Is it time to stop drinking, or at least cut back? Not that you have a “drinking problem,” but maybe you drink too much at times. Maybe those times are on the weekends, RDOs, at off training parties or the end of shift. You work hard, so you play! Do you rationalize that it’s OK to let loose on the weekends because during your work week you don’t use alcohol? Have you ever heard of binge drinking? Maybe you discount or minimize it because you fit all your weekly drinking into one or two nights, so during the week you’re good and sharp. Well, it’s still binge drinking, and it’s a form of problem drinking. Maybe you only drink occasionally, to unwind and relieve stress. And lately you’ve been feeling really stressed, so you’ve been drinking more often than usual and in greater amounts. But when you’re not stressed, you’ll cut back, right? Or will you be able to? It does taste good, and you like the relaxed feeling. Besides, it makes it easier to fall asleep, although you have noticed that you feel tired in the morning. That’s because alcohol wreaks havoc on the second half of the sleep cycle. This is the deep sleep time, when you experience rapid eye movement (REM) and dreams. But when the added stress reduces, you maintain the same level of problem drinking. Does any of this sound like you or someone you know?
In the last two years, I’ve talked to many people with various issues related to drinking. Most are not alcoholics, but have been involved in an incident that resulted in discipline; they made bad choices and had to face the consequences. The culture in law enforcement has been the same for decades and is not going to change overnight. But it must change, just as it is changing in society. This societal change is evident in that driving under the influence is not tolerated as it once was. Too many people have been hurt. Too many lives have come to an end tragically due to drunk drivers. These changes include mandatory jail time for first offenses plus increased fines and fees. Law enforcement personnel are not exempt. Law enforcement does not like to arrest other law enforcement, but they have no choice; they are put in this position by the person making these bad choices.
Even with the Department’s discipline having been increased, it still has not deterred many from choosing the option to drink and drive. Some Department members are now having to look for another job because they received a second DUI. So, how do we change the thinking that it’s OK to drink until you can’t see straight and then drive? It begins with you, the one holding the glass or bottle. You need to understand that nothing is in focus when looking through a fog.
If you want to stop drinking or have been told to stop, take a look in the mirror and honestly answer if you like what you see. If you feel as if you’re weaving on the road of life or it has become uncontrollable, call Psychological Services Bureau (PSB) at (213) 738-3500 for resources and referrals, or seek out a Peer Support person at your unit. Call me, Deputy Braggs, or one of the Peace Officer’s Fellowship members listed here. We are here to help you.