Do you drink more than you plan to at times? Perhaps you do at off-training parties or at the end of your shift. You work hard, so you party harder. Maybe you rationalize that it’s OK to let loose on the weekends because, during the week, you don’t touch alcohol. You might try to fit all your weekly drinking into one or two nights, so during the week, you’re able to do your job. Maybe you drink to unwind and relieve stress, and lately you’ve been feeling stressed. So you drink more often than usual and in higher amounts. Or perhaps you enjoy the taste and the relaxing feeling. Maybe it helps you fall asleep, although you have noticed that you feel tired in the morning. These are all situations where binge drinking often occurs. This form of problem drinking can lead to poor choices that can create more problems.
Since the beginning of the year, I’ve talked to many people with various issues related to alcohol. Most are not alcoholics but have been involved in an incident that resulted in discipline. They recognize that they made terrible choices. The drinking culture in law enforcement has been problematic for decades and is not going to change overnight. But it has to change as societal standards have changed; driving under the influence is no longer tolerated as it once was. 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, nor should we be. Law enforcement should set an example.
Even with the Department’s discipline having been increased, it still has not deterred all employees from making a choice to drink and drive. We have to continue to change the thinking on drinking and driving. We need to always remember that our decisions make the difference in our health, life and career. If you want to stop drinking or have been told to stop, take a look in the mirror and honestly answer whether you are taking unnecessary risks. If you are, commit yourself to make a change in your life and follow through.
If you need assistance with overuse or an addiction problem, or you have questions about the resources available, you can call and talk to me or one of our docs at Psychological Services Bureau at (213) 738-3500. We have law enforcement psychologists and trained deputy personnel ready to provide confidential help to assist you. If you are sworn, Peace Officer’s Fellowship (POF) is available. You can contact one of the members listed here and they will be more than happy to assist a fellow deputy.