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March 13, 2012


Have you ever taken part in a phone call between a sponsor and sponsee that goes something like this?
Sponsee – Hey, I’m just checking in.
Sponsor – Hey, it is great to hear from you, how has today been?
Sponsee – Well, it was rough, I had a hard day…..
Sponsor – Hard? Like a bad day at work, wife upset with you, or temptations?
Sponsee – All the above.
Then the sponsee goes on to tell a story of finding themselves in a situation that would be classified as a trigger. Whether it is a stressful situation, an environment from their old life, being alone, wife is out of town, got cut off on the freeway and so on. The conversation reveals there has been a relapse of some level. The sponsor then goes on with the all too common, “Why did you not call? This is why I am here”.

In my line of work we have the same problem. We have a phrase that signals one of us is in trouble, “MAYDAY, MAYDAY, MAYDAY”. This is sounded over the radio when a firefighter is lost or trapped. There are just a few rules for calling a MAYDAY.
1. Situational Awareness, DON’T GET LOST OR TRAPPED
2. Recognize your situation and call early
a. Get the resources coming, if you do not need them, great!!
b. Give Command a LUNAR report
i. Last known location,
ii. Unit assignment
iii. Needs
iv. Air level
v. Resources needed
3. Air is a limited resource, conserve it
a. If working will exhaust your air supply, stop and let us come get you
4. Stay calm
5. MAYDAY traffic has priority
This is drilled into us as recruits, then rookies and in every class we take for the rest of our career. Kind of sounds like group, huh. Yet we experience LODD (Line of Duty Deaths) every year because we do not want to be the one that calls the MAYDAY. We find ourselves in need of help, but want to try to free ourselves and use up too much air before we finally call for help. By the time we do call for help, the rescue team is up against a clock that we started 5 minutes earlier. Sometimes they get us out, this is called a Near Miss. Sometimes they don’t, this is a LODD. So why do we continue to lose good men and women every year?
Well, as firefighters we are too proud to call for help. We think we can do it on our own. We don’t want to be teased. We do not want to be seen as weak. Does this sound familiar?
We all read this and think, NUTS, who would be so proud to die because of pride or ego? Who would risk abandoning their family for such petty attributes? Who would be so insane to find themselves in such a situation and not call out for help? OOOOHHHHHH…….
That’s right, an addict. We as addicts are the worst at calling for help. I have received these phone calls before and I will probably receive many more. We must all know that a small relapse is a relapse and is the result of many choices. Most of the choices are choices of inaction and complacency. So I have developed some MAYDAY rules for Addicts.
1. Situational Awareness, DON’T GET LOST OR TRAPPED in the lies we tell ourselves
2. Recognize your situation and call early
a. Call early, - If you know Satan comes knocking when the wife it out. Call your sponsor before the temptations hit. Sometimes that is all it takes to keep him at bay. And if you do not need your sponsor the rest of the day then GREAT!!
b. Give your Sponsor a HEAT report
i. Heads up – put your sponsor on stand-by – so they can prepare
ii. Environment – Be aware of your environment and keep yourself safe, run if you can. If not be hyper-vigilant
iii. Actions – decide on what your actions are now, so you don’t have to create a plan in the heat of the moment
iv. Triggers – know what your triggers are and call before they take hold and move from “yellow” to “red”
3. Facing the dragon alone is a fatal mistake
a. We know Self-Will will exhaust your strength, stop and let your sponsor come get you
4. Stay calm
5. MAYDAY traffic has priority – this is why we sign up to be a sponsor.

These are all steps of decision and action. We are not unique because we have found abstinence, sobriety and healing. We are unique because what we are moved to do to maintain our abstinence, sobriety and healing.