TJ Gets Me Talking


In this milestone 50th episode of “The Things We All Carry,” Stack is interviewed by TJ of “Keep the Promise” podcast, who previously shared his story of a coworker’s line of duty death. Together, they discuss the host’s history, fire experiences, and the future of the podcast. The conversation covers some unconventional topics, including psychedelics. Tune in to this episode to join their engaging and thought-provoking discussion.


Stack: Before I get started with this episode, I want to express my condolences to the family, friends and coworkers of Donnie wedding. Donny was a local firefighter and a friend to a few members of my department. Donnie reportedly killed himself this past weekend and his death is yet another reminder of the need to be open and raw with discussing mental health and the fire service and the community of first responders at large.

As firefighters, we are more dangerous to ourselves than the dangers of this job. Systemic changes needed in the fire service. , we need to continue to shine a light on this dirty little secret of ours. And expose the dangers of our own mental health

we must end this bullshit stigma surrounding feelings, emotions, trauma, and asking for help.

Stack: Welcome to the 50th episode of the things we all carry. I was unsure if or how I should mark the milestone until TJ of episode four and keep the promise podcasts, reach out to him, fight me on his show. You may recall TJ story of a coworker’s line of duty death. And the experiences that follow that day. If you aren’t familiar with TJ story, please download, listen to episode four, to get an understanding of his life and his fire career.

TJ along with this co-host Josh. I have created a podcast about, and for firefighters called keep the promise. It was started at the end of last year and has already gotten over 10,000 downloads all the while watching their Patrion community grow daily.

The whole purpose is to build resilient and well-rounded firefighters who uphold the oath of service to their community. TJ turns the table on me for this 50th episode. We jumped into a little of my history, my fire experience, the podcast, what the future may hold. And of course we talk psychedelics.

Thanks for spending an hour or so out of your life each week to listen and support this show. I can’t express enough what your support means to me enjoy this episode and here’s to the next 50. A quick reminder, please help us build a community which not only recognizes, but supports each other through the struggles and recovery. Reach out through Instagram. At the things we all carry or email my The 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.

TJ: Ladies and gentlemen. Welcome back to the show. This is the Keith the Parments podcast. I’m your host, tj, and today I’m joined by, , pretty much the guy who got me started in podcasting, he’s the host of the things.

We all carry podcasts. I was lucky enough to be a guest in that podcast, God, like a year or so ago. But most importantly, you’ve heard his voice before because he is a man who voiced the intro to all of our episodes. He is the wonderful, the awesome, the badass Brandon Stack Bull Stack. My brother, thank you so much for joining me

Stack: today, my friend.

Thank you for having me. This is awesome. And I gotta tell you, doing that intro was one of the toughest things I’ve ever done. I did that so many times. I got tired of saying it, and then I think the outtakes are better than the final product. Oh, they

TJ: are? Yeah. I still have the majority of those files.

most of the time I just spent laughing at you, just cursing at the microphone and being like, welcome to the

Stack: fuck dad. That sucks. That’s a piece of shit. Do it again. You suck. Yeah. That was about the tenor of the whole conversation with myself. Yeah.

TJ: But there, there were so many, and actually it got to the point that I started categorizing them. I’m like, this one’s kind of playful. This one’s kind of serious. And it was a really tough decision to pick one because you had so many of them that I just didn’t know what to do.

Stack: When I finally I finally sent some over to you, and then you were so polite.

You were just like, Hey, these are good Bud , not at all what we want, so fix it. I was like, okay, I got

TJ: it. Look. That I didn’t communicate well enough what I wanted, and I was blaming myself for that. But yeah, dude, that intro is awesome. I love it. Like I, I get so pumped whenever, I hear my own episode that it the rock kicks in and then your voice comes on, and then the episode starts it still just gives me goosebumps because.

Holy shit. I have a podcast. This is so

Stack: cool. Shit, I’m, this will be number 50 for me and I’m still trying to convince myself I have a legit podcast, so I know what you’re thinking. I know what you’re feeling. Yeah. You

TJ: are going to be episode number 10 for us, which is a gigantic milestone, and this one’s gonna be a crossover because we’re recording it for podcasts, and we’re just gonna go back and forth. This is gonna be kinda like interview format, kinda like what you and I did when we sat down back in April

Stack: of last year. Yeah. One of the things that I’ve always talked about was I, one of my buddies, he’s not even connected to the fire service. He has his own podcast and he said you at some point you have to lid.

People in on your own story. And I think we all sit back and we say, wow, my story’s not much of anything, so why would I want to do that? But I think episode 50 is probably a good spot to, to talk about myself some, and then share it with you and talk about you and see where we go. .

TJ: Yeah. By this point, your listeners have heard so much from you, but they don’t know much about you.

Stack: Cuz my goal is to stay out of the way when I interview people. Brother,

TJ: this is what happens when you have a podcast. You have to like, you have to show your face out there and be like, hello, this is me. This is who I am.

Stack: Yeah. All war scars and everything included.

TJ: Also, Josh is out on vacation, so on my end, this is just me by my lonesome talking to you.

It’s weird because I can’t look at him for help.

Stack: And yeah, now you know how I feel. .

TJ: Oh, whatever. Mr. 50 episodes, . Hey, listen, why don’t you tell me a little bit about what inspired you to become a firefighter and like how’d you got started, how long you’ve been in the usual question, like warm me up to your fire service.

Stack: Oh, what inspired me? Where did it start? Way back when, and I would love to say way back when, but it wasn’t, I came into the fire service late in life, actually pretty late in life. I was 44 when I went through the academy. And I did that because I outta high school, I joined the Army, spent three years in the Army and then I I got married, had kids, and we moved around quite a bit as Army Life does.

She was active duty for 20 years and I was the spouse and I did a lot of the child rearing and all of that. We finally settled down in the Virginia area and I started to get a career, but it was with autistic kids and their families. My specialty and my schooling was is still in applied behavior a.

So what I would do is I would go into the schools and workplaces and homes, and I would observe all the behaviors that people wanted changed or increased or decreased or whatever. And I would of study what’s feeding those behaviors. And once I developed a behavior plan, I would work on the behavior plan myself with the client.

And then I would teach it to their family or their work p the people working with them. And that was my job. So I wrote behavior plans and worked with families and caregivers. My kids graduated high school, moved on and I decided I wanted to do something different and I, in the army had been a medic, or not a medic, I had been in the medical field.

It was a orthopedic tech. It was what I was doing in the army. . And so it interest me and I had a buddy that I worked with at one of the schools and he went into Fairfax County for a, for firefighting. And I asked him about it and I said I’ll never get in. He goes, nah, man, old is a category.

Try it. And so I put my name in and and lo and behold got hired and the county I work in and it’s been 10 years now. That’s awesome dude. Congrat. Yeah, so I’m getting to the point where I feel like I’m too old to be doing it. That’s the scary part. I think

TJ: sometimes I feel that way too.

It’s mostly when we have 3, 4, 4 runs after midnight. I’m like,

Stack: oh God. Oh yeah. Anymore. Yeah. This whole, this last tour was there wasn’t one night where we slept through, so I’m, I felt it after I felt it yesterday, came home and took a.

TJ: Yeah, dude, I did the same thing. I don’t know how your nap was.

Mine ended up being like a six hour long nap. I woke up at 7:00 PM Lost, confused. I was like, where am I? Who am I? What

Stack: am I doing? Not a great feeling.

TJ: Oh, it’s the worst shift. Work is gonna kill us one day. Oh, yeah. . So that’s interesting. I had no idea about your background with with the behavioral side of things, and it explains why you have such a keen eye for what you’re doing with the things.

We all carry podcasts because you are focused heavily on the behaviors the thoughts, the feeling. , all of those things that go on in our minds and in our lives and how they affect us on and off the job. And we’re definitely gonna delve deeper into your podcast later on. And it’s now I’m starting to build that picture that, that, that solid picture of who you are and how you ended up doing what you’ve been doing.

It’s pretty. . All right. So 10 years. Yep, 10 years. about the same time that I have. Where are you assigned now? And I know that you’re not gonna say who it is because I know you have an issue with your what is it? The dinosaurs?

Stack: Yeah, the dinosaurs, yeah. Yeah. And the dinosaurs has, I just used, and the dinosaurs have an issue with me, so I really don’t care.

