Lives Changed. Stories Shared.
The testimonials below come from a family of first responders whose lives were all impacted when one of them, Willie, contacted Responder Health and asked for support.
I say friends instead of colleagues because so many of you mean so much more to me than just being a co-worker. Many of you I consider family, and for those of you I have not formally met, I believe we would be friends if given the opportunity. My desire for this letter and testimony is to give you hope for yourself or someone you love, regardless of the issue(s) at hand. Additionally, I want to emphasize how important Responder Health has been to my recovery. I will attempt to be as concise as possible. With that said, if you would like to know more about my story and experience, please contact me! I will leave my information at the bottom.
Alcoholism and a deep depression have plagued me for years. I have made numerous and strong-willed attempts to combat these issues on my own, even seeking professional assistance throughout the past few years. Unfortunately, these attempts gave me little success. Almost two months ago, I reached my breaking point. I felt that my life was doomed and that I had hit my bottom. I have never felt so much hopelessness. I was destined to be miserable for the rest of my life, never reaching happiness or my full potential. With that said, I still had the slightest ounce of fight left in me. I have gone toe to toe with my inner demons for years. I had some wins, however, the loses were starting to stack up. I came to the realization that I could not win this battle alone.
I finally admitted to my parents that I needed help. My father who is also a paramedic with our department, sought assistance through the Union (3911). Our Union President suggested that we call Responder Health. I was not very familiar with Responder Health at this time. I had only seen the flyers and magnets throughout the paramedic stations. I had low expectations for this suggestion, with that said, I was at a point where I did not think anyone, or anything could help me.
I could have not been more wrong. From the first call to Responder Health, I immediately began to feel relief. In the company of my mother and father, we called and talked to a man named Sean. Sean’s positive energy and competence immediately gave me hope. It was early in the morning when we called. He suggested a treatment center, and even called the treatment center’s CEO personally, stating that he woke the CEO up. Sean gave me the play-by-play throughout the entire day and answered every question. Sean and his fellow colleague Vanessa must have called me and my parents, at least five times that day. Some of the calls were simply just to check on us, as we were going through a trying time. I was blown away by this service. He made it personal, and I knew right away that he was on a mission to get me help.
Initially, the treatment center was not going to be able to accept me right away. This gave me and my family concerns that we voiced to Sean. Sean was able to get me in the very next day. He even assisted us with exploring travel options. Sean was an integral part of this entire process and without him, I am not sure what I would have done. The help of Responder Health did not stop there. Sean and his colleagues have continued to be in contact with my family. They assisted my parents with finding resources to assist them, as this process has also been challenging for my loved ones.
I cannot adequately articulate in words how important Responder Health has been to myself and my family. We are blessed to have this resource. I would like to also say that Responder Health has been a valuable asset to multiple other patients I have come into contact with at my treatment center. Three of these patients are fellow first responders and one is the wife of a first responder. They all have given similar testimonies like mine. Responder Health is a reliable and confidential program that I highly advocate for.
Today I wake up 52 days sober. I have learned what joy is. I have learned what it is like to be happy for no apparent reason. I have also learned that it is not normal to feel depressed every day. I still have minor bouts of sadness, however, the feeling of being doomed no longer haunts me. My relationships with my friends and family have become stronger. I have become stronger. I love my life, and this is the greatest gift I have ever received. All of this is directly related to Responder Health.
Thank you for reading this. I hope it has given you more insight. To the person struggling, I promise you are not doomed. I strongly encourage you to contact Responder Health.
Rick, Willie's Father
Today I write to express my overwhelming support to an organization called Responder Health. A little back story might be necessary, my wife, son and daughter are paramedics like myself, the majority of us obtained our start in the fire service. My wife and daughter work for different organizations but my son and I work at the same place. Let me just say that dinner time conversations are not for the faint of heart. The opportunity to work together has been an amazing experience and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Life as we knew it came to a crashing end on January 14th 2022, a day that should have be a cause for celebration because it was the 28th birthday of our son. This day is etched into our memory’s because it was the day, he hit rock bottom. He had struggled with alcohol and on this day it won causing fallout into all aspects of his life. To witness this firsthand was horrendous, his future appeared bleak.
Willie is a smart, funny, friendly, personable 28-year-old, at work he’s extremely competent, smart, and aggressive. He’s always championed the weak almost always placing the needs of others over this own. He excelled at this was highly decorated far beyond his years. Personally, he was plagued by alcohol abuse and depression. This scourge killed the person he was normally. The members of his family and friends were torn on what we could do to help him. Often, he would portray a false image to those around him leading us into a false sense of his wellbeing.
That January day was like so many others except the ending, I’ll spare you the details, it was the day that Willie hit rock bottom, this was apparent to us because the next day he would not only allow help but was asking for it. For me I experienced many emotions the previous night and into that morning. Embarrassment and anger were my initial emotions, this changed into hopelessness and despair, then followed later by relief and cautious optimism. I was contacted by a Union official who suggested Responder Health, it was a new addition to the benefits we are offer by our employer.
