Note from Robert Avsec, Executive Fire Officer:
“The following story first appeared on the website, In Recovery: The #1 Resource for Addicts and their Families, and is reprinted in its entirety with permission from the author, Stephen Kavalkovich.”
“I was recently introduced to Stephen by my friend and fire service colleague, Don Prince, himself a recovering alcoholic who lost his fire service career to his addiction to “the bottle.” Don and his colleague, Rachael Starr, are the co-founders for The 11th Hour Trauma Retreat.”
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These stories aren’t written by In Recovery staff writers. They are unassigned stories that we publish – unedited – just as you’ve written them. If you’d like to have your story run in this section, please email it to firstname.lastname@example.org
As many who have read my previously published story know, my passion is to help first responders with their struggles. Many times, the folks who are running towards the danger when everyone is running away are forgotten. They are often put on a pedestal and the fact that they are human sometimes gets lost amidst the chaos. As someone who served as a paramedic and 9/11 rescue worker, my ability to take care of others was exceptional. However, self care was regularly forgotten and anyone I was close to suffered, especially me.
I often use to call the struggle with weakness and hardship the “thing you didn’t talk about.” It was a sign of weakness to share with co workers my struggle with nightmares from traumatic rescue attempts, drinking too much, or severe anxiety attacks. We were the problem solvers not problem “havers.” For many years, my self destruction through drug addiction, divorce, and gambling progressed. However, the perception of strength and “having it all together” forced me to suffer in silence. I would isolate, lie, and manipulate others into thinking I was OK.
It wasn’t until I finally fell apart and the truth came out that I realized many people knew what was going on. It saddened me that people saw it, but didn’t say a word. Please understand, I do not hold anger or blame towards anyone. I believe it was at that time that I realized something needed to be done. We may have all performed heroic acts on a regular basis, yet were no less or more human than anyone else. Witnessing monumental tragedy and loss without an outlet to share our feelings is clearly a contributor to maladaptive coping mechanisms.
To that end, I began to search to find a podcast that told the naked, raw truth about these things. To my surprise, there was nothing to be found. I now know that one of the reasons I survived death by overdose, jail, and dereliction was to create such a global forum for my fellow brothers and sisters who selflessly give of themselves. I am happy to announce the launch of the Rescue the Rescuer podcast. The official air date of the first episode is in a few weeks. The show will be available on all applications where podcasts are available including ITunes, iHeart Radio, and Stitcher. We will also be syndicated on the Business Innovators Radio Network.
This will be available to everyone on Earth, especially to EMS, Fire, Police, and Military Personnel. We also will cater exclusively to Doctors, Nurses, social workers, and anyone else in the “helping fields.” We also look to reach the families of these special people, as mental illness, addiction, and PTSD affect everyone. The format will be stories, special guest interviews, educational forums, and resource sharing. I look forward to sharing this unique, never before heard opportunity with you and your family and friends.
You can visit my site, Tales from the Broadside, and subscribe for updates on this groundbreaking creation. I look forward to serving you and yours with a quality program that offers hope and help. Come listen to Rescue the Rescuer: Healing through Connection, Connecting through Struggle.
Stephen Kavalkovich is a former paramedic and 9/11 rescue worker who lost it all due to heroin addiction. He is now a man in recovery who writes, advocates, coaches and speaks. I have written this piece and wanted to offer it for your magazine. Find out more about him here.