Honestly, it is what it is at this point. They know how I feel about them. I know how they feel about me, and it’s a very tense truce I would imagine at this point. My focus has shifted away from them because their mindset’s not gonna change. So my focus shifted to this mental health aspect and talking about it and exposing it and not letting people, not letting ’em sweep stuff under the rug about it.

And I would say it’s a tense truce, but I really just shifted my focus. Yeah,

TJ: I’m still waiting for the hammer to come down from headquarters for whatever reason, and knock on wood, I hope that I’m not manifesting it, but talking to you, talking to John from Rescue one c b, and. , all the other guys and gals who have podcasts, they’re like, yeah, we’ve definitely experienced a backlash from from the brass.

So at this point, I just look at it as like an occupational hazard, but whatever. Yeah. We’ll cross that bridge when we get

Stack: there. I put myself out there. I what they got me for and what they did, the whole investigation for this whole. And it was a bunch of, the way they did it was bullshit.

And it pisses me off that they brought my coworkers in and my crew members in and put them through hell. I think it was bullshit. What I did. Okay, sure. I told ’em right off the bat, yep, I did that. But they still went ahead and did this fucking circus. And that, that is soured me to the leadership forever in that department.

TJ: Would you say that’s one of the biggest challenges you face in your fire service?

Stack: That was a challenge, but I brought it on myself to be honest. And deservedly but I think it could have been handled differently. And I think that there was a push to, to make a bigger example outta me than was necessary because other people were starting to speak up and that scared them.

TJ: Yeah, the good old fear, right? That always get. .

Stack: So I would That’s awesome. Yeah. But I would say it was a challenge, but it was just kinda okay. In the sense of was it a challenger? Was it just a, okay, yeah, I did that, so let’s wait and see what you want to, how do you wanna slap me on the wrist?

Let’s just get it over with. And it came and went and, yeah, just went back to work.

TJ: Yeah. And you’re still there. Yeah. You’re. Doing the thing.


Stack: now when I started the podcast and Instagram, all the bullshit I was riding on a heavy rescue, which in my county, a heavy rescue is, the technical rescue piece.

And just recently I was I was shifted away from the heavy rescue to back onto a truck. So I’m now a Truckee again and learning how to drag my knuckles and build those calluses. . So it’s a return to a role that I’ve played in the past and it’s another challenge. It’s just it’s learning something again or not learning it again, but relearning and trying to perfect that craft again.

Yeah. Especially

TJ: because having been away from that for however long on the rescue, you’re basically a new person from how you were when you left. You just Yeah. The had to

Stack: basically four years on a rescue you tend to forget how to drive the.

TJ: Is it a tiller or is it just a

Stack: regular? It’s just a regular amount. Just a regular rear mount.

TJ: That’s cool. That’s cool. Yeah. I think we’re gonna buy two more for our county. Maybe three. I don’t know. There’s a lot of rumors, but I think the total’s gonna be two.

Stack: Yeah. We always get the rumors of tillers, but I, I’d be very surprised if they ever get tillers.

TJ: All right, so now let’s talk about the podcast because I that’s I can sit here and try to pick your brain about the fire service, but you’ve been in for 10 years. Spend time on a truck company on a heavy rescue, and we all go through our careers and bouncing from station to station and assignment to assignment, but you basically fire the opening vol when it comes to.

Firefighter podcast and mental health and. Like it was one of those things that it was very exciting to watch you from the beginning because I used to follow your other account, the objectionable, and you started asking for people to interview and it slowly started gathering momentum and next thing boom.

Like you didn’t even do a, Hey, this is me, this is an early intro episode you’d like. Launched yourself out there were like five or six people that you already had in

Stack: the chamber. That’s funny because I launched by accident back in, what was it, June of last year? I launched by accident because, I didn’t know what the fuck I was doing.

You and I were talking earlier before, before you did the intro that I’m gonna pick your brain about technology because I’m old, I’ve called myself out. I’m old and I’m a cite compared to you. And I need to get up to speed. Back in June I didn’t know what, a hosting site was.

I didn’t know what it was. And so I signed up for this hosting site and I put five episodes on this hosting site. Just in my mind I was thinking I was putting them to store them there just to let them sit until I was ready. I woke up one morning and one of the guys I know he’s actually, he used to be at my captain at one of my old fire stations.

He goes, Hey Just to let you know the show’s great, but you gotta make some corrections on the graphics. And I said, what are you talking about? He goes, the shows. And I said, the shows aren’t out, Marcus. He goes, no, they’re out. And I said, no, they’re not. And he goes, I listened to it this morning.

They’re out. And I went, oh shit. And so then I rushed to actually put something together to make it official that the shows were out. So I made a mistake and that’s why the first five were dropped the way.

TJ: Dude, you overcame with Grace because everybody else was talking like, man, this guy he came out the gate swinging with five episodes.

Like it was incredible. And I was honored to be one of those, one of those first five along with my buddy Chris Monroe. And it’s it was so cool watching it from inception to now you’re reaching 50 episodes, which is, it’s wild. It’s. . It’s such a cool, it’s gotta be such a cool feeling to know that you’ve reached so many people and you’ve interviewed so many great people with their amazing stories.

That’s one. That’s one of the reasons why we stuck at ours is because everybody has a story to tell and it doesn’t matter who they are. Everybody wants to interview like the Chiefs and the authors and like the big wigs who run, fire engineering, firehouse, et cetera, et cetera. But there was also, awesome content from the people that we work with, like the guys and gals on the floor next to us have just as much insight as that 40, 50 year old chief.

Stack: Yes. Yeah. And the, that kind of stems from one of my original ideas for a podcast. I wanted to just talk to the everyday person on the street.

I don’t, one of the examples was I was in Richmond for a concert one, one night and I was late to meet people and it was pouring down rain and I just wanted to get to my. , but it was pouring down rain. And here I was unprepared, no umbrella. And this homeless guy walks by and he’s got an umbrella, and I was like, okay, I’m, hey.

I said, I got, I’ll give you five bucks. If you just let me use your umbrella to walk across the street, I’ll bring it right back. I wasn’t even thinking because he’s pushing a cart, or not even pushing a cart, he just has in his bag everything that he owns. He’s not gonna give me his umbrella for five bucks.

It’s priceless to him. So he said, I’ll tell you what, I’ll just walk with you. And so we walked across the street. It was a short walk, but I got the gist of his story. And this is what I was talking about. Everyone has a story. I don’t care who you are. I don’t care if you’re the homeless guy on the street or the fire chief of a department.

You have a story. I want to hear it. Yeah. And you’ve gotten some good. Yeah, I’ve gotten lucky with some good stories some very impactful and powerful stories and very interesting and intricate and in depth that have been in both enjoyable and painful to listen to. Yeah.

TJ: Yeah. I, it probably took me a good six months to actually sit down and listen to the one that we recorded, just because.

I unloaded on you when we sat down. I had one of those episodes where I just I blacked out and then I came back to, and I was like, oh my God, I’ve been talking for an hour. , what have

Stack: I done? We sat at a dining room table and talked for about 90 minutes.

TJ: Yeah. The whole time I was just playing with what the electronics said you had.

I’m like, this is so cool.

Stack: You’re a nerd and you nerded it out.

TJ: Oh, hardcore man. That’s . My ad had to be tempered and the only way I did that was by just sitting there and it was one of the recorders, like the one with the goofy microphones that are intertwined diagonally.

Oh, P eight. Yeah. That thing was nice and I just I kept holding it like it was a one of those scanners, like one of those barcode scanners that you pick up at the supermarket, cuz that’s how it, like how it felt. So I was having all sorts of like weird. , star Trek, star Wars, blaster fantasies.

It was it was goofy, but yeah, like I, going back to that episode, it was rough. I’ve only listened to it once and people have reached out and had comments. Good. I’m bad most of the time. I’m like, I, I. I don’t know what to tell you. I haven’t had the courage to to go back and listen to it because I didn’t wanna revisit all that, all the trauma that I opened up to.

But I am thankful that you gave me that opportunity because I was able to get that message out there to many more people than I could have on my

Stack: own. I, without your platform, I knew mental health had to be spoken about. I knew we had to shine a light on it. I knew we had to expose. I dunno, for lack of a better word, the dirty little secrets that we all go through.

I didn’t realize just how much it was needed and how much people needed to talk. And not just needed to talk, but needed to know it was okay to talk. I just, I didn’t, I just didn’t realize how much that was needed for someone to go, it’s okay. Tell me, because

TJ: we are in that profession that’s, gung ho, beat your chest.

