First ask yourself some questions…
Definition: The way the term “Problematic Substance Use” is used here is meant to cover a wide range of substance/drug use and is not meant to just be designated for “addicts.” This tab can be used to help you identify if you may have an issue that could be addressed.
Problematic Substance Use can be called many names such as a drug addiction or a substance use disorder. These terms are used when there is dependence on a legal or illegal drug or medication. Keep in mind that alcohol and nicotine are legal substances, but are also considered drugs and have addictive qualities.
Substances/drugs impact the brain’s reward center in ways that mimic the natural effects of dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins. The mind/body wants to feel the influence of these “happy” chemicals and once a substitute form of these “feelings” is found through the use of substances/drugs the natural chemicals become suppressed. Withdrawal occurs once the substance/drug use is stopped or reduced and these natural brain chemicals have not yet returned to normal levels. Typically these effects can be reduced in 30 to 45 days provided no permanent damage has been sustained from the recreational substance/drug of choice.
Drug use and addiction can cause long term physical and mental changes in the person using that can effect or destroy relationships, careers, and even lead to legal problems. Ceasing drug use is sometimes difficult and may require help. Talk to your family or friends for support, contact the Illinois Firefighter Peer Support Team for a peer referral, find a therapist or make an appointment with your doctor. An additional option would be to contact an addiction treatment center such as Rosecrance whom has a program specifically for firefighters.
Thought Goal: I use substances/drugs because I think (Insert problematic thought here)… I can stop or lessen my substance/drug use by thinking…. (i.e., Making a conscious thought not to dwell, About someone or something important to you that has been impacted, issues related to your overall wellness, Changes you have wanted to make for yourself, etc.).
Feeling Goal: I use substances/drugs because I feel (Insert problematic feeling here)… I can stop or lessen my substance/drug use by feeling… (i.e., Spending less time alone, Do you remember what it felt like the last time you felt good sober?, The importance your family, friends, career, upcoming events, etc.).
Behavior Goal: I use substances/drugs because my behavior… (Insert problematic behavior here)… I can stop or lessen my substance/drug use by behaving…. (i.e., Not spending time with your source or at the location where you obtain your drug of choice, Do you remember when you first were on the job…all the excitement and motivation?, or when you were first in your marriage/relationship?, are there ways for you to engage parts of your life by being present and available, etc.).
These goals are only examples; use them as guide not an absolute. You know if there is a problem, let now be the time to fix it.
Reaching out for help is never a sign of weakness, but rather one of strength. It may be intimating, annoying or frustrating to think about what to do and how to approach overcoming this, but it can be done. You do not have to do it alone. If you cannot reach or maintain all of these goals on your own, contact a peer supporter and/or a psychology professional.
Written by: Brad Carter FF/PM ILFFPS Coordinator and Cody Todd M.A., L.C.P.C. FPS Therapist