JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - They fight fires, but that's not all. Sometimes, firefighters have to fight a different kind of battle.
"It got to the point where it was affecting my work, it was affecting my relationship with my kids, my friendships," said Heath Mooney, a fireman with JFRD.
Mooney, a fireman for 15 years with the Jacksonville Fire Department, is battling alcoholism and PTSD.
"It took me a long time to realize I have a problem," he said.
The International Association of Firefighters has a program in Maryland to help firefighters such as Mooney. He's one of 887 to get that treatment in the last two years since the program started. Four are from Jacksonville.
"It took me a long time to realize I have a problem." — a @JFRDJAX fireman is one of 887 firefighters across the country to get help through a program for #PTSD and other mental problems/ substance abuse— Amber Krycka (@AmberANjax) August 29, 2019
He got back this summer.
"I know I have a purpose."
Story at 11 pic.twitter.com/9cE5fyS3oj
"I feel a lot better, I'm sleeping a lot better, my focus is on point," Mooney said.
The job is demanding, and you have to bring you're A game every time, he said.
"Yesterday, we had a structure fire. If anyone on that scene is foggy, it's not fair to the citizens or the guys that work with me," he said.
Mooney said he wasn't 100% before. Now, he is.
"I'm engaged, I'm present, and I'm excited about it," Mooney said.
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And that's happening at just the right time – with a hurricane on the way.
"They've now got tree teams that go out and clear roads, it's pretty much 24/7," Mooney said.
They work several days at a time, trying to help others in terrible weather conditions while thinking about the family's they've left behind.
"When you think about your family and where they're at and what they're dealing with, that's a real stressor," he said.
But Mooney is learning to work through that stress, day by day.
"Ultimately, they saved my life. I know that I have a purpose, I know my life has purpose," Mooney said.
Randy Wyse, president of Jacksonville Association of Firefighters said IAFF is thinking about building another treatment facility, because of the success and so many firefighters reaching out for help.
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