I’m joined today by Alexx, a firefighter from a jurisdiction close to my own.  He reached out to me and expressed a desire to share a story so that someone else might learn from it. Alexx sat down with me one afternoon and discussed his upbringing, his time in the Air Force, his fire service career, his legal battles, and his recovery. He’s made great strides and the future is bright for Alexx. 

Stack: Thank. Thank you for joining me for another episode of the things we all carry. I’m joined. Joined today by Alex, a firefighter from a jurisdiction close. To my own. He reached out To me and expressed a desire to share A story so that someone else might Learn from it Alex sat down with me one afternoon and discussed his upbringing his time in the air force his fire service career his legal battles and his recovery he’s made great strides and the future is bright for alex A quick Reminder to help us build a community which not only recognizes but supports each other through. through the struggles and recovery reach out through instagram At the things we all carry Or email my To offer support and share your story Please remember to leave a review on itunes and give a shout out to any first responder you know love or care about y’all enjoy the show

Probably butcher the inter the introduction, which I just butchered that right there. So without trying to butcher it, I’ll get through it. And then again, right into your family history. All right. So how you feeling? You ready? Yeah, I’m good. All right. Today we’re sitting down with Alex.

He is out of Virginia. He’s got two years as a volunteer in 12 years career. So a total of 14 years in the fire service between air force and civilian life. gonna let him start with his family history. We’ll see where he is coming from, where, see where he is now. And then we’ll talk a little bit about it.

So how you doing Alexx

Alexx: I’m doing well. Thanks for thanks for inviting me on. Thanks for being here.

Stack: Yeah, growing up in central Illinois is nothing but cornfields in a college town. .

So what part of Illinois did you grow up in? Oh, there I grew up in Champaign, Illinois. Where’s that? In relation to say what everybody else probably asked you. It’s where’s it in relation to Chicago? It’s literally two hours from Chicago, two hours from St. Louis and two hours from Indianapolis.

So it’s central to everything. And, but out of the way, out of the way it was it’s they dropped a college town in the middle of a cornfield and said, have at it. So you’re a bears fan. No, unfortunately the team I likes even worse. I’m a Cowboys fan. Oh, then we’re just, we’re gonna be perfect friends.

I’m a Cowboys fan. There we go. Yeah, growing up in there, you have friends that are black Hawks fans, Cardinals, fans, Colts fans, and that’s. middle of everything. People that makes sense. Nobody can make up their mind because they’re so close to everything. Exactly. And, and depending on who’s good and it all just changes every year.

So what was family life like then? Champagne? It was great. I grew up with both my parents in the household had a younger sister who’s 18 months younger than me. You’d think that she thought that she was thought that she was older than me, that that’s not the case and still is not the case.

But I grew up, like I said earlier, I grew up in a college town where it was parties on the weekend. And if you wanted to. Get a drink, a party, whatever. There was always access to that. Whether it was going downtown.

Whether you were going to the campus town to to hang out at the local bars or sneak your way in, or if you went to one of the local gas stations that you’ve gone to once or twice, and, they don’t really care if you get a case of beer, but you had the city life and the country life all mixed into one and depending on who you were and what you chose, you could do whatever you wanted.

But yeah, I started partying and drinking probably around 15, 16 years of age is a big part of my life, growing up and a big part of my life into my adulthood. Growing up. There was a, I guess the big thing that got me into the fire service growing up around there was a an academy called the Illinois fire service Institute and had a Explorer program. Being a young kid, I grew up watching backdraft and finding Nemo. So I wanted to be either a a firefighter or I wanted to be a Marine biologist.

I wanted to save sea turtles. everybody wanted to be a Marine biologist. It seems yeah. Yeah. What’s their uh, the dog on, you got the ocean and sea turtles. Yeah, you’re right. Yeah. So obviously the the Marine biologist was out was in high school trying to figure out what I wanted to do.

Didn’t. I didn’t have the grades. I was always told I was smart and intelligent. But the motivation just wasn’t there. I

the motivation the motivation wasn’t there. I didn’t do as well as I could have in school. So my options were limited. So I decided to join the military. I had talked to the Marine Corps. I talked to the army walked in the Marine Corps. Marine Corps, had a pull it bar in their recruiting room.

And I just wasn’t about that life . So went to the army was almost was waiting to see what job I was gonna be in the army. And my dad, I was 17 at the time. My dad’s told me that I needed to Talked to three branches before he would sign on the dotted line. So I went and went to the air force.

I had gotten in a little bit of trouble as a kid. Obviously it was alcohol related alcohol and party related, but that was in the past. Went and talked to the air force took me and they gave me a an aircraft load master job, not what I wanted to do. I’d be flying on planes, but basically I’d be, I would’ve been in charge of doing the math and making sure that whatever we were flying to wherever was set.

So the plane wouldn’t crash big job for an 18 year old big job, but yeah not glamorous. I’m sure that you were hoping for something a little more glamorous, a little more, more glamorous. So a couple months go by and another person that was in the delayed entry program Got a special forces job in the air force.

And so his fire protection apprentice job came up. I was able to take that one and they were able to shift my job off to somebody else. So I turned 18 in March of 2010 April 13th, 2010. I was on my way to San Antonio, Texas to start basic training. Was that Lackland air force base. All right.

I did some training for Sams, so I just remember Lackland sticking to my brain. So where do you go from LA? From Lackland. Where do you head out? You go to I think it was eight and a half weeks at Lackland for basic basic military training. Then I went to San Angelo, Texas to get a fellow air force base at Lewis F Garland fire academy spent 13 and a half weeks there.

Got my first responder fire, one fire, two

Alexx: RF.

Stack: hazmat ops and spent 13 and a half weeks there and then shipped off to Alaska, to Elmendorf air force base up there. So how many years in the air force? Three and the three years comes to an end. And how do you get out? So there was a back in 2011, 2012.

President Obama was doing the data separation rollback. wasn’t having a, the greatest time I had a few more alcohol related incidents that basically they had offered me. It’s called a data separation rollback. Which basically just says, it’s an honorable discharge, you were supposed to get outta the military on this day, but now we can make it this day. Do you want that? And I said, yes. So they speed the process up. Yeah. They speed the process up. So I basically went in got my fire department certs got all my driver certs and, took the training that I got and decided to head back home to, freshen up kind of refresh myself and get out of the the situation that I had created for myself.

So you go back to Illinois. I did go back to Illinois went to the same volunteer department that I had started out at and then got a job at an airport in Illinois doing a whole bunch of different things. So it was a airport fire protection. I did at this job at this airport in Illinois, I did fire protection, security airport management, wildlife management, which is pretty cool. You inspect and runways and stuff like that, that, that part’s of dry, but wildlife management, basically, you get to carry your license to carry a a firearm on an airport, which you’re not even allowed to carry a.

any ammo through an airport without it being locked up 7,000 times. But take care of coyotes. If there’s a deer on the airport, we’d have to get a special tag to be able to essentially hunt outside of hunt outside of season. Birds, bird strikes are a big thing. So I would work two 12 hour days, two, 12 hour nights.

