Police & Fire

Paterson Firefighter Opens Up About Struggles, Urges Other Not to Suffer in Silence

ff676517442e7e44dfe5_F975326B-9924-47BC-A10F-A0A726F08947.jpeg
Paterson firefighter Kyle Hughes opened up about his struggles with alcohol. Credits: John Hund
2fbe363c95fcd8bcf8d0_2A4052E0-F4CC-4EE8-9F4C-65AC6D0AAD4F.jpeg
Kyle Hughes joined the Paterson Fire Department in 2009 Credits: Kyle Hughes
ff676517442e7e44dfe5_F975326B-9924-47BC-A10F-A0A726F08947.jpeg

PATERSON, NJ- Not a week goes by when a tale of heroism and bravery on the part of firefighters isn’t told in this publication.

Indeed, for them, running into a burning building is as natural as running out of one is for the rest of us. That became apparent again on Monday when members of the Paterson Fire Department responded to a fire at 268 Main Street which led to the eventual total collapse of the structure.

However, while they may mask it well, the trauma and stress faced by members of the fire service at times becomes more than they can handle. Not always being conditioned to speak about their feelings has caused too many to suffer in silence, seeking comfort through substance abuse, and, at an all too alarming rate, choosing a more final solution. 

Sign Up for E-News

For one Paterson firefighter, his own struggles with alcohol were brought forward on Wednesday in front of more than 400 of his counterparts from all across the state at the NJ FMBA Education conference in Atlantic City. His story was part of a panel discussion highlighting the union’s Peer Assistance Program which offers a variety of mental health counseling opportunities to members at no cost.

Kyle Hughes, who joined the Paterson Fire Department in 2009, said that his struggle began as a college student in Nebraska upon the tragic death of his older brother in a construction accident in 1992. His “escape”, he told the audience, was in alcohol, and a lot of it. 

“I wasn’t a bad guy,” Hughes said. “I was a sick guy that didn’t know how to get better.”

Despite obtaining good jobs in the construction industry that had him traveling the country, and earning a membership in the United Association of Plumbers (UA), his struggle with alcohol abuse continued, eventually leading to his dismissal from the union.

The death of his father in 2004, Hughes said, really sent him “off the rails” for about six months until realizing, upon losing his job, that he had hit what he called “rock bottom” and decided to seek treatment.

His drinking days behind him, things were looking up for Hughes, until a breakup sent him into another tailspin, and though equipped to stay away from alcohol, he did “isolate” himself. While he doesn’t believe he had any intention of harming himself, Hughes recalled traveling down Route 80 at speeds topping 100 mph when he received a phone call from a fellow firefighter who, recognizing distress in his voice, invited him for a cup of coffee.

That simple act, a cup of coffee and a listening ear, and “everything changed,” Hughes said, helping him make the decision to see a therapist for more support.

“When someone wants to listen, it changes everything,” Hughes, who now serves as the Northern District Vice President of the FMBA, a position he uses to speak to as many others, in firefighting and beyond, about his struggles, in hopes of encouraging others to find the help they need, said.

“It’s been a long and, at times, difficult journey, that is never really over,” Hughes told TAPinto Paterson following his speech. “I’m in a much better place now, and that’s because of the path I’ve taken. My life is full of gifts. If my words and experience encouraged just one more person to find help for their struggles, opening up the way I did was worth it.”

A standing ovation, and a hug from NJ FMBA President Eddie Donnelly, awaited Hughes as he concluded his comments with a final reminder that while they are highly trained to save others, they “have to start learning how to save (themselves)”

“What Kyle did today was articulate issues so many of us in the fire service have faced,” said Donnelly. “We have to stop suffering in silence and start speaking up, being heard, and sharing our feelings.” 

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Hasbrouck Heights/Wood-Ridge/Teterboro

Upcoming Events

Wed, February 28, 8:00 PM

Hasbrouck Heights Senior Center, Hasbrouck Heights

Hasbrouck Heights Jr Football League General ...

