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What to Know About Trauma and Addiction in First Responders

The life of a first responder is not easy, is it? Whenever there’s an emergency, you’re the first to show up. You’re qualified to help. But that’s a lot to deal with—and it can leave a lasting impact.

Trauma leaves marks. There’s no way around that. And you need to find a way through it in order to keep living, to keep working. Ignoring it doesn’t help in the long run, but it can feel overwhelming at times.

Addiction is different. It’s unfortunately not unusual for first responders to show signs of addiction. This can be dangerous, especially while on the job. But addiction doesn’t appear out of the blue.

The relationship between trauma, addiction, and first responders is complicated. But to move forward, it’s important to understand where it comes from.

Traumatic Experiences

Experiencing traumatic events is very much a part of the job description for first responders. You respond to any emergency, and they don’t always unfold in the best way possible. Sometimes, tragedies happen. First responders are left carrying the weight of all of them, and that’s not easy.

Not to mention, that line of work asks that you put yourself in these situations again and again. That’s why it’s so important to be able to deal with trauma and everything it leaves behind. After all, you want to be able to keep doing your job efficiently. Most importantly, you want to be able to move forward in life. Trauma makes that immensely difficult.

Workplace Culture

For a lot of first responders, it’s common to meet up with colleagues for drinks. It’s something you do after a long day to socialize with your coworkers. And you have a drink, maybe two, and it’s fine. That’s not addiction territory.

And it’s true, this won’t cause addiction in anyone. But it can contribute to it. Going for a drink or two after work is just what you do. You might feel that you can’t say no without pulling away from your coworkers. And this may put you at risk of developing an addiction.

ems worker sitting in ambulance looking down at groundTrauma and Addiction Are Connected

There is a link between trauma and addiction. Trauma is hard to cope with, and some people are willing to go to many lengths in order to cope with its effects. Sometimes, that means turning to substances for help. It means drinking a little too much a little too often. It means trying new substances because you hope the new sensations will numb the emotional pain or make you forget, if only for a little while.

And this is how, without realizing it, you may develop an addiction. It’s not a conscious choice. In fact, some people may be more at risk by nature. If addiction runs in your family, you’re more at risk of developing an addiction yourself.

Help Is Available

There are many reasons why first responders may not seek help even though they need it. Maybe there’s too much stigma around counseling at work and the scrutiny you may be under doesn’t seem worth it. You don’t want to seem weak in front of others, or you don’t want to feel weak in private. That’s understandable, but seeking help when you need it is not weak.

There’s nothing wrong with seeking professional help to understand what you’re feeling and learn how to cope with it in a healthy manner. Especially when you’re struggling with trauma, addiction, or both. If this is something you carry with you every single day and you want to let go of its weight to live a little better, then don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment for trauma therapy.