Do you drink more than you plan to at times, maybe at off-training parties or the end of your shift? Why not … you work hard, so why not play harder? Maybe you tell yourself it’s OK to let loose on the weekends because you don’t touch alcohol during the week. Maybe you try to fit all your weekly drinking into one or two nights, so you’re able to do your job during the week. Maybe you drink to unwind and relieve stress, and lately you’ve been feeling stressed so you drink more often and in higher amounts than usual. Or perhaps you just enjoy the taste and the relaxing feeling it gives you. Maybe drinking helps you fall asleep, although you’ve 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, which can create more problems. Have you considered quitting, or at least cutting back?
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 in trouble due to alcohol. They recognize they made terrible choices and often wish they could go back and do it differently. The drinking culture in law enforcement has been active for decades and is not going to change overnight, but it has to change because societal standards changed — driving under the influence is no longer tolerated as it once was. These changes include mandatory jail time for first offenses, plus increased fines and fees (a three-month program that costs approximately $600 for first-time offenders and an 18-month DUI class that costs approximately $1,800 for second-time offenders). Law enforcement personnel are not exempt, nor should we be. The Department has its own discipline, but even with all of this, it still has not deterred employees from choosing to drink and drive. We need to make better choices. We should be setting an example, because too many lives have come to a tragic end due to drunk drivers. We need to remember that our decisions make the difference in whether we respect or jeopardize our health, life and career.
I wonder what your answer might be if you took a look in the mirror and honestly answered the question of whether you’re taking unnecessary risks with your drinking. If you are, what might happen if you commit yourself to making a change in your life and following it through?
If any of this hits home for you or someone you know, think about making some changes, talking to your friend or maybe even making a commitment to support each other and to both stop drinking. It’s time to be proactive. So, reach out for help and develop a plan to get sober.
The Substance Abuse Resource Program at Psychological Services Bureau is an excellent place to start and can be accessed by calling (213) 738-3500. This will be one of your best steps toward preserving your future success. You can also contact Peace Officer’s Fellowship from the list below. Or if you prefer, there are numerous Peer Support members throughout the Department, and chaplains are also available. Whichever lane you choose to take, it’s confidential. There is no better time than now!