Calling was difficult, I called to see what options were available to Willie. I received a call from Sean from Responder Health, he was immediately calm and reassuring detailing what assistance they could offer our son. Sean said that if Willie had additional questions, he would discuss options with all of us. Our son decided that he wanted to get help, we called Sean back who listened to us and offered guidance in a non-judgmental and caring way. Sean offered several options to assist him in his recovery. Some were 30 minutes from our home, one was very far away but came highly recommended. His selection was the farthest one nearly 3000 miles from home. Wille was committed to moving forward and wanted to “go now”, Sean was able to make arraignments regardless of the holiday weekend and he facilitated all of needs in such a short window. So we plotted a course for California. During that day, we received many calls and text messages from both Sean and Vanessa, they explained the process and alleviated our concerns. They were both remarkable treating us more like family or close friends not clients.
The process of traveling to California and leaving your son at a treatment center was a difficult one. Flying back home without him was the worst. Over the first month we had limited contact with him, but when we did, he started to have that spark not seen for many years. As I sit here and write this, he’s celebrating 53 days in recovery and continues make his sobriety his achievable goal. We couldn’t be prouder of his progress and celebrate each milestone he experiences. We are optimistic for his future and could not be more pleased with him during this difficult time. He’s achieved success during this process, and we relish the return of Willie 2.0. The same remarkable young man just having less demons that haunt him. His difficult journey is far from over except now he has some powerful allies to guide and assist him. The list that I credit for saving our sons life is long, all near the top I would have to list him for working so, Responder Health, our Union and even New Castle County for contracting with such a useful and necessary service. I’m thankful to Responder Health for not only saving the life of our son but giving him back his life. This is something that me and my family are eternally grateful for.
To those who suffer, be it from addiction, depression or the loved one who has the burden of witnessing and living through this …. My story is for you. My name is Heather and I am the mother of an amazing human; he is compassionate, brave, loving and an alcoholic. For years I have been on the sidelines, watching as he struggled with depression and alcoholism, unable to force my will upon him, as he would so adamantly tell me, “I’m a grown-ass man”. Until this past January when he hit rock bottom. I was both thankful and regretful to have witnessed this life-altering day. After the dust settled and alcohol was out of his system, I witnessed a man who had nothing else to give, surrendering to his powerlessness and me knowing all the while, this was our chance as a family to help.
You see, we are a family of paramedics. Mom, Dad, Sister/daughter and Brother/son, this is a strong-willed family of alphas and dominate personalities, we “fix-things” … this was something we had not been able to fix. You know, when they teach you to be a paramedic, they actually teach you how to tell someone that their love-one is dead. They teach you to be straightforward, clear and concise, not to use euphemisms like; “they’ve passed” or “their gone”. For 25 years I have held fast to this, every-time hearing the words of my paramedic instructor … “tell them they are dead”. As I sat on the bed early in the morning, having a sobering conversation with Willie, he said, “Mom, what’s wrong with me”. I remember thinking, here’s your chance Heather, don’t blow it, don’t be like you’ve been in the past, thinking discipline and yelling would change him. I took a deep breath, hearing the voice of my instructor from so many years ago, “Willie, you are an alcoholic”. The look on his face, the fear in his eyes, all so heartbreaking as a mother. He gathered his thoughts and revealed to me that he had recently taken a long walk and contemplated that same thing. This was the first honest conversation he and I had ever had about this, and then he said, “I need help”.
Meanwhile, during my time upstairs with Willie. Dad was downstairs on the phone with a guy named Sean. Rick, my husband, Willie’s dad, had received a call from their work, with a name and number of a company that had recently been contracted by their employer to help employees with such events. The company was called Responder Health. Willie stayed upstairs, while I came down to tell Rick that he had finally surrender and wanted us to help him. Rick told me about his conversation with Sean and that when Willie was ready, we would call Sean back for help. An hour later ….
From the very second I heard Sean’s voice, I knew this “stranger” was here to help. The four of us; Willie, Rick, Sean and myself had several conference calls that morning. Sean listened to Willie as Willie explained his black-outs and depression. Sean advised us that he had a place in mind, and would call us back after he was able to reach the director. Within the hour, Sean has us all on a conference call with the director/doctor of a rehab that Sean felt would meet the needs of Willie. I’ll never forget, both Sean and the director that day, telling Willie, “I got you”. Within 48 hours of Willie’s rock-bottom, he was 3000 miles away, in a safe place, receiving the help he needed. Over the next days, weeks and now months, Sean and Vanessa from Responder Health have kept their finger on the pulse of WIllie’s recovery. Not only caring for Willie, but helping the family find counseling as well. Sean Riley is nothing less then a godsend for my family! As I write this letter of gratitude for the work that Sean does, I am reminded that today is Willie’s 52nd day of sobriety. I know this will be a long road to recovery, but I also know that we have help. I will shout it from the rooftops … Responder Health saved my son’s life!