And the night shifts, you just, you lock out the airport, essentially you board the rest of the night, do a couple inspections, open up the airport in the morning and then go home. So I, so doing that, obviously I’m back home with all my friends. I’m 21 now. Able to drink? The nights were slow. So whatever you can find to, to keep yourself busy.

I was doing two 12 hour days, two 12 hour nights with four days off in between. So a lot of time to, to enjoy life, enjoy again, enjoy the college town, all that good stuff. Decided to leave there to go to Myrtle beach, South Carolina, to work at the airport down there. Again the same concept minus being able to carry firearms on the airport did that for six months until I decided that it wasn’t the airport world, wasn’t really what I wanted to do.

So I jumped over to a small department, just south of Myrtle beach. Had gotten my, I got my EMT and was just. A bucket ahead, firefighter EMT. We ran two on a medic unit EMT paramedic and then ran three on a fire truck with a minimum staffing of two on a fire truck. So you just have a driver and a, in an officer there.

I had met a nurse. We started dating three months later, found out that she was pregnant. Had my daughter in June of 2018.

And then in January. We had decided to move up north closer to family. We were working opposite schedules. I was working 24, 48 and then on my 48 hours off, she was working 12 hour shifts at the hospital. Basically we were doing opposites and we weren’t seeing very much of each other.

So we thought in the best interest of family continuity and moving forward that moving closer to family where we didn’t have to work opposites was in the best interest for everybody. So we decided to move up to Stafford, Virginia. Luckily I was able to go, I spent too months working in a hospital as a paramedic which is absolutely terrible.

It’s just not my it’s just not my style. So I spent two months in the emergency room and then I ended up moving to a department in Northern Virginia. And I’ve been there since 2019. So what’s the fire service career been like? I know I’ve had this conversation with a couple people and you and I talked about a little bit before we even started that.

There’s not a, there’s not a call that stands out. There’s this is the one. No, but there’s a lot of ones that kind of build up on you. Yeah. Yeah. I think the biggest thing for me was I think fire services, I don’t have a specific call. That’s jumped out at me. I was a part of a call where A buddy of mine took his own life in Alaska. He was a, an E O D guy and decided to go out on arrange and take care of business. I think over the last 12 years that’s the one that I’ve thought of most frequently.

But it’s never nagged at me. It was just like a remembering him type thing. But as far as like recent memory, there’s yeah, you get your DOA auto accidents, you get your arrests, whether it’s, little old lady who walks in and you’re, she’s dead or it’s somebody who you walk in and you’re talking to.

Just like you and I are talking right now and all of a sudden they get end up in the ER and the doctor’s calling, calling them. It doesn’t really matter what it is. think every day, a little something, weighs on you or adds to, I think every day, something weighs on you or something adds to your cup that you can hold onto whether, and eventually, without self care, it’s gonna, it’s gonna overflow.

So at what point do you think for you that it starts to overflow and can you identify that time? For me personally I think it started to overflow when I moved from from South Carolina to Virginia I had. I had really good camaraderie with the guys down in, in South Carolina.

And I had a I had a support system without it being called an official support system. We hung out on our off days, whether it’s boating, usually alcohol was involved. But we were always there for each other, we we just had a, we had that, that brotherhood bond, whether it was, I say brotherhood in including the sisters in, in there as well.

But I think when I had lost that support system, that’s when that’s, when things started really I was essentially on my own up here. I moved to a new department. I didn’t have, hadn’t really made that connection with anybody yet. , I had gone from a single bachelor to a husband with one kid and another kid on the way.

So in a sense I felt like I had lost myself . I didn’t know if the married life is what I wanted, and then adding stuff into work, whether it’s on a call or not living up to the expectations that I had set for myself. I think probably about January, February of 2020 is when the drinking had picked up rather heavily.

I was working on my internship. Working on getting to be a release paramedic, had a, I put a lot of pressure on myself. I had been diagnosed with anxiety, depression, and PTSD. Where did those diagnoses come from? It came from a, my primary care provider who was a nurse practitioner at the time.

At the now I wish that I had gone and seen an actual psychiatrist and figured out these issues. The PTSD was a huge surprise to me because I didn’t respond. I was just a kid when nine 11 happened, I haven’t ever lost anybody while I was on the job, lost any, I had never lost any, a brother or sister while I was on the job.

I didn’t think that I had this huge big call that, Messed me up type thing. Did, did you question, did you ask, why are you labeling? Why are you defining it as such? absolutely. I had asked, I was like, I had told her, I was like, I’m I don’t understand the PTSD.

And essentially she says since I wasn’t getting a full night sleep, I was waking up. And because I was having nightmares about nothing in particular that the symptoms that I was having, she thought it fell under the PTSD category. So she hit me with that. Biggest factor was, she also hit me with antidepressants and anti-anxiety med.

So she hit me with Lexapro and Zoloft not at the same time, but I started taking those in January or February of 2020, but I hadn’t stopped drinking. So I was taking antidepressants. While drinking as well, which is not a good combination. So she D she diagnoses you with PTSD along with anxiety and depression, and she starts to use some prescriptions to try and help. Yeah. She used prescriptions to try and help with the symptoms. And then later on, on my own, I had reached out to a therapist in the area and started going to see him.

I think I had a couple sessions with him and his biggest thing was you need to stop drinking. And I, me being stubborn and hardheaded, I hadn’t stopped drinking. It was like, I’m, I enjoy drinking, at that time, drinking was really the only friend that I had, yeah. I had, two kids and a wife, but .

I couldn’t, shoot the shit with them. I couldn’t, they didn’t replace the boys and the girls that I had lost. They couldn’t replace the camaraderie and , , that support system that I had lost from moving.

So I’m at home, I’m drinking at home, I I’m unhappy, antidepressants worked for a little bit. I felt a mood, my, my mood swing upwards, but then. The mood just came down and stayed down. I couldn’t be happy if I had won the lottery. And I started to blame the one person that was around every day of my life, I started blaming my wife.

And so I thought that she was the source of my unhappiness. So thankfully I never physically went outside my marriage, but I started, I would jump on Tinder and talk to other girls, or I had, would hit up Xes and just have conversations and have that, the, that emotional relationship, try and boost myself up by, oh, don’t worry.

You still got it. Type thing. That didn’t work. Wife had. Okay, caught on to what was going on a couple times. Thankfully I still have a wife today. But she we identified what I let her know as the problem and tried to work through things that way.

We identified the problem, which I thought we identified, what I thought was the problem. Kept moving forward, but every time I would get intoxicated or start binge drinking, I would, the I don’t care attitude would come back and I would get into my own head and I would try and relieve some of the the pain that I was feeling. So eventually it it all boiled over on August 30th, 2020.

