Everyone reading this is well aware that alcohol consumption is legal (as long as you are at least 21 years old) and socially acceptable. Some might even say it is a part of the law enforcement culture. So, drinking is not inherently wrong or bad. However, we also all know that it can be. While people with a drinking problem do not often start having trouble the first time they consume alcohol, it is definitely the case that a problem can develop over time (sometimes several years).
What do the signs of a problem look like? So glad you asked. Here are some things to keep an eye out for:
• Increased mood swings
• Tolerance for alcohol, leading to the need to consume more alcohol to obtain the same effect you used to get from less
• More hangovers
• Letting go of the things typically done punctually (i.e., not showing up for work on time, not paying bills on time)
• An attitude of “I could care less” (i.e., not coming home at a reasonable hour, not going to children’s school functions)
• Tendency to do more things that involve the consumption of alcohol
• Tendency to rationalize drinking habits by hanging around people who drink as often as you do and therefore not recognizing the trouble with alcohol
• Defensive about difficulties
• Tendency to blame everyone else for your troubles
• Denial of problems with alcohol
This last sign, denial, is one of the biggest barriers to overcoming the disease of alcoholism. The first step in the recovery process is admitting to oneself that there is a problem, but it is not easy. As the drinking gets worse and causes more problems, the denial tends to get stronger and stronger. This denial runs deep and is a true belief that he/she is not suffering from alcoholism, even when all evidence indicates otherwise. Taking an honest look at what is going on in your life and admitting there is a problem requires a great deal of courage. The good news is that once the hurdle of denial is crossed, the door of willingness opens and the desire to accept responsibility makes recovery possible.
Once there has been an admission that the problem exists, the next step is to reach out to another human and ask for help. The problem drinker/alcoholic might feel that this is admitting defeat and turn back to the bottle. I urge you to reconsider as I point out that there is no disgrace in trying to improve your health, your relationships and/or your life. Every one of us was born with the ability to overcome most obstacles placed in our path. Sometimes, however, a helping hand was extended and we accepted, allowing us to catapult toward reaching our goals in a way we could not have done on our own.
If you are engaging in problematic drinking behavior, there are a lot of possible helping hands reaching out to you. One option is Peace Officer’s Fellowship (POF), a group of men and women law enforcement officers who have had a drinking problem. It is self-supporting, non-denominational, multiracial, apolitical and available to any law enforcement officer who desires to stop drinking. There are no educational requirements. Membership is open to law enforcement officers who want to do something about their drinking. Other well-known options are Alcoholics/Narcotics Anonymous (AA/NA). Some less well-known options for help include SMART Recovery, LifeRing Secular Recovery and SOS Recovery Community Organization. Many of these meetings are still occurring online due to COVID-19, allowing you to check them out via Zoom. Psychological Services Bureau (PSB), Substance Abuse Resource Program (SARP) is an excellent place to turn to ask questions about these and other resource options.
So ask yourself, does that list above describe you? If the answer is “yes,” or even “maybe” or “a little,” consider reaching out to a helping hand to develop a plan to change and make better choices regarding alcohol. If you’d like PSB to help, call (213) 738-3500 to speak with the SARP coordinator (me) or a licensed clinical psychologist. You can also contact POF from the table above. There is no better time than now!