Rachel, Willie's Sister
To those who may be struggling, As I write this tonight, emotions overwhelm me; emotions of fear, motivation, helplessness, depression and happiness. How do all of these hit me at the same time? Because I watched my brother slowly killing himself with an addiction, an addiction to alcohol. I put happiness last because for years that has been something he has never truly been able to experience, until Responder Health saved him and our entire family.
My name is Rachel Doan and my brother, my role model and my best friend was an alcoholic. I never thought I would be able to say the word “was” in that statement. I feared alcohol was going to continue to take over his life and drown him until the point of no return. By looking at the beautiful smile on his face, his funny personality, his kind heart and his outpouring positivity, you would never know the demons he was facing underneath.
I can’t tell you how many days that I was unable to get ahold of Willie, not knowing where he was or what he was doing, constantly checking his location to make sure he was somewhere safe. I can’t even begin to describe the gut wrenching feelings I felt when I would go to his house looking for him, not knowing what I was about to walk into. Coming from a family of first responders, its our job to be there for families on the worst days of their lives but I was SO scared that one day my family and I would be on the opposite side of that, receiving tragic news about Willie.
Jan 14, 2022, Willie’s 28th birthday was the day he hit rock bottom. A day we were supposed to spend celebrating was a day we will all remember forever. I will never forget the call from my Mom, I knew something was wrong, she said words I never want to hear again. We were at a dead end road, running out of options and the ability to save Willie from his addiction. Watching him struggle, is one of the hardest things I have ever done. All I could do was wrap my arms around him and sob.
Today, my brother has 52 days sober. He is unrecognizable, his goals are clear and his future is bright. The motivation, bravery and strength he has exhibited in these last 52 days is astonishing. He aspires to be the best version of himself all while helping others succeed in their journeys to recovery as well. Proud would be an understatement. Thanks to Sean and Vanessa, my brother is alive and thriving. I’m here to tell you, don’t ever give up. Responder Health has changed our lives and for that I am eternally thankful.
I felt like I was the only guy with problems, so I let them get to be pretty big problems. My wife found [Responder Health] and in the early morning hours 8 years ago or so convinced me to make the call. I found out someone cared and that there was help available. That one conversation changed my life and set me on the path to healing and health.
I contacted [Responder Health] when I hit rock bottom, I was completely out of control, I had turned to drugs and alcohol and was driving everyone that cared about me away, I became very suicidal and knew that I couldn’t fix myself. I spoke with the people at [Responder Health] and was in treatment 2 days later, it was the most important phone call I’ve ever made. I have been sober now for just over 3 years and even though life has its ups and downs, at least I’m here to live my life!
It’s been almost 4 years since I placed a call to [Responder Health]. The person on the other end, introduced himself. His voice & words provided support, help & a sense of hope. [Responder Health] was a beacon that guided me out of a darkness that I couldn’t get out of myself. They put me on a path that has shown me nothing but a grateful & blessed life! I will forever be indebted to them.
I was 21 at the time, a young, female Rookie Police Officer when I was introduced to [Responder Health]. Unfortunately, it was after having been in a fatality shooting as a Police Officer. After my shooting incident, I faced a plethora of mental health concerns. My department, along with the help of [Responder Health], saw signs and took action.
The treatment I received may have saved my life. I’ll never know for sure, but I’m sure. I can’t say Thank You enough to those that cared and treated me for my mental health as a person, not just an Officer. With that, thank you again. Keep doing what you’re doing - saving lives!
I try to take advantage of all the wonderful training opportunities I can from Responder Health! The speakers on various topics related to first responders are top notch, and I appreciate the interactive approach to all the trainings.
I have reached out to some of your speakers following a training requesting further information and have always received a quick response from each.
I have learned so much from attending the Responder Health trainings and have been able to use the information in my own work developing wellness programming for the North Carolina Department of Public Safety.
Thank you for Responder Health, and I look forward to dropping in on Fridays for my weekly lesson!
When I first started checking out the webinars and presentations, I wasn’t sure how they were going to maintain interest or keep the attention of 1st responders; and now I know… EASILY! The ability of Responder Health to continue bringing in pertinent and knowledgeable people with different backgrounds and experiences continues to impress me. RH leaves the ego at the door and provides a safe place for people to have candid conversations and leads by example. The smorgasbord of information and research presented by knowledgeable and renowned peers to PhD’s provides a welcoming environment to openly discuss those topics that for many were and even now are off limits, but RH has removed the veil and is shining the light on topics and strategies that speak to the core issues our 1st responders and their families have been facing and still face today. My go-to place for real discussions with real people about reality. Many have said we need to do something about 1st responder suicides and mental wellness, RH works hard DOING and shows no signs of slowing down!
Thank you for the in service this morning, very insightful and helpful. So far what Responder Health provides is by far, the most extensive and broad range of services I've seen in my career. I'm one of the salty dinosaurs, 35 years total, 28 here in Sussex. I will personally follow through for me and share this service with my family as well!