How 2 Love Our Cops

Chp 8: Stuff Happens – Substance Abuse

Alcohol and drug dependence are coping mechanisms. Something is up, and they have developed a crutch to lean on. Here are some symptoms of a drinking problem, adapted from Alcoholics Anonymous:

1. You have tried to stop drinking for a set amount of time and couldn’t go the distance.
2. You want people to quit telling you to quit drinking.
3. You switched from one kind of alcohol to another to avoid getting drunk.
4. You need a drink to get started on the day or to stop shaking.
5. You envy people who don’t get themselves into trouble while drinking.
6.You’ve had problems related to your drinking in the past year.
7. Your drinking is causing problems at home.
8. You try to get extra drinks at a party because what is served is not enough.
9. You tell yourself you could stop drinking any time you wanted to but keep getting drunk without meaning to.
10. You’ve missed work or school because of your drinking.
11. You have black outs, times when drinking that you don’t remember.
12. You feel like your life would be better if you didn’t drink.

If you suspect that your guy has a drinking problem, talk with him about it when he isn’t drinking. Be ready with specific examples of behavior, not generalized accusations. If he denies it, get others involved who love your husband. Have your resources lined up—phone numbers, locations of meetings and support groups, and people to contact.


Brenda’s husband had nightmares and suffered uncontrollable shaking. Rhonda’s husband told her he was sure he was crazy and even acted like it sometimes. Mary’s husband retreated to the fetal position on the couch and whimpered like a baby then later left her for someone else. All of these men were diagnosed with PTSD.

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a condition that results from a critical incident or develops as a result of repeated exposure to trauma, both very frequent in the career of a police officer. In his book CopShock, Second Edition: Surviving Post-traumatic Stress Disorder Allen Kates says that “one in three cops may suffer from PTSD, a condition that could lead to depression, suicidal thoughts, addictions, eating disorders as well as job and family conflict.” Some of the common symptoms include anger, nightmares, flashbacks, concentration problems, emotional detachment, and avoidance of people and places.

The Power of a Good Marriage

It was a perfect day for Clarke and Tracie to chill out in the pool. But Clarke felt like he would sink beneath the weight of dread. He was struggling with the stuff he’d seen on duty. He wasn’t thinking he’d kill himself, but knew he was starting to head down that road, and he needed help. He’d inwardly argued with himself for quite a while before he took the plunge. “This stuff is gettin’ to me, Trace. I’m not okay.” As soon as it left his mouth, the weight lifted. Until she replied in horror, “Are you kidding me?!” It was not the response he was looking for.

On the outside, Clarke was supercop. On the inside, a teen’s suicide triggered a breaking point. “It was one of five suicides that day, and it was my boiling point,” explains Clarke. “Everything began haunting me. Everything came out—calls from the day before, the week before, the year before, ten years before. They all came back and they came back with a vengeance. Everything I thought I had dealt with, but really just disassociated from, came back.”

He’d told himself to get over it, forget it. But when he couldn’t, he decided he was a coward—a loser. But he did have a great relationship with his wife, and he trusted her enough to share his pain. And although initially her response was less than ideal, by the end of the day she understood that he did the most courageous thing he could’ve ever done—ask for help. After doing some research together, they found the assistance he needed.

Clarke and Tracie are now hosting police suicide prevention seminars across the country. As part of his healing, Clarke made a movie called “The Pain Behind the Badge,” and it’s speaking to officers who have suffered silently for years. When Tracie gets up to speak, she imparts these powerful words: “Why did I ever think he was okay after twenty-two years on the job? The Rock of Gibraltar was crumbling, and I never saw it coming. I’m lucky he’s alive.”

Post-traumatic stress disorder can be very serious, but there is help available. Please let me know if you need resources.

About Victoria Newman - "A CHiP on My Shoulder"

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