Joining us today is Jason. He’s a retired firefighter from the Northern Virginia area.He has 27 years of total service, 20 as a career firefighter and seven prior to that, as a volunteer, he has a very interesting story. And some of you’re gonna recognize parts of his story. Some of you probably relate to a lot of his story
Stack: He and I talked about psychedelics yesterday and that’s, he’s a big proponent of it as well.
That ketamine therapy is very similar EMDR in a way that it picks up on the little things. Yeah. And it unlocks that trauma. And it sticks the thinking. Yeah. So I think that’s fascinating. Alright, you feel uncomfortable? Yup. All right. So what I will do is just take these notes. I’ll read this intro, try not to botch it like a normally do and whatever. I can always change it. If I have to write.
Absolutely. All right. Joining us today is Jason. He’s a retired firefighter from the Northern Virginia area. He has a 27 years of total service, 20 as a career firefighter in seven. Prior to that as a volunteer. He has a very interesting story. And some of it you’re going to recognize parts of this story. Some of you probably relate to a lot of a story.
But I’m going to let him run with it for right now. Talk about some family life and where he came from and Then we’ll get into this fiber service stuff. So how are you doing Jason? I’m doing well. Thank you so much for having me. Yeah, my story is definitely a very dynamic one. I’m excited share with everybody.
I was born in May 9th, 1978. Back in the good old days.
And are. W a botched that. You’re good. I spent the first 12 years of my life in Arlington county. That’s my mom and my dad.
We live in. And my brother, we lived in an apartment in Arlington.
My dad was Arlington county firefighter, I guess that’s where I first got my interest as a young kid running around his fire station. I should still remember going to the snack machine. With the guys at the fire station, then loaded me up with key. Andy saw it’d be all spun up for my dad. Great. Great guy.
But yeah. My first couple of years I spent in Arlington when I was. Around four or five. My parents divorced. My dad actually left the Arlington county fire department. Went over your DC police. Kind of a drastic change there, but it’s changing teams right there. But I remember.
A couple of reasons why he told me he left the fire department was that. Of course politics, everything else, but you would think DC police has a lot of politics. But The. He didn’t find it. Intellectually challenging enough for. So he’s a very smart guy. I don’t know what happened to my brother and I, but he was.
Yeah. Some people get dropped on their heads. It’s not. Yeah, absolutely. Let’s definitely drop to my head a few times, but growing up, I remember having a great childhood My mom remarried probably a couple of years after that. I love Darlington played soccer. I was very into playing sports, running the streets with my friends and everything. And I guess that’s what brings me to.
The first trauma that I can recall in my life was back when I was five years old, I was out, I think, tossing a football. With a friend of mine and a guy came around and Hey said I have something to show you. And he was probably about in his late. Teens. Early twenties. And I’ve never met the guy before. And, but when five years old, your.
You have that? That sense of stranger danger. But you’re still not really at the age to really contemplate that at the right time.
I would say you’re still very trusting. Of course. Yeah, absolutely. And. He learned meats to the backside of the apartment at five years old. Back then you were cool to run the streets. Yeah, no problems. I wasn’t really running the streets. I was really confined to the courtyard of the apartment complex, but to me,
Back then that was like the large kingdom. He said they have something to show me on the backside of the apartment. And when I went back there with him. He said, I need you to stand against the wall. And.
I was very confused by this. I was like, what do you need to show me? And he then. I remember him holding me against the wall and trying to pull down my pants. And I started screaming. That’s what I knew stranger danger was going on. Cause this dude is now trying to pull down my pants. And even at five years old, this isn’t right. I’ve never met you before. So I started screaming at the top of my lungs and he was like, I need you to be quiet. I start screaming louder and he’s I’m a doctor.
I need you to be quiet. Oh.
Start screaming louder. Then he proceeded to the beat, the ever living crap out of me and knocked me unconscious. I remember coming to. And he was gone, I think, as a. I was laying there. As everything was darkening. Like it’s like almost in the movies. Everything was darkening. I could see him run away.
I immediately ran and told my parents they call the police police then came and try to show me a whole bunch of sketches and stuff. And. Or not sketches, but pictures of people that they thought could have committed this crime, because I guess there was a rash of this going on in the area.
And the, to my knowledge, they never did catch the guy. Yeah. It’s a tough job for a five-year-old to do. I You just got the shit kicked out of you and now they’re like, tell me who it was. And obviously. To be able to remember that would be an amazing thing, but yeah, not amazing thing, but it would be a powerful thing to be able to remember that as a five-year-old. Yeah.
Remember the face. It was pretty wild. And I think that.
It set me up for my future. That day set me up. As far as being able to trust people. In future relationships and subconsciously I was very guarded any time I met anybody. Guarded.
With strangers. So I think my social skills. Might’ve been. No, I wouldn’t say delayed, but.
Eh, it was hampered by that more than I known throughout my growing up my teenage years. And. I guess I was in fourth grade. Yeah, fourth grade, beginning of my fourth grade year, my parents. My mom and my stepfather elected move us down to prince William county. And I wanted nothing to do with it.
At that time. Life. It was a Styx. Yeah, it was a total in those mall was like the only thing around.
They saw the roller rink next to Garfield high school. There was only one way to Manassas. Said no port Parkway or anything like that. I absolutely hated the idea of moving down to prince William. But quickly when after moving. Down. I started to like the idea a little bit more, cause we had a pool in the backyard and
I would say.
Have the best. I know we’re probably have to cut this part out, but Or reset it, but.
I enjoyed the pool part. But it was very hard for me to make friends when I went down there, cause our already, established my core set of friends in Arlington, move it down here. I guess it’s hard for any kid, but I think it might’ve been a little bit harder for me. I remember the first kid I met walking to school. My school was.
Literally through the woods around the corner. And I was very guarded and I was very quiet going there. But I quickly got involved with the local soccer teams. I think my parents saw the necessity of giving me back to the norm. Because It was a difficult transition. I think for anybody at any age, just.
Uprooting and changing your whole environment could be pretty difficult. You mentioned. You said fifth grade, correct? Yeah. Fourth, fifth grade. Parallels with my own experience because I’d left. I left Tacoma park when I was end of fourth grade, early fifth grade. And I moved to Florida.
And wow. And it’s the same thing as an awkward time of your life to move. Cause you, you have established these friendships and you’ve you think, okay, these are the people I’m going to hang out with for the rest of my life. Yeah, exactly. And then all of a sudden you move to another state and all of a sudden you’re the outsider and you’re the odd one. And yeah, I actually recently wrote about it and it’s what led to my own relationship with alcohol actually. Yeah. So
Stack: side note, so I can, I know exactly what you’re feeling there.
I experienced the same kind of transition. And I think it’s actually that transition foreshadow, a lot of problems I had with change, but later on in life, whether it be through the fire department work or, job assignments But I quickly got back into soccer, start making friends
My brother who is three years older than me. Was making his own way as well.
When he was 16, he joined the local fire department. And I thought that was so cool. I was like, man, I want to be like my brother, even though him and I fought like cats and dogs, we hate each other. Yeah, a lot of the guys who’ve been around for a long time can re call December 1st, 1998 90 at approximately 10:00 AM I my brother and I got in a fight and.
He actually pinned me down when the few times he actually could pin me down. And I got bad at, I tossed the canopy for own. He had his head. So the weapon.
Yeah, I split his head open pretty good and got 18 stitches. But The local volunteer fire department came, took him to the hospital. And some of the guys that actually ran the call I still speak to that till this day when they recall the situation. But. Anybody out there listening that knows my brother.
I asked to see the scar. But
So my brother joined the fire department and I kinda felt I really wanted to follow the same steps. I was still playing soccer. But I saw how happy he was. And. How, he was getting more and more friends and he was bringing those friends over to the house. And I looked at all these guys as my big brothers that he was burning over.
Around my 16th birthday. I Join the actually. On my 16th birthday. Exactly. I was accepted into the Dale city volunteer fire department. And or. Or if you want me to say local heart? No. Dale said he’s fine.
I don’t mind giving credit to people. I just, I’m just, I don’t want to give credit to prince William for my show. That’s all. So I try to keep them out of it. It may have a little Rocky history right now with them. No, I feel you. Yeah, I was just saying, if I’m preaching to the choir he.
So I on my 16th birthday, I was voted into the Dale city volunteer fire department. And I was so excited. I start doing all the core classes. To get certified, to be able to get onto a duty career and everything else. Which wasn’t very much back then. I think we needed CPR and like regular first aid. And then I was assigned to a duty crew.
And it was so cool. My first. Duty crew that I was assigned to. I had a military officer, an army officer as my captain. And he was very structured. He told you what he expected. And it’s one of the biggest mentors I still have to this day. The driver of our, on our crew was what you would assume.
Thought of. Fire engine drivers should have been. It a Roatan, a tie in, could cook all kinds of food, like in the movie backdraft, I was going to say, I can see the cigar hanging out of his mouth right now.
We were real salty dog. He was rough on me. But it was much needed. I needed some discipline. And structure because I was just a.
Or a wild kid back then. And then I also had my brother’s best friend who was assigned to the career who was assigned to me as my mentor. At the station to show me the ropes.
