What’s your handicap?

At first glance most distinguish the title of this piece as it would relate to golf. Although I admit golf is not my forte. I digress, the real handicap a person may have can and will sometimes never be overt. Everyone is guilty at some point of their lives. Guilty of what you may wonder. Guilty of making assumptions and/or sterio typing a person. You read the cover of the book and assume you know the whole story.

The little old lady that takes 10 minutes in the parking lot attempting to park in a handicap spot. The gentleman with a Vietnam Veteran bumper sticker. The handicapped placard on a minivan that a double amputee is having a hard time exiting. The disgust you feel when a young couple is parked at a convenient store car running in a handicap spot. The derivative of all these examples are my assumptions. We all have policed those handicap spots. Some of us everytime we park and others at a glance. I’ve been guilty of watching people exit their vehicle looking for the “handicap” in a person. Are you the person that dismissively asks?

Retired cop: Walk a mile in my shoes before thinking you know me

(AF.mil)

 

I made all these assumptions from birth until 2016.

I’ve always been told I’m “special” no label. I navigated through life with the greatest of ease. I grew up in the 70’s in a catholic family and attended catholic school.  The nun’s had their hands full with me to say the least. My knuckles still twitch when I see a nun in close proximity.  My mother would field phone call after phone call from the school. ADHD wasn’t a diagnosis back then. When I would sit still, I could complete any task at hand.

Fast forward to the 90’s. I landed a job with the county. I breezed through training and became a certified 9-1-1 dispatcher.  Quick on my feet and easily adapting to each call. I excelled on every level. I was able to answer police channels, answer a phone and call a wrecker all at once.

I had a interest in police work at a very early age. I began testing for various police departments.  I landed a spot in the Sheriff’s Department and quickly fit in. My multitasking was unheard of  and easily adapted to every aspect of the department.  I worked the civil division, warrant squad, extraditions and the holding tank. All these jobs simultaneously.

Years would pass and after 22 years I tested for Sergeant. I was pretty much doing the job as a Sergeant without the title. I was well established quickly in the roll. I held simultaneous titles such as, operations team leader of the major incident response team, counter-terrisom, Internal Affairs, SWAT negotiator, Warrant Division and Civil Division. 

Retired cop: Walk a mile in my shoes before thinking you know me

 

I juggled everything and made it look easy. I failed to mention I am a single father of four children. I carpooled birthday parties, served as homeroom dad, coached sports and juggled homework, play dates, guest reader… the list goes on. I functioned effortlessly as I was told.

My divorce took its toll on me and the kids. In the words of Everclear, “Everything to Everyone”, held true. However, giving in or giving up was never an option. Shinny penny on the outside and tarnished on the inside.

I developed a drinking habit. I started off a beer after shift. I withdrew and became an introvert. I stared at the tv, gazing at the same channel without a remote. I drank and drank and started to sick out of work. 3am or 4am watching the same channel. 

Retired cop: Walk a mile in my shoes before thinking you know me

 

I remember watching a commercial for a rehabilitation center. I thought, who the hell has time for that? Ironically, I do now.

I started to get tattoos.  “Walk a mile in my shoes” you cant break me” it’s always darkest before the dawn” MOVON L^BE” are just a few. I didnt know what was happening. The forces of nature spun around me. I couldn’t grasp a simple task. I didnt eat. I was losing control and drinking consumed me. Subsequently I fell. I got behind the wheel and popped 2 tires. I sat on the side of the road in a stupor. I became an alcoholic overnight.

I admitted I couldn’t fix myself. So off I went on a plane to Florida.  They’ll fix me or at least make  it stop. After 34 days training to be sober I was sent home. I was charged with DUI. I lost my job, family and respect. I was so concentrated on an alchohol problem I lost sight. I was sent home with something I never wanted. I refused to accept.  They are lying or better yet I’m lying. My world shattered. I was diagnosed with PTSD and Bipolar disorders.

How was I able to function so efficiently? Why didn’t anyone recognize it? What the hell happened?

I finally accepted my fate. I finally accepted my diagnosis. I’m a disabled retired police officer. I can never carry a gun or work as a cop. I listen to my doctors and abid by all medication and recommendations. I have set backs at times. I wont give up. I have a certified PTSD service dog. I fly around the country to help the thin blue line. I speak to command staff and educate staff for indicators.

Retired cop: Walk a mile in my shoes before thinking you know me

 

So what’s my handicap? I have my arms and legs. I don’t walk with a limp. I’m not training my dog. He is mine and works for me. Want to know what PTSD is? Don’t ask me its rude and condescending. Do I ask you about any medical conditions you have? Read a book.

I finally go out in public and sometimes eat at diners. I once had a guy flip out and make a scene about my dog in the restuarant. People can be brutal, trust me. Walk a mile in my shoes. I went to Florida to fix being a drunk. I didnt seek attention nor wanted this diagnosis.  Its life and more importantly my life to live.

Ask yourself a question before judging that handicap spot. People all over are fighting a battle you know absolutely nothing about.

J. Rafferty

“Success is never owned, it is rented and the rent is due everyday”