I was drinking at home I was probably about a 12 pack deep maybe a little bit more than a 12 pack. The wife comes home, I’m I had been drinking over the course of the last couple hours, so drinking is already a topic of contention between me and the wife.

So if we get into an argument what that was about now, I’m assuming it was about alcohol. And of course I’m in the, I don’t care at attitude or the.

was I was in the, I don’t care attitude or the invincible mode where, I would, could go up to an MMA fighter and start talking smack because yeah, I’m yeah, you fight professionally, but I’ve had 12 beers, so let’s bring it on. But I was unhappy and, I blamed everything onto her.

Even though I was, I know now that I was responsible for it, I was responsible for my own happiness, I had projected all of that unhappiness and all that crap onto her. So we had been fighting back and forth. We were trying to put the kids down for, to go night to go nine nights.

I was still drinking. She ended up squeezing, squeezing a can of beer that I had in my hand and, things erupted, so she grabbed, the kids, went downstairs and she said that she was gonna call the cops. I’m like, okay, call ’em like, bring it on no one again.

That’s the new, mMA fighter that’s facing me. I don’t care who you are. Like I can take you on. And did she, was she calling the cops because of what out of fear or because she was afraid that you were hurting yourself. So she the argument between me and her had. continued on. And she had gone downstairs with the children and said that she was gonna call the cops because she wanted to leave. So I think that she thought that she was calling the cops to be that middle man to make sure that I don’t do anything stupid or she doesn’t, or that I don’t do anything stupid or, she felt, safer having a middle man there to make sure that everything was fine.

I after I heard that she was going to call the cops again, facing that, that beast, that Demon I went and grabbed an AR 15 and a handgun decided to go upstairs. And.

I grabbed my AR 15 and my handgun decided to go upstairs into my bedroom. And I was gonna, I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do at the time in the beginning. But essentially but by the end of my thought process, I had decided that I was going to get into it with these cops with firearms and essentially commit suicide by cop.

I was that unhappy with my life. I, whenever I looked at my kids, I had seen that I wasn’t enough, who’s this guy that drinks all the time and is so unhappy and down that, what kind of life are they going to have with a dad? Who’s that’s essentially a shell of who he used to be.

So I’m upstairs with. With my AR my handgun, a couple hundred rounds of ammo. And I started getting this, this feeling coming over me. I can’t describe it, but I decided to my first thought was to call a couple buddies that that I work with on the department and talk with them.

Neither, neither of them answered. And so I ended up on the phone with my dad. It’s probably 8, 8, 9 o’clock at night at this point. Ended up on the phone with my dad. He can we cuss? Oh yeah. Okay. You can fucking cuss. Oh, okay. Yeah. Don’t hold back. I ended up on the phone with my dad and And not so many words, she basically said what the fuck are you doing?

Take a step back, look in the mirror and figure out it, it just analyze the situation. So I took that step back, realized that I was in a bad spot. I have two kids and a wife in the house I’m upstairs with I’m upstairs, locked and loaded to go to town with these, with the Stafford county Sheriff’s office and realizing that, okay, I may like, how traumatic is this going to be for my family?

And so talked to my dad a little bit longer, said, all right, I’m gonna hang up the phone. And I ended up getting in touch with I ended up getting in touch with the 9 1, 1 dispatcher. She talked me through stuff. She had to, and the cops were underway anyway. The co correct? They were they were posted up outside.

Okay. So they were already there. They were already there. Yeah. I guess if where are the wife and kids down in the kitchen, did they stay because they felt threatened or did they stay because she just didn’t know what to do. I think she just didn’t know what to do. I’m upstairs. She had known that I had taken the firearms upstairs, so she told the police that I had firearms with me.

So obviously, firearms to cops are like smoke showing to us. Oh yeah. That’s yeah. That’s their fire call. It’s go time. It’s go time balls of the wall and, so I somehow process this information beforehand. And I ended up on the phone with nine one, one dispatcher, wife and kids, or wife and kids are downstairs.

I had never told her not to leave or anything like that. I just, I knew the cops were coming for me and that’s, and I wasn’t gonna go, I, there was no way in hell I was gonna go with them willingly. So

critical thinking came in I realized that, I maybe down in this hole, and I’m, and I digging and I keep digging this hole, eventually, hopefully I can find a ladder. Somebody can throw me a ladder to, to start helping me get out of this stuff that I had.

Eventually somebody would throw me a ladder that to help me get outta the hole that I had dug for myself, no, one’s piling dirt in on top of me yet. So cops show up I’m on the phone with the dispatcher. Essentially she eventually she tells me put the weapons down, don’t bring ’em outside and okay.

Yeah. may not be the smartest guy in the world, but I’m not gonna bring an AR in a handgun outside with a bunch of cops loaded up trying to already pointing the weapons at me. Not if you’ve got your wits about you now. Yeah. Yeah. At this point I had decided that, I was thinking that, okay, they’re gonna, it’s not a crime to hold firearms in your own house, I’m like, they’re gonna come do their thing and then they’re gonna, they’re gonna leave me alone.

The wife will go to her parents’ house. so went downstairs was on the phone with a dispatcher up until my front door. She told me to put the phone down and I was like, yeah, I don’t want the cops to mistake this for a weapon. So I left the phone inside. I walked out, they did the whole like walked backwards towards the sound of my voice.

And I was like, wow, I saw this on TV now I’m doing it. So gave up myself, they put me in handcuffs. Brought me back up to my driveway. Couple, it took a couple hours for them to figure out what the what they wanted to do. And as the hours go on, I become more and more of a smart ass, not really helping my situation.

And you’re still drunk. Yeah. Yeah. I’m still drunk. They actually had me. a breathalyzer kind of towards the midnight point. And I was, I say only, but it’s still legally drunk. I was 0.09. One of the comments that they made was like, oh if this was a couple hours ago, I’m thinking where he was at.

And I was like you can’t prove that in court, still trying to cover my cover. My Asay they before that they had read me my Miranda rights and I’m like, okay, I see where you guys are going with this. I may actually get arrested. To me, I’m, I was thinking like, oh they might actually arrest me for the actions and for everything that I had done this evening, I was like, okay.

What about it made you think they wouldn’t arrest you? I was drunk. Okay. I was drunk and I didn’t think I had done. Anything illegal, to at this point I had carried a firearm upstairs. I had, I had held firearms. I had not made any threats towards anybody. I essentially, I thought it was just, Alex is drunk.

So many times in the past I’ve had run ins with police officers while I’ve been intoxicated, whether my fault or not. And nothing like this is I’ve never had any consequences for being a drunk idiot. So got to the point where I was in the back of a, in the back of a cop car getting I was in the back of a cop car.

Taking a ride up to taking a ride to jail. Where I ended up spending, spending three days they ended up hitting me with two felonies and two misdemeanors. What’d they charge you with abduction. Which was the craziest one for me. I apparently in the state of Virginia.

