Finding Your Purpose in First Responders Treatment As a First Responder, veteran, EMT, Police Officer, Firefighter – even as a 911 operator or an ER nurse – your struggles on the job and the enormous emotional and physical toll your work takes on your body can lead to a life of substance abuse. If this is the mental and emotional state you find yourself facing, it is time to turn the tables and allow yourself to be the one who is rescued. At our River Oaks Facility, we have a First Responders Program that is just for you. Imagine, for a moment, that you moved at breakneck speed through life and death encounters on a regular basis. You endure rigorous training, watch the impossible become possible, and test the limits of your own human endurance. In your career, you have the knowledge and skills to take life or save it, acting a hero and protecting those around you from the enemy – foreign, domestic, or medical. Graphic images pass before your eyes; you tell yourself it’s merely routine, get it together and get it DONE! Then, from a civilian world that doesn’t understand, you are asked to shut that part of yourself off entirely and function in a completely different brain space. If this sounds familiar, you are probably a First Responder. You have lived the life of a veteran, police officer, emergency medical technician, or firefighter on the front lines – the care for other mankind and your brothers and sisters in arms placed well above the value of your own life for the sake of the victory. The road to re-integrating to civilian life is anything but easy. After the Battle… Civilians, despite their best efforts, struggle to understand the mindset of a First Responder. The inability to transition from an on-duty “hero” to an off-duty “zero” isn’t a simple switch that can be turned off and on. In addition to this, there is a complete loss of camaraderie. While on duty, you are surrounded by your team – your band of brothers. You love your guy to the left and right of you and want to make sure they go home to their family. You don’t share blood, but you have experienced spilled blood together. Your community now consists of family and friends who desperately try to wrap their heads around what you may have experienced, but simply have no idea. Instead of getting up each day and knowing your purpose, you find that you face a mountain of unknown. Enter into the equation the isolation factor – who do you report to, who directs you, who guides you, who do you confide in – and everything has changed. Your purpose is not your platoon, not your saw gunner, not your ER, not your partner. Your purpose is to show up every day and to make sure you are able to keep showing up. Sometimes the showing up proves to be too difficult and you experience a head on collision with a failure to cope. Rather than admit defeat, you run to self-medicate, allowing substance abuse to fill your gaps. Many first responders fall victim to believing their inner demons that tell them “you’re weak… you didn’t deserve to come back home more than… you aren’t fit to serve…” Hope Remains At River Oaks, an American Addiction Centers Facility, we understand all too well the struggle that our First Responders face. The battle has continued for them, layering in substance abuse upon mental and emotional trauma. We understand the culture, values and stress responses unique to those in a First Responder career. This is where our program can, quite literally, reach the unreachable, through our enhanced treatment curriculum, helping the client to unlock and heal at a deeper level of self. Many first responders, when they engage in treatment, have placed themselves on lockdown – their protective nature kicking in to keep those around them safe from the political and graphic nature of their experiences. The difference between successful healing and failure, however, is helping these heroes to understand they have to develop tools and resources to fully integrate with others, balancing their protective nature with their ability to connect. First Responders Treatment at River Oaks The First Responders program at River Oaks empowers the client to re-establish connections with life. Through our curriculum, with a heavy emphasis of stress management from the chronic, long term effects of exposure, we help our first responders realize they can rebuild from their trauma. Clients are grouped with other First Responders, just like them. We help them unpack what they are “supposed to be able to handle” and replace it with healthy expectations and coping mechanisms. Our team guides them expertly through methods of overcoming their Compassion Fatigue to allow themselves to accept help, instead of avoiding a focus on self. Instead of saying “I used to”, they can now say “I do…”. It isn’t easy being a First Responder. It takes dynamic courage to face the front lines of saving lives. Sometimes, however, the bravest choice a First Responder can make is taking time to save themselves. No one gets left behind on the field or on the floor. Shouldn’t it be the same with your addiction treatment? Find your purpose again through healing your substance abuse with a renewed human connection with the First Responders Program at River Oaks.