Associate Magazine FBINAA Q2-2023

FBINAA.ORG | Q2 2023

D an is a 45-year-old detective. He served in the U.S. Army upon graduating high school and became a police officer af ter his service at the age of 23. Dan is on his second marriage with two teenage children from his first marriage. He began drinking in the Army because it was what everyone did. As a new officer, there were many parties and many good stories that he still can not repeat. Of course, alcohol was the ignitor of all the fun. As the parties faded over time, he was now busy raising children. He began to have a couple of beers after work and a six-pack on the weekend at home. As time passed, the couple of beers grew into a daily six-pack and then into nightly drinking of hard liquor, to the point of passing out. He would wake up hung over and needed a "shot" to take the edge off. He would always carry mouthwash and wear heavy cologne to mask the smell of alcohol. He would call in sick for his shift if it were a "bad" night. While working and at home, he isolated himself from everyone; he slowly became the person nobody wanted to be around. Do you know Dan? WHAT IS ALCOHOLISM? Many in the law enforcement community see drinking as a rite of passage and a deserved break from the ills of society they police. Drinking can be social and relaxing. Most people do not abuse alcohol, but unfortunately, a few use alcohol as a tool to numb their feelings and emotions and mask reality. Law enforcement officers often appear to be "functional alcoholics,” meaning they manage their alcoholism to a degree where they can perform basic tasks such as working, paying bills, and maintaining some family obligations. The profession also enables these officers until there is a work-related issue. Unfor tunately, law enforcement is one of the few professions where an officer's decisions can result in severe injury or death. A functional alcoholic law enforcement officer cannot operate at a minimal level; they must always be "ready-fit." As discussed in part one, a functioning alcoholic is not fully fit for duty due to physical and cognitive withdrawal effects. The officer may not be intoxicated at work, but sleepiness, headaches, blood pressure issues, and impaired mental processing are part of withdrawal, making the officer unfit. The term "functional alcoholic” is a misnomer because an "alcoholic is an alcoholic." Functional alcoholics do not believe they have a problem because they earn a paycheck, minimally take care of the children, and pay the bills. Unfortunately, the functional alcoholic fails to see that substance abuse has taken priority. Drinking becomes a priority over work and family. The mental health of the functioning alcoholic erodes into depression and anxiety, isolation, and poor self-care. It is no longer about enjoying a drink but about getting drunk as fast as possible and numbing the body and mind. Alcoholics will find ways to lessen their work, family, and life responsibilities to maintain their intoxication. Often, alcoholics will find "enablers" who accept the alcoholic's duties in the workplace and at home. Additionally, al coholics will call in sick frequently, do the minimum at work, and make excuses for work errors, blaming others for their mistakes; they malinger and create physical ailments to generate sympathy. At home, the spouse enables the alcoholic by accepting additional responsibilities of caring for the children and the house so the alcoholic can maintain their addiction.

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