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Thoughts on Stress Relief, et al

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  • Thoughts on Stress Relief, et al

    You know, I have seen quite a lot of thoughts expressed lately on drinking. While I do not condone the alleged behavior that was mentioned in a now closed thread, what I want to know is where to folks get off on condemming a firefighter's getting drunk while partying off duty with their friends and coworkers?

    I have a theory...

    Firefighters who publicly condem other firefighters for their partying habits are overly anal and have little to no experience. I would lay odds that they don't face the stress levels. Obviously they haven't dealt with doing cpr on a baby while trying to explain to an anguished parent what is going on.... Same with doing cpr on an old man and explaining to his wife of over 40 years why all these tubes are sticking in him and we keep shocking him.... They also obviously haven't done too many searches on the floor above a fire, desperately trying to locate where those screams were coming from just a few seconds ago.... Never held a dead baby in your arms.... Never been disoriented in a building.... Never had to take care of a firefighter that has just been badly hurt, when a short time before that you two were planning a joint vacation back at the house.... Never burried a partner.... Never ran out of air while in an IDLH environment.... I wonder just how many meals these self righteous firefighters have missed, or how many night's sleep get interrupted for you to go on a call....

    I would lay odds that these folks graduated from the Sister Bertha-Better-Than-You Fire Academy.

    I have been a firefighter for over 12 years, and know that the above-mentioned conditions are a part of the job. I accept this and I am NOT b*tching. I am, however, stating that these conditions DO contribute to the stress load. While I don't go out on a bender every time I am off duty, I do partake in enough of it to know that Margaritas are my favorite sweet drink, and that BEER is my true first love. If someone doesn't like that, well, it ain't my problem, it's theirs. I would tell them to get a life.

    My $0.02.

    Jolly Roger

  • #2
    I'm not sure where you are coming from, Jolly Roger but I'm going to assume that you handle your stress level by drinking. Now, I don't find anything wrong with a beer or two; but I think you misunderstood the posts of the folks who were concerned over public drunkeness by a few thoughtless members of another fire department. I have been a firefighter for over 18 years now PLUS I'm a Pastor of a mid-sized church so trust me when I say that i know what stress is and I don't handle my stress by drinking but by meditation and prayer. I also know alot of firefighters who choose not to imbibe to handle their stress levels, so I really think that the public drunkeness issue is a non-issue. It should not happen--ever; especially when in uniform. I understand that you are upset over some of the posts made to the other topic, but I really think that you should not condem other firefighters for their opinions; you may have more experience than the rest of us--or you may not-- but this forum is for open discussion, not for insults. I appreciate and value your contributions to this forum, so let's not forget that we are all family members here and try to treat each other with respect and dignity.

    Big Hugs,


    • #3
      Don't know where you're from Jolly Roger, doesn't say in your profile. I'm not trying to make this into a career vs. volunteer thread, but bear in mind the following, which I teach during my f.d. training. If you are a volunteer firefighter, you are never off duty, you are always on call. When you are under the influence is usually when most people don't exercise their best judgement, as in realizing that maybe they are too popped to respond to a call. Also, the public perceives you as a firefighter, not as a private citizen no matter what you do and no matter where you are as long as that f.d. plate is visible on the front of your car or as long as you are wearing that f.d. tee shirt or jacket. My point is don't advertise yourself as a firefighter out in public and then confirm suspicions by acting like a jackass, whether you are under the influence or not. You are seen as representative of the entire group even though you may be the exception and not the rule. Further, I realize that we have stresses that are not present in other people's lives, but you won't find CISD(Critical Incident Stress Debriefing) in a bottle. I'm not saying that you can't toss back a few, but as in most things, too much of a good thing usually isn't good.

      P.S. It wasn't too many years back hat there was a sizable group in our f.d. whose motto was "We're only here for the beer." They were pretty proud of it, too. Guess what? No one threw them out, but all or nearly all are gone with the wind. Oh, that's right, the wind was coming from them.

      Never stop learning, and keep safety first and foremost always!

      [This message has been edited by SafeTrain (edited 02-07-2001).]


      • #4
        Jolly Roger -

        I think you need to go back and re-read that closed thread. The problem that the majority of people had with the behavior of the firefighters in question is not that they were drinking...it's that first of all, they were doing it in uniform; second, they were doing it at a fallen firefighters memorial service, with grieving family members and other members of the public there and within ear and eye-shot; third, they got stupid drunk, and started yelling insults at random people in the crowd, one of them being an overweight woman (who for all they knew may have been the mother, sister, or wife of a fallen firefighter). See, that stuff is the crux of the problem - not that they were drinking - hell, I think that drinking beer is in some NFPA manual - but that they did so while representing their department, on a somber occasion, and acted rudely and boorishly toward civilians who may very well have been family members of the fallen.