I’m not gonna do anything about this. I’m just gonna, be a man and go home and do a shot about it and go to sleep, which accomplish is nothing. It’s probably the most unhealthy thing that we can do. It happened. You couldn’t change what happened. You are just part of that rollercoaster ride.

Might as well make the most out of it, but bearing your head in the sand and drowning it in booze and prescription.

Stack: not gonna work. And I’ve told the story, the origin story a couple times and I can tell it here. I One day in a couple years ago, I was, I sitting at the house and I get a text from somebody.

I forget who the text was from and I apologize to whoever sent it to me cuz I forget. And it was like, Hey, did you see the guy in, in, in Manassas who killed himself? And I said, no, I What guy? He goes, another firefighter is a volunteer who was a former volunteer, killed himself. And I was like, because at that point he ended up being the fifth in our the DMV region, the dis, the district, Maryland and Virginia, that region the fifth in a year to kill himself.

And it was volunteering career was rookie to seasoned firefighter. And that was the impetus, that was the decision, that was the time that I just said, no, something’s gotta be done. And I had to try and figure that was January and I had to figure out how to tell it, how to speak about it, how to delve into it.

And it took. I think you and I sat down in March or April and it was then that I realized how important it was. Yeah.

TJ: Yeah. It’s, it’s an ailment that, that that’s taking us out and we don’t really cover it. We cover cancer, we cover all the heart conditions, but I, a friend of mine reached out and she’s Hey, At some point, if you still wanna talk about the Center for Excellence, let’s let’s talk about it.

Because somebody that, she was there with, like a firefighter from Tennessee, I think he recently took his own life as well, did everything right, went, got the help, and still succumbed to those demons, which is, it’s just so soul crushing to know that we’re doing something for it, but we are not doing enough if we are still having those issue.

Stack: Yeah. And I don’t know what happened to, to him specifically and what his situation was when he went home, but just because you go to the center of excellence doesn’t mean it’s magically over.

TJ: Great. Have you interviewed anybody who has spent time at the

Stack: center for Oh, yeah. A number of them.

One of the guys I’ve gotten pretty close to, and I consider a friend, I haven’t, we haven’t spoken in a bit, but he was he was early on in the episode. His name was Matt, and he’s in a neighboring county and , he was his story is pretty amazing. He was, he’s a young guy who experienced a it, the, some of the things he experienced had to centered around pediatric death.

And and we all know that any call with a pediatric involved is traumatic. But when you have to run numerous pediatric death, it piles up pretty quickly. . Yeah. And he spent his 30 plus days at the Center of Excellence and he came out and he’s just trying to pay it forward now.

And he’s just one of those guys who lights up a room when you see him.

TJ: That’s awesome. That’s awesome. And your platform has given him that voice to be able to

Stack: pay it forward? Yeah, he actually came and spoke to my crew at the station and gave his presentation and sat down and shared with my crew one on one and.

I can’t thank him enough for doing that. It’s what he wants to do now and for him to come out and talk to us on his own from time is, was wonderful. So

TJ: what what is the biggest takeaway that you want people to have from listening to your podcast or multiple takeaways? I know it’s hard to nail down to just one thing.

I think I know what it’s gonna be, but why don’t you tell.

Stack: I was gonna, I think, I don’t wanna use my tagline necessarily. So I’ll just paraphrase that. What we all experience is unique to us. So the traumas that you experience are unique to you, but the traumas I experience are unique to me.

But our stories can be universal. So how you recover, how you went through everyth. , it can be universal as to, it can be it, we can extrapolate that out across the fire service. Anybody who, cuz your story’s centered around Nate’s death and how you guys fought through that and recovered from that can be extrapolated out to anybody who’s had an L O D in their department.

And I actually, I just interviewed a gentleman this afternoon right before we get on the phone who talked about they responded to a call where the guy fell. and when they got on scene, they rolled him over, appropriate precautions. They rolled him over to find that it was a lieutenant on on the shift that was gonna relieve them.

And and when they showed back up to the fire station, his story was almost exact what your story was. That wasn’t my firehouse anymore. . And I’m like, okay, so this is a guy, this is a guy in Rhode Island, or excuse me, not Rhode Island and Eastern shore of Maryland. And you, I you’re in Maryland as well but a state apart because he’s on the Eastern shore and you’re in in Howard County. So a, it’s a state apart. And it’s the same experience. The division chiefs the deputy chiefs, the fire chiefs, they all come in and then all of a sudden you’ve got your fire chief and you’re sitting in your spot at the table and you’re like, motherfucker just.

Just leave, just give us our space and let us deal with this the way we deal with it. And, but I get it. I understand it. They feel like they have to do something. So I think that it’s universal. What we go through is universal. Everyone is going through some aspect of it. There’s some level of it with all of us now.

We don’t all react to it the same way, and we all don’t react to the same calls the same way. I don’t know. I know what calls hit me the hardest and I know what you. I’m learning my new crew, but my old crew, I knew what calls hit them the hardest. So I knew that if we’re going to a pediatric call, I’m not, I’m gonna go in as opposed to somebody else on my crew because it just hits them differently cuz they have kids of that age.

But Right. If we’re responding to a hanging, I don’t want to go in. I’ve seen enough hangs, I don’t want to do ’em again. That, those are the ones that stick in my head. I we ran through a spade of hangings. I’ve got enough, I’ve got enough memories of bloated faces and I don’t need anymore.

So it’s interesting how the traumas are the same, but the reactions to ’em vary. And they hit us differently.

TJ: And that’s what you’re trying to get out there through your platform. , we can all learn from that universal pain that, that trauma that we go through because we are not alone in experiencing it.

And it’s important to take the people who dealt with it, and I don’t wanna say came out better on the other side, but who were able to manage it and to cope with it in a healthy way, in a growth focused way. It’s important to get those people to tell their story so that the. Who are going through the same trauma don’t fall into that dark hole of despair and alcohol and drugs and hopelessness.

Stack: Yeah, and I think that one of the biggest things I can take away from, no, not the biggest, but one of the things I learned in the show was that PTSD is one thing, but I like to talk about the post-traumatic growth more than anything it’s what are you taking now and how are you changing and how are you making it better from this point?

and until I started this show, honestly, I didn’t know what post-traumatic growth.

Was, I’d never heard the term

TJ: So can you encapsulate it in like a sentence?

Stack: Exactly. That it’s taking that experience and learning from it and learning how to react from it and making your life better because of it. That’s how I would paraphrase a, a definition for post-traumatic growth.

TJ: I’ll take that.

You’re the dude with the behavioral background, , your word is gospel. As far as I know.

Stack: That’s dangerous, but Okay. .

TJ: I’ll be saying that when I find myself, at myself at headquarters be like stack’s word is is gospel. That’s

Stack: exactly why I’m here. Yeah, exactly.

TJ: What have been some of the most memorable episodes that you’ve had on your podcast?

Oh, you mentioned him and you don’t have to

Stack: say me, obviously you mentioned him right off the bat, Chris. That’s, I don’t, some, sometimes I regret that Chris was number one. Because his story is just so powerful. Like the shit that he went through, any one thing that he talks about could have waylaid anybody.

But this guy went through multiple of them where there was just like, you just, you hear a story and you’re like, what? I can’t fathom one of them, not the 5, 6, 7 of them that this guy went through and that he’s made some changes in his life and he’s thriving and it’s just, it was, it’s just a wonderful story.

That being said, it’s like asking me to pick a, it’s like asking a mom to pick their favorite kid, who do you choose? Because each story is impactful in its own way. You, I can tell you stories of yours is dealing with L O D and I can tell you a story of my coworker Jose, who, who talks.

coming over as an illegal alien and being having to be snuck over the border basically. And how he dealt with life after that. I can tell you the childhood abuse that led to, that wasn’t remembered until you’re on a call and it’s brought out because of what you see on the job.

And then you have this flashback about, holy fuck, that was me and you. You blocked it all until you were on the job and you experienced. and it just, it goes on and on. Everybody has this story that when you hear it, you’re just like, Jesus Christ. And the thing that’s amazed me about this show is that every episode I’ve done, I’ve taken a piece and I went, that’s me.

There’s a piece of me and every episode and it, and that’s what reminds me about that universality of this show. There’s something of me and every one of these stories and experiences I’ve experienced, something that they’ve talked. .

