LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – In a game of chess, you have to find your intellectual self to not only predict the next move but to make that one move to win.
“There’s no way to come back from that,” says Britton Turner.
The retired Little Rock Firefighter knows the mind can also play tricks.
“You have this compartment in your head that is only so big and it can only carry so much,” he says.
Decades of service to the Capital City means saving lives going call to call.
“She’s screaming,” recalls Turner. “It triggered something in my head.”
It changed the former captain’s life forever.
“It was actually a patient’s mother because she reminded me so much of my mother and what my mother would be doing if I was in the same place,” says Turner.
Turner’s mother is still alive but says it was this call that forced him to turn to the only thing that would comfort him.
“I’d come home and I would beg myself please don’t stop by the liquor store, please, whatever you do don’t stop by the liquor store today and inedibly I would,” he says.
Always sober on-duty, booze took over Turner’s life at home.
“There are a few years of my daughter’s life that I won’t remember and I’ll forever feel guilty about that,” says Turner.
It got so bad, photos Turner captured of his then six-year-old daughter, he can’t remember taking.
“I’m standing there, a beer in one hand, a camera in another, taking a picture of her,” says Turner. “You can tell by the look in her eye–she is absolutely just ‘daddy built me a swing set’.”
Drunk a lot, Turner says his rock bottom happened when he nearly took his own life and his wife’s.
“On the way home, she said I tried to grab the steering wheel of the truck and run us into oncoming traffic,” says Turner. “I don’t remember any of it.”
Little Rock Fire Department (LRFD) Captain Jason Weaver says more and more firefighters suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
“Dealing with this stuff has sort of moved up to a priority where it’s being recognized now,” he says.
The LRFD says since 1990, five firefighters have committed suicide. Two of those suicides happened in the last eight years.
Capt. Weaver says rescue calls can be the ones firefighters remember forever.
“It involved a small child,” recalls Capt. Weaver. “While approaching the scene the first thing I saw was a shoe and it was just the size of the shoes that I had bought my daughter.”
In the last year or two, LRFD has launched a peer support group to help firefighters cope.
“Watching for increased alcohol use, if that person is pulling away and isolating themselves,” says Capt. Weaver.
Turner says it took three months off the fire truck to sober up. He turned to his family, including his daughter, for help.
“This is what daddy did and I need your help and it’s really sobering when you have to tell a six-year-old that their dad needs help,” he says.
Turner retired six years ago. He’s been sober for seven.
Sometimes it takes making the move no one sees coming that gives you the power to not only win but create memories you will remember.
“If you keep it bottled up inside, it’s only going to get worse and worse and worse,” cautions Turner.
He now shares his story with new recruits at the Firefighter Academy. He says it’s vital for new firefighters to hear about the warning signs and how to get help as soon as possible.