If you’re walking, if we’re walking down the street and I yell, stop and you stop and turn around, that can be considered abduction in the state of Virginia. So even though I was upstairs and the wife was downstairs and she had a clear path out the door, even if she felt like she couldn’t leave, then apparently, essentially that could be taken as abduction.

Did she tell the cops she felt she couldn’t leave? I, to this day, I don’t know. I had an opportunity to get a, get, to get the police report, but I didn’t take it. At the time I would’ve had to subpoena it and lawyers already cost an arm and a leg. So wasting time on getting that bit of evidence and seeing what, from their side of things, what had happened that night.

So abduction was the first one endangering the welfare of a child reckless use of a firearm and assault and battery on a family member. The assault and battery came from. Earlier I had mentioned the wife had grabbed a beer outta my hand. In that moment she had gotten beer on her hand.

So apparently that’s assault and battery in the state of Virginia. So with the assault and battery, there was no. how do I term this? I had delicate I never laid a hand on my wife in a aggressive or violent manner that covers it. That’s a, that’s what I was gonna ask you. Yeah. Yeah. And that, and when I had gotten charged with it, I was like I didn’t lay a hand.

I didn’t lay a hand on her. Like I don’t, I’m not a wife beater. I’m not a woman beater. That’s not who I am. How are you gonna charge me with assault and battery on a family member? Come to find out that if you pour dump, flick, whatever, something at somebody that’s not that’s.

that they don’t consent to, then that can be considered assault and battery. I think it was assault on a family member. I don’t remember the definition between assault and battery but anyways so I ended up spending three days in jail. While I was in jail I ended up getting to my COVID cell around four, four in the morning.

The jail didn’t gimme any of the medications that I was on. I was gonna ask about the medications. Yeah. I basically, I had gone cold Turkey from from Zoloft, Adderall and Xanax. And that, it just, it wasn’t a, wasn’t the great, it wasn’t the best time you’re you’re already in jail and now you’re basically being forced, detoxed on a bunch of stuff.

So I got arrested on a Sunday ended up getting released on Wednesday. There was some, they don’t hold, they didn’t hold court the fifth, Monday of the month or something like that. So I missed out on Monday and then Tuesday with the C with COVID restrictions and stuff like that. They were having technical difficulties with with the internet and getting charged in front of a judge.

So I hung out for another day. And Wednesday I was finally able to be released now to go, to, to show you how awesome my wife is. And, give her a little bit of credit here. Like when I was spending those three days in jail, she was on the phone with. Tends to hundreds of lawyers in the area, trying to get me the best lawyer that she could to help me with the situation.

My dad was also in the mix helping as much as he could. So the lawyer I ended up getting hooked up with was the second one. The first one I had met with the wife did not like basically he was going to basically plead out and just I’m gonna plead you out, take your money, plead you out, and then I’ll have my payday and good luck.

The second guy that she had hooked me up with he essentially said there’s no way these are gonna stick. So I got out on Wednesday, still had. A no contact order on me from the wife. So my dad and sister came into town. I had left jail under like massive restrictions.

I was able to be released under my own. Were you able to be around the family? Not until that Friday. I think it was like a five day no contact order. Okay. And that, is that automatic or was that from your wife? That was automatic. Okay. That was automatic. Anytime there’s a domestic violence related charge, I believe the court puts in a a mandated alright, five day thing.

Some of family got into town, I was told No drugs, no alcohol be a good boy. And we’ll see you at your court date. How far was the court date? December? So August. So I went into jail in August, got out in September. I think September 2nd, whatever it equates to. So my pretrial court date was in December which we’ll get into the, get into that later. UN unbeknownst to me, like while from the night I had gotten arrested to to me being discharged, I had a a captain from my fire department who was. Was at my arraignment was at, was on the phone with the wife anything that she needed it was gonna be taken care of.

So he was, I don’t

him, him being there, meant the world to me. And he’s a real,

He showed me love that I hadn’t seen since I was in south since I was in South Carolina. So I get released, he comes and meets me. I don’t remember if it was that night or the next day. But he tells me about this place up in , Maryland called center of excellence.

I’d never heard of it, I, I never, I had never heard of the center of excellence, had no idea what it was. But he had told me that he already started me on the process of getting there. I was like, okay, he kinda gave me little, a little bit of the rundown of what it was. And I’m sitting there thinking I’ve been told I have PTSD, but I don’t believe it. I’ve been told I’ve had, I have a drinking problem, but I don’t believe it.

I’ve been told I have these mental health issues, but I don’t believe it. So why the hell am I gonna go to the center? The center of excellence for who knows how many days, if I don’t think I have any of these problems and just in case people haven’t listened to previous episodes center of excellence is the union funded or run.

Therapy in inpatient therapy. Yeah. Inpatient therapy. So people know what we’re talking about here. Yeah. And you don’t necessarily have to be a union member to go there. That’s a fun fact. There were like volunteers and stuff from different areas of the country that had gone there to deal with certain issues that they had.

Now I think union members get preference. Okay. But I don’t think you, I could be wrong, but I don’t think you have to be a union member to go there. The I a F run not, they don’t run it. It’s run by A company called advanced recovery solutions and they have a ton of mental health and substance abuse places throughout the country. The, I F put the rubber stamp on it, like a seal of approval.

So a a lot of people that go there, are I a F members? So you get to center of excellence, when. So I was originally drove up center of excellence September 11th, 2020.

But. I get there and there’s some COVID stuff going on. And they’re like, you can stay if you’re, if you’re feeling bad, but basically I got up there and there was a C exposure or something. One of the guys had come in, had ended up having, or he ended up going to the hospital.

I don’t think he ended up having COVID, but it was right in the beginning of everything. And I was like, no, I’ll just, I live two hours from here. I’ll just head home. If anything happens, I’ll come back. The great part about the center of excellence is you have a,

basically when you start your process, you have a person that you talk to. That’s out of Florida and like you have daily check-ins until you get to where you, until you get there. So I was on the phone with him a lot talking my way through. And 10 days later on the 21st I ended up going in and spent 48 hours in, in quarantine then 35 days after my two days of quarantine, I ended up walking out and heading back home with my family.

So you leave center of excellence. What do you leave with what do you get from it? Biggest thing I got from it was coping skills, whether it’s. to deal with the depression or if I was anxious what I can do to talk myself down. If I, what I would normally turn to alcohol for to drink what I would normally drink for, I can, handle on my own.

I wouldn’t need I wouldn’t need that crutch. And I always said that, I had a mental health problem with a sprinkle of substance abuse. But. , and up until I left. And so I started going home I was telling myself like, this is gonna, this is gonna fix you.

You can and not fix because we’re not broken pieces of equipment sitting in a garage somewhere, we’re human beings. . I don’t like using the word fix, but educate us on who we are, refine ourselves give you some new skills to to take home, to really kind keep your head level.

And, I was much more self-aware coming out of there. They ask you, how you’re feeling. It’s I’m angry. It’s okay anger is a secondary emotion here, have this fancy color wheel with color wheel of emotions and pick out what’s making you feel angry and, breaking it down to the root cause of of why you’re angry helps with it helped me with my temper.