I remember. Just how. Much of a family. It felt like I was getting into at the time. Because at that time period, my, my family dynamic was a little rough. I was trying to come into my skin with my mom and my stepfather. My stepfather was a retired army, three tours of Vietnam. Very strict. Didn’t have the best.
Communication skills about his feelings or anything like that. We butted heads a little bit. But not horribly. I then. My really shipped with my. Father, my father still lived in DC. And worked a lot. Was very good. We saw him like every other weekend. And stuff like that.
As much as he could. It was busy was he was in my life.
But at that time
My family dynamic is starting to go down or a little bit, because I think everybody at their teenage years the struggle between trying to find your way. And you’re what your parents think you should be doing. Yeah. And this is a naturally rebellious point in anyone’s life. Yeah.
Absolutely. I was going through all the volunteer firefighter classes throughout high school. And. The first day of my senior year, I had a big fight with my mom. And she kicked me out of the house. So here I am first day of senior year, basically. Kicked out of the house, but I had, I moved across the street to the neighbor’s house.
So not too far from the house, not too far from the house. Yeah. So very much, I felt alone back then.
Aye. Went through some struggles, the first part of my senior year. And I decided to. Enlist in the delayed entry program with the Navy. Okay.
I signed up, went down to MEPS. Did all that stuff. And
Probably March. Of my senior year, my mom asked me to move back in. I moved back in. So you spent. August to March. Yeah. And so laying on somebody’s floor homeless. Yeah. Basically. Okay. I moved back in product.
In March and within a couple of weeks, my stepfather, Real strong three tours in the military or the.
In Vietnam. Army guy had a couple strokes. And he went from the strongest guy. I know to the mentality of a teenager. It was very difficult to watch. At that time I had to step up. I missed a lot of school by taking him to the. Walter Reed. The, to be seen by a neurologist and all kinds of stuff. My family dynamic got pretty bad. There was a lot of drinking going on.
Within my family. In front of me, I wasn’t a big drinker back then. To me who was drinking. Probably just about everybody that I knew. It really on my mother’s side. There, there was a lot of drink. Any time family function, a lot of people were drinking. The. I know my mom was drinking a lot.
But at that point in time, I didn’t really care for it. I was warring to. Being healthy or going to the calls, riding on the firetruck. That was my out.
That was my escape. Through all the stuff that was going on at. In my house and everything else, that was my escape. I ended up having to back out of going into the Navy. Because everything that was going on with my family, I actually had a very young. Sister at the time. That needed her brother around because the parents weren’t getting along.
My sister is 12 years younger than me. So quite the. The age difference. Yeah. So here I am 18 and she six. It was just a lot of different dynamics that came into play for. What made me stay? I just didn’t feel like it was the right time to leave.
Like I was saying, my escape was riding on a fire truck. From the age 16 on, I was there almost as much as I could. Almost every night, sometimes. Once I graduated high school, I was really there almost every night. And trying to do a regular job. Take fire department classes and everything. It was draining. Yeah.
We consume most of your life. Yeah.
But. I have to say that time period. Even though it was sold. Difficult. On different aspects. It was pretty cool because. I had that out of the fire department and we ran a lot of far, a whole lot of fire. Not the stuff that you see today. We’re rolling up on stuff. Almost all the time, at least once a week.
It’s the accidents. Car accidents were wild. 95. Didn’t have the complete bumper to bumper traffic. It has constantly right now. Not. 66 over deer. Fall care county and stuff like that. More rural areas. It was. It moved at that speed more often than not. So we’re going to solve hellacious racks.
I was seeing a lot of wild things. Stuff that. Anybody from the age 16 on. It would mess you up pretty bad. This has been a theme. And we talked about it the other day when we discussed it. This young volunteer timeframe is. It’s so damaging to a mind. 16 to. Oh, 25 is such a period where you’re still impressionable, but you think you’re invincible and it’s that invincibility that, that fails you at times.
I remember 16 years old doing CPR on an infant. I remember the mothers screams.
No 16 year olds should be doing. If you’re on a baby. I should be out going to prom. I didn’t go to prom. I, Wrote on the heavy rescue that night and decided to that.
That was, it’d be a more fun of an evening than me having a handout with, kids my age.
I was. Around a lot of older people that may help. That made you grow up faster. But
The night of prom, I, instead of hanging out with those kids. I was cutting a kid out of a car that I knew from school that had passed away. That’s impactful. Yeah. Yeah.
My time is a volunteer. I have no regrets. Metson the best fireman that you’ll ever. No. It was different times back then. And I think people pre nine 11. Volunteered for different reasons. Okay. After nine 11 is more like the cool thing to do. I can see that. Yeah. But it was more to protect your community.
Everything else like that.
I got hired. Step back a little bit. Everything was fun and games until December. 19 or 25th, 1998. Christmas morning. That morning changed my life. I remember I was getting up. It was the. Getting up from the fire station. To go home to open Christmas presents with my little sister at the time. She was eight years old.
It actually ended up being the last time my mom, my stepfather and my sister and I were together. My brother
Just got back from the army. And I didn’t really talk about that part and the impact of my brother leaving for the military and leaving me alone. To take care of all the family stuff. But if you want to go back to that later, we can. All right.
Was getting all my stuff packed up to go. Home the open Christmas presents with my sister in it. And I remember the call being dispatched. And I’ve never heard a structure fire come out with the words. With confirmed entrapment possible and trap mint.
I’m pretty sure it came out as confirmed in traffic. As a follow-up right after the initial dispatch. So all our. Already I got, the adrenaline’s kicking. I was only 20 years old. Just. A couple months into my twenties and we’re going down the road. It was so cold out.
Snow all over the ground. And people are given the dispatchers given updates. We have confirmed entrapment. So on and so forth and just running through my head at that age, I didn’t know. What I was about to roll up on. I’ve been on a ton of fires beforehand, but everything was perfect. Like you see it, the bird building,
You pull a lot in the fire, goes out. But we rolled up on this fire and it was mass chaos. At the townhouse complex. All the neighbors were out front. They had fire blowing out the front door. This townhouse. So intensely it had blue flame coming. I just remember this really bright, like blue, orange flame coming out of the place.
I me and my officer got out, start trying to get up the hill to the townhouse. I remember falling down a hundred times. It’s just because it was so slippery. And the neighbors to help him pick me up. I see that there’s a guy in the front yard. Whose badly burnt. And. It looks covered in blood.
Apparently before we rolled up, he got blown out the front bay window trying to escape the house.
Everything was in slow motion and I could still see the first line trying to go through the front door. And there’s a hole burnt through the floor and the basement. The officer almost fell through the floor.
It just like any fires, mass chaos, but this was different. Like even talking about it. Now I could smell it. And I could feel the cold. It just, it brings a lot of stuff back, but. I ended up on a hose line going through the rear basement. And I remember. There’s fire everywhere.
I remember the panel box Arkin from the water being sprayed. On it. And I knew everything was really bad, but I still thought to myself, there’s people inside here, I’m going to get them out. This is what we do. We’re going to get them out. So eventually. They start deck gun in the.
The townhouse, multiple deck guns for going on it. It was older style construction. So it was really all cinderblock that it wasn’t the exposures. Really weren’t an issue. It was. A burn building in itself. And
Not all of us had radios back then. So I didn’t hear any type of a radio call where deck on it or anything like that. The floor started to collapse on top of us. As we had a guy for another unit say, Hey, their deck on it. Everybody needs to back out. We backed out and everything just crashed from the first floor.
Down to the basement. Smoke started to Claire. We fought the fire for a little bit longer. Smoke, started to clear. And then I look in the slide in the last door and I see what looked to be a mannequin laying on the
That was the first victim that we found. As the day went on, we found four kids and two adults. It was.
Fire department became very real for me back then at that point in time.
Interesting the way I processed it or lack of processing it. It was more of After we were there for 12 hours on the call. I went home. I remember. Opening up a can of beer, I’m under age. But there was a can of beer in the house and I laid in the bathtub. And drank that key in a beer.
I met up with my buddy that was on the fire with me and went over to his house. Didn’t really have much of a Christmas and sat and tried to process with him what the heck just happened. You’re not supposed to see dead kids, especially at Christmas, and we talked it out. And the next day, morning, we both got back on the firetruck.
And they tried to have a. A like a critical incident, stress debriefing with us the next day. But in the middle of that debriefing, we got hit on another. Working far. So here I am less than a day finding another fire. That was the busiest time I ever had in my life.
We had, I never had so much far from Christmas of 1998 till a Superbowl Sunday. I’m 99. We were running so much far. And it took my mind off of it.
At that point in time around that. That’s a 1999 timeframe. My mom left my stepfather. It was too much for the family to handle because he was so sick. She went off and did her own thing. Took my sister. My stepfather moved down to Richmond. Some my family were able to set him up with an apartment and he was losing a very,
Good life. Considering his challenges, he was able to get a job and do all kinds of stuff. Then. But essentially I was living at the fire station. And The guys that worked at that station, it was like, man, you got to try to get a job here. So I eventually applied. And Was starting to go through the process.
