Menu icon - click here to toggle the menu
In The News

For National Recovery Month, first responders help to fight stigmas attached to substance abuse

Maureen Keown

Authored by Maureen Keown

CHICAGO (CBS) — September is National Recovery Month and CBS 2 is shining a light on a group often at a higher risk for alcohol and substance abuse: first responders.

CBS 2’s Sara Machi sat down with a group in the western suburbs trying to address that challenge.

Only his second day with Fox River & Countryside Fire Rescue District, Trevor Gomoll runs through the motions, a drill to get him more acquainted with the physical demands of the job.

But just as often, leaders said to keep an eye on the mental and emotional challenges too.

“We train the old guys who are too tough to say that there’s a problem and we train the new guys who just don’t know you know because they have a whole career ahead of them,” said interim Chief Jim Niesel of Fox River & Countryside Fire Rescue District.

After decades as a first responder, Jim Niesel said he’s seen the industry come a long way on stress and mental health, but there’s still a lot of stigma and aversion to talking about addiction.

“It is near and dear to my heart. I have five generations of firefighters in my family.”

Kim Sutherland runs the outpatient services at Recovery Centers of America, creating a virtual program specifically for first responders, working around their irregular shifts, and enrolling 26 people since their start.

“I knew it had to be done, but I needed help to get the ball rolling.”

Including this firefighter from the western suburbs who didn’t want to use her name or face because there is still so much stigma around addiction.

“Because, I think, a lot of us, we are the problem-solvers, you know? When you don’t know how to fix your own problems, you tend to feel very lost,” said the firefighter.

She said her problems started with depression and then alcohol abuse. AA meetings with their shared stories felt too much like being back at work.

However, she found success in this program tailored for her. So she, like her fellow first responders, can continue their mission to help others.

“You know sometimes you have bad days and that’s OK. It doesn’t have to be the rest of your life which has been huge.”

“For National Recovery Month, first responders help to fight stigmas attached to substance abuse”,, “

Authored by

Maureen Keown

Maureen Keown

Maureen Keown is the Director of Marketing, responsible for media relations for Recovery Centers of America.


Treatment Advisor
Standing By, 24/7