What Happens When Your Career Is Over???

By Steven Smith – Retired Assistant Chief

What do you do when it ends? When the career that you worked so hard for ends. The career that helped define who you were ends. Even though it was such a difficult and sometimes heart wrenching, you loved it. It becomes part of you, part of your personality. So what do you do when that journey ends?

For me my journey came to end on cold December night at the end of a sawed off 12 gauge wielded by drug addict. There is not a day goes by that I don’t miss being in the field and running calls with my guys. Sometimes, even almost 8 years later, if I see a cruiser running code, I’m heartbroken that I’m not there doing it anymore. More times than not it, still brings tears to my eyes.

I’m not sure if it would be easier if I had worked and retired normally, but I would like to think that it would be. There is just something about having the choice taken away, feeling as if my career was stolen, having part of me literally blown away in a violent flash, that still haunts and weighs on me.

When you leave voluntarily, or in my case forced to medically retire, something that you loved so much you leave a part of yourself. So not only am I haunted by the traumas that I have witnessed and experienced, I’m left with the feeling of incompleteness, loss of purpose, and all too often depression. All of these can lead to us making a permanent decision for something that can be a temporary situation. Those feelings don’t have to remain this way for the rest of your life. Think of these feelings as calls for service. Sometimes you can handle them on your own, then there are those that you’re going to need back up on. Sometimes you may need a lot of back up.

I know, because I’ve been able to handle some on my own, others I’ve needed a little help with, then I’ve also needed a whole lot of help. By a little help it can be a phone call just to get your mind right or a just a conversation with someone who gets it. When it comes to needing a whole lot of help, I’ve been there too. I still hadn’t come to grips with everything that I had seen and experienced on the job, combined with having my career and part of my life stolen. I was so far gone that I would wake mad, not anyone or anything other than I didn’t die in my sleep, I wanted to die, to put an end to what I was going through. I was wanting a permanent solution for what I would later realize was a temporary state of mind.

I was so wrapped up in what I was experiencing that I didn’t realize what it was doing to those I cared about. I thought that if I just passed away in my sleep that I could just fade away, taking that pain and suffering with me. I was wrong. I realized that no matter how I went that pain that had sent me to this point wouldn’t end, it would be transferred, passed on to those who care about me. It took me completely breaking to realize that this wasn’t OK. The way things were not OK. My Family, loved ones and even I deserved better than this. I asked the questions that we all should ask ourselves from time to time. Are you what your family needs? Are they getting the best version of you? If you don’t know the answer, or don’t really want to answer those questions, then you already have answered them. My answers weren’t great. In fact they broke my heart. So I got a whole lot of back up. I went and got help.

While getting help I realized that the journey’s end didn’t have to be the curse I thought it was. Yes my time in the field ended, but my dedication to those who still bear the burden hasn’t.

So what will you do when the journey ends? Be the difference, be the exception, make the call.

If you, someone you love or someone you know needs help, call:

Safe Call Now:  24 Hour Confidential Hotline:  206-459-3020

For more information on the First Responders program:  Click here

Or call Shannon Clairemont at 661-466-6352 or Vanessa Stapleton at 304-651-3008