And then the back then the process is very long. They didn’t hire very many people. I spent. Almost every day at the fire station until one time I was able to go to ocean city with a bunch of friends. And it was probably about a year or two after the Christmas fire. And probably about six months before I got hired.
And we were out Drinking on the boardwalk. Naturally. Having a good old time, and I remember. Going on this haunted house ride.
Jason: Ocean city.
Stack: And I remember all of a sudden, I start blacking out. And. I remember being walked from that ride back to the hotel, virtually puking in every trash can.
All right. Then all of a sudden something snapped in me. And I. It broke down about the Christmas far. It took me two years. Essentially. To break down. To cry that I saw. Multiple dead kids. On Christmas morning and I have to assume there was something in that Onnit house. It brought it back. It had the, then.
The last thing I remember. Was there’s this part of where it got really dark. And it felt like you were going.
Really dark, really like an orange light, but. You were going in like circles, it made you feel like you’re going upside down, but you weren’t going upside down. You’re actually going straight. So you’re like in a tube. That just was going in circle. You’re going straight, but you felt like you were going on.
Almost like a kaleidoscope. Yeah, exactly. It was pretty trippy. Yeah, apparently I was unmanageable. I was that upset. I was having flashbacks like.
Very much felt like I was there. And they’re able to finally call me down and. We’ll get the next morning, with lottery grit. Very upset that what had happened. I didn’t really understand what had happened. But
I essentially just moved on from it. Didn’t think I needed to get any help or therapy or anything like that from the internet at the beach. Yeah. Okay. So you did that. You had to break down. Yeah, you wake up the next morning. You shake it off. I figured that. That’s what I needed to do to get through that.
Good to go down.
Eventually I got hired with the fire department, 2001. And I love that. I love to recycle that. I love the structure to recruit school. Brought me. I was still having a lot of family issues.
My brother was still volunteering at the time. And so I got hired before him six months before. So I could call him rookie when he eventually got hired, but
I can remember every Friday night after recruit school, we’d go out, have a couple drinks. And I remember everybody saying Being so proud or that. Look up to me cause I could put away more beer than everybody else. So that’s w.
W we were drinking every Friday night and.
That, that. Time period was, I would have to say it was the best time because I made some lifelong friends in recruit school. Where we ended up graduating 10 people. The small core group of guys that was very close.
I then got out of recruit school. I got assigned to the lake Jackson area.
Pretty slow area I had at that time. One of the best lieutenants you could ever ask for best crews. Was having it. It was really making my Way. Trying to become part of the crew and everything else. And I had a lot of challenges because people knew me as a volunteer. And so I had to really do.
They get out of the shadow. Vienna. A volunteer and now be in a paid guy. It was a hard transition for me. I did everything I could to fit in. And any time anybody was going out drinking. I would go out drinking with them.
And. Life was good. I eventually got transferred. To the Montclair area. And I was very active in the union. And all that. And in 2003 I spent the. Day. Running calls all day long. That night was a union meeting. I went to the union hall and I hadn’t had anything to eat all day.
Because we were literally from call to call, which was my fault. Looking back at it, you always pack a bag or something to. Yeah, you. You say it’s your fault, but it, there are those days where you you forget, or at least the. The nutrition part falls by the wayside. Yeah.
So I got to the hall and being the young guy. The newer guy with everybody. I wanted to help out any way I could. Cause they were having a special guest that meeting. So they asked to see if I could cook food for everybody on the grill. And
Then come in after I was done and I could sit in on the meeting. While this cooking, I was constantly being handed drinks. And I wasn’t saying no to those drinks. Either, because not having anything in my stomach, I was like, okay, I might’ve grabbed a chip here and there.
But but nowhere near enough to counteract. The overall? No, not at all. Lord knows how much I had to drink, but when finally it was done cook and I. Got into the meeting. All the food was gone. Stole anything left to do was drink. And I kept on drinking and eventually. Apparently I left the union hall.
I don’t remember anything until. I started to come to, I left the union hall. Apparently I drove a drove. Past where my apartment was at. I have no idea where I was going, but I came to because I heard sirens. I had flashing lights in my rear view mirror. So I pulled over. I thought it was a firetruck, and the next thing I hear is a tap on my window and I have a.
An officer with a gun drawn on me. Because apparently I was driving down the street on two. Rims. Driving all over the place and officer didn’t know what to expect, and apparently I wasn’t responding to the felony stop. At that time. I can’t blame the officer, but I was like I remember him taking me out of the vehicle.
It being very kind to me. It was like, what’s going on and I’m like, nothing. Everything’s cool.
And he said, why are you driving on two tires? How much you had to drink? I said, probably not enough. And he asked me where I was coming from and I told him some restaurant and then tell him the union, all which, by the way, probably not enough is probably not the right answer. Yeah, exactly.
Just to highlight that for a sec. Exactly. Yeah. So I was not in the right mind at all. The officer took me to the side of the vehicle and tried to. Minister the. The field sobriety test, which I failed miserably. I was placed under arrest. And my brother. Came and picked me up from the local police station.
took me home. Next morning I woke up. I was like, oh, hell what just happened? Was that real. Then I just experienced that. And I immediately called. My supervisor. And said, Hey, it looks something bad, half the last sign. And he said, already heard. So in it is a fire department. Fire department.
And the communication center, the person that ran my tags for the officer picked up on my name and told the communications Lieutenant, we got a problem. Immediately. I would say I had. Everybody on my crew. Was very kind to me. I thought it was going to lose my job. It was 23 years old.
I was like me and all this stuff. I just worked for all the hell I’ve been through. And I finally got something good in my life. And. I’m screwing it up.
It took months. They kept me in the field. They didn’t take me out of the field. They took away my ability to drive the fire engine while at work. Until my court case was done. I stopped drinking. I wasn’t in every David drinker or anything like that. I
Would just drink on Friday nights or whatnot, but I totally stopped. My attorney was able to make it for me too. Get the charge of a DUI reduced to cause I had no prior history. To a reckless driving. And I was assigned.
To The court appointed. Alcohol counseling. So it wasn’t like the ASAP program that they have or anything like that. I had to see somebody within the community services board. And I had to go there once a week. And. Talk to him and.
And then I had a suspended license for six months. My license, getting Reince stated. Was based on the contingency that are reported, the alcohol. Counseling and excelled in that and everything else I was able to drive to and from work while at work. So they actually reinstated my ability to drive the fire engine.
So everything was going well. I was going to counseling. Aye. Was getting through that time, period. I felt a lot of embarrassment, a lot of shame because I let the guys down. At the union hall at this time, that the time I felt like I liked the guys down because I wasn’t able to handle my alcohol.
And I got the union in trouble by drinking. That much. I that’s what my mindset was. So I are already having to overcome a lot in the transition. Come from becoming a volunteer fire. Firefighter to a career firefighter. Everybody’s looking at me as as a joke. At that time. So I had to get a lot of people’s trust back.
When it came time to get my license back and everything else. The DRA. Alcohol counselor. Wrote a letter to the court saying, you he’s completed all of this, but he said, he’d still liked to see me. Afterwards to maintain. My sobriety. Counselor. Yeah. But I would have to say.
Eh, I was not committed to treatment. I still didn’t know that I was developing a huge problem. I already had a problem. So once that letter made it to the judge, I got my license back. I was like, peace out. I don’t need to talk to you anymore. I’m good. I’m healed. That’s six months. I am healed.
So life continued on within your department. Was there anything. Was there anything done within the department? I got a letter of reprimand from the chief. Okay. I guess my question is more about of help. Not just the reprimand. No. Did they ever recognize it that, okay. Maybe there’s something going on here.
Not that. Not that they’re counselors themselves, but. There’s obviously something going on. I think with my captain did. The guy that I worked for, I, he did. And he pointed me to the right people. Everybody kept. My close knit core group kept an eye on me. So it was more of if we went out to dinner, oh, you can’t drink.
That’s the one thing you can’t tell some subsidies that they can’t do something that’s mental health issues, especially a firefighter.
Yeah. And to me, So people saw stuff, but they didn’t know how to approach it. As time went on. Out of sight. I got transferred. I got promoted. I was out of sight out of mind, people are forgetting about, what happened, unless if you weren’t, working for the county at the time.
You had no idea. Life was actually pretty good. If I. I ended up. After two years of sobriety going to a wedding and having a drink. Then. One drink turned into. Once Friday night I have a couple bro.
B beers with my brother after we got off work. Cause we were all in day work back then.
But then it started to escalate to, if I went out to parties, I w I would have probably too much. But it was never an everyday thing. I thought I controlled it. That I won the battle, I got through all my demons and so on and so forth. 2006, I was transferred to station 12.
I was so excited. I looked at these guys as the best of the best. And explain station 12. Then, cause we all. Us in the county, know what it’s like now, but it was a different station back then. It was, we were on day work. We had. Engine, truck and a medic career. There during the day six to six.
It was an interesting time being transferred there because station 12 was on a renovation. So we essentially, every day reported the fire station. Picked up all the units and ran out of a strip mall. If you. We’re in this little, like sh. Store area. Which they called the Jeff Davis facility.