It helped me realize that I had a lot of underlying issues that I was causing to myself. I had a lot of underlying issues that, I was only doing to myself to where, before I was taking this anger or unhappiness and I was projecting it onto other people as a source. And. instead of looking inward it, yeah.

Instead of looking inward, the, my my therapist there, she had her big thing was telling us that listen, you have a cup of happiness, it’s your cup. You can fill it up, you can empty it out. Nobody else is responsible for that. It’s all on you. And, others can compliment your cup and say, Hey, that’s a cool cup, but only you are responsible for what’s in your cup.

, Only you are responsible for what’s in your cup. And there is some stuff there that I thought was that, that I thought was dumb. I felt like I was coloring or painting a picture every day, not every day, but there was a lot of good classes, you you’re there with other people who.

who may have gone through something worse than you or not gone through, any, anything close to what you’ve done, but there’s different levels of people that are there and you can go there for anything, but it, everybody is, everybody has their own journey and you can’t look at anybody else’s journey.

You can only look at your own. And I was guilty of, the I’m who, what do I have? What have I done? That’s so bad that

has caused me to become this depressed, anxious person who can’t sleep at night. And at the end of the day, there was nothing significant. It just. From over the years of putting all this stuff on my shoulders, maybe being a little too empathetic and getting closer to, patients that died than I should have, they tell you to, treat every patient like, it’s your grandma?

I was treating every patient. Like it was my grandma. That’s a lot to fucking take on , that’s a lot to take on if you think about it that way. Yeah. Yeah. That’s terrible advice. Yeah. Yeah. Coming, looking back on it, it’s okay, treat them how you would wanna be treated. Don’t treat them how you would wanna be treated and care for them the best way you can.

Yeah. Give someone some respect. Yeah. Give ’em respect, don’t if they’re passed out on the floor, don’t go up and kick ’em, show some respect, show some some sympathy to their, to the, to what they’re going through. But the. I was taking a lot of that on. Yeah. Because on myself, you took that as treat ’em like family treat ’em and take on board those emotions from them.

Yeah. And it being young and dumb in the fire service, I was like, all right, every person’s every person, every patient that I run to. And every patient that I run into is family, and I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was actually treating people like family. And when I would walk in and somebody would be talking to me and then code, I, essentially I felt like I was killing my own family.

And then the biggest problem that was solved at the center was the medications, I had been put on, I think I don’t remember what the dosage was, but I had been put on Zoloft and Lexapro At various times and have been drinking on it. And even when I wouldn’t drink I would still feel depressed.

The medications were all messed up. Yeah. The your brain was imbalanced. Yeah. The, so what the medications were supposed to be, keeping me my head above water, but instead they were, they were a thousand pound weight vest taking me under. So when I got to the center, they took me off all my medications.

Within your first 24 to 48 hours at the center, you talk to a licensed psychiatrist nothing against nurse practitioners, but I don’t really think that my nurse practitioner was equipped to handle or diagnose. what was going on. I was gonna ask and I should have asked back in the original segment, the NP that you were seeing was she certified family, nurse psychology or psychiatrist family, nurse practitioner.

Okay. So that makes sense. Yeah. She’d probably not quit for it. Yeah. She wasn’t equipped for it. And and the Medi the medication adjustments I would go in and she’d say, how you feeling? I was like I’m still feeling a little sad. I said, all right, up your medication, there was no there was no math.

There was no mathematical process to it. Two plus two equals four. All right. You’re on medicine. You’re still unhappy. It’s up the medicine, right? Not let’s look at if this is the right thing. Exactly. And when I was in there taking my my Zoloft and I was still feeling anxious. Here, let’s give you a side of Xanax as well.

Let’s add more. Let’s numb it more. And, find out later that, the Xanax is just alcohol on a pill, it stimulates the same receptors and everything. So I really wasn’t doing myself any good with all these medicines and not asking questions and stuff like that. So when I got to the center was off of it right away,

Alexx: and got to a baseline of where I’m at and I realized that off all those medicines, I am, I’m not, I wasn’t as bad off as I thought I was, it’s okay to be sad.

It’s okay to be depressed. You don’t need a, me, you don’t need medication to to mask those symptoms. That’s just your body’s way of telling you, take a fucking vacation, bro so to this day, yeah, that was two almost two years ago now. but to this day I still don’t take any antidepressants or anti-anxiety meds, I I do things on my own.

I learned about C B T which is cognitive behavioral therapy. And it just to make a long process short, it helps you break down individual thoughts and basically shows you how they’re bullshit.

I use an app on my phone for it, but it

I use I use an app on my app, on my phone for it. And to this day, I still do that every now and then just to break down shit and hope that that I can figure it out, cuz you have to keep just cuz you go to the center and you feel better about yourself and like you have to keep up with it, you have to constantly you have to constantly give yourself self care.

Stack: I think that’s key and I think we all need to pay closer attention to that because in episode 11 Sean talks about, he went to the center of excellence and he’s very open about his visit there and or his stay there and what he came away with and his final takeaway was, Hey, this is just the beginning because when we go back to.

When we go back home, everything that was there when you left, is there when you get

Alexx: back? Absolutely. When I got home, I was still facing two felonies and two misdemeanors. I still . Still had, I was still, I had been suspended without pay from work until the resolution of my, of course you were of my case.

And right. Rightly and so I left the center and I learned all these things. It’s kind like now it’s time to put ’em into practice. They’re big on aftercare. So they they hooked me up with with a therapist that I was seeing once a week, a different therapist

Stack: than what you had before though, right?

Yes. Because you had the one therapist. Yes. And the nurse practitioner.

Alexx: Yeah, the fir the first therapist and I didn’t really mesh, he wasn’t what he, wasn’t what I was looking for. He hadn’t his whole life he’s been a therapist. He hasn’t experienced anything, outside. Yeah.

You may have read books on PTSD and stuff like that and whatever. But I felt like when I went there, I was telling him a story and he was reading a book to me. He was reading out of a book telling me what to do and , and it may have been helpful if I listened and, falled down that road, but it wasn’t, it, he wasn’t somebody that I, that could relate to anything that I was saying, or he wasn’t somebody that that I thought that I could see myself sticking to once a week.

So I got a therapist through them seen about once a week I was going back to my same primary care provider the NP. Okay. But with more knowledge on my end. So I, I was more, I would question more and do and I would ask more questions and, be more in charge of my own care.

Stack: So you felt a little more empowered.

Alexx: I was, yeah, I was definitely more empowered. As a paramedic, I learned about antidepressants and stuff like that, but when I was at the center, I got a, an education more or less on, on my brain and my body and what it needs and what it doesn’t need.

