Imagine this scenario: You’re working a ton, yet somehow money is still tight. Your spouse is constantly on your case, so you’re arguing all the time. As a result, you’re spending more time with your friends, which leads your kids to be upset with you for not being around. Oh, and did I mention that when you’re with your friends, you’re typically knocking back a few (or more)? When you’re at work, you’re not feeling physically great since you’re not sleeping well, and you’re not focused like you used to be because you’re thinking about all your problems. So maybe you’re making small mistakes, but no one has noticed (yet). After your shift, you have a few drinks to forget about it all and to help you fall asleep. This cycle plays on repeat over and over and over. OK, so here is the question, why is this all happening? What is the source of the problems?
Many people in this type of situation, if asked if their drinking was causing their problems, would offer, “No, it’s my spouse that’s the problem. Having a few drinks to mellow out is the only way I can tolerate him/her.” Of course, your spouse (and kids) might have a completely different perspective of what the problem is and who is responsible for it.
It’s been my experience that most people with a drinking problem believe their problems are caused by everything but their drinking — other people, world events or just bad luck. They often continue drinking, rationalizing their choices, blaming others or refusing to admit they have a problem until something drastic happens. That something drastic, on our Department, is often an alcohol-related incident that has you facing legal issues and a Department investigation that could lead to termination.
I know that everyone who experiences an unfortunate incident while under the influence does not have a drinking problem. People make mistakes. However, when a person continues making mistakes that are the result of drinking, and chooses to go ahead and keep drinking, that’s when they’ve crossed the line! Ask yourself the following questions and answer honestly, “Is my drinking causing my problems or making my problems worse? Am I continuing to drink anyway?” If the answer to these questions is yes, then you’ve got a problem. Still not sure? Ask yourself, “Am I getting into some kind of trouble every time I drink? If I stopped drinking, would many of my problems would go away?”
If you’re experiencing problems in your life, and you believe it might be due to your drinking, you might want to give one of the people listed here a call. As members of Peace Officer’s Fellowship (POF), they’ve been there and know what it’s like. Your conversation will be confidential, and you can even remain anonymous if you’d prefer. POF also holds meetings that are open to law enforcement officers who want to do something about their drinking. Confidentiality and anonymity are absolutes at these meetings, where members share their experiences with each other.
The Department’s Substance Abuse Resource Program also is an excellent place to start. You can call (213) 738-3500 and ask to speak to me, Deputy Willis Braggs. I am happy to listen, answer questions and talk about resources that might be helpful. If you prefer, there are also numerous Peer Support members throughout the Department and chaplains (dedicated to support Department employees) available. Whichever lane you choose to take, it’s confidential and can all be accessed through Psychological Services Bureau (PSB) at (213) 738-3500.