TJ: That’s powerful. Dude, and like going back to Chris, awesome.

Human being like one of the nicest people, like legitimately, genuinely nicest people I ever met. We we met at C D P at the Center for Domestic Preparedness in Alabama when I was. a psychopath about hazmat back in God, like back in

Stack: 2017. By the way, saying the psychopath about hazmat is redundant. .

TJ: I got kicked off the special ops team recently, so now I’m back to ordinary operations.

Oh, you

Stack: too. Yeah, you too, huh? All right, good. Yeah. I’ll

TJ: send you one of the ordinary operations snippets.

Stack: Yeah. .

TJ: It’s so I’m a recovering so person, , but I, dude, and what I tell people, they’re like, don’t you miss a team? I’m like, I miss the people that I have met throughout all those adventures and Miss adventures.

And Chris is one of those. And we’ve kept in touch. I Hell you even placed an order for leather the other day. Nice. And like that episode phase. Like it was gutting. I’m sitting there and I’m listening to it. I was like, I can’t believe I didn’t know this right? I consider this dude a friend of mine and all this, I had no clue about.

He even warned me, he’s bro, do not change your mind about me. Or do, he’s just, I’m just warning you. It’s a lot of heavy stuff. Dude, it’s I’m sure it’s gonna be fine. And he’s no, I’m, trust me. And yeah, I like. I was floored because the dude, for lack of a better term, he hides it so well.

Stack: He I played Chris’s episode for my crew. Oh. I don’t know when it was. Jesus, maybe July. No, it wa it was before the show even dropped. It wa This was before the show. Before the show was official. I had recorded you. I had recorded Chris and a few others. , I wanted to do a presentation and I said, you know what?

Nevermind, I’m just gonna play Chris’s episode and see how they react to it because I wanted to, I go make, call it market research. How about that? Yeah. And makes sense. So I played Chris’s episode for my crew, and I’m telling you when when the hour and plus, I don’t know how many minutes Chris’s episode is, but when that time was up and I pushed stop.

I looked around the room. I don’t think there was a mouth that was closed and they were just, they were dumbfounded for be for, that’s about the only word I can come up with. They were stunned at what he had gone through and spoken about. And that

TJ: leads me to something that I’ve been wanting to talk to you about for a long time.

because let’s rewind back to when I left your house. I was exhausted. Like I, I drove home like an hour and a half and I was just beat and I slept the whole rest of the day. You are left with the audio files, with having to edit, with having to publish in some episodes, some content that is very heavy.

How do you deal with that? What do you do? You have a routine? You gotta be able to decompress, right? Like how do you go through it?

Stack: I wish I had an official answer. I wish I had okay, this is what I do, but I’m going to, I’ll be, I don’t know, brutally honest. It, sometimes it sucks. Those first, especially those first episodes, cuz I was trying to get it I was trying to learn and I was trying to get it so and I was editing down to a dime, I just I wanted every little mishap out of there. They still sound like shit, by the way, so don’t let me preface it with that. But I listened to those, like I listened to Chris’s episode.

Shit I have probably listened to Chris’s episode 20. , from the raw audio to the finished product. I’ve probably heard it at least 20 times. And that’s a lot to put on somebody that, that. And then you ex, you take that and you think, okay, I listened to your episode probably 15 to 16 times because it was the same timeframe, and nowadays it’s probably down to four or five times. I’ll listen to an episode before, before it’s released. And then I, and then even then, sometimes I’ll, after release I’ll, I. I’ll fire it up Wednesday morning just to make sure it sounds, the way I think it’s supposed to sound when it’s the finished product.

I found that I I talked to a therapist, so that’s something that I took upon myself last year for the first time in my life. And that’s another reason why I do this show, because I realize how important that, that aspect of life was. Even if you’re not a firefighter or a first responder, therapy is there and it works.

It helps, . I talk to friends, I talk to coworkers work out, read. There’s a lot of stuff I do just to focus away from it. Yeah. My, my con my concern is more towards you guys because one thing I didn’t expect, and maybe I was foolish for not expecting it, I did not expect the, I don’t wanna say fandom, but there’s this.

I’ve spoken to a few of the guests who have said, man, every time someone listens to it, they reach out and say, I had no idea. And they want to talk to me about it, and I don’t really want to talk about it. I talked about it on the show and that’s of where I want to leave it.

But but these people reach out to me and every time I see someone, the first time after they listen to my show, they want to talk about it. And I didn’t take into account how life would be for you guys after you went on the show.


TJ: that’s. . That part gets hard when people reach out and they have questions they want you to I had a few who reached out and said, Hey, can you tell me more about what, like this part of the episode,

And I had to politely say, listen, I haven’t even sat down to deal with it and I’m just not ready. It’s one of those things that I don’t really wanna revisit just yet. because it, and I told you like it was gonna basically tear open that wound again. And it’s, yeah, it gets rough. I can only imagine for some of the other folks who have gone through, through some very tough experiences, just how exhausting it is.

Stack: Yeah. And like I said, I didn’t take into account at all how that would be for people sharing. So it’s dude,

TJ: we should set up a group for. All the guests to just talk about things. Just go there and be like decompress and just check.

Stack: Yeah. Do it like a little discord group or something.

TJ: dude. Disc chord reminds me so much of the old timey Yahoo chats. Oh, it does. I know. Like the a Oh, you get into a big server and it’s just mayhem. It is pandemonium. You’re trying to read one line and by the time you get three words in the line is like halfway up your screen. Exactly. You’re just, you’re jumping head first into a raging

Stack: river.

Yes. Yeah. It’s a, it can be a cesspool.

TJ: Yeah, that too That part too. a lot of work for the podcast, right? A lot of work lining these people up, recording with them, editing, launching. How on earth do you balance that with your schedule and with just your life?

Stack: Life is chaotic, man. I think that’s a theme that’s been through the show as well is this chaos that we live in as first responders.

And not only do we live in it, we thrive on it. We search it out. The calm kind of scares most of us. And I’m just as guilty of that as the next first responder, firefighter, cop, military, whatever you wanna say. I’m just as guilty of that. I don’t like to calm, I don’t like, sitting still in my own shit if for, I just don’t like it.

So I probably don’t do as good a job with that. I don’t know. I probably don’t do as good a job with that as I should. . I just lost my train of thought, so I apologize. The chaos that we go through. Yeah. And so the chaos and calm, you of thrive off of it. And I don’t know I recently, for the last year and a half I stayed away from some of my favorite hobbies.

So reading his has historically been one of my favorite things. Cycling has been one of my favorite things for the last year and a half, two years. I’ve dropped, let those things drop and. Just recently, I’ve made a very concerted effort to pick them up again and say, okay, no, I need to take charge of my life.

I’m going through a divorce. It’s, that’s something that’s been going on for a long time. So that, that was chaotic and that was, that is chaotic still. It’s funny, you do a show like this and people start to look at you as like this subject matter expert. , and I’m like, no, I’m not an expert.

I’m just as fucked up as everybody else. So I’m nothing to hold up as a prime example, I just give a platform for people to share their story. I’m not an angel. I’m not a, I’m not someone that, that should be applauded for the way I live my life. I’m still trying to learn how to live my life as a decent human.

And so that’s just something that the chaos and staying on top of everything, it’s just something that I’m trying to learn how to deal with. I’ve, like I said I do have chaos. I have, I’ve just recently been transferred. I’m going through a divorce. My mom for the last three and a half years has been dealing with stage four lung cancer, and she’s just recently been placed in hospice.

I’m trying to do the show. I’m trying to work this job. I’m trying to stay in shape. I’m trying to, trying to, sometimes it’s like, It’s treading water and you can see that beach and I’m it’s sometimes I’m trying to convince myself that, first of all, a, I can swim or just put your fucking feet down and you can walk onto that shore, but sometimes it is just not that easy.

Yeah. Yeah, dude.

TJ: I don’t even know where to

Stack: go from here. . Damn. You can drink heavily, or no, I’m kidding. I’m kidding. dude,

TJ: for me, drinking heavily at this point, it would just be like one drink and then I would be three sheets to the wind, . I, my

Stack: tolerance is long gone, as you well know.

I’m a huge advocate for other, for alternative medicines. .

TJ: Yeah let’s talk about that. Might as well just dive into it head first because that’s landed in some hot water and Virginia has had a couple winds in that front recently, so just.