Sports

Carousel_image_a07ab229b1a1c37a12fe_wood-ridge

Sat, March 3, 6:00 PM

Wood-Ridge High School, Wood-Ridge

NFL Pros vs BLUE DEVILS ALL STARS FUNDRAISER

Sat, April 28, 8:00 AM

College of St. Elizabeth, Morristown

Conference and Resource Fair Promotes Advocacy ...

Education

For All The Dollars: The Great Silence, dir. Sergio Corbucci

        Also directed by Sergio Corbucci, The Great Silence is considered his greatest achievement. While Sergio Leone portrayed the Old West as a gritty place filled with morally ambivalent figures, Corbucci's Old West was a darker dog-eat-dog world.

 

Once again, spaghetti westerns were known for taking the myth out of the romantic west. The next spaghetti ...

How to Talk with Kids About the Florida Shooting

February 15, 2018

The tragedy of the Florida school shooting is devastating, leaving 17 killed and 15 injured. Our children can easily identify with what occurred yesterday. It will be the topic of conversation today in schools everywhere. School administrators are doing all they can to provide support and guidance. The shootings affect children, teachers, and school personnel. The school shooting ...

Hackensack Resident Charged with Sexual Assualt and Child Endangerment at YMCA

February 23, 2018

(Updated 8:15 pm)  

HACKENSACK, NJ - Acting Bergen County Prosecutor Dennis Calo announced the arrest of Timothy Smith of Hackensack on six counts each of Sexual Assault by Contact and Endangering the Welfare of a Child. The arrest is the result of an investigation conducted by the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office under the direction of Chief Robert Anzilotti, and the Hackensack ...

New Brewery Approved by Hackensack Planning Board

HACKENSACK, NJ -- The Hackensack Planning Board approved the application of city resident Mike Jones at last Wednesday night’s meeting to open Hackensack Brewing Company in a Johnson Avenue warehouse.

This will be the second brewery to come to Hackensack, after The Alementary, which is around the corner on Voorhis Lane, and opened two years ago.

Jones hopes to have a ...

Bring back Hasbrouck Heights Municipal Alliance

February 15, 2018

Last night the Borough of Hasbrouck Heights banned the sale of marijuana within its borders. We had several residents speak on the topic with the overarching concern being less about the sale of legal marijuana and more about the need to do more to combat alcoholism and substance abuse in our community. 

As we have learned over the years many families have been touched by the disease of ...

Nutley Police Make Arrest In Instagram School Threat Case

February 24, 2018

NUTLEY, NJ - The Nutley Police Department made an arrest in the case of an Instagram video post. An 18 year old resident was charged with Third Degree False Public Alarm.

Joseph Rafanello, a senior at Nutley High School, was arrested and taken to Essex County Jail.The arrest followed a full investigation by the police.  

Chief Thomas Strumolo stated that ...

Travels Idea - You Feel Like Freezing Your Beachballs Off this Saturday? - It’s a Polar Bear Plunge Benefiting the Special Olympics New Jersey

SEASIDE HEIGHTS – On Saturday, Feb 24, an anticipated 7,000 people will brave the chilly waters of the Atlantic Ocean, participating in the annual Polar Bear Plunge in Seaside Heights, all to raise funds and awareness for Special Olympics New Jersey. This Plunge is especially noteworthy because it is the ...

NJ Governor Signs Executive Order to Fly Flags at Half-Staff to Recognize Parkland Florida Victims

TRENTON, NJ -- New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed Executive Order No.11 on Monday ordering the flag of the United States of America and the flag of the State of New Jersey to be flown at half-staff to recognize and mourn the passing of the victims in Parkland, Florida. 

The order is for all state offices, agencies and instrumentalities including schools for Tuesday February ...

Dave & Busters Plans Feb. 14 Grand Opening at Willowbrook Mall

WAYNE, NJ - Dave & Busters at Willowbrook Mall will have its grand opening celebration on Feb. 14. 

It will be the chain's 109th location and second in New Jersey. The Woodbridge location opened in November.

Doors will open at 11 a.m. to the public. From 4:30 to 7 p.m. happy hour will feature half price cocktails, $1 off 22 ounce drafts, ...