If you want to change the world …

On a trip to Huntsville, Texas we made a stop at Buc-ee’s—Texas mega convenience store. This was a stop we had made many times before. As I entered the restroom area I saw a wooden sign on the wall that said something so profound, it has impacted me to this day:

“If you want to change the world go home and love your family.”

This saying stuck with me, especially in my psychology studies combined with the state of my chosen career choice. With suicides on the rise in law enforcement—81 so far this year at the time this article was written—alcoholism, infidelity, and drug addiction, I wonder how this would be different if everyone subscribed to this? “If you want to change the world go home and love your family.”

10 key points police officers need spouses

(Photo courtesy Officer Jonathan Bransfield with the City of Cameron Missouri Police Department)

What if, instead of choir practices, shift parties, drunken binges, or hours of excessive overtime, officers went to their children’s games, met the teacher, or attended the first days of school? Instead of telling your opposite sex partner all of your secrets and desires, you tell your spouse? Instead of hiding what you go through in a shift you talk to your spouse and tell him or her how you feel? What if we did all of these things?

While this may seem judgmental as these are main staples in law enforcement, which I have participated in many, yet every time I hear of another police suicide, another divorce, another termination or another child of a police officer gone astray, I have to wonder, what if …?  

“If you want to change the world go home and love your family.”  

In 25 years of law enforcement I have found that many officers know there is always a back story to a police suicide. An affair discovered, a wife/husband finding out, an alcohol or drug problem out of control. It may not always be a critical incident that causes these behaviors but it is almost always part of the police culture, more so than many other careers. The part of our culture that is very slowly, happily and gratefully changing largely in part to all the resources that are out there, all the training, all the education and a new dedication to police families.

spouse help

(Photo courtesy EB Images Photography)

With all of these resources why do we still choose to take the dark path that we hear about during the start of our careers? Why don’t we listen to the gentle warnings and war stories of those that came before us regarding the failed marriages, the broken families, the lost careers, and instead seek a different path?

It is often said that law enforcement officers want to be in control, they want to be heroes, they want to save people but somehow in the process they lose control of themselves, their lives and their families. We must do better for our families, our careers, and ourselves.

change

(Photo courtesy Nikole Rundlett whose husband is a police officer for Yavapai Apache Police Department in Arizona.)

So when you feel as if you are losing yourself, when your family members are telling you that you’ve changed, that you don’t care, that you’re never home, please stop! Check yourself and seek help. Stop the rise in law enforcement suicides. Stop the divorces and the broken families. Seek counseling, attend classes, read books and first and foremost go home and love your family.

watching kids become cops

(Photo courtesy LET reader)

Cathy Bustos is a law enforcement officer in Central Texas. She is one half of “That Peer Support Couple” with her husband Javier. Together they are strong peer support advocates speaking about surviving critical incidents and marriage. You can contact her at [email protected]