I spent twenty-six years as a police officer/detective. In that time I have never heard an officer quit because of the job. It seems that it is always because of the politics. We live in a high stress, competitive, dog eat dog career filled with type A personality people. This can be stressful, in and of itself. When dealing with stress during most of my career, I fell back on beliefs, behaviors and responses I learned while growing up. Some of these were I'm tough enough, I can handle it, I don't need any help. Just keep quiet, suck it up and get through it. I can survive this, and I did. This then raises the question. Is just surviving or getting by enough?
My first field training was anything but pleasant or productive. I look back now and realize I was set up to fail and was not going to succeed as stated the very first night by my primary field training officer. It was designed to tear me down, and he did. That wasn't enough though. He and his friends attempted to get me removed from my job several times over the next several years. But, I survived.
In surviving I held on to animosity, resentment, and distrust. I avoided these people and did not put in for any specialized assignments that they participated in. I thought I was being wise to not have them in positions of authority over me. They had already shown me they would not hesitate to try and get rid of me. In reality I was still allowing them to control me and curtailing my career in the process. But, I survived.
One thing I learned growing up was to never quit I refused to let these people beat me. I was going to have a career and at least survive my twenty years and get my retirement. I thought by doing that, I would win. I survived, in spite of you. But , did I? Hind sight is 20/20 and as I have grown personally I now know that surviving is life, but it is not living. I always asked for just enough to get by, and that is what I got. I got by. I survived.
Twenty-six years later I know I developed PTSD, quit talking, focused so much on work and the issues that I got divorced, twice. I did a good job, and know I made a difference in some lives. Now I have made a difference in my life. I learned it is OK to admit I am not OK and to ask for help if I need. I leaned that I am not a cop. That is simply what I do, or did for a living. I learned that agencies don't care about us. We are simply easily replaced cogs in the wheel.
I asked for help when I visited a therapist for several months after having a gun jammed into my chest, then fired a few inches from my head (the ringing in my ears reminds me everyday). But, I survived. I learned that being bitter at my original field training officers only hurts me by continuing to give them control. But, I survived. I learned that I could use those experiences to learn what I did not want to be. Yes, I later became a field training officer and worked hard to be open and fair. I can correct with the only agenda being to help the officer be a good officer. Not forcing them to fit my mold. And, I thrived. I learned that one does not have to be promoted to be a leader. And, I thrived. I learned that I am a good trainer. And, I thrived.
Most of all, I learned to be self-accountable. To not berate and beat myself up because I made and error, but to learn from it. To not blame those I thought treated me unfairly. I learned to forgive them and myself. I learned to be thankful for the lessons that gave me the opportunity to learn. These lessons allowed me to write my program and my book, Bridging the Gap:An Inside Look at Communications and Relationships After Traumatic Events. These things allow me to still make a difference in others lives as I assist them in making a difference in their own lives. The things I have learned have taught me how to have a phenomenal, abundant life as I travel and teach. To have a great relationship with a beautiful lady and we talk about everything. These lessons have taught me about leadership and trauma, creating or reducing trauma in the workplace. I now have great examples of both. Most importantly, the lessons have taught me, it is ok to ask for help. Seeking the help of others and opening up allows us to heal and progress.This allows them to grow also. This allows all of us to have great lives and thrive together. We can only change, one person at a time. When this positive change happens, it ripples out to our families and our communities, creating a life that we all want to be part of.
For more insights get my book, Bridging the Gap: An Inside Look at Communications and Relationships After Traumatic Events. It is available on e-book at Barnes and Noble, Walmart, and Amazon now and will be in bookstores on December 14. These things have a direct impact on our personal lives. The 8 hour class I teach to law enforcement can be booked by contacting Kate O'Donnel of Public Training and Grants Initiative at 847-875-3620.
Since it is OK to ask, let's all work together to continue making a difference in our communities by being self accountable and starting with ourselves.