A career in law enforcement can at times engulf our entire life.
Law enforcement isn’t just an occupation; it can become a lifestyle that affects every aspect of our lives. Often officers develop a sense of distrust in people outside of law enforcement circles, and as a result, they gravitate toward other officers to build relationships and friendships. Eventually, they may limit their activities and relationships so that all of their contacts are within the occupation and all of their activities are confined within law enforcement circles.
In addition to limiting their free-time activities to within law enforcement circles, officers often take advantage of the many overtime opportunities that are connected with the occupation. After officers get used to the extra income associated with these overtime opportunities, they find themselves trapped in a constant cycle of overtime because their expenses have expanded to rely on the overtime income. This extra time at work further increases our contact with the criminal elements of society and limits our ability to escape from the negativity of the occupation. If we aren’t careful, we can find that nearly every minute of our day and every day of our lives is swallowed by the occupation that we love. We work long hours, and when we do have time off, we choose to surround ourselves with other members of the law enforcement family and further immerse ourselves in the law enforcement culture.
While we have all committed ourselves to a noble occupation, it is not healthy for us to completely immerse ourselves in the law enforcement lifestyle. We all need to have the opportunity to leave the job, culture and lifestyle behind and decompress in the regular world. Without outlets in the regular world, we can become jaded, distrusting, depressed or burnt out. Our mind can become accustomed to the negativities of the occupation and we can lose track of the joys of life.
I encourage all officers to find time to distance themselves from the negativity that our occupation can heap on our minds and souls, and embrace the joys of life and the good that society can provide. There are many wholesome activities that we can engage in away from work that can bring peace to our souls and help us to relieve the negativity that can build in our minds. We all need to have activities and friends outside the occupation, and we need to ensure that we schedule time in our life to participate in those activities. We should devote time to participating in activities with our families and in our community. Find hobbies you enjoy and participate in them with friends outside the occupation.
When I need to escape, I like to spend the day hiking out in nature. I’ll take a drive up to the mountains or down to the ocean and spend several hours hiking alone or with family. I enjoy spending time with my family, having meals together, going to the movies and watching my children’s soccer and baseball games. I enjoy cooking, going to sporting events and participating in my church congregation. You can find activities that you enjoy and people to enjoy them with.
Look back on the past month and how you spent your time. Ask yourself: How much time did I devote to the occupation and how much time did I spend on myself, with my family and with my friends? Our occupation is a noble occupation, but it is not one that should swallow our entire life or be our entire identity. Make time for the things that matter most and take the time you need to enjoy your life.