-workers or your department forever. Even if your station culture encourages social drinking, excessive alcohol use will impact your job performance over time. Whether it’s by arriving late to shifts, shirking responsibilities or putting the lives of others on the line, alcohol abuse could make you lose one of the most fulfilling parts of your life — your career.
If you think you’re hiding alcohol abuse from family members, chances are that you’re not. Your loved ones have likely seen the changes in your behavior. Maybe they’ve noticed that you’ve started coming home later than usual. If you do make it home on time, you are distant and emotionally unavailable.
The people who love you most see the signs. They want to help you, but they may not know how. If you continue to push them away, they may leave. You might be trying to keep your alcohol abuse hidden from them out of shame or fear that you’ll hurt them. But hiding your problem is worse than confronting it head on.
Drinking regularly takes an enormous toll on the body. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), people who binge drink on a regular basis have a higher risk of developing heart disease, liver disease, depression, and several types of cancer. Regular alcohol use puts you at a higher risk for motor vehicle crashes, alcohol poisoning and violence.
When physical addiction comes into play, the stakes become even higher. Attempting to stop drinking without medical supervision can trigger dangerous withdrawal symptoms, including nausea, vomiting, confusion, high blood pressure and fever. In the worst cases, it can lead to seizures or even death.
You know that your work as a fire fighter or paramedic can be incredibly rewarding. But with these high rewards come high risks, including witnessing or experiencing traumatic events. You don’t have to use alcohol to cope with your stress or bond with your brothers and sisters.
Admitting you have a problem is the first step on the road to recovery. Treatment can’t wait — your family, friends and co-workers need you. If you’re struggling or know someone who is, reach out to the IAFF Center of Excellence. This treatment facility was designed specifically with the needs of IAFF members in mind. Your call is toll-free, and there’s no commitment to begin treatment. Speak with a representative today for more information.
Medical Disclaimer: The IAFF Center of Excellence aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.