By guest author Jonathan Hickory
I glance over at the clock, but my vision is so blurred that I can barely read the time because I’m so drunk. In less than an hour, I have consumed an entire bottle of wine and I am now working on my second beer. That familiar feeling, that numbness, is one that I welcome every night. I can forget about all the pain, all the hurt, all the worries for a while. When I sober up, I’ll wish I wasn’t such a slave to alcohol. I’ve tried to quit so many times and I cannot. Alcohol has me trapped in a timeless prison. I finally drag myself to bed, unsteady and still feeling a bit sick. I don’t usually throw up, but I overdid it tonight. I hope my wife didn’t hear me as I vomited in the toilet. I am breathing so hard as I lie in bed, I feel like my heart might stop. Oh well, maybe I won’t ever wake up…and maybe that’s not a bad thing.
The paragraph you just read is a glimpse into my life. Four years ago, I was drowning my demons in an ocean of alcohol. I had been an alcoholic for over ten years, and a police officer for twelve. Alcohol, anger, depression, darkness, and brokenness were destroying me and, worse, my family. I felt there was no way out, and I had nowhere to turn.
One dark afternoon, the battle for my soul was raging as I seriously considered killing myself for the first time. And at that moment, I was fortunate enough to recognize the existence of one of the darkest, evil spirits in the room with me. I shudder to think of that presence, even now. The ominous, silent, cold presence of eternal death lay in the shadows. I cried out. God, help me. I cannot do it anymore.
As police officers, it is in our very nature to be the one to fix any problem that comes our way. We can take any situation, handle it, and be home in time for supper—well, most of the time. We often don’t think twice about the suicide scene with the pooled, sticky blood as thick as paint mixed with molasses, still dripping from the cavernous hole in the victim’s head. As a coping mechanism in the moment, we may even have a nervous laugh about that piece of brain matter we almost stepped on—that was a close one!
When we get home, when all the action is over, and the next shift has taken over the street, we collapse at the end of the day like a sack of potatoes in zero gravity. As we grasp the transition back into “normal human” mode, we can’t help but re-process all of those graphic images. We wonder whatever will become of the suicide victim’s wife and children, and will they ever recover from this? Why can’t we just shut it out? Why can’t we just move on with more important things, like what’s new and trending on Netflix?
As tough, seasoned, or strong as you may think yourself to be, you are still a human being. And as a human being, you cannot turn off the way you were created. You know these traumatic incidents are taking a toll on your soul and on your ever-hardening heart. But that’s just the job, and there’s nothing you can do about it, right? Besides, if you even tried talking to someone about it, they’d laugh at you, or maybe just stare. “You’re a cop. Suck it up, tough it out. You gotta let that stuff roll off your back like water off a duck’s back.”
As much as you try, you can’t ignore how much you hurt inside. If you continue to try to fix yourself like you do every other problem, you will fail. And when you do, it’s going to be ugly. You may not wind up dead, but I guarantee stuff won’t be pretty. Failed marriages, children’s behavioral problems, substance abuse, and general dysfunction soon follow. Heroes don’t deserve to live like that.
So, what’s the answer? How do you treat this sickness inside? How do you survive? Turning to the world will only lead to self-destruction and dysfunction. The only place we can turn is to Him who made us; who knows our hearts, our sorrow and struggle.
To learn more about how Jonathan was freed from alcohol and suicidal thinking, check out his book Break Every Chain on Amazon.
If you are struggling with the stress of the job, reach out to us at Call for Backup. Our team of peer support specialists is ready to help. Or you can text the keyword BADGE to 741741 to be connected to a trained crisis counselor. It’s free, confidential, and available 24/7. It’s time to call for backup.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jonathan Hickory is a Master Police Officer with the Albemarle County Police in Charlottesville, Virginia. With over 15 years of police experience, Jonathan is a Field Training Officer, as well as a member of the department’s peer support team. Jonathan has been married to his wife Stacy for over 14 years and has two children.