And I went there and what it didn’t need was Zoloft or Xanax. So she was there as Hey, I’ve got a science infection. Give me. May I have some antibiotics, please. Yes, you may, no more sides of Xanax or, main courses of Zoloft. So I got,

so I hooked me up with both of those. My nurse practitioner was able to provide psychiatric meds. So I, I didn’t get hooked up with a psychiatrist, but if you need a psychiatrist that is an option that they give

Stack: you. So let’s revisit that for one second. So I’m clear your nurse practitioner able to provide the psychiatric meds, but the psychiatric meds are being suggested from the center of excellence.

Alexx: Because I alright. So I, so when I left the center of excellence, the only thing I was on Concerta for the add for D right. My nurse practitioner. Was able to prescribe those. So I didn’t need to go to a psychiatrist to, to

Stack: get them. Okay. So that’s the meds you’re talking about because when you say psych psychiatric meds I got worried cuz you were talking Zoloft.

And so I just wanted to make sure that I was

Alexx: clear. So if I was still on those, then I would go to a psychiatrist to have those TAPD to where they need to be. . But since I had been off those for 37 days I didn’t feel the need for ’em. I did not go to a psychiatrist if I did feel the need for those in the future, I would have gone to a psychiatrist, not my family, nurse practitioner.

Here’s a

Stack: side note and this is, I literally just said this is an ADHD. Me. Yeah. Having the conversation with AD D so we’re jumping around a bit here. . How did you feel once you got off the meds in the center? What’d your brain feel like? Oh

Alexx: I tell you, I don’t know. I don’t know if it was being off the alcohol or being off the meds or it’s true because

Stack: You had all of that go at once.

Alexx: Yep. And, or being off the all the meds. It just, I felt like I, I felt mentally clear. Yeah. Like I felt like I could, take problems and decipher them. I felt like my brain had opened up doors. It’s closed cuz it’s I feel like it closed a bunch of doors. Cause it’s you don’t give a shit about me.

So I’m gonna go ahead and close, close off this. Hey, you remember this, intelligent thing that you wanted to say, I’m gonna close that off. So now you sound stupid. I felt like more articulate. I felt. I felt like I had gone through school all over again. And, I didn’t feel like I was brain dead.

I didn’t feel like I was brain numb. I was able, that’s a great way to put it. I felt like my brain was awake again. It’s like, all right, we got a new lease. Let’s ride this, let’s ride this and see where we go. Did it feel

Stack: controlled though?

Alexx: Controlled? I, yeah, I

Stack: was controlled in a sense, like you could harness it.

Alexx: Yeah. It, I, I was able to, one of the things that I needed to do more of, but when I was at the center, I was, reading books more, just trying to keep my mind off things. I was reading more books and, trying to. to exercise this brain that I didn’t know that I had forgotten that I had I was picking up information quick quickly, and I was able to to, to pass that on to others.

I was able to, I was able to see clear, I, I didn’t have this fog of, of constantly drinking. I didn’t have this I didn’t have this other, I didn’t have any of the other BS going on in my head. I was able to, to just relax, sit back and take in the big picture.

Now it doesn’t mean that I wasn’t, I didn’t have anger or I didn’t have, frustrations or or anything like that. One of the big things I Leaving. One of the big things I did leaving the center was, when I would get into get, when I would start getting down on myself or because, I left the center in October, the end of October.

And I was still dealing with the legal, I was still dealing with the legal stuff. So whenever I would, of dwell on that a little bit I would isolate myself. I would, jump on the game boy and just focus on that. Or I would focus on baseball, basketball, football cards.

And I would just put all of my energy towards that because it was distracting me from what I should be dealing with. . And I’m still guilty of that to this day, but it’s, like I said, it’s a process, sometimes you just wanna be left alone.

There’s nothing wrong with that. You just, when it starts getting, outta control and that’s when you gotta start dealing

Stack: with it. I’m ADHD, introvert. I know what you’re talking.

Alexx: I think meditation is one of, one of the big things that, just the need to like, relax.

Stack: Explain what you do for meditation. It’s

Alexx: prefer the guided meditations there.

You can jump on YouTube or podcast and do a guided meditation. But you just sit there, you relax. You can either, you listen to peaceful music and you close your eyes and it’s just you in that. And whatever’s going through your earbuds. The biggest thing I get out of it is I’m literally relaxing every muscle in in my body.

, I’m taking a moment for myself to just reset, if I’m anxious about something at work or I’m anxious about, did I buy enough lottery tickets to win the billion dollars tonight? yeah. You know what, whatever it may be, whether you need to mow the mow, the yard and the yard stresses you out whatever you’re going through, you can sit down, lay down, get comfortable, take a few moments, reset and come back.

, outside of work. There’s really nothing in life that’s worth, getting stressed or worked up over, actually, even inside of work, even inside of work, and I was able to realize that even at work okay, that’s that person’s in cardiac arrest, I’m gonna do everything I can to help this person, but this is their problem.

, it’s not my problem. I’m helping, I’m going to try and help them the best that I can. But at the end of the day, when I leave, whether I leave you awake, whether a doctor calls in an emergency room, or we call it on scene, like that problem stays with them. I had

Stack: my, the. I’m not bashful.

I talk about my therapist, cuz I do see a therapist. I’ve had her explain it to me a way that made complete sense to me. It’s not our job to save somebody. It’s our job to do our job, to the best of our ability

Alexx: hundred percent,

Stack: a hundred percent. But our job isn’t to save people. That’s a byproduct of doing our job, did the best of our ability.

Yep, absolutely. And a lot of times that doesn’t happen. So that’s, it just makes sense to say it that way.

Alexx: Yeah. Yeah. Our job is ever changing and people are talking about, the kinder, gentle or fire department, but I don’t think it has to be any kinder or general or I think we just need to recognize that these have been problems even before you and I started in the fire service.

Before. It’s just more, more talked about and it’s less, and it’s less of a, oh, you can’t handle this job and more of a, Hey, this is a byproduct of being in this job. It’s

Stack: not even that you can’t handle this job. It’s that if we can talk about it, we can handle this job even

Alexx: better.

Exactly. Exactly. And I,

for, I, for one I’m not shy or bashful about my story or what I went through, you’re gonna, you can formulate your own opinion about me or about what happened, that night, or even before that night. I just it’s my story. And this is who I am and, I’m trying to become a better person every day.

Sometimes I fall short of that. Sometimes I exceed that, but if I can get out and tell my story, for what it’s worth, then maybe. Somebody out there will realize that, oh this isn’t really this high, the high stress high strong call that this guy’s had. Maybe it’s maybe I’m feeling these problems.

Maybe I’m feeling these symptoms because I’m I’ve got too much on my plate. Maybe you find help because different things are just weighing on you differently than somebody else. And we’re all different, right? There’s people that have walked out of nine 11 with no PTSD symptoms and there’s people that, that have taken their own lives.

So it, it’s not about, it’s not about whether or not you can do this job, cuz you’ve done this job for, who knows how long it’s just about how you take care of that self care and how you deal with. With certain issues that you, that, that arise.