Where they did like weekend EMS training and stuff like that. It was like a classroom. So you get all these different dynamics stuck in a room together all day long. Yeah. It was pretty wild. But it was so cool. Just because those personalities and everything, I finally felt like I was at home.
I, I. I felt like the incident with back in 2003 was put behind me. I gained the trust of one, the top notch captains to the department had at the time. I was, I felt. Wanted needed. And I felt a part of a family.
About two months after. I was assigned to station 12. Coulson was assigned to me as my rookie.
I was his mentor to get him through his. Probationary process and very quickly we realized that. Him growing up in nail city, me growing up at Dale city, we knew some, a lot of the same people and we became close friends.
His rookie year was a lot of fun. For being a brand new guy, he wasn’t afraid to. Call BS on some of the hazing that was going on. Firehouse.
Tricks they get put on and stuff like it. Sometimes when it got too much. You’re like Jason. You better go tell Jimmy, leave me alone. I’m going to whoop his ass.
So like, all right.
It was cool. He had his own personality. He had such a. Leadership potential. From right off the get go We would hang out all the time outside of work. We would go to a local bar on, Friday nights, sometimes Wednesday nights, we never got stupid. Drunk, but we’d just sit and talk.
With him being. So well-known in Dale city. Most of the time I sat by myself cause he was out, going from table to table. Cause he knew everybody. At the bar. But it was very cool because somebody that our discussions were so deep. And for somebody that I was sup. Supposed to mentor. He was mentoring me.
And marijuana nights, we probably had a little too much and he stayed at my place. And he said to me, he was like, Jason. Why do you give a shit? What people think about you? You’re a solid guy.
He was like, quit that. So I’ll never forget that. The bond that him and I. We’re developing. Was that. We were developing at the time. Is. Something that I never experienced before. And I might never again with anybody else. He liked me for me. I didn’t have to prove anything.
Third, his rookie year, we went on a bunch of fires together. Unfortunately, I wasn’t there for his very first fire. But there’s a picture of him. I guess he got super excited. That he. Bending over. Cause he was pretty exhausted. But as suspenders hanging out of this. He forgot to pull.
So we all just tease them about that. But life was good. We had a good bond at 12. After Kyle came in we had a brand new worky. Tom Arnotto come in. And those guys were like two peas in a pod. I was like, man, these guys are quickly becoming my best friends.
Real family. April. 2007. April 16th, 2007, I was laying in bed at home. And I. Receive what I call now. The best worst phone call in my life. Somebody called me up that I used to work with and she actually works. It was working on the west end of the county at the time.
And she said, Jason, all right. Something bad has happened. And I’m like, what do you mean. And she said to me, he was like, you’re, there’s a fire on your first is. It sounds like your worky is trapped in the stairwell.
What. I’m thinking to myself, how’s this possible? And it’s. Like we don’t get trapped. I was like for how long? She said 10 minutes. Immediately. I said, shit, we don’t get trapped for 10 minutes and something. Isn’t good. We don’t get trapped for 10 minutes and.
The outcome usually. It ends up being good. So I asked her, I was like, where’s the fire at? She told, managed. Literally two blocks from where I live.
So it took me a while to get my wits about me. And when she told me my rookie was trapped in a fire, I was thinking it was Tom. And. I was mentally preparing for Tom not to be alive anymore. He just has a wife and a brand new daughter. I was like, how are we going to handle this? How are, I immediately went into.
The mode of the senior tech too, at the fire station, I got to take care of my guys. I got an, All right. Got it. So many things were going through my head.
I then get in to my car. I drive the two blocks to the far. And the whole time I could smell afar. And Lord knows. Why I didn’t hear the fire engines fly by my house. I was dead asleep for the world, typically the slightest thing and wake me up. But I was a woken up that morning. But on the way there.
I could see the smoke or you see the fire through the.
Through the tree line. And I pulled onto the street. Police officer had just shown up to block off the roads. So I just stopped there, sat in my car and watched the fire.
Called my father up told him, Hey, here’s the deal? There’s a bad fire going on. And.
My rookies track. It was like, is he dead? I was like, I think so.
I talked to my, I can’t remember much more of the conversation. But I was like, I feel like I should get down there and see what’s going on. But I also knew the accountability issues. I didn’t have any gear. I knew it was probably mass chaos going on. This is probably going on 45 minutes in the far.
And. My dad. Said to me.
He’s like. When I told him, I was like, I don’t think I should go down there because I don’t think I’ll be able to control my emotions. I don’t think it’s just, it’s an accountability issue. My dad said to me, he said, Jason, fuck your emotions. You got to find out.
I saw a guy that was actually the volunteer maintenance coordinator that lived on the same street, walking up the street. And I decided to get out of my car. Go and speak with him. And I said, Bob, What’s going on and he said, it’s not good. And I said, who is it? But I don’t know why I asked who it was because in my head it was already Tom.
I was already set. And when he said, Kyle, I just buckled.
Yeah, the boots were gone.
He was able to gather me up enough to where he was. He, I asked, where are the guys at? She, he said in a garage next to the house. I said, take me to him. All right, ma. He walked me down there and he basically had, I had an arm around him because my legs were like cello. I could barely walk. And the first thing that I saw when he got me down to the guys, he walked me right past the house that have burned up.
And I thought Kyle was probably out of the house and inside the medic unit or whatever. I didn’t know where Kyle was. That. But The first person I saw was Tom. Yeah. Tom’s brand new four months in. In the field. And never had a far in his life. And. I saw in his eyes.
His eyes had changed.
That Thursday or Friday I saw. At work, he had the look of the. We used to call him Hollywood. Brand new. Green firefighter, excited to be on the job. When I looked in his eyes and I can understand what I say, when you can look into somebodies eyes and can tell they’d been in the shit.
Tom went from being his eyes, went from being a brand new rookie.
I just experienced 30 years on the job.
And I could see his exhaustion. I was like, oh man, this kid’s going to quit. That’s like what the first thing is. I said, he’s done. And then I saw my brother. My brother has operated on the far. And.
I tried to start to make sense of
What was happening and. The guy has told me that Kyle was still inside and run down of what had happened. Some time went on and
They were talking about removing him from the house. And when any time there’s a fatality, it’s very
It’s a. Very. There’s a lot of tradition that has to be. Yeah. That people try to do the honor, the person as you’re taking them from the scene, to wherever the final destination would be. And They were good at gathering all the guys from 12, the, to pull them out. And put. Oh the house and put it in the back of the medic unit.
And I remember saying I was like, I don’t have any gear. I need to be a part of this I was like, let me go back to the station, get my gear. And then The buddy wall. He’s like Jason, where my gear. It was a little bit bigger than me at the time. Especially as boots. So it was clumsy. Get it into this place.
But it was a very, it was a great gift.
I was able to go upstairs. Take Kyle out and the honorable traditional way that it was meant to be done. The reason I say it’s the best worst phone call in my life is because. Call being my worky. Being my friend, I felt that I was responsible for him. I was responsible and bringing him home.
I was able to take part in that and
And Be able to.
I don’t know how I would have reacted to five. Wouldn’t have been able to do that. It was very, at the moment, it was very healing. For me.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but years back looking, I was very grateful. I was able to do that. After the fire. It was all said and done.
After we were able to lay, call the rest. That’s when.
A lot of the guys, the way that we dealt with that. We’re going out, drinking every night. Not so much to the point of pass out drunk or we’re just going out and being together. Yeah. Comradery that’s necessary after a tragedy. Yeah. Eh, and it got a little excessive at times. But I didn’t feel like I.
Really had a problem still.
I would say. 2000 a year after col was laid to rest. That’s when I was transferred away from 12. They sent me to a tanker by myself. And why the transfers though?
I don’t. I think that the thought.
That. It was best for me. Best for everybody involved that was closer to the situation to get them away from the situation. That time had passed. It was time for, we needed to take another step. I really think that deep down inside they thought they were doing the right thing and ministration thought they were doing the right thing.
None of us.
I think we’re prepared. Through any type of real counseling or anything like that. And I actually probably want to step back a little bit. After our Cala past, we didn’t really have their appropriate therapy. None of us. We’re afforded that opportunity. To sit down or guided in the right direction for the appropriate therapy. Hold that thought one second.
I have to, I’m going to, this thing cuts off at an hour seven for some reason. So I’m going to stop it and start a new recording on the same file. Okay. Yeah, bear with me one sec. Sorry.
We’re recording. All right. After we laid. Kyle the rest. And we’re, our therapy was going out and drinking.
The county said that, that we should go out and get ahold of the people from the EAP. Okay. I kinda chuckle at that right now. It was a different time back then. They’re like we support you. Call the AAP if you need some help. So I called the EAP and I got hooked up with a therapist that.
Definitely was not in any position to deal with somebody like us.
With trauma therapy. It was more.
You’d come here for your six sessions, but after that, you’re paying out of your own pocket using your own leave. Everything else like that. The county was able to extend my EAP sessions. For six more. That I didn’t have to pay for. But after that, the whole time period, I was using my own leave to go to this stuff.