Stack: tell me more. Virginia’s had wins. A few years ago we had wins.

Now that the Republican party is running the State House it is not so much wins anymore. Unfortunately they’ve denied the f the right to buy recreationally. So marijuana is legal in the state of Virginia and it has very, pretty much some strict stipulations on how and where you can use it and how much you can have.

You pretty much have to be in your house to use it and you can only have a certain amount on you at the, at one time. Medical marijuana is legal, so you can buy medical marijuana from dispensaries, but you can’t buy anything recreational in Virginia. and 2024 was supposed to be that year. If, and again, I’m, now I’m talking, I’m speaking off the cuff, so if I get this wrong, I apologize to all of you who know much better than I do.

We were hoping to get it early this year, but it was shot down twice in the in the house this year. So we’re not gonna get metal. We’re not gonna get recreational sale this year. And so it’s weird how they, they say, yeah, you can use it, but we’re not gonna give you a way to buy it. So there’s still a way to.

To, I don’t know, to fill the coffers or maybe fill the jails. Yeah. Not to get too political. My, as soon as recreational was legal in Virginia, I, that’s a celebration, but we need sales to be legal. I think it’s time to move on. I’m a big proponent of just legalizing drugs.

I don’t think. that if heroin was available today, I’m not gonna turn around and want to try heroin. It’s, that’s a personal choice. And what I put in my body is what I put in my body. Nobody should have the right to tell me what I can and can’t do with that. I understand that we shouldn’t be under the influence of work, and that’s a responsibility thing, but there are other laws in place to take care of that.

Yeah. So in my county, we had a county attorney who refused to fire a firefighter for testing positive for cannabis on his physical. And because of that there’s a cre, there’s a crack in the door for use in the county. However, there’s still a battle in some aspects. There’s, it’s very gray on what would happen if you got into an accident and you.

THC in your system, even if you’re not under the influence. So there’s no answer to what would happen there. And then also if you report it during your physical there, the doctor is adamantly against it and he claims that he’s gonna send you to a cardiologist, your own cardiologist, to have them sign off on you to clear you back to duty.

No cardiologist is gonna do that necessarily just because of the cannabis use. So it’s a, yeah, you can use it, but don’t tell anybody you’re. . So there’s a lot of gray areas still. And it’s ridiculous because in science is showing that there’s a lot of benefit to THC and I don’t wanna stop there.

I am I’m a proponent of psychedelics for mental health. And so why can’t we use what’s best for our mental health? Yeah,

TJ: I agree with that. And I think we go back to those dinosaurs we were talking about before. , the Reagan era, the dare era, who were almost indoctrinated of drugs are bad and K, yeah.

Kahu. Yeah. Anything that comes from the ground that is seen as that gateway drug. I remember, dude, I went to Catholic school, they told us like, if you eat so much as locus marijuana, within two years you’re gonna be shooting up heroin in a back alley. And you’re. Kid, you’re terrified by this.

I’m like I don’t belong in an alley like that.

Stack: Sounds pretty terrifying. . But back to heroin takes. I’ve said that there’s gonna be, I’m gonna use heroin twice in my life. I haven’t, I’ve never used it. I’m gonna use it twice in my life. And everybody looks at me like, what the fuck are you talking about?

The first time is gonna be just to see what it feels like just to experience that high. And to kinda ride it a little bit. The second time is if I need to end my own life, I’m gonna send it. I’m heroin’s gonna be the way , I’m gonna f I’m gonna fucking send it and that’s it. I’m gonna smile my way out of this world and into whatever.

I don’t know where I’m going after that. Oh my God,

TJ: you are insane. I’m gonna have to send you to this Reddit post that there was a. who basically had the same thought process. He’s I’m going to try it and I’m going to document this experience. And homey got hooked badly and he kept like kudos to him.

He kept documenting it, but it’s such a harrowing story to read because he slowly, started burning bridges. Relationships just torpedoed them. Lost everyth. And we’re like, oh my God, we watched this dude say he was gonna do it, and now he’s doing it. And like we are watching this train wreck unfold, almost live on the internet.

You might get some insight because that dude, that’s h that’s one of those things that’s terrifying. I’m open-minded about so many things, but that’s one of those that I’m like, it’s

Stack: that too. Let me clarify. Hold on. I’m not gonna try it tomorrow. Just for the fuck. Just for fuck’s sake.

Just say, Hey, what’s it feel like after I publish this? You are

TJ: gonna be in your chief’s office. Oh,

Stack: whatever. Okay. . But what I’m saying is if I’d get diagnosed with a, with an uncurable disease, and I know that it’s gonna take my life and it’s not gonna be fun, and it’s gonna put a burden on whoever is around.

I’m not gonna stick around for that. That’s my plan. That’s what I say. Those are the two times I’ll use heroin. That’s what I mean, that I’m not talking about just, just trying it one day out of the blue just to see what it’s like. Going back to that, there’s a really interesting book out that I don’t know if many people have read.

It’s by a guy called, his name is Dr. Carl Hart, and it’s called Drug Use for Grownups and. It’s eye-opening from what he talks about because he’s an advocate for using the right drugs at the right time. And this is a professor he is a, he’s a tenured professor of psychology and psychiatric psychiatry at Columbia.

And He’s an advocate for open drug use. He’ll tell you that he knows that a certain amount of heroin at a right time will help him present a better present his his information better. A couple days down the road. It’s a really good book to read. It’s a, it’ll open some eyes. Maybe it won’t change minds, but it’ll open some eyes.

TJ: Yeah. I’ll link to it in the show notes. And I feel like that’s gonna be a good bedtime reading , before going to work. .

Stack: It might be. Okay.

TJ: So psychedelics that’s, I think that’s gonna be the, that new frontier that, that we’re gonna be dealing with, hopefully in our lifetimes.

I know Tim Ferriss has been dumping millions into , you. basically being an angel investor for companies and for for studies that aim to lift the fog of what psychedelics do. Because again, I think we’re all still you think psychedelics, people are gonna think mushrooms. L s d, they’re thinking about the sixties, hippies, just people completely blitz out of their minds doing God knows swat dancing naked in the field type thing.

But there’s been a lot of research done in the past few years that points to the psychedelics and, THC as well as being able to not just help cope with trauma and with that post-traumatic stress and the multitude of mental illnesses that we go. , not just deal with it, but reverse it and quote unquote fix it, if you will.

If there’s such a, such an

Stack: overarching term. I would love to speak on this as a professional or as an expert, but I’m no expert on psychedelics. I just know what I’ve read in books and between mushrooms, L s d, ayahuasca, ibogaine and I’ll throw ketamine in there, though. I know Technically it’s not a, it’s not a hallucinogenic.

Those are very therapeutic drugs. And why not find a way to harness that for anybody? Not just first responders, but anybody. There’s some evidence that shows that iga. We’ll not only fi fix some emotional pain, but fix actual physical pain. So why wouldn’t we look at that?

We’re talking special forces in our own military, use these drugs as a way to fix themselves, quote unquote.

TJ: I think we’re just waiting for the pharmaceutical companies to see the to project those profits, and then somehow it’s all gonna be

Stack: legalized. Oh yeah. We’re definitely, you look around, ketamine is legal in all 50 states, but you’re gonna use it in a in a controlled setting, in a therapeutic setting.

And mind you, I’m also saying that iga, ayahuasca I don’t think you should just go out and. , just go out and get it and use it on your own. I think it needs to be some sort of direction to it. Oh yeah, absolutely.

TJ: That’s, it’s when you’re dealing with mind-bending stuff you need to be in the right place with the right people, with the right support system because, hell, all you have to do is go online and Google stories about bad trips and they’re not just oh, I had a bad time.

It’s. , my brain damn near got fried is what some

Stack: of these people say. Yeah, and I think that goes back to knowing what you’re ingesting, first of all and setting yourself up for success. If your head’s not right to begin with, I don’t, it’s probably not the best day to use mushrooms, ,

TJ: right?

It’s not gonna be a fix all, it’s not gonna be a panacea that’s just gonna suddenly make all your stuff

Stack: go away. Yeah. It’ll put a smile on your face for a good few hours.

TJ: So let’s go back to the fire service. Okay. In Stack’s world in your perfect world, you get to sandbox your fire service however you want it.

When it comes to mental health, what would you have in place?