Stack: One of the things that I’ve said all along is that your trauma is very specific, very personal, but your story is universal.

And what I mean by that is, is how a trauma affects you is how it affects you. But it story can be universal and you can share that with everybody and they can learn from it.

Alexx: Absolutely. Absolutely. And one of the reasons why I decided to come on and reach out to you and to come on is just because my story is not, I’m not super fireman, Alex, I’m just Alex.

And I wasn’t dealing with things properly. And it overflowed and I’m here now, but the important part is that I’m here now.

Stack: So real quick before we get away from it. And we let it fall by the wayside. how were the charges adjudicated?

Alexx: So my December court date never happened.

It, they had a COVID outbreak in the Stafford county, Commonwealth attorney’s office. So I got pushed back to April of 2021 with the Commonwealth attorney basically saying, listen, man, I don’t, this is an April thing for me. I’ve got all of this between now and April. I’ll deal with you when I deal with you.

So no movement there, I’m still not receiving a paycheck. Yeah, cuz you can’t

Stack: work this entire time because you’re

Alexx: charged with felonies. And if I go and apply to a new job to try and work there, oh, currently they do a background. They do a background check. It pops up. Oh, Hey, currently waiting for adjudication on two felony charges.

So January, February my attorney was able to get the two felony charges dropped which was huge. I’m no longer, still not allowed to work at my department, but I’m no longer facing the two I’m no longer facing the big abduction charge. And couple months later the Commonwealth attorney visited the misdemeanors and my attorney and him talked and the misdemeanor charges ended up getting dropped as well. So seven months of what ifs and stress and financial worry came down to one, one last day in, in a courtroom and everything.

Everything was dropped. So everything, everything was dropped. And

Stack: so then what happens once everything’s

Alexx: dropped? I have a big smile on my face. I give my wife a big hug and of course you have a huge smile on your face. We walk out, walk outta the courtroom and I get the final paperwork from from the courthouse and I sent it to my chain of command and was waiting for a decision from them.

Thankfully after seven months they were willing to take me back and I went through a little bit of a reentry process, Hey, make sure you didn’t forget how to carry a charge line through a house and, make sure you were still knowing how to be a paramedic. You had a few things on your mind.

Yeah. A few things on my mind. And even through that process, I wasn’t perfect. There were some things that, some choices and some decisions that I made that I, it was turn left or turn right. And, I should have turned left, but I ended up turning.

Alexx: And I stepped on a few toes and, stepped on a toes for a couple people that I, had great respect for.

And, it wasn’t until a little bit later that I, I of realized that that was being a little bit of a little bit of a shithead and this. isn’t Alex from seven months before this is a new Alex, I’m, I picked up where I left off, but everybody else who had been working for seven months while I was gone, I’m coming back in and they’re like who the hell is this guy?

They still know me as a person, but they’re, I’m trying to get reacclimated and rebuild those relationships. Cause you know, from August 30th until I got back to work, it was the gossip mill. I’m sure.

Stack: Oh yeah. I can only imagine

Alexx: It was I’m sure it was the gossip mill, and I was open, anybody who asked me about my story, I would sit down and I would tell ’em about it, and I’ve always been open about going to the center and what the center provides and just in case somebody who. one hasn’t heard of it or two who’s been on the fence about going or not, knowing that you’re not the first kind of helps people move on a little bit.

And I got back to work and found out that I wasn’t even the first in my department to go,

Stack: what’s today, like where are you at today?

Alexx: I feel like it’s, I feel like it’s pretty normal, I’m

Stack: what’s normal for you. because I, I have a pet peeve. I hate the term normal. Yeah. And so just curious what that means to you.

Alexx: To me, I show up to work make breakfast either for me or for the shift.

Depending on the day we do training throughout the day. I have, I do a couple side projects when tasked with it and it’s, it feels like I’m at a firehouse. It doesn’t feel like I’m a juvenile delinquent at a firehouse anymore. So what’s normal outside the firehouse wife, two kids

G wife and two kids. I go see my therapist once a week. I go see my primary care provider. Whenever, once a year, whenever I’m sick I’m going to the gym. Not as often as I was going when I was off, off of work, but I’m still going, I’m still getting, putting in, the hours in the gym to try and keep my body, in shape, but mostly, it’s just me, the wife and kids, me and the wife have decided that we want to travel more with our kids being on the younger side of school. Like we have the, we don’t have to take them outta school to go yeah. On a trip. So like we went to Disney in January and we’re going again next month.

Just spending time and building memories, when I’m at home. If I have a project at work that I need to work on that’s a work project. That’s not an Alex project.

There you go. That’s a firefighter Alex project, not a daddy Alex project. So I’m, that’s a fantastic

Stack: attitude because I think all of, not all of us, I think many of us are doing way too much.

Even as a firefighters. You think what about firefighters have to do at home? But I know so many people that are working from home and it’s just no,

Alexx: yeah, don’t do it. We talk about leaving, when I first started at my department they, they told me, to leave your home life at home

Stack: unless we need you not to.

Alexx: Yeah. Unless we need you not to .

Stack: That I, and I’m sorry, the I’m assuming that the statement was gonna be home life at home work life at

Alexx: work. No it is just, yeah. Home life at home and work life at work. And. but a lot of times it’s, Hey, you have this deadline , but there’s so much in the day, whether it be training or public education events or running calls, I say, or you just get your Dick kicked in.

Yeah. When right around, two, three in the morning and I still haven’t gone to bed yet. That’s when I start getting a little agitated about, about, why are you still awake? Go to bed, that your stub toe will deal with itself in the morning. But I feel like there’s a pressure on people to, to work on stuff at home.

And I’ve just, if I’m at home, I’m at home, like I don’t, I’m not getting paid to, to work on this project outside of work. I’m gonna, I’m gonna spend my time where it counts and that’s with my family. So

Stack: I’m gonna have three questions for you. I got three

Alexx: answers for you.

All right.

Stack: The first one, because I’m just curious and there’s probably no real answer to it. Why the two Xs?

Alexx: It’s. Cause I’m extra special. okay. All

Stack: right. We’ll take that. We’ll take that straight up. Bullshit as

Alexx: an answer. No, my dad’s name is is misspelled with it’s missing a consonant. Okay.

And so if, to keep the, world order in check, they threw an extra consonant on the end of my name. All right.

Stack: That makes sense. Now I’ve been curious about it so that there we go. I’m glad I asked. There is an answer to it.

Alexx: Yeah. Hey, I I I used to like, oh yeah. Hey it’s cause I’m extra sexy.

All the lies I used to tell

Stack: Better yet. The ones you used to believe. Yeah. There you go. All right. So you know what I’m gonna ask, I’m gonna ask about an everyday carry something you carry on your person, something. You feel naked without the reason, obviously being that it’s related to the show, it’s the things we all carry.

We carry something into a call, but we all carry that shit out of a call. So what’s something that you might have on you that you carry

Alexx: every day?

Stack: There it is.