It’s not like fathomable. It’s not like a bereavement leave it. Wasn’t like an admin leave is like you’re you gotta use your own annual leave. You shouldn’t even be expected to take any of the leaves. It should be. This is what we’re going to do for you. Yeah. And, immediately after he passed.
The world was ours. Oh, we’ll take care of ya. We’re going to do all this for you anytime you need off. Just take it. We’ll put it as administratively, but that ran out. Of course. There was only for a period of time. But The therapist that I saw, I didn’t connect with. I. Process, very little.
Next to nothing. It wasn’t their perforate situation. Then the. The county ended up hiring their own behavioral health therapist. And I was her first patient. So I got some stuff done. But during that time period, I 2008, I got transferred out of the station. Away from my support network. I still remember when I sat down and started drinking.
My first, like case of beer in a city. All right. And I wasn’t a big beer fan. And. ’cause I couldn’t fathom being away from these guys. Ultimately, we have such a bond over the, the year after he passed, when we got split up. All the other guys that I was helping out.
I wasn’t there anymore to help them out. So they all went on, got married process things the way they needed a process. And here I was by myself. And I hadn’t done one stitch of anything to take care of myself. Just not having a mission to help anybody. I didn’t know. I needed to help myself. I was still going to those bars that I was going out with. The guys are going to the guys with the, a couple of times a week and I’m sitting there by myself.
I found myself at one bar that Collin I used to frequent. Cheeseburger paradise. Quite often. Kyle. Even had his own chair there. At the bar that he would always sit in. Cause they had its own little television in front of him. He loved that seat. So I sat in that chair every single time. This.
I felt close to him.
I never. Just like the Christmas far. I never processed it. Then. As the years went on, I ended up. Getting transferred to the training academy. And I love every second of that. I. It, I felt like I had a mission again, and people to teach. I felt like I was pretty decent at it. Maybe not at all.
But I had a lot of fun. The main thing is I was happy. I, what year did you go up there? Ah, 2010. Okay. Yeah, and I did five recruit schools. And for people listening, don’t understand that five recruit schools recruit. Equates to about six months. Yeah. So it was awesome. I, my drinking wasn’t very intense then.
Because, you get up in the morning, you got our run with these kids. It makes sure you’re able to keep up. So after my time in the fire academy has done, I went back into the field. I got a sign back in Woodbridge. But. I never. I still hadn’t dealt with anything,
not only bring everything together. From the time I was five years old to now, I’m in my thirties. I have all this stuff happened to me. I had, I was assaulted when I was a child. I have the Christmas fire. My family splitting up. Multiple friends committing suicide.
Through the fire service and out. I have so much. Tragedy happening to me. That I just felt numb and this is normal. This is normal life. Everything’s cool. The culmination of all that the. And the. Keen. To a point where. My drinking. Got really uncontrollable.
There’s my alcoholism.
I had. What was.
I didn’t drink every day. My version of my alcoholism. I didn’t drink every day. I didn’t crave it. I didn’t have the shakes. I didn’t wake up the drink. I didn’t do any of that. When things got overwhelming. I would binge drink.
And after the time period of. Not receiving the appropriate therapy throughout my whole life and not saying, Hey, look, I have a problem. I would
They go through life saying not everything’s great, everybody. I was able to, even with the NASC. My drinking and, for my family. And from some of my closest friends. My.
Binge drinking. When I set up, like for a binge result, all subconscious. I would. Be looking forward to Friday and saying, do I have anything to do on the weekend? On Saturday or Sunday, if I don’t, I didn’t go out Friday night. I can listen to music and I have a, I can have a couple of drinks.
And then I would go home and I would have all the alcohol laid out. So I could continue the party. Whether it be like four cans of four Loco. A bottle of Jamison, so on and so forth, I go home, play video games or whatever. And I’d sit there and drink until I go to sleep. All right. Is it go to sleep or pass out?
It would probably pass out. Then I would wake up from being passed out and I would drink again.
Until I pass back out. So you’re an organized drunk. Yeah. Very organized. But. Looking back at it now it’s just man. I was super sick. The behaviors that I was exhibiting was. Not normal behaviors. Healthy behavior. I won’t say I try not to use the word normal because What’s really normal,
none of us are normal. That’s what’s normal. Yeah.
It’s not healthy behaviors.
I was bingeing more often than I wasn’t sometimes I’d go without but I was still able to maintain at work if during one of my binges, I. Binge for a little bit too long. And I felt like I couldn’t do my job. I would call in sick the work the next day. So I could recover. We’re going to shift work at this point.
Oh, I thought they. That was on day work. Okay. A lot of the times like I was saying before that. If. Aye. Never drank in my life. I probably have a butt ton of sick leave. Cause 90% of the time I called in sick. It was dude to me using alcohol. Throughout my career. I think that’s a popular thing. Yeah.
I can remember one time. That I was bingeing. And I got a call from. Retired chief Shifflett.
At one o’clock in the morning. He was like, Jason, you got to get up. And I’m hammered. I’m like get up for what. He said there’s overturn tanker. We’re calling it all the hazmat techs. I was like, sure. I’ll be there in a few minutes. I’ve wasted. I’ve thought I was dreaming. I really did.
So I just hung up the photo, went back to sleep, pass back out. I wake up a couple hours later. I had multiple phone calls. Jason, where are you at? Stuff like that? I ended up calling the staffing office and I was like, look, man, I thought I was dreaming. I’m sorry. I just went back to sleep. Like they’re all concerned that I wrecked, cause it was a bad rainstorm and all kinds of stuff.
And I remember chief shift. Let’s say, Jason, are you drunk? No, sir. I just slept. So then, I think deep down inside, he knew. That I was drunk, as my time off you.
It is what it is.
So I couldn’t get, punished for any of that. Really honestly thought I was dreaming, but I was very intoxicated.
I had many.
Many. Nights like that time periods I lose two or three days at a time. There was one time I called my brother. On Saturday night. About eight o’clock. I said, Hey, Sean, I’m not going to, I overslept. I’m not going to be able to make it for church.
Saturday night at eight. O’clock so I’m thinking it’s Sunday boarded at eight o’clock. And my brother’s oh, okay. You’re hammered, so on and so forth. And he could S that’s when people, he could start seeing that I was having a problem. But then know how to approach me.
Very shortly after that time, I got promoted Lieutenant, everybody thought I was doing great. I was masking stuff very well. I went out, I was excited about being Lieutenant, so that actually kinda. Had me. Back off from the drinking for a while.
Aye. After about a year of being Lieutenant. I started to slip back into the same habits while I got this amount of time off. I don’t have anything to do. On board.
So let’s binge and play video games lose a couple of days.
There was a time period. I think it was the summer of 2017. Where we were running multiple calls with fatalities children. And
I still wasn’t processing it. I was looking after the guys and I never took it. A step back and said, Jason, you’re messed up, dude. You’re having a hard time with all this. But so quick call my guys at home. You guys are good. You guys good? Never checked on myself. And I went on a vacation.
With my mom and my sister to ocean city, Maryland. Here we go back to the scene of the crime.
But, we’ll even get to that now.
Ocean city is like one of my biggest places a solace now to go to it’s. It’s weird. But
I went to ocean city. It was very hard. I look back at it now, something I was excited to go see for the first time, And 18 years or however long it was. I was looking forward to this situation. To be in there to be with a family, to see in the boardwalk, the smell and everything. But throughout all of my trauma that I experience. So all the stuff that I saw never managed.
It came a time period in my life where I wasn’t able to. Understand good or bad emotions.
So something that should be fun. And a good time. Late. I would get extreme anxiety about. So I was in ocean city. I started feeling anxious. I was like, I shouldn’t be having this good time. Why am I why do I feel good? I shouldn’t feel good. So I went to a bar called shenanigans.
And that’s where the shenanigans beginning. That night. My mom, my sister went back to the hotel. And. I drank. I drank a lot. I woke up in a Bush the next morning, the sunlight was coming through the Bush. I could see that.
I was so drunk that I pissed myself. We all the fire department, we run those calls. People laid out, pissed themselves off oh man. Yeah, this isn’t so good. I’m lucky I didn’t get locked up. So I stumbled my way back to the hotel. My mom was like, where the hell have you been? And I said, oh, I was just out watching the sun come up. Meanwhile, Rican of alcohol and piss,
So I took a shower, passed out, totally denied that there was a problem or anything like that. And fault to myself, man, I got to quit drinking. And the healthy side in me was begging for me to stop. But, after a week or two went by. I was like I made it through that. I didn’t get in trouble. I’m a it’s okay. If I drank. So the sixth side of my.
Six side of me. The side to set up for another bench.
This is now fast forward to September. Aye.
Went out to dinner. And to the local pub that I was going to all the time.
And I elected the, not elected, but. I said to myself, I’m gonna go here, have these couple of drinks. I’m gonna go home and bench. Not in that way. But my brain was saying, this is what you’re going to do. Me. Just thought I was having a normal Friday night, I remember eating dinner.
And having a glass of Jamison. And. I think a beer. And the next thing that I know. Is. I’m waking up.
And I think I’m at home in bed. And I reach up to scratch my face. And I’m like, why can’t I move my arm?
Did I get hurt or something like that? And.
