It’s been 2 years, 5 months, 30 days, 19 hours, 25 minutes, and 33 seconds since the day I was shot. As I look back over the past 2 ½ years, I have a lot of regrets. I made many mistakes. I’ve hurt friend’s and I’ve been hurt by “friends.” I allowed pain, fear, anger, depression, and anxiety to affect my life in more ways than I care to recount.
Do to my inability to control my own emotion, I allowed myself to self-medicate using alcohol. I knew the statistics. I have literally held people bloodied from DUI accidents. I once responded to a DUI accident, where the driver hit a tree – spinning his car out onto a frozen lake. The car was falling through the ice. I used a water hose as a rope, tied it around my waist, and went out on the ice to rescue the man. My a-hole dispatcher bought me kiddie water wings and swim trunks after that!
My knowledge of the harmful effects of using alcohol to cope didn’t stop me from doing the same. I began drinking, much more heavily. I didn’t think much of it, it was just alcohol. But I had not considered the Xanax and other antidepressants and how they mixed. As can be expected, I was eventually arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol, after driving a truck over a 12-foot embankment.
In other articles, I spoke about a point at which I contemplated taking my life. This was that time. I was embarrassed, I knew I was wrong, I knew what I had done, and I knew I deserved what was coming. I felt shame. I had let myself and everyone who knew me down. I sunk deeper and deeper into depression. This is when I learned the flavor of non-penetrating oil.
I remained in this condition for what seemed like years. I had ups and downs, but it wasn’t pretty. In early September 2018 a guy named Chris reached out to me via Facebook. He started to tell me about an organization called Operation Enduring Warrior. I was familiar with the organization already. What I did not know, is they had recently started a brother/sister organization called Task Force Sentinel. He explained their mission was the same as that of Operation Enduring Warrior, but tailored for our brother’s and sister’s who patrol our streets. He didn’t tell me more, he simply told me to check them out myself as their reputation will speak for itself.
I thought he was reaching out looking for me to help others. I was excited I may be useful again! I didn’t realize it was me he was trying to help. As we spoke over the next few days, he asked me what I wanted to do, where I wanted to be, what I had been dealing with, etc. He shared stories like mine. He seemed to really care. What could this man want from me? Everyone want’s something!
After a couple conversations, with what I can only assume was a mix of verbal judo and mind control, he convinced me to allow them to honor me as their second adaptive athlete. Then he dropped the bomb-shell. He told me they needed to complete a background check. My heart sank. I knew what I had done, I knew I was not deserving of their honor because of what I had done.
In the interest of honesty and integrity, I told this stranger about my two lowest points in my life. The night I got a DUI and the night I was involuntarily committed due to a bad combination of alcohol and medication.
Chris thanked me for my honesty and told me he would get back with me.
On October 6, 2018, I participated in the Lake Barkley Warrior Challenge in Kuttawa, Ky. Here I met a group of masked athletes, all of which literally traveled from all corners of the country specifically to honor me. They knew of my struggles, my mistakes, my attempts at making amends, acknowledged my taking responsibility for my actions, and they did not judge. They asked nothing in return. These are former and active soldiers/law-enforcement officers. We all know how busy our schedules are! These men sacrificed their bodies, gave up their time with their families, took time off from work, and trained specifically to allow me and my family, and those worse off than us, to feel like we are not alone. This was my first glimpse into real brotherhood.
Fast forward to October 30, 2018. I’m speaking with a guy who reached out to me through my outreach efforts on Facebook. He’s seated next to me, describing some of the situations he had been in, attempting to show me he was someone I can trust. He then did something I didn’t expect. He looked me in the eye and said, “Look Brother, I’m going to be honest with you. You have a really low self-esteem.”
I didn’t know what to say. This cocky prick that I’ve known for about 9 minutes, just… called me out directly on my shit. This is the moment I realized he was one of the good guys.
A previous article I wrote for Law Enforcement Today, was titled “The Enemy from Behind the Blue Line.”
Between the love shown by Operation Enduring Warrior: Task Force Sentinel and this stranger being a true brother and not sugar-coating things I needed to hear, I think I may need to readdress the title of my previous article. I never knew a blue line as an officer. It wasn’t until these two entities showed me, did I learn what it meant to be part of a real brotherhood.
Brotherhood isn’t giving your cop buddy a pass on a speeding ticket. It isn’t simple words. It isn’t a text message once a month. It involves sacrifice. It’s in found in your actions. I can only hope I grow to a point where I can share a fraction of the compassion Operation Enduring Warrior: Task Force Sentinel and “the stranger” showed me. PTSD may affect one’s life, but together we can minimize its tragedy!
Jeremy Scharlow currently lives in Illinois. He obtained his bachelor’s in business administration and is currently completing work in completion of his Master of Arts in legal studies, both at the University of Illinois at Springfield. He is medically retired from the Mahomet Police Department where he served as a patrol officer for 10.5 years and as a METRO SWAT member for 9 of those years. After his line-of-duty injury, he began advocating for PTSD awareness in the law enforcement community.
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