I'm a firefighter who might be losing his job this week. I'm also a devoted father and husband, who loves nothing more than serving the community I live in. Being a firefighter is the only job for me. I believe that I was put on this earth to help people. On someone's worst day, I can be there to help them physically and emotionally.
My job is hard. I work for 24 hours straight on either an ambulance or fire truck responding to every situation imaginable. In the fire service, we have a saying: If you don't know what to do, you call the fire department. And we respond – any time, day or night. We're happy to have this job.
In my time with the fire service, I've run into some burning buildings, but more often I ride an ambulance. I've tried to help people as they have died. I've held a man's intestines, picked limbs up off of the highway and breathed life back into bodies that I thought were dead. I've held babies in their first moments and their last. I love this job, but there's a lot of luggage that comes with it. There's a reason for the high levels of divorce, and alcohol and drug abuse in our business.
PTSD is a term we use to describe victims of terrible tragedy. I experience others' tragedies every day when I go to work. I come home in the morning and hug my wife and kids feeling so lucky to be back in my house. I love my job.
I medicate with cannabis. Not frequently, but on particularly straining days when my kids go to bed, I will medicate.
My feelings do not leave. I don't use this for an escape or to dull a pain. My medicating usually results in me exploring the reasons why a call affected me so much. In those moments, I realize that in some of my patients I see myself or my family, my wife or my children. In understanding my stress, I can accept it and move on.
Firefighters bury their problems. They bury them in beers that their co-workers give them or pills prescribed by a doctor. I don't bury my problems. I accept them, because my medication helps me feel and understand. A doctor would give me pills, which make me feel nothing. I need to feel to be good at my job.
Last month, I peed into a cup for an annual physical. There's a chance it could be tested and a chance that it could not. I'm left with fear that my job will be lost, not because I abused any drug or put any person's life in danger, but because a long time ago someone decided that my medicine isn't medicine.
I want to keep helping people as long as my body will let me. I want others to realize that my medicine is real medicine. It's not for everybody, but it does help me. Until then, I'm left waiting and wondering if tomorrow will be my last day doing the job I was born to do.
The author of this article prefers to remain anonymous.