I noticed I looked down and I saw a handcuff on my wrist. And I was. In a hospital room and I said, holy shit. And the officer that’s sitting in the room is saying, holy shit is correct. And. I’m like what the hell happened? He said you were found on the side of the road. Passed down in your car, your vehicle was running.
And your car was in gear.
And I was like, oh my God,
I couldn’t fathom, what the hell just happened. He told me. Where they found me. Yeah, it was about a quarter mile away from my house. And.
And I said that I heard anybody. I remember saying that he was like, no I was in the hospital for quite a few hours, I guess during the times I had a couple of really bad emotional breaks.
Because mom was employed with the hospital at that time as the ER secretary. So apparently I flipped out a few times. About not letting her see me. And And all that. They were in contact with my brother. The police officer was police officer. Wouldn’t let my brother come see me.
Basically they were trying to get my. Blood alcohol level will come down. And then they were going to make a decision on what they’re going to do for me at that point. Let me talk. About my blood alcohol, obviously I was in new condition too. Do a sobriety test. So they took my blood.
And my blood alcohol level was 0.38. Which is near death. And.
So I was stuck in the hospital basically overnight. Until the early morning hours. And I guess I sobered enough. In the hospital’s eyes very released to the police officer. And to be taken to jail. I remember during that transport to jail. The officer was so extremely kind to me the whole time period.
I was very sick and I think he saw it. That I didn’t, I wasn’t going out trying to do any I didn’t have any criminal intent or anything like that. But he was like, your brother’s going to come bail you out. And I said, absolutely not. I don’t want to be bailed out. I want to stay here.
I was. The in alcoholics anonymous, they call it a spiritual awakening. Not only I was relieved. I didn’t hurt anybody, but I’m sure lead that the cat was out the back. I didn’t give two shits about the fire department. I was like, I’m going to lose my job. I don’t care. Don’t care. I want to get help.
They stuck me in a cell by myself. I know.
Correlation. How the timeframe, when or anything like that? I was pretty inebriated when I was released. Still. I remember walking out and seeing my father and my brother.
And. The first thing I said to him, I was very sorry, and they’re like, It’s okay. We’re going to get you out. I was like, yes. Finally. It’s okay. I need help. Yes. I’m excited about this. I’m hammered put up excited of still very intoxicated. My dad.
Took my brother and I, or we went down to the tow yard where they impounded by vehicle. They got my car out of impound and my dad immediately took me to the Arlington hospital. It was good to get me out of the area of the county. Cause I both hospitals, I know The hospitals in the county. I knew the doctors, nurses, everything else.
I wanted far away. From anything to do with the fire department, I was sick and tired of farming. Want nothing to do with it. Got me. Into Arlington hospital. They took my blood alcohol levels stole 0.14. This is a good, almost 24 hours after I stopped drinking.
Maybe not that long, but it was. It was the afternoon. At the next day. And they’re able to find me a bed. At Fairfax hospital for a program called cats. It’s the center for alcohol and
Addiction treatment services. So I went into the detox there.
That. Program. Look back at it. That I’m very grateful that I went there because some people are trying to get me into the. The place in Maryland. The. I F S center. But due to me being arrested.
There was no time to go to a courthouse cause I wasn’t allowed to leave the state. As part of my release on bond, I wasn’t allowed to leave the state. So we had act fast. We didn’t have time to get a judge to say, it’s okay for him to leave the state. They. And I honestly, I didn’t want to be around firefighters.
I did want to go there. I was sick and tired of putting up a front and take care of everybody else. I don’t think. Even at that time, when I first stages of my recovery. I was like, this wouldn’t be good for me cause I try to help everybody else out. Walking into this detox center.
Was a very humbling. Because I was with the.
Regular. People business people that work at Walmart. I was with, I didn’t have to be Superman anymore. I could take off my Cape and I could be Jason for the first time.
And I can recall when I could be Jason again. Probably before I joined the fire service and I was just a regular kid playing soccer. I love that. I love detox. I was very excited. All the legal stuff that was going on. I knew it was there. I was like, I’m gonna lose my job. I don’t care.
They get better, there’s other stuff out there, I was just at that breaking point. After a few days in the detox center, they put me in to day treatment. I was in day treatment for a week. Met some awesome people.
I always tell people. That I met some, I saw some very heroic actions as a firefighter. I met some very heroic people, but the most heroic people, the people, the most courage that I have ever met is in a treatment center that raises their hand and says, I need help.
Being in day treatment. I started being able to make connections. So yes, I am very sick, but I’m not alone. And there is I’m going to be able to get help. After that they’re able to put me into an IOP. Intensive outpatient therapy. I went there three nights a week for three hours a night where we had group therapy, alcohol education.
That substance. I was there with heroin addicts. Every type of addiction you could think of. I was sitting in a room with that’s when I first started going to my first AA meetings that I was able to link up with some of the people there. And I was like, man. There are so much help out here.
I felt so alone. But there’s help everywhere. I quickly learned. There’s like over 1,580 meetings a month in the Northern Virginia area. Any at any time I could go someplace.
I also learn that there’s other things in AA. If a doesn’t work for certain people is online stuff and all.
All kinds of different tools. After IOP. I did that for three months. Then I went to a The step-down program, which was a relapse prevention. And then the sober living and another step down program and took about a year of night therapy. For me to go to during that time period, I also got hooked up with a trauma psychologist.
And who I still see to this day. Sometimes multiple times a week. He. He’s awesome. Very blessed to have this guy. Throughout my lifetime, I sought out therapy for different reasons, but I never connected and I wasn’t ready. For it. Go ahead. I’m sorry. I was trying to, I’m trying to, I guess something stuck right here.
So I’m trying not to burp, but I’m trying, it’s like a weird Yon burp, and I’m just trying to avoid it. Sorry.
It’s trauma psychologist. Yeah. He’s awesome. He was able to put the puzzle pieces for me together.
And helped me through the time period of transitioning from detox to, so I’m learning certain substance abuse tools, but then I’m learning. What the hell happened to get me to that substance abuse? It wasn’t any. One thing, It wasn’t, the Christmas far, it wasn’t just the, my
Assault that happened to me when I was five. It wasn’t Kyle, it wasn’t all this. It was a whole bunch of dominoes that sell. A lot of people that think they know part of my story, they think I just drank myself. Cause I’ve sat about Kyle. Of course, I was sad about. That’s just maybe one, 100th of what the heck was going on with me.
I have very significant PTSD, major anxiety, major depression. There was, there were so many different pieces to the puzzle that the trauma psychologist helping me put together AA was helping me put together a. Doctors are helping me put together a third. So throughout the. Time period from me initially going into detox and starting all of these therapy. Obviously I had court in the background.
I had to worry about. It took about a year inside the court system for my case to be heard. Because. I had a really good attorney, had a lot of people. My
In my corner.
Understanding that this is bigger than just Jason going out and, Having a fun night. Jason’s very sick. But Jason there’s hope there’s.
Jason’s doing the right stuff. And the thing is I wasn’t doing the right stuff for the court. I didn’t give two shits. About the court. I didn’t get, I was ready to face my charge. I was ready to do all that. I just wanted to get better. I was so sick. So eventually I ended up getting hurt in the court system.
Had a lot of support from the judge, a lot of support from the county attorney, the police officer that arrested me. And everybody saw the bigger picture I had. My charge reduced to reckless driving and
I was. At told to, or sentenced to two weeks in jail. So basically 15 days.
I can’t, I think it was 150. I was sentenced to 150 days in jail, but the rest of it was suspended and stuff like that. So I did 15 days in jail.
And. That was very interesting. These are I’m meeting new people. These guys are struggling too. So I’m getting their story and I’m able to. Take that time in there.
And jail and turn it around into something to my favor. Jails. Is this scary place. It’s not a good place. It’s not somebody anybody wants to be, but I cherished my time there. ’cause I got the hair, a lot of stories in here that I wasn’t alone. So after I got out of. Jail.
And this part. On it you’ll probably have to edit, but
I don’t know if I necessarily need to go into, or would you like me to go how the fire department handled me completely up to you?
I think it’s important that people here go for it, but because we got to understand how to treat people. No, I completely agree with you.
All right, so we’ll cut back to it. So I did my two weeks in jail. And. During that time period, I felt. Pretty supported by the fire department. Honestly, like I was saying, when I woke up. In. The hospital. I didn’t care if I lost my job or not.
I was very grateful. I didn’t lose my job. Right off the bat, because in that timeframe, the almost year.
Then my court case pended, I was able to carry insurance. The department had every right to fire me at that point. I’m not exactly sure. Why they did it. But I’m very grateful because it afforded me the ability to get the.
The care that I needed. They were letting me go tonight, treatment, get off work to go to night treatment and all that stuff during that whole time period. People seem pretty time to my face.
As far as the guys from the rank and file and the station, everybody seemed very supportive, very caring. I know, there’s a lot of people out there that said, oh, we knew this was going to happen. To Jason. I saw it coming for a long time. I heard people were saying that. You have to wonder if you see it coming.
