WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – James McIntosh is an Arkansas City firefighter, and for four years, he has been sober.
“When I stumbled into recovery, I was beaten up, broken, bruised. I had two black eyes and a fractured jaw, and that was when I realized I had a problem and addiction was real,” he said.
James wears his story as armor.
“I had an old timer tell me, you don’t want to be back in the wagon; you want to be in the middle so you don’t fall out,” he said. “I look back now, and I’m amazed that I made it this far.”
It is a place he thought he would never see.
“My journey started at a young, young age, alcoholic parents and just kind of one thing led to another as a small child. I was like a mini bartender for my parents.”
A routine he thought was normal.
“‘Come on, Mom, let’s go back upstairs and go to bed.’ The same with my dad. He would fall asleep in his chair. Addiction wasn’t a thing until the older I got, ’til I understood exactly what I was living with.”
Photos show him what he couldn’t see then.
“A lot of the troubles I went through as a small kid was normal: running away, anger problems, going to CPS, and going to boys’ home, it was normal. I didn’t see it any other way until I got into recovery, and I was like, wait a minute, that’s not normal.”
Sobriety gave him clarity.
“To thine own self be true.”
And a craving for authenticity.
“In order for me to be comfortable telling my story, I had to accept what I couldn’t change in my life, and I had to fall in love with myself again in order to love others.”
James is giving love to his family, his future wife and six children.
“I have three boys. I’ve got a 12-year-old, a soon-to-be 8-year-old and then a 5-year-old. And then I got some stepdaughters. They are 12, 12, and 5.”
Then, there’s the bond between his fellow firefighters.
“I know they have my back,” he added.
James says just because he made it to EMT doesn’t mean he’s going to stop. He plans to push all the way to flight medic and maybe even nursing.
“I can do anything I put my mind to. I couldn’t do that before.”
He will go wherever the recovery road leads him. He plans to help other addicts.
“You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink, but you can leave a bucket. I never understood that. If I can lead you to the water and leave the bucket, I’ll do that. The rest is on you.”
If you need help with addiction, click here for a list of resources.