Alexx: Ah, that is my challenge coin.

Stack: So what he just handed me is I’m assuming this is a challenge coin from the center of excellence.

Alexx: Yes, that is that is my inception token for lack of a better term. It’s it’s my, yeah it’s my challenge coin from center of excellence upon completing my treatment to to their standards. reminds me of where I’ve been but also how hard I work to get where I’m at.


Stack: so what I’m gonna do is, and I forgot to take a picture of this from somebody else. The other show is I’d like to get a picture of it so we can, or you can send me a picture of it and would get a good one because it is a challenge coin and it has the serenity prayer on the back, which for people that have been through AA know exactly what that is.


Alexx: Yeah. And it’s got the the serenity pair. It’s got the I F logo on the front. But also at the very top is the phone number to the center of excellence. All right. So if if at any point in life you need them again, that their doors are always open to you, even if you’ve gone there, there was guys that I was there with that were on their second time being there, they had dealt with the issues they had at the time, and then the issues changed and they had, and they needed help dealing with those.

So they went back.

Stack: All right. So let’s move on to a book. What’s a book you would like to recommend a listener, something that will, I dunno, entertain or enrich?

Alexx: I’m a history in nerd. So a a lot of books that a lot of books that I’ve read are History related, whether it’s world war II or beyond.


Stack: the,

Alexx: I’m trying to think of,

I’ll I’ll recommend. And if this is, has, if this has been recommended before, oh, I

Stack: don’t care if it’s been recommended.

Alexx: So book that I’ve I’m working through right now is extreme ownership. Okay. It’s by I don’t know if you’ve read it’s Joco Willick JCO Willick

he’s he’s former commander of seal team six, I believe. But it’s extreme ownership. It’s it’s a leadership book and tells you different ways to to be a leader, but it also shows like if you’re not a hundred percent or you don’t make the best, what am I trying to say?

If it shows that if. It’s a book about, different leadership roles that he’s played throughout his Navy career and beyond, but also it harps on personal responsibility that if you fuck up, it’s you fuck up, learn from it and move on. And I think anybody going through anything personally or professionally, as long as you,

as long as you as anybody who’s going through anything personally, or professionally, as long as, you’re self aware and you can lean back, you can fall back onto what you’ve done and, and learn from it and build from it. And just to recognize that you’re not okay, it’s, it’s.

It’s a it’s a big deal. Like one, one, I think that even the best leaders can always be better leaders. And being, someone’s been in the fire service for a number of years. I, I feel like that I could mentor the younger people better than I am. I’m maybe once I get out of my current position a little bit farther, but

Stack: don’t know.

I think that maybe with your current position that you might be able to mentor some of these guys better than others.

Alexx: Yeah. I’m sure I could

Stack: just from life experience of what you

Alexx: went through. Yeah. Life experience is definitely, is definitely a I’ve very much life experience for making right decisions and wrong decisions, I think how you convey those to other people can either.

Can help make a difference or make no difference at all. But the important part is that, if you are going through something or have been through something and you’re on the other side of it, sharing your story with those who are less likely to go and search seek out that help, maybe your story is the one that, that helps them move on and get some help and go back

Stack: to your comment about the best leaders.

I think the best leaders are the ones that refuse to think they’re the best leaders. Exactly. And they keep striving to learn. The I’m not gonna say new, but the better way to lead and the, the more efficient way to lead and the ways that bring the qualities out of the people the best. Yeah. And I think it’s an evolving talent leadership.

Alexx: Yeah. Yeah. It absolutely is. And one thing, I don’t think the fire service brings enough into a lot of the leadership books that I’ve read. They key in, on having fun. Like when you’re at work, yeah. I know it’s supposed to be work and no fun. There’s, it’s a no fun zone at work, but we’re firemen, right?

There’s not a place in the world that we can’t have a good time at. Oh no. I feel like, having a good time at work and, not so much horse playing, but just jerking each other’s chains and just, having a good time and keeping things light improves overall morale.

You don’t have to sit down and, constantly study the next manual just because, you wanna, you move, you wanna move ahead in the world. I don’t think that we should promote leaders based off of knowledge alone. I feel like they should have or we’re not gonna solve the fire.

No, but I know what

Stack: you’re saying because there’s a, there’s this push to make fire stations workplaces. There, there is, and it’s not a workplace because. I’m gonna tell you what the people in accounting don’t go out and perform infant CPR. No. So when you do that and you come back to the firehouse, it’s a firehouse because there were family there and we have to be allowed to discuss and joke and be as dark as we need to be to get over what we just did.

Yeah. And I understand what you’re saying. It’s, that’s exactly it. It’s yeah, we’re not a workplace. We’re not, no, we’re a firehouse.

Alexx: No they pay us to be there and, honestly if they weren’t cutting me a check every two weeks, I probably wouldn’t be there. But it’s a work.

It, you go to work, but your work is one of a kind, right? Nobody else in the world outside of our job does what we do. And. For good, bad or indifferent, we come back and, there has been a push to be a little bit more PC around the department, and when I first got on in the air force, there was no hazing policy.

But even then, like we push that envelope a little bit. Oh yeah. But nowadays there’s zero tolerance. Like you, you say the wrong thing to somebody, they can, call it harassment and they can bypass everybody in your chain of command and go straight to the big dogs down at city hall.

And you’re, I’ve seen it happen and you’re outta luck, I think you still have to be, cognizant of different of the different, cultures and everything. In the fire service, have to know your audience and stuff like that a little bit more nowadays than you did back in the day.

But you have to have fun. Don’t be obviously joking about the dead person when you’re still like at the house and stuff like that, but yeah, there’s

Stack: decorum. Exactly. I was gonna say, I think that and not to belabor this point, I think that the thing we do about humor is we make fun of everybody, but the first person we make fun of is ourselves.

Absolutely. And I think that’s the key nobody’s safe, including myself, because I tear myself apart. As much as I tear my

Alexx: neighbor apart, I tear fire apart. I tear myself up and you know what? I open up myself. I open myself up for others. Yeah. To joke on me, cuz at the end of the day I don’t care.

What firefighter Joe to my left says or firefighter Frank says to my right. Like I like to have a good time and you know what. If I need to be the butt of a joke, I’ll be the butt

Stack: of a joke. Some of the best jokes I’ve heard are the jokes that come out against me. And I love them. Oh yeah. I love them.

I, if you can get creative, bring it. Cuz I want to hear it. Just don’t come with the old stuff. I don’t want to hear your old shit. Just come with something. That’s funny. Exactly. Exactly. Hey man, I appreciate the conversation.

Alexx: Yeah, no, I I appreciate it very much as well, man. Thanks for inviting

Stack: me.

Thanks for making the drive up here and hanging out with me for what’s now a couple hours and absolutely hopefully the drive home isn’t miserable on 95.

Alexx: All right,

Stack: dude. I appreciate it. Absolutely. And I guess with that being said, I’ll just say that we’re out.

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