From Dream to Nightmare

Trigger warning: Suicidal thoughts, sexual abuse.

As a child, I dreamed of one day becoming a member of a world-famous police corps. The dream came true just before my 26th birthday when I successfully graduated from their academy. That dream, however, would become a nightmare that would change my life forever.

I wrote the aptitude test when I was 25. After the gauntlet of various tests and a grueling 3-hour interview, they offered me the position. I had quite a decision to make. My wife and I had been married for 6 years and we were expecting our first child. She had never liked the idea of me becoming a police officer, but she wanted to be supportive.

People who knew me well advised me not to go. They said it would change me. I didn’t heed the advice.

People who knew me well advised me not to go. They said it would change me. I didn’t heed the advice.

The academy was rife with immorality. Recruits would party hard on the weekends, mostly off grounds in local bars, getting drunk or doing drugs. Recruits would hook up with each other, with locals, or even with their trainers. Many of the trainers were posted there as discipline for something they did out in the field. This was not the proud organization I thought it was.

Drill class consisted of being continually derided and mocked. If you were a woman or a visible minority, you were derided for simply being who you were. It was all in the name of toughening us up. Once you were posted, you discovered that these attitudes are prevalent everywhere.

I considered quitting, but my wife, who had given birth to our daughter while I was in training encouraged me to persevere.

My trainers said I’d be posted closer but they had lied to me

Just before graduation, I received a posting to a very remote area of the country. My trainers said I’d be posted closer but they had lied to me. When I complained, they reminded me that I had committed to being posted anywhere. It sounded like an unspoken threat. I considered quitting again, but after a good cry with my wife, we went.

The nightmare continued. I found myself in a policing culture defined by alcohol and sex. Cops party hard as a means of coping with stress. Drugs were less of a problem. I first tried marijuana as an officer, and I used medication to try and enhance my personal workouts. Another officer offered to get me steroids at one point, but I declined.

I was okay for the first couple years but with the stress of a new career, a demanding supervisor, the move to an isolated town, a toxic workplace, and no real support, I began to crack. My marriage needed help. I needed help.

I was no longer easy-going and fun. I became an angry guy capable of hurting those that I loved the most.

Workmates encouraged me to cope by drinking and by being unfaithful to my wife. I was even told to get rid of my wife because she was holding me back. No, she wasn’t! She supported me more than anyone; yet, I found myself believing the lies. I was changing, just as my friends had predicted.

I was no longer easy-going and fun. I became an angry guy capable of hurting those that I loved the most.

Years of distrust, shame, and anger surfaced due to various forms of childhood trauma. I had been sexually molested as a child, assaulted by a teacher in Grade 4, and had become a child of divorces. My dad ingrained in me that I could trust nobody. This distrust of everyone was reinforced by the worst of humanity that I dealt with on a daily basis. Even “good” people lie.

I stuffed my emotions down. I drank to deal with horrific crime scenes. I didn’t share how I felt, I lied, and my behavior secretly spiraled out of control. I was unfaithful.

I thought of killing myself. I even put my 9 mm to my head one night alone in the office. I took out my anger at work when I could to help quell what was going on inside of me. The anger gave me a rush and I liked it.

I would live one way at work and be very different at home.

I would live one way at work and be very different at home. My wife and friends would see me as easy-going and fun, but as a police officer, I was known to be angry, tough, and a little outrageous.

When I was passed over for my dream job, I began looking online on an adult website. At first, it was just experimental — a way to escape my problems, my pain. It became a place where I found another opportunity to be unfaithful, and I was. I then found myself in a situation where I needed to resign or face termination.

Related: Pornography controlled Jeff's life for 10 years. Read Jeff's story

Finally, I resigned, but my life had completely unraveled. I didn’t know what to do with my marriage. I didn’t know what the future would hold. I received counseling and was diagnosed with PTSD. I was finally able to work through everything I experienced from childhood to my time as a cop with a specialized psychologist.

I am still healing but I can say that integrity, honesty, and humility define me today.

Today, my wife and I have reconciled. We are not a statistic, even though divorce was most certainly on the table. We have been married for 27 years, and we are still healing. I am still healing but I can say that integrity, honesty, and humility define me today.

The turning point for me was recognizing my problems and deciding to work through them with qualified helpers. It helped me to talk out my issues with people who were willing to listen with care. It can also help you, wherever you are at in your journey.

Photo Credit ev on Unsplash

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