What the hell are you not saying something? Why the fuck do you not step up and say, wait. Yeah, just get him some help. Because obviously there, there were signs there. I was isolating at the station. I wasn’t being around my crew as much. I might not have looked healthy,
you have a good, binge over a weekend. You’re not going to look. Hydrated. You’re coming in Haggard. Yeah, you’re going to be sluggish. People saw this. Why didn’t they say something? Aye.
I heard all of that, but mainly I got a lot of support. Aye.
When I went into jail. I was working with a battalion chief on. How this was. Going to play out. I got sentenced on a Wednesday and I was supposed to report on a Monday. I immediately notified, my supervisor saying, Hey, look, this is what the court, I’m just got a reckless driving and they want me to go away for two weeks, all very manageable stuff to where I could have stayed employed.
But me having a prior history and, mean given a chance in 2003. My, my situation was a little bit different. I think.
I wasn’t ready to get help. I didn’t think I had a problem. 2017, 2018. Doing everything to get help, but not for the fire department, not for the job, but for me,
And to show other people that.
That you can’t get better. So when I was sentenced on the Wednesday and had a report on the Monday. I was told that. The leave I asked for a leave without pay. Because at that point in time,
I exhausted almost all my sick leave and I was using FMLA to go to treatment and everything else like that. And I was told that. You’ll be good to go. We’ll talk to you when you get out. When you get back.
So I’m like, cool. Maybe I’m going to be able to keep my job at that point in time. I was starting to feel better. Almost a year sobriety at that point. I was like, maybe I’ll give it a shot. So I go in the jail, do my time, come out. The first thing I see is an email.
The night I got out of jail from the fire department stating that. Your leave has not been approved. And
Stack: don’t report to work tomorrow or the next day, I can’t remember the exact wording of it. It’s going to be deemed as a resignation. Of you’re going to be redesigned in not good standing. With the department. And I’m like, what? Here I am the Sunday night before I go into jail. And my battalion chief is telling me.
It’s taken care of. You’re good to go. Right now I get this letter in the mail. Or in the email. How many, what the hell is going on? It’s call up. One of the chiefs on
What’s the deal. And they said, you read the email. And I’m like, yeah, but. They were like, make sure you read it again. I read it again.
I immediately. Called my dad asked for some advice.
And he w he was figuring that they were gonna do something to make me go away. At that point in time, I couldn’t understand why are they making me? They helped me there that long. Why are they
go away now? Is
Stack: I’m getting better?
Is it because other people are seeing their problems? And they’re getting help. Or are they afraid, I’m going to be at. I thought, I didn’t know what the deal was. I got all the very much politically correct answers. I, they said I can meet with one of the chiefs. And I like to not to because the attorney that I acquired said, yeah, don’t meet with him right now.
Just it wasn’t the right thing. I. Trying to get a, an attorney through the union. The union wasn’t supporting, helping me out. With the situation.
On a multitude of things, they didn’t think it was a winnable case. It was a little frustrating, cause I wasn’t able to speak to the union attorney. I had to speak through a third party. So I went out and got my own employment attorney. And.
The thing was.
I wasn’t wanting to fight for my job per se. I. I was okay. Not have I was okay. Being, let go in a way. I was almost relieved. But then I was like, man, this is dirty. The way they did this is disgusting. It’s chicken shit. Yeah. Why couldn’t you bring me, you guys know me over 20 years.
Why don’t you bring me in the office, say, Hey, Jason. We had. Part ways. Totally cool with that.
So I sought out an employment attorney and he said, it’s going to be a long battle. We probably could win it. It’s going to cost a lot of money. And at this point in time, the whole court battle that I went through in the first place. My father spent a lot of money helping me out.
I said I’m done. All right, I’m done.
There’s more to life. Through my whole year. Of therapy. That whole first year I was learning. From people that weren’t in the fire department, I was talking to people that were in the fire department. My psychologist said to be. Something so profound. That. I still carry it to me with me. This.
To this day. He said that one of his days as a psychologist, he was very stressed out. He was tired of the job. And he went. Into CVS. And you saw somebody organizing the Ballantine’s candy aisle. And. He said to himself. If. The only thing I had to worry about today was how to sort the candy. Man. That’s an awesome job.
It’s a lot of pressure doing what we do. I was tired of being Superman. I didn’t, I learned, I didn’t need that. I didn’t need to be anymore. I told my dad, I was done. With the fire department. I was done fighting it.
The. I don’t agree with how it went down and understand. Y they let me go, but it could have been done a completely different way.
Decided to take a few months off. I went out, saw the grand canyon. I start seeing things that I’d never seen in my life. I saw what the world was outside of the fire department. And I was like, this is pretty awesome. I don’t have the stress of the calls on the stress of making myself.
I am. The best firefighter in the world, the pressure of. The clicks, the pressure of, the hazing, the harassment, everything else that goes on.
Once people can be very cruel. I was like, I can walk away. So a few months off work and doing things for myself and going, still going to therapy and doing stuff like that. I saw that Mary Washington hospitals hiring patient transporters. I was like, I need to get out and get some exercise. Cause.
I’m not doing it very hot. So I went over to Mary Washington and just push patients around from appointment to appointment. Just got out, talking to people again, trying to get back in the life and
After a few months of doing that. My sister-in-law that works down for Caroline county fire department said that, we’re hiring. How, what do you think about trying to make another run at it? And I was like, you know what?
I just have a little bit left in my beer. S. B R S being the retirement system in Virginia. Yeah. I just have a little bit to get my full 20.
Let’s give it a shot. I wanted this to be a part of my story that you can not only for me, for the other people see that with our perfect therapy, the periphery treatment you can do the job after being so sick.
So it was a thing that I said, I’ll give it a shot. They were gracious enough to hire me and I worked there for two years. Loved everybody. Every second of it. They were so kind, so accepting. Of my past. More accepting than some of my closest people that I thought were friends. And
It just gave, it gave me a way to close that chapter. And I could remember.
Probably. This time last year. Is when I start getting phone calls.
About different opportunities. To work at treatment centers and stuff like that. And I got a phone call to interview for a behavioral health hospital in Northern Virginia.
And I was like, you know what, I’m going to do it. I’m going to actually go interview for this cause. I don’t need to be a firefighter.
Okay. I don’t have, this is not me. The life is bigger than being a firefighter. That’s all done since. I’m 16 years old. I’m going to go live. And I was going to a dispatch, the house fire down there, and I was riding officer on the fire engine. And that day I was like, I’m done. If these guys offered me a job, I’m done.
So I ended up interviewing with them and they offered me a job on the adolescent unit at the hospital for inpatient. That have a whole mental multitude of illnesses from some depression and maybe some drug usage and stuff like that. And basically I was going to go in there and be like a mentor and get them through their day and do groups.
Therapy with them and all that kind of stuff. I was like, man, this is awesome. But one of my favorite jobs in the fire department was being. Tech too. And being that, having that bond. With the newer guys and stuff in it, I can relate to these kids. I had a jacked up beginning,
Had issues with my parents. So I was like, this is a no brainer. It’s time to go. This time, last year I officially retired from the fire department. And I’ve been working at the behavioral hospital there ever.
S since. And.
I’m constantly, still going the group therapy for myself.
I am still seeing my psychologist. We’re going through different types of therapy. I have a lot to work through. Still, but for the first time in my life, I feel free. Did I need to go back to being a firefighter now. No.
If I had to go back and recognize how sick I was getting, I probably would’ve left the fire service a long time ago. Probably maybe.
Early 2010, I probably would have left cause I was getting really sick. And I didn’t need to suffer like that. My family didn’t need to suffer.
There’s so much more.
To life, they get it on that rake.
There’s so much more to life.
Now I walk outside and I noticed that the wind blowing through the trees. I see that the world is so much bigger than me. So much bigger than riding on a fire truck.
Can I do this alone now? I can’t. Can I get through today, alone now. I have something. What I talk about as my pit crew Throughout my whole life. I had been doing things by myself and it didn’t work. I never asked for help. I always helped everybody else. Now after going through what I have gone through.
I equated to this.
Like I was running in a NASCAR race cause I love NASCAR.
I was running the race in my car. By myself, nobody helping me out for the longest time. I was always finished in last. My car was always breaking down. I’d come into the pits, see my friend’s car, come in and I’ll go help my friend out before I helped my car out. And I was never even finished in the race.
But the day I ended up in the hospital. And I raised my hand and said I needed help. That’s when my pit crew started. I got my family. That will help me work on my car. I got friends. I got people from church doctors, therapists, coworkers. I have a person in my life. I can. Call for any type of situation instead of hiding at home and drinking.
It away. And trying to get my brain to shut up. If I feel like shit. It’s okay. I can call somebody and tell them, I feel like shit. It’s humid. You don’t. I’ll have to feel like shit by yourself.
And I’m so grateful for, to have that ability now that the. Be able to wake up every day, a clear minded field, not having the shits for a week. Not having headaches more money in my bank account. No regret in the morning. I, oh, what the hell did I text? Or what did I do? Stupid.
I have hope. Aye. I feel alive. And when you sick for so long,
It’s. It’s wild. It’s like I’ve been reborn. I. I think I posted something. The other night. On my Facebook talking about when I was drinking that. I lost decade. At least a decade. I have a hard time remembering anything.