Stack: What would I have in place? First of all, I’m a huge advocate of her. Know your people. Know your people to the point of, when something’s off. And I don’t think leaders do that enough. I think that, and I’m speaking, I don’t, I can’t go universally because I don’t spend a lot of time in other fire departments.

I know what my department is like. We have a lot of inexperience in senior positions and I think the inexperience is not just fire, but it’s also people you gotta learn to. To interact with your people, , you have to know when something is wrong. You have to know, you have to notice the small changes.

You have to have conversations, you have to flesh out what’s going on in someone’s life. From there if something happens on a call, I think that if it’s a traumatic call, and again, I know that trauma hits people, differe. And I said at the beginning of the show it’s all about how we react to trauma, but we all know what we would call those stereotypical traumatic calls.

So a pediatric death. How about that? We’ll throw that one out there because that’s probably the one that’s gonna affect everybody. So you do a CPR on a, on a, on an infant, and the infant doesn’t survive. What do you do after that? I think that we have to start to reframe these things as mental.

and from a mental injury, you gotta figure out what’s the best way to rehab that mental injury. And I would say that the worst way to rehab it is to send them right back out into the field to run another call. So how do you prevent that? I, let’s backfill a position. Let’s give them some time off.

Let’s bring in some counselors, let’s let them find their way that is therapeutic to, to recover and come back to some I. Some center. How about that? And that goes back to everything that goes back to talk therapy, to psychedelics, to whatever you name it, whatever works for a person. Let’s find out what works and let’s get them back to where they’re ready to go again, to they’re the best that they can be on the job.

I think that sleep. Mental health and actually I’m gonna go with nutrition and fitness are the biggest things that we need to work on in a fire service. We’re really good at drilling mo well, most of us are good at drilling and training and getting the, how to pull a hose line and how to get a layout and how to take a door or how to stabilize a car or cut a car.

We’re good at that cuz that’s the fun shit. We do that a lot. , it’s not so fun to say, Hey, let’s not have tatter tots for dinner. That’s, yeah. That’s boring, but it, that affects everything. Yeah. That’s,

TJ: we do that even more than we drill. We have hopefully at least three meals a day right.

Over the span of a career. That’s a lot. And if you’re not, optimizing for them. You’re setting yourself up for a really bad time.

Stack: There’s some things we can’t change in the fire service. We can’t change the calls come in at the middle of the night. We can’t change that. We have to be there in the middle of the night.

We can’t change, the pressures and the traumas we’re going to experience. We just can’t, because the nature of the job is that we do, that we can change how we react to it, and we can re, we can change how we treat people after they experience it. And so to, to. to lead to longer and healthier careers.

We have to do that. And not just careers, but life after your career. Yeah. I think that’s

TJ: key. We’ve all seen those soul crushing stories of the dudes who retire after 30, 40 years and they dropped dead like a week later. And you’re like, man, The whole point is to be able to live like almost as long as you were working, make, make that pension work for you, make that retirement do good things for you, and not just end

Stack: on that note. And it’s, that actually brings up a whole nother subject because it’s something I’ve talked to with and you probably listened to a show, James Gearing behind the Shield. I, how the shield, I have talked a couple of times.

I, he was on my show. I was on his show, and we’ve talked outside of the show. How do we approach retirement? Now, at what point do we say, okay, our retirement system is broken, right? So you might not be cut out for 20 years. The guy next to you might be cut out for 35 years. I don’t know.

But if you’re not cut out for 20 years, why are you going to sit here and just live for a pension? We have to figure out, How to keep people healthy and when we can’t keep people healthy as firefighters, how do we still support them to leave the fire service and not feel like they’ve lost those years?

So that’s another topic that, that I’m mulling over in my head. I’m of chewing it a little bit and I’m not sure how you do it.

Yeah, it’s

TJ: on my end. . I keep going back to those stories of the guys who dropped dead a week later because, and also going back to what you said about knowing your people, right? When we are near those folks, when we are near our people, we can tell, right? We pay attention to them. We know if they’re doing well today, if they’re not doing so hot today, but then when they retire, like that support system is gone and it’s really scary having some of those role models and those giants in the fire.

at first when you’re new, you look at ’em, you’re like, yeah, they earned it. This is so great. They’re gonna go off and live an adventurous life. They paid their dues, if you will. And as I spend more time in the fire service, I realize we just took their routine, their support system, their family, for a lot of them, their identity in literally like a snap of the finger, right?

Overnight. Hell, like the county shuts off our email.

Midnight. Yeah. On the last day of our retirement. So many people like wake up, seven hours later cuz that’s when the shift ends and the county’s already slowly kicked them out of everything.

Stack: I can relate to that in a way. I told you, for the last, I don’t know, for the last two and a half shit, for the last three and a half years I’ve been going through a lot of shit in my life and it’s something that I’ve learned deal with and I’ve finally started talking to a therapist about it.

But before that, my crew was, my, was my bastion of whatever support they knew what was going on. They checked in with me. , they would sit down and say, Hey, how are you today? I had one, one coworker who’s definitely one of my best friends now, he who, who will force me to talk. He’s the one that, that got me started on this whole talking thing.

As I say he, now, even nowadays, he’ll sit down beside me and go, all right, so what’s going on? And I know that it’s time to just open up and let it go. It, those guys are my crew for some of them for four, four and a half years. Some of em for two years. And they knew, they were in tune to what was going on with me.

They knew that I was going through some shit on the outside. They knew that my marriage was falling apart. They knew that my mom was dying. To be transferred from that, but was like, okay, there goes that support system. What the fuck do I do now? So that’s what I mean by being in tune with your people.

Think of your people, think of what they’re going through and don’t just pull that out from under them. Like it might,

TJ: that transfer might look so good on paper, but in reality that’s could be almost a death sentence for somebody whose entire support system is based around that station and that crew.


Stack: Yeah. And, , it was jarring and it was unfortunate. And that has nothing to do with the crew that I’m working with now, because I’ve got some good guys on my crew right now. And we’ll learn to be that crew, that family, that we all need to be to thrive and survive in the fire service.

But that crew that I just left was the best crew I’d ever. From top to bottom, from fire service to personal life, there were some of the best people I’ve ever met. And so to have that yanked out was painful. And I put that on the people who made that decision. They felt that there was a gap to be filled and they just, they needed a body there.

And that body was, that, that body just happened to be me this time.

TJ: Dude, that reminds me of an email that we, probably four or five years ago from a higher up , and it was very cryptic, but it basically said, Hey, we have a lot of opportunities in this county. We have a lot of stations and places where people can go and like hone their skill.

So we’re gonna be moving a lot of people here in the coming. just so they can experience the world. Like it it was, it came out of nowhere. There was no, nothing too instigated. It was completely unannounced. And if you could have been graphing the morale over time in our department, it just no dive at that point.

Because you’re looking at your crew and being like this. Would be the last time that I get to work with this. and like for what? So I can quote unquote go see the county like , right? Plus you’re taking those folks who have spent many years at the same station. They can tell you, Hey, this is the pothole in that alley.

Hey, this is, where the local crackhead lives. This is what the frequent flyer calls like. You’re taking so much institutional knowledge away from one spot that it’s I think it’s that rental for operations, not to mention horrible for the mental wellbeing of our people.

Stack: We spend 24 hours at a time with these people.

They’re our family. Yeah. They’re another family, let’s put it that way. Yeah.

TJ: Good and bad. Like we have to push through it because we can’t really cha I mean, we could change that if we transfer, but that’s a quitter’s attitude.

Stack: Exactly. And my county, we transfer, we do transfers quite.


TJ: unfortunate.

Stack: Oh yeah. Yeah, it is. Yeah. And you can go from what you think is the best job in of your career to and I’m not saying this is what I did now, cuz it’s not at all what I did now, but you can go from one of the most active and best jobs you’ve had in the fire service to a station that runs no calls and the crew scatters when the day starts and you don’t see anybody for hours on.

I, it doesn’t it’s inexplicable to be honest with you.

TJ: It’s funny. We, I feel like our entire fire service experience is just fits all in one mold because that resonates with me. There’s gonna be somebody out there who’s yeah, I know we have those stations that people just disappeared eight in the morning.

It’s almost comical how almost identical all our stories. .

Stack: Yeah. And that goes circles right back to what I was saying about trauma being individual, but everything being universal at the same time. And also on the

TJ: topic of trauma, dude, I’ve been meaning to, but congrats. I’m very proud of you for actually reaching out and getting that help and going to therapy.

