When I first heard the word “alcoholic,” I used to think of a bum living behind the liquor store, with dirty, tattered clothes. This is what I would see while walking to school in the morning. Crates decorated the sidewalk where drinkers sat alongside the liquor store, spending the majority of their time drinking; these men and sometimes women had lost most of their teeth, and there would be a brown paper bag in their rear pockets. Often they would beg for change and say they were hungry. But if you offered them food they would become angry, because they wanted money to buy their next drink. I would wonder what had happened to these people, and how they got there.
Today I understand that an alcoholic can be almost anyone — a doctor, actor, law enforcement officer, pilot, etc. Alcoholics are often people who go to work daily and perform their jobs. They are referred to as “functioning alcoholics.” Although they seem to be functioning, they are usually not functioning up to their potential.
The image I have of an alcoholic today is totally different. I know that almost anyone in the world may be or has the potential to be an alcoholic. I do not believe that there is anything to be ashamed of if one is an alcoholic and seeks help. There is no more shame than a person seeking treatment for other diseases.
Alcoholism is a progressive disease, in the sense that things do not take a turn for the better while the alcoholic is still drinking. Over a period of time, there will be physical, mental, work and relationship deterioration. A person may be coming to work with a hangover, thus affecting their job performance. They may begin to call in sick more often due to a hangover or from being drunk from the night before. They may find themselves being angry with the world because it is not in step with their immediate needs. Family problems may develop, and life in general will take a turn for the worse. In a nutshell, everything starts to go wrong that could go wrong. Most alcoholics will blame all of the troubles on everyone and anyone around them. Not until they accept the fact that they have a disease and seek treatment will things get better.
Usually the alcoholic is the last person to figure out that he or she is an alcoholic.
If you think that you might have a drinking judgment problem, or someone has mentioned this to you, there are several options available to you. Contact Psychological Services Bureau (PSB) at (213) 738-3500 for a confidential consultation or counseling. Check to see if you have a Peer Support Program member at your unit and talk with them, or call one of the Peace Officer’s Fellowship members listed here.