I was frozen in time. After Kala past and everything got. Shuffled around and I wasn’t getting their appropriate therapy. I essentially got frozen in time. After my first year of sobriety, I was looking at my place. And I said, man,
I don’t like the way I’m living right now. How did I live like this? I want you to rearrange stuff. You get the energy to do start doing cool fades again. And I noticed on my table, I had a piece. Of mail from 2008 on my table. Yeah. So you were really frozen really froze.
Mental and a physical space. Yes. So now, It’s
I am so much more engaged with my life. My niece and nephew. I’m engaged for my, with my family, but I’m engaged with me if.
I’m not scared to say I can’t do this alone. I’m not other people understand you don’t have to be alone through this. You don’t have to suffer. There you raise your hand. Your pit crew will start. There’s people that out there that give a shit. I’ve had many phone calls from people.
Throughout this time period of.
How are you doing this? I’m not doing it alone.
Here’s a list. This is the path that I took. It might not work for you, but you might be able to
You might be able to. Develop your own pathway to healing through hearing my story. And go out there because not every therapy works for every person everybody’s different.
Some of the other advice I.
I have, if you’re. Firefighter police, officer soldier, whatever. And you’re in a moment and you think this is the only thing, the life.
That is out there. It’s getting on that rig. Get into your squad car, doing whatever. That’s the only thing of the life that there is. It’s not true. You can do anything you want. It is such a liberating feeling. To know. That. If you don’t.
I want to do something anymore. You can walk away.
It may be hard. At the time, but. With a pit crew of people that will support you and help you work through it. You succeed in anything? Yeah. There’s no shame in saying I’m done. So I there’s strength in saying you’re done. Yeah, I would say that I would, it’s quite the opposite of shame. Yeah.
There’s strength in saying you’re done because. That’s recognizing what you need for yourself. Yeah. And not enough of us do that. That’s definitely wise words. Yeah. What are you doing today? I know you enjoyed the job. You enjoy working with the kids? Oh yeah. Love. What’s your therapy look like today? How many times?
I see my psychologist every Friday at three o’clock. And a lot of the times we’ll just walk through the town of haka. The Quan and more processed stuff. With COVID having in-person visits and stuff like that kind of sucks. Finding a great therapist is, can be very difficult for people.
I think throughout my whole mental health journey, I went through seven different people. And until I finally found one that clicked and that’s one of the piece of advice I got to give people. You try therapy and it’s not working.
Try somebody else. That’s perseverance. In itself right there. Yeah. You gotta keep on trying I work with my doctor every four months. Aye. Am able to process how I’m feeling, the medications that she’s prescribed me for depression. And anxiety and all that. And see if they’re working.
A lot of people do say to me, you go every four months. I’m like, yeah, I have to the, because I want to set. She knows me well, and she’s been there since day one. She knows me well enough though. I walk in the room and said, something’s not right with Jason. Maybe we need to go up on this. Maybe we need to change the med here. So medicines.
Therapists, you have to.
Be patient. Cause. Not. They, it takes a while to get that to come together. Also, yeah. Some people, I would, the one suggestions I would say is some people say I’m taking. Taking this medicine, it’s not doing anything. You’re not supposed to take a pill and you’re supposed to feel magically better. You T and this is the way I, because I said the same thing at one time.
What medicine and the appropriate therapy for the situation, it’s like the right tool for the right job. Then working together, you will feel better one without the other is a little difficult, because you’re not processing this stuff that you’re going through.
I’m very engaged with therapy, very engaged with my doctors. Very engaged in going to meetings. My, my biggest things, the trauma therapy. That helps me.
Why certain things, why.
Respond to certain away the things, why things have happened throughout my life, why I’ve taken a path of not trust in people. And it helped me. Regain. Again myself.
I’d love, you’re talking to my job. It’s one of the most challenging jobs you could ever do. And without the appropriate therapy, the perfect.
We have pit crew. It would be definitely very overwhelming and my coworkers are the best. There are such a huge part of my pit crew. So going in there because it’s very challenging. Me being a person in the past to take on everybody’s problems. But now I have the ability not to. Take on everybody’s problems. I’ve built to guide them.
And say here’s the steps I took and be able to walk away. And leave it at work or. In any situation?
I would say. My life is very structured. I have to keep it structured. People with substance abuse, you have to stay structured. Or at least I do to. Maintain my sobriety. I, but Structure. Doesn’t always work with everybody, but for me,
It’s a huge part. I have to. Be able to sleep at, go to bed in my own bed every night. I couldn’t do overnights anymore. Aye. I’m very grateful. I, and I’ll have to do shift work in the fire department. Because, especially, I think I was almost blessed the get out what I did. Because the unstructured life.
The work scheduled. The firefighter. Would have been completely dangerous for me. Without. Therapy. Yeah, that’s what we could do. An episode of cell phone day. Done the structure of the schedule for a firefighter, because it is very destructive at points. Yeah. Yeah. So being able to have set days that I know I get I’m going to work.
Being able to go to bed in my own bed every night. Sleep is amazing. Going to sleep without, being medicated. With alcohol. It is life-changing. Cause he never really sleep well when you’re hammering. No. I just. It, the only thing. I definitely didn’t use alcohol to sleep. I get use alcohol.
Alcohol to shut my brain out to so I could pass out. And my brain would shut up. But now. Having the appropriate therapy, the Permian mez. If my brain starts talking to me. It won’t shut up. I know how to shut it up with meditation and all other kinds of coping skills. But life is good.
I feel. Engaged with life. I feel happy. I’m excited to get up in the morning. Do I still have shit days? Absolutely. I didn’t drink every day. I was very blessed. I never craved. Craved alcohol. I craved my brain to shut up, but do I still have those days where damn would that pizza beer be good? Absolutely. I’m human. Yeah.
But I also know that. If I ever were to have another drink, my brain chemistry has been so changed. That I could never be a one beer drinker or one shot person. If I have one drink, I would have to drink the bottle. Even today. Yeah. And you told me the other day that if you drank now, you would die. Yeah, absolutely. I.
That would be my next step. I would be dead, obviously. I almost did die. I could have killed other people. I’m very blessed, very grateful to be here, to be able to sh share that.
People are asked. People, asked. To me all the time. You think you’ll drink again? And. With somebody that has. That’s in recovery. The only thing we have is today. It’s they say it’s.
One day at a time. To me it’s one second at a time. And I tell people.
I can’t tell you. I’ll never drink again, but I can tell you I will not drink today.
I like that as a stopping point. If you don’t mind. I absolutely. I think that’s perfect right there. Yeah. And you’ve listened to a couple episodes though, too. I have two more questions for you.
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Everyday Carrie, do I call the show of the things we all carry? Because basically that. We go into a call.
Every day, we go into a call with something in our hands, but we come out with something that affects us after each call. So what’s something you carry physically on your body that you have every day. And I see you’ve got it in your hand right now. Go ahead and tell us what it is. Cause I knew you’re proud of this. Oh.
When I went into detox the first. Step that the cats program
Every time you complete the. The step down program you’re given what’s called a camel coin. I’m proud of my, my first 24 hours sobriety chip. Very much proud. But this is the very first coin that ever got. Beforehand. When I went through my first AA meeting in at Katz they gave me this, but.
It’s. Called a Campbell coin. And on the back of it, it says. Eyesight’s getting worse. These days. It says. The camel each day goes. Twice to its knees. He picks. He picks up his load.
With the greatest of ease. He walks through the day with his head held high and S. And stays for that day. Completely dry. Interesting. Yeah. If you don’t mind. Up, take a picture of that later. Attach it to the show notes. Notes. Absolutely. All right. What’s a book, a movie. An artist. Anything, what’s something you’d like to.
Suggest that people can learn or be entertained even.
One of the greatest books. And it’s a. Movie too, that I’ve read throughout my process. It’s called the shack. I haven’t heard of it and I totally forget the author, Ralph. Top of my head. But the book basically explains.
Y good things happen to.
Or bad things happen to good people. So essentially. Not to give it away. A guy experiences.
Tragedy. Of the loss of his child. And it explains. Y. How the, why the he’s going through the grief and the process that he is. And how, why it happened. And how. He can move on from it. Okay. I won’t give too much away. But it’s a great book. Read the book first. The movie’s pretty good, but the book’s always better. I always suggest to book first, sometimes just the book.
Honest with you.
I’m going to show you a picture. It’s just the one. It is. All right. So I’ll link. To that as well in the show notes and they’ll have availability to it. Dude, I can’t. Thank you enough. You you were up for this and we just spent two hours talking and it feels like we’ve been here for a few minutes. So yeah, I appreciate you coming over. I appreciate you taking the time. Appreciate you being open as you can be in. And I
Just appreciate you. I appreciate you too, man. Getting the message out there. It’s huge. More than willing to come back and share. Oh yeah. Cause. There’s stuff we didn’t even touch on it. We’ve already talked about, so yeah. Yeah. I think right now for today, I think we’ve done a good job and I can’t wait to get this out to people. Absolutely.
Look forward to it too. Then we are. Out. Whew.