I think I talked about that on my episode that I’ve been seeing mine for Jesus Christ like almost 10 years now.

Stack: Yeah. You know the funny part about that and. If I leave the fire service I lose that therapist because she’s part of the, she’s part of the county and that’s it. That’s, so that connection I’ve made there will be severed because it’s part of the county.


TJ: Yeah. God, that’s rough.

Stack: Luckily that she’s helped me quite a bit. She’s opened my eyes to, to quite a bit of stuff and I like anything. Yep. Anybody else in this, in. Game. None of this is strictly fire department trauma. My shit started way back when. Oh, I’ll call it kindergarten, and it all stems from family stuff.

It all stems from interactions with my father and that’s many situations, but I didn’t recognize it until last year, until this year. So I had no idea Basically it was the dots had to be connected for me, and once she led me down that path, it was, oh, wait a second.

Now I see it. Wait a second. I’m still reacting from a five year old. That doesn’t make sense. .

TJ: Yeah. Dude, it’s so insane how those interactions early on in our lives, like the repercussions. It’s they’re wild. It’s that ripple effect. You throw a boulder into a lake and it just ripples and ripples.

And ripples. And ripples. Yeah.

Stack: It does it’s, and then you add everything else onto it. All the new stuff just compounds as and all the analogies are out there. water in the glass, the, the files in a cabinet, the book’s on the shelf, whatever you want to call it.

As soon as they start to fill up something’s gotta spill over and it’s gotta go somewhere. Yeah.

TJ: We have been talking a little bit about the past. Let’s turn and look at the future, . Okay. What’s in store for the things we all carry?

Stack: That’s a good question. I was just talking to my buddy today.

Well, a couple of brief texts back and forth about, hey what are, how do I take this to the next level? And so I’m looking at some things . And so I’ve been playing with some ideas of kind of a peer support component of, all right, you want to talk, let’s talk. I’m not a professional, but let’s set up some time where people can call in or can have some tech support.

And again, I’m not a professional, but peer support is something that, that I think we’ve all learned doing this. I. . And so I’m trying to figure out where I can take it and how I can use it. At one point I was considering a presentation on mental health, and it’s still in a work, something that, that I would like to present to people, maybe departments or fire stations and , make them aware of what’s out there.

First of all, what is PTs? What is trauma? What is this, what is that? And how do you do this? And how do you do that? And where we go, what resources are available, and just open that conversation everywhere. . So the podcast, I, I want to grow it. I just, that’s part of why you and I need to sit down.

You’re better at that than I am. You’re, you you have a bigger brain in your head than I do. Oh, stop it. Fire service. I, the fire service is gonna come to an end pretty quickly here. I’ve decided that this body of mine is more important than running a fire. Few months, the fires come and go.

It’s been fun, it’s been interesting. It’s been a challenge, but I wanna live a long time and this job does not lend itself to living a long time between our gear, our sleep, our nutrition whatever you name it. This job doesn’t lend itself to a long life. You don’t find many old retired firefighters.

and I know there are gonna be people out there. Oh no. There are. But that’s okay. What, I just wanna make sure that I live my life to the fullest for the longest I can. And this job doesn’t lend itself to that. And so that decision has been made. It’s just a matter of when do I pull the trigger. I’m not sure.

It won’t be long. That’s in the works where it goes. I’m not sure.

TJ: Okay. That’s. That covered my next question. I was gonna ask you about legacy, but I think that setting up for helping out firefighters as a peer is a pretty solid

Stack: legacy. If you’re asking legacy for the podcast, the legacy for the podcast is that we opened a conversation and we forced departments and people to, to think and to talk and to expose the dirty little secrets the.

The, when you, next time you read in a newspaper that the firefighter died of undisclosed, causes, I want you to read into that, that firefighter might have taken his life or her life because fire departments don’t want to admit that firefighters are killing themselves. It’s just not what they want you to know about.

And we are dying at our own hand at a faster pace than we’re dying from. . Yeah. And the fires are supposed to be the dangerous part. We’re the dangerous part.

TJ: Dude, I don’t even know where to go from here.

Stack: that’s so laughter is my defense, so I apologize for

TJ: the laughter. It’s true. No, like you, you have, I keep writing down all the like truth bomb and like the amazing sound bites that I’m gonna have as the pre intro and I’m running out of room on the paper because I have, I. put in so many of them, like everything from, you pick up pieces from the people that he talked to or how we live in chaos or talk about mental injuries or the old retirement.

Like I, I keep rechanging and rechanging my pre intro, the more we talk,

Stack: I’m sitting over here thinking I’m just rambling on and making no sense whatsoever. So I’m glad you’re finding something.

TJ: If that’s your rambling, I am terrified to see what your like coherent thoughts would be. I’m

Stack: terrified too, cuz I don’t know if I ever have coherent thoughts, , that my ADHD takes over quite often.

I’ve talked to you about it. Oh my

TJ: God. Yeah. It’s impossible to get ahold of you. . I’ll be talking to Josh. I was like, Hey, I gotta sign a life from Stack. But we might be in the dark for like next month. Again, .

Stack: I don’t think you’re the only one that thinks that. There’s a lot of people that think, oh, sign a life.

He is alive. That’s the good news.

TJ: Right, I’ll see something on social media, or you’ll text me. I’m like, all right. We’re, the status quo. We’re maintaining, but we seriously, the three of us need to sit down have a conversation. And yeah, definitely shamelessly record another podcast and keep getting that content

Stack: out there.

Yeah. And like I said, we’ll just, we’ll ramble on another time and we’ll figure out different topics and different subjects to, to delve. .

TJ: Yeah. Is there anything else that you would like to close with?

Stack: I’m gonna ask you again. I’m gonna, I’m gonna close because it, because this is also my show. I’m gonna give you my last two questions and they gotta be different from the last time.

TJ: dude, if it’s a book again, I’m gonna be so mad at you because you me with that

Stack: question, don’t, I Don’t give a shit if you’re mad at me. Cuz we probably won’t talk again for another 30 days. You know me, , think what? What’s something else you carry every day? Cuz for your audience who might not have listened to my show what I like to do is I’d like to ask everybody for an everyday carry something that, that this person carries on them.

And if you leave the house without you feel naked. And the reason I. Give me a few seconds here. I’m sorry. That the reason I do it is cuz I named the show the things that We All Carry based off a book. And that book is called The Things They Carried. And it was it’s a novel set in Vietnam and it’s about a platoon and it’s about the things that they carried into war.

So a radio a medic bag. A rifle, a, you know what? It’s, but it also focused on what they carried out after that battle or after that excursion. And those are the more important things. It’s the scars, it’s the damage to our psyche. It’s the traumas that we carried out after. And so we all carry something into a fire or a medical call, but we all carry that, that, that memory out with us.

So I like to ask my guest, what’s an everyday carry that you don’t leave the house?

TJ: And it has to be physical, right?

Stack: It has to be physical. No, it doesn’t have to be physical. It doesn’t. I, because I have a two, a twofold answer, right? That does not surprise me with your brain. Go for it,

TJ: brother.

Like you again, like I’m so bitter about that. That book ambush the last time we recorded . But you, it’s funny, you go back to sleep, you go back to exercising nutrition. I had been rocking this whoop band for. Almost two years now, I think.

It is one of those things that I’m like, okay, is it charged?

Am I good to go? Yeah. And that’s not like just me being neurotic. Yeah. That’s a given. But because I have been trying to place so much more emphasis on sleep, on recovery, and on at least having some sort of baseline, I know it’s not as accurate as an ekg. I know it’s not like some hard monitor.

I know it’s not giving me like the end all be all, but at least I have some sort of baseline. So if I wake up and I’m like, I feel like shit. And the whoop is nah dude, you got awesome recovery. I’m. Okay. Okay. So maybe this will go away by the morning. Or if I wake up and I’m like, I am ready to rock and roll, and my whoop is homie, you are in the red.

You got 2% recovery. I’m like, all right, today’s gonna be a chill day at work. I’m going to just minimize my exposure to like high energy things as much as I can and just gonna take my time recovering. And that’s one of those things that I feel is important towards, towards that longevity because.

We keep joking about it and we keep talking about it yeah the pfas and the carcinogens and the diesel exhaust and, we have clean cabs, et cetera, et cetera. I am convinced that in five, 10 years we’re gonna start seeing studies pop up saying that the reason we all have such alarmingly high rates of cancer is because our sleep is completely fucked.

