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How To Reverse the Damage From Years as a Police Officer

How To Reverse the Damage From Years as a Police Officer
Image Credit: Andrzej Mucka

Today’s guest post is from Chad Campese, a police officer for over twenty years and author of the book  Confession of a Christian Fraud. He  is a student of Police Officer Wellness, holds a BA in Christian Counseling and Psychology, and is certified in CISM and CIT.

I almost blew up my life.  Three great kids, a beautiful wife, strong faith, good friends and a fulfilling purpose. I almost lit the match and threw it all away. It could have been gone, in an instant.  All I had to do was follow through. Maybe you’re in the same spot. God’s distant, if you think He’s there at all.  You feel broken.  Life outside work, or inside as well is crumbling. The path you’re headed down won’t end well for you, or your loved ones. How did you get this way?  How can you get your life and family back?   Can you again find peace?  Direction?  Purpose? There’s only one way I know that truly works.

Why should you trust me? Because I’m a cop, and an expert.  In failure, regret, bad decisions, pride, selfishness and control issues.  In running from God, scarring my kids, killing my marriage, and questioning my faith and life.  Working as an officer contributed in large part to all of that. There’s only one way that the damage from years on the job can be fixed, permanently.  There’s only one way we can be made whole. But first, as I wrote in my book, we need to see the problem.  We need to admit our attempts to fix ourselves have failed.  And we need to say three very specific words. So, let’s cut through the normal good, great, and fine responses.  Lives and relationships are on the line.

How are you? Seriously, I want to know.  How’s work, your faith, your relationship with God, yourself, and your family? There’s much good that comes with the badge.  It’s a fulfilling and necessary job that I’ve done for over twenty years.  But, from day one of the academy, you’re taught a few things that will, eventually, ruin your life, if you let them. You’re taught that you’re the best, you’ll always win, you’re always in control.  You don’t need anyone and everything counts on your success.  If you cut someone a break, it will come back to haunt you, because everyone is always sizing you up.  And if you fail, if you show weakness, if you admit fear, someone might die. We train that way for a reason.  We have to.  But it’s time for honesty.  It’s time to reveal something the academy never shared.

The cop mindset works on the clock, it keeps you and others safe.  But, eventually, it kills everything else in your life outside of the shift.  Because the same mindset we’re taught to do our job well, doesn’t work outside of the cruiser.  Period.  Our outlook on the world, which evolves over years of working in everyone else’s constant negativity and pain, is forever changed. Prepare for the worst, hope for the best. Great for the job.  Horrible for everything outside.  Because, the truth is, outside the job, you’re not the best, you shouldn’t always want or need to win, nor should you always be in control.  You weren’t made to operate that way.  Relationships don’t work that way. But eventually, we can’t turn that mindset off.   It invades our outlook on our faith, our family, our entire lives. And as the years go on it manifests itself in all kinds of issues and pain both in our physical and mental health, but also in those we love and care about.  Law Enforcement is the one job where we learn to protect everything, except our own minds and hearts. So, slowly, over the years, we kill ourselves and our families from the inside out.

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As marriages fail, as thoughts of suicide rise, when there’s nowhere else to run and we realize what we’ve done, we’re left wondering why it went so wrong. We’ve seen the wound, now we can stop the bleeding. The damage in all of us comes in different sizes.  How do we fix it?  How do we fix our relationships?  How do we lead our children well?  How do we solve the disconnect between what we used to think about the world, and the outlook years in law enforcement have created? How do we stop the bleeding from a thousand paper cuts, quickly, so we can move forward?  How do we get our lives back? There’s only one way.  Three words.  Words men despise.  Words men would rather die than utter.  Words the academy teaches you never to say.

But words that bring healing and wholeness, peace and direction.  Words that restore relationships and families.  Words that bring life.  Before I share them, let me ask you that question again. How are you? Have you been there, done that?  Have you made mistakes?  I already told you I’m an expert.  You can trust me… And I’d love to hear that I’m not alone in the darkness.  That was how I felt in the past.  Now I know the truth.  I’ve already talked to so many officers, there’s strength in numbers. And there’s a process to reverse the damage.

We need to fight back by first saying these words: “I give up.”

The tourniquet is on, now we need to get to a surgeon to save our life. The Great Surgeon, the Wonderful Counselor, the only leadership that matters. Because the truth is, you were made to be led.  You were created to lead your family and yourself under the direction and guidance through the One who made you. Working in Law Enforcement causes us to get that backwards. We are the end all be all.  The buck starts and stops with us.  We end up neglecting the one pillar that was created to bring our lives together.  The physical, mental, and emotional  areas of our well being are stressed, some more than others, in our police training. The spiritual is not.

