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Empty Your Glass

Join Idao Firefighter/Medic Paul Watkins as we talk about self care and some interesting ideas he has on the subject. A truly great conversation that you won’t want to miss!! My name is Paul Watkins I was born in 1976 in Ontario,Oregon. I currently live in Meridian,Idaho a suburb of Boise Idaho. I grew up in New Plymouth Idaho, a small farming community of about 1500 residents.Thats where I started my love for being a first responder. It was a small all volunteer fire dept. I tried starting when I was 17 but for insurance purposes I could not start until I was 18. which is july 6 so needless to say I had to hear the sirens leaving the station for about 2 months after graduating from high school. Getting my pager was the high light of the summer, then the first set of tones go out and I was hooked. So from the day I turned 18 to now I have been a first responder. I was entirely fire until I became an emt in 2007. So I moved to Donnelly,Idaho a small town in valley conty Idaho its about 95 miles from Meridian. I was on the combination department there and and thats where I started to push myself to becoming a paramedic.
The journey to where I am today was not at all easy, am also a journeyman electrician as I am still to this day. My family was and still are alcoholics and that was a way of life, I never partook in the alcoholic lifestyle until I got divorced in 2001. Then it slowly starts to creep in. All my life growing up with divorced parents and living with my father who was an alcoholic I convinced myself I was never going to be an alcoholic.
I started my first resonder career in 1994 and thats the era suck it up butter cup, if the fire is to hot get out, thats the stigma we lived by and most places today are still the same way. That is the most unhealthy way to look at thing. But that was not always my point of view I was that mindset I lived by it Not a good idea. Im advancing through my career, so I decided it was a good idea to try and run an electrical company and work as a fire medic at the same time, I got married a second time and was telling myself i was good I am fine, well that was not true at all. Those words are not allowed at my current station I will explain that on the show.
Stress of the business sets in and the stress and let downs of being a first responder start to set in. I start to drink a beer or so a day knowing I will never be an addict or an alcoholic. a year and a half goes by and I am in the valley county courthouse getting my second divorce, drinking starts to get heavier,but yet again I can handle it for I am fine Im good again lies we tell ourselves. so years go by no big changes except drinking has become my way of letting go,but yet Im not an alcoholic so I tell myself, and no way am I going to ask for help thats a weakness. (another lie). So I decide to just work as an electrican part time and decided to work at two fire depts. only having about 12 hours off between the two terrible idea.I hung on for 6 months until I broke one day and did not make it to shift, and was suspended for not going throught the proper channels. so I quit the one dept. on the spot and had put 9 years ofmy life into that dept. thinking thats where I would retire, well that was not going to happen. The dept. I work at now and the one I quit is about 12 miles apart.
Well things got worse because the reason I missed shift is because there was a death on every shift and other traumatic calls and they just stacked up and not knowing it then but my glass was full and over flowing and the one person you think would have your back did not Donnelly fire chief, he would always say his fire fighters health was his main concern, well he forgot the mental heath aspect. Drinking got worse and I could trust no one. Well then I get married the third time this time there is 3 children involved all girls and two living at home 13 and 15, still married today. will be 4 years may 29th.
I got to the point where I was drinking very heavily after shift after work pretty much anytime i was at home. I would go to the store and and swing by the bar for a beer or two or so, But yet I can control it, I was in control well I thought. The mental aspect of life, marriage, electrical work,and paramedicine was beginning to get heavy. I had been pushing mental health for a couple years at this time but looking back I know why God did not heal me at this time was because I needed to learn. Well one day two years ago may 23 I was at my local water hole and my wife stopped by and had a drink with me but I had been there a couple hours prior so I was in about 4 drinks beer and 1 Shot of whiskey. So we decided to leave she was in front of me and She took off and I pulled out behind her and looked in my mirror and sawthe red and blue lights behind me. So I pulled over at my local gas station I frequent every day,and started the road side olympics and of course I failed,only for the moment not knowing this was actually goiong to be a trimph.
So I refused to blow and they never drew blood so we never knew my blood alcohol content. Bt I was not blitzed even my wife siad she had seen me alot worse and drive not cool. well I was arrested of course and was released at midnight bailed out and had to be on shift at 8 am I live an hour and 40 minutes from the station so I got about 3 hours of sleep hung over and very tired ashamed all emotions. well about 1 oclock my ems boss comes and wakes me up and says do you have something to tell us. Talk about absolute utter ashamed and felt like a failure, I could have given up but I was going to beat this. well I lost my license, did not lose my job but did lose my job as an electrician, no loss actually.
No jail time just community service and all the fines involved. But I did thank the arresting officer and told him I needed this because I was an alcoholic, my wife called me an addict once and I got so enraged I wa going to divorce her. Well I have not touched alcohol for two years and have no desire.
What I did learn through all this is there was never anybody there for me I felt alone empty.,broken. Well now my mission is to get the word out there that there is help and hope I am trying to shift the norm to get help ask that its not a weakness. So at the station I have started the mental well being movement to train people to ask for help non judgemental we are there for each other we have to build that mindset up. So i am working on my chaplaincy for responders and I started the how is your glass today. I can go over that on the show if you woukd like. My goal is to see our people retire happy healthy. There is millions of dollars every year spent on cancer and ppe and all the drugs, not one fire or ems conference around here has classes on mental well being and I am going to try and change that any way I can.

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