By Jay Dobyns – ATF Agent (retired), Best Selling Author and Keynote Speaker
As an Agent with a passion for undercover work, I accepted every nasty, dirty assignment I was presented. I was determined to put my own personal dent in the universe.
I took on the jobs that many others declined or didn’t have the stomach for. Guns. Bombs. Infiltrations. Violence. Brutality. Viciousness. Racism. Corruption. Murder. Rape. Drug dealing. Home Invaders. Murder-For-Hire solicitors. Gang members. I lived for the opportunity to stand next to it.
Over twenty-seven years I’d participated in over five-hundred covert operations. Many I admire were better at the tradecraft than me. I was never exceptional, more willing than expert.
I worked hard and played hard, often too hard. Undercover regretfully became my world, my purpose, my God, my everything.
I’d falsely believed I would leave a legacy. My objective was to be remembered for toughness and courage. When I retired many in my agency instead viewed me as a traitor and a coward.
Legacy? My position was backfilled before I could clean out my desk and the only remembrance was my name on an impact label glued to an old stapler. My agency had airbrushed me out of their yearbook.
Chasing something I believed to be heroic instead, delivered me to the brink of self-destruction. I’d not only crushed my family, I’d trainwrecked myself. A life lived to hard and fast, carrying regret and shame, fueled my anxiety and depression… misuse and abuse of substances and at one tragic point, the brink of suicide.
Nothing I’ve ever done or tried in my life has come easy to me, nothing. Wisdom was always something that arrived right after I needed it.
I thought God had lost my phone number. Then, I realized He was calling me.
With time and an honest reflection, God provided me delayed wisdom delivering the realization that no one remembers the investigations, the arrests, the busts, the fires or the rescues. We remember our mentors, our partnerships and our friends. We remember the camaraderie.
So why? Why do we do this to ourselves?
For me the answer was buried deep inside. I was afraid. My motivator was FEAR.
Not a fear of injury or death… when we take 1st Responder jobs we sign an unwritten contract accepting those possibilities. Mine was fear of failure. Fear of how others would view my performance. Afraid of how that would be remembered (or not remembered at all).
We serve first, the good and innocent people in our communities who simply want to live in peace and safety and who ask us to stand between them and their predators. Sometimes that is appreciated, many times it is not.
In the very end, at the bottom line, it is about us. It is about those we work with, those we care for and those we respect. Most importantly it is about family; those closest to us who did not sign-on for the danger and risk, but who often pay the heaviest price. When everything else is lost or gone, family will remain.
So, don’t let those outside motivations, like for me – fear – own you. When it starts to, help is available, and we can guide you to it.
Jay Dobyns is a retired Federal Agent. He is the bestselling author of two books, Catching Hell – A True Story of Abandonment and Betrayal, and, No Angel – My Harrowing Undercover Journey to the Inner Circle of the Hells Angels. Click here
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