        Your point is well taken - my father was a firefighter for 30 years with Philly, and he drank like there was no tomorrow. But he and his friends did it off duty, out of uniform, and they didn't use it as an excuse to act like 12-year olds at a memorial service. You can't dictate what someone does off duty, or while they are not representing the department (even volunteers, no matter if someone thinks that they're "on duty 24-7") - agreed. But what happened, I think, went beyond that limit.

        Like you say, just my $0.02.

        J. Black

        The opinions expressed are mine and mine alone and may not reflect those of any organization with which I am associated.


        • #5
          I think some of us have misinterpreted some of what Jolly Roger is saying. First of all, he didn't say he advocated what the 4 Detroit firemen did. Second, he said he doesn't drink to relieve stress all the time. So let's not make him out to be a drunk in our posts.

          I do have to disagree with the volunteer firemen being on duty 24/7. I used to be one for several years. If I was on duty all the time, I have no time to have a life. I wouldn't be able to have a few beers with friends, leave town, or go on dates. One of the advantages of being a volunteer is being able to go on and off duty when you please. But my advise to the volunteers out there, don't make the fire department so much a part of your life that you miss out on the other things that make life enjoyable.

          I think I understand what Jolly Roger is trying to say. Some of the firemen posting in the closed thread took the idea of drinking off duty to the extreme. I guess that's their opinion. But I think some of us interpreted some of those opinions as their saying that others were in the wrong for drinking while off duty, which is why that comment got the response it did. I agree with Jolly Roger. Drink off duty, and have fun. Just don't let it interfere with you job.

          I LOVE THIS JOB!


          • #6
            I have held dying people in my arms. I have told the families of victims that their loved ones are gone. I have sat with the widow of the elderly man who died in the car on the way to the hospital. I have seen people mangled and disfigured from accidents.

            Have I experienced stress? Yes, yes, and yes again. Do I drink to deal with it? No!

            If a person wants to have a drink or two... that is their perogative. But to be drunk and obnoxious in uniform, while representing their department at a memorial service... That is rather tasteless. There were people there that were mourning besides these "brothers"... have some respect.

            I worked in a busy ER for years... at the end of shift at 0700 many of the ER staff, docs, nurses, and techs would go play basketball. That was their way of working off the stress of the shift.

            I don't think anyone was being self righteous Jolly Roger... they just felt there is a time and place for everything...and this wasn't it!

            Stay Safe...
            Rebecca Richardson FF/EMT
            Isles of Capri Fire Rescue
            South Florida


            • #7
              In my opinion, drinking to relieve stress is a temporary fix at best. Being numb for a few hours does not change the fact that the baby is still dead, grandpa is still full of tubes, the vent is still the only thing keeping the man alive, that family still has nothing left after the fire took their home, the drunk still killed a family of six, etc, etc, etc,..... I honestly do not think that anyone enters the fire service without realizing that these things happen, so, in essence, it is like going swimming and then complaining that you got wet. CISD does not work for everyone, because not everyone will allow it to do so. People all deal with grief in different ways. I, personally, cannot accept drinking as a stress reliever no more than I can accept someone smoking pot to relieve stress, or popping a handfull of pills, or injecting heroin. It is all still an artificial means of numbing ones self to deal with a situation that will still be there when the numbness wears off. Please do not get me wrong- I am not trying to preach, but nonetheless, this is my opinion. I do think that too many have the mindset that we must drink to deal with what we have seen, yet I consistently see the best work being done by those that do not drink at all, and these people have the mindset that we are there to help people with their problems. Meaning that what we see is someone elses nightmare, not our own. We are seeing and dealing with it on a daily basis, but those that call us, they are the ones that actually have the problem. It is their emergency, not our emergency. We are there to help them in their time of need. I think it is so ironic when a responder feels the need to drink to deal with something they saw, like a family of six killed by a drunk driver. My opinion is, that if you need to get numb in order to deal with your job, that you entered willingly, then you need to find a new job, or find a more productive way to deal with your stress. And by the way, I am not some new kid on the block, I have been involved in Fire-EMS for eight years plus, and I was a regular drinker the first year and a half of it. I had gotten to a point of staying hammered and blaming it on what I had seen. Someone with 30 years experience explained the above to me, and I quit drinking. I have found that I prefer to be part of the answer instead of part of the question.

              Jolly Roger-please understand that this is not intended to be a slam on you in any way, but by the same token, it is my opinion, and I happen to disagree with you on this particular subject. This is my opinion. I feel that there is too much alcoholism in the fire service, and from what I have seen from the alcoholic firefighters that I know, this is one of their favorite reasons for drinking.

              This is my opinion, please respect it, as I respect your opinion as being yours, whether I choose to agree with you or not. We all have our choices in life to make.

              Take Care and Stay Safe,


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