But the truth is, we were made, created, designed to run off of the leadership of God.  And if we neglect that one element, everything else is affected and eventually crumbles for all kinds of reasons. On the flip side, if we stress the spiritual, everything else is inherently supported and led from the One who knows all. Put diesel fuel in a Ferrari and you kill a beautiful and magnificent machine made to perform.  It needs an engine transplant.  Ignore the spiritual component of life, you’re killing a beautiful and magnificent machine made to run under the leadership of the Spirit of God. You need a heart transplant. Like it or not, you were made to give up. You were created to give up your will, your heart, and your mind to God. He takes over from there, and then you fight, with His leadership. Click To Tweet

Like it or not, you were made to give up. You were created to give up your will, your heart, and your mind to God.   He takes over from there, and then you fight, with His leadership.  It’s the one apologetic that supports all the others.  Without it,  without feeling fueled by the Spirit, no other head knowledge or personal striving will ever get you to perform as you were made to.  While other apologetics may convince, recognizing the Spirit of God in your life is the only one that truly leads. There’s nothing you or I can do to change any of what has already happened. The mistakes we’ve made.  Nothing. We’re in the present. We must move forward.

You need to take who you are today and get rid of the excuses, lose the victim mentality (if you have it), stop the unreasonable demands you place on yourself and others, and start being honest.   It saved my life.  And my family.  It will save yours. Give Up. Give it all to God.  Leave it at His feet. Allow Him to fix it.  Because the truth is, if you’re reading this, He is pursuing you, He is calling, and it’s time to let Him lead.  Why? Because you’re addicted. You’re addicted to who you are, what you’re trained to do, how you’ve been affected by the world. What you’ve seen and experienced, and how that all looks mixed together in your mind and life, is controlling you. And you can’t change it or get rid of it. You’re addicted to pride, ego and control. You’re addicted to your police identity. It’s become who you are, not just what you do. And it’s killing your life and your soul. And the only way to cure addiction is spiritual.

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I know that’s hard to hear and hard to trust. All I can say is that it works.  My life was changed.  The Wonderful Counselor took over, the Healer made me whole again.  He redeemed a marriage, He brought back my kids, and He made me look at my life and my work as an officer in a way that I am forever grateful for.  I’ve seen it work not only for myself, but in countless others as well.  And He will do the same for you, because He promised.

 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  Matthew 11:28-30 

There is a process that works, that lays this out, that you can walk through and see results.  And I’d love to be a part of your comeback story if you’d like to know more.  But first, you need to take the first step.  You need to give up and let God know you can’t do it on your own. And you need to let someone close to you know you’re doing just that. Don’t have anyone to tell?  I’d be happy to listen.  Want to know more about my story?  How did I come back?  Pick up a copy of my book, join the family of frauds, and of success stories.  We’re good, great, never better, until we’re finally not.  It’s only then that healing can finally begin. Shoot me a line at chad.campese@gmail.com, or hook up with me on LinkedIn or Facebook.  Let me know your situation.

Let’s go, officer.  It’s time to get your life back, from the One who knows what you were truly meant to be…

Written By

J. Warner Wallace is a Dateline featured cold-case homicide detective, popular national speaker and best-selling author. He continues to consult on cold-case investigations while serving as a Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. He is also an Adj. Professor of Christian Apologetics at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, and a faculty member at Summit Ministries. J. Warner presently serves as a chaplain for his agency and holds a BA in Design (from CSULB), an MA in Architecture (from UCLA), and an MA in Theological Studies (from Gateway Seminary).

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Brian Nolen

    July 21, 2022 at 8:22 pm

    Chad, thanks for sharing your story. I know you speak from your personal experience as a police officer (thanks for your service, btw), but this problem is so prevalent in so many professions.
    For example, I have a very similar story in the field of Mfg Leadership where I thought my goal in life was to “be the best”…very similar to always win, always be in control, etc.
    This mentality almost blew up my life, health, sanity, family and career…until I said “I submit; I cannot do this myself. I need you Lord. I surrender”.
    So, keep telling this story to cops, but others will hear, and they will have the chance to be changed.
    Gos bless you.

    • Chad

      August 1, 2022 at 7:33 am

      Hey Brian. No doubt. Agree completely. But If cops don’t hear it from other cops, and specific to cops, we tend to dismiss it as, for lack of a better term, BS. It’s probably the same way as you mentioned in other professions as well. We listen to our own. No one else understands our situation…. Thanks for reading!

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