Yes. Because yes, we sleep maybe two uninterrupted hours. If you combine. how much you might sleep at a busy house. It’s, it might be a combined two hours if you’re lucky, and then you come home and you have your side gig or your other job or your family and you get crappy sleep and so on and so forth.

Pretty convinced that we’re gonna see that be one of the biggest triggers of our cancer incidences. So I’m trying to get ahead of that curve. I’m trying not to get blindsided and I’m trying. Optimize four and prioritize that

Stack: sleep. The whoop is funny. Like you said, it’s you. Sometimes you wake up and you’re like, man, I feel good.

And you look at it and you’re like, what the fuck? 36% recovered, huh? And then sometimes you wake up, like you said, you’re groggy, but you’re in the green and you’re like, huh. And you have no idea. But then it’s picking up the things that you don’t pick up. . . And you know what?

TJ: There’s a guy at work whose Apple Watch told him to check his blood pressure and he ended up having a heart attack.

So at least there’s this constant thing on my wrist whose entire job is to track my basic vitals and to let me know if something’s wrong. So it’s like that added layer of protection, right? Yeah. And that’s

Stack: the fiscal th that whoop is perfect because you don’t have to take it off to charge it.

TJ: And also dude, for people like us who get easily distracted by screens and flashing things, that is one less screen that I have to deal with. I could never have an Apple watch. Like it’s half of the time I wanna throw my phone out the window because of how addictive everything in it is.

And the last thing I would want is a wearable constantly . Bombarding me with even more stuff.

Stack: Yep. No, I understand. Yeah. All right. So the other thing, what was.

TJ: and this has been a change because when we chatted, and I’m glad I get to say this because I’m glad I’m growing and changing. When we chatted, I was still in my like crackhead face where I was still dealing with everything after we lost na, with, just navigating life and my relationship and dealing with friends and family.

now I try to take, before I leave the houses, make sure that I take a, I don’t wanna say neutral attitude, but a very go with the flow attitude as the stoics like to talk about as, African, forget who was it that, that talked about being like water. You just conform to whatever container you’re put in, right?

You just go with it and. . I feel that’s important to, to take that attitude because home is my safe space, right? We all laugh at those jokes, haha, do you need a safe space? But this is my sanctuary, this is my castle. This is where I can be unapologetically me, and I can be high strung, or I can be meditative and chill and before I leave my place of refuge, I find it very important to take that one second and be like, whatever.

I’m well-equipped. I know what I know. I have trained what I have trained, and I am going to do the best to conform because it’s so easy to show up to work and get pissed off about all the calls we have to run to, deal with a family member and you’re angry because they’re that. Cranky old boomer type person.

Like it’s so easy to let all those circumstances beyond our control get to us, especially me. I have a very I’ve been working with my temper for my entire life, but I can be a little trigger happy on my angry outbursts. So it’s important for me to just take that second and set myself up for the day where whatever happens I.

I just let it do its thing, and at the end of the day, I get to come home. I get to come back to my sanctuary and offload and go offline and deal with my things. Perfect. All

Stack: Book, give me a book, suggest it to my audience and your audience. What’s a book you’ve recently read or you.

Just suggest.

TJ: So I have been in the growth stages for TJ Leather, my side gig, because last year I did the math, I crunched the numbers and I realized that it made a lot more money than I was expecting it to, and I was just haphazardly running that business. So I have been in that business book kick, and I found this dude by the name of Alex Hormoze.

I don’t know, dude. He’s the goat, in my opinion. This dude looks like a homeless man, right? He’s wearing a wife beater, a flannel, a long black beard, long black hair, jorts and crocs with calf high socks, and he’s wearing these clothes while sitting up in front of million. explaining to them how he at 32, 33, however old he is, has been able to take home hundreds of millions a year from his companies.

But all of that comes from a very un like innate understanding of human nature. And he’s been through trauma. He’s had the DUIs, the car crashes, the family member issues, the. Just complete isolation that comes with business. And also that hopelessness that comes with not knowing what you’re gonna do next and having to dig yourself out of that hole so he’s not some like trust fund kid.

Like this. This dude has been clawing his way out of a lot of self-made holes for many years. and his insights on just human psychology and how to deal with yourself first. They transcend the whole business side of things, right? People are gonna listen to this and be like, oh my God, a business book.

I don’t care. This guy sits around on Twitter and pumps out some of the biggest truth bonds about how we are as people and what matters in the end. Like he, he talks about mortality more than some of the stoics do, right? He says he’s in one generation, two generations, no one’s even gonna remember your name, right?

Your life, the most important thing you’re dealing with right now is gonna be over and nobody’s gonna care. So whatever decision you think is so hard right now, and whatever judgment you think people are passing on, you just don’t worry about it because eventually it’s all just gonna fade. Do what you want right now.

Live the life you wanna live, and don’t let those voices of doubt get. and that resonates more than any sort of business book ever could.

Stack: Yeah. Learning how to not let the voices of doubt get to you. That’s a tough one. It’s,

TJ: it’s very tough. And we all go through that. Whether you’re running a business, whether you are, pulling a handline after.

Botching an appointment previously or running a medical call that you’re like, oh my God, what am I doing? Like we all have the, our self-doubt is sometimes the loudest voice in, out of all the out of all the judgment that, that we

Stack: experienced. Or as you well know, releasing a podcast that you’re like, what are people gonna think about this?


TJ: Yeah. That’s, but going back to when you released yours, like you were just so nonchalant about it. Excuse me. I’m like, dude, stack is he’s such a legend. He just launched this and he don’t care. Like he’s gonna piss off people, he’s gonna make people happy. He’s gonna make people sad.

I’m like, that is the energy I need to channel. And that’s brother like leading up to our launch. I’m like, that’s what I’m channeling. That’s what it’s gonna be. We’re gonna put ourselves out there, completely vulnerable, completely humble. Whatever happens, it will happen. I have no control over it. I’m gonna give it as much as I can and just let life to its thing.

And I’m glad I did because if it had been for the doubt, and if I hadn’t seen you just like almost go at it with reckless Bandon, I would’ve still been trying. Finish those edits and trying to perfect everything. And we all know that perfect plan is never going to get executed.

Stack: No, it’s never going to perfect.

Is not possible. I I, I guess when I’m asked about what I do I like to say that I’m just a basically I’m just an idiot with a small platform who likes to let people speak into a microphone. And sometimes I talk into it as well and sometimes I make sense, sometimes I get it right, sometimes I botch it completely.

Sometimes I get life wrong, sometimes I get life right. And I’m just trying to muddle through on my own at times and muddle through with others and. And not do too much damage.

TJ: Dude, I’m very glad that this time it was you speaking to the microphone because your story is genuinely one of the best ones that I’ve heard.

And you just bring so much to the table from everything that you’ve dealt with in life your background, your experience. and being that guy who, like I said, put himself out there and started that conversation and started pissing off the powers that be and changing the status quo. Because I am convinced that thanks to your podcast and thanks to your platform and the people, your ambassadors, if you will, we have been able to save a life or two because there are people who understand there’s help.

There are people who understand that the trauma is univers. And the recovery can be learned from others, so it’s not entirely hopeless and I’m convinced that somebody out there has listened to it and chosen the help versus the gun or the pills.

Stack: I, and I hope so. I honestly do I hear some stories once in a while and I appreciate hearing stories.

I hope that if what I’ve put out there and what you and 49 other people roughly, because some of these have been repeats, but some of, some of them have been experts as well. And if anything I’ve put out there is help somebody, then it’s a win. And that’s all I’m looking for. .

TJ: It’s definitely been a win.

Dude, thank you so much for chatting with me today. It’s always a pleasure and I’m glad I was able to pick your brain and build a a fuller picture of this enigmatic stack figure that I’ve known for so long. .

Stack: Yeah. I’m, I’ll go back to the shadows and just being a voice behind a microphone and a asking questions once in a while.

TJ: I’ll get a proof of life text here in a day or two if I’m lucky. .

Stack: All right, man. I appreciate it and thanks for letting me do a crossover with you. And like I said, this one will be out n next Wednesday, not this coming Wednesday, but next Wednesday. And it’s number 50 for me, number 10 for you.

And I think those are both good milestones, so I like what you’re doing, man. Good

TJ: deal. Like west brother. Thanks as always. All right, man. Take

Stack: care.

TJ: All right. I am.

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