by Kristi Tausinga
Patrol Officer, Enforcement Compliance Division
Arizona Department of Transportation
I just wanted someone to believe me. I wanted someone to care. My intention was not necessarily to harm myself, I just needed help. However, I didn’t know how to ask. I am a cop and cops “don’t ask for help”. We’re tough, not allowed to be weak or show weakness.
I don’t know why I took all the pills. I guess I was hoping that my husband would find me passed out on the living room floor. I had been telling him I had an Opiate addiction, but he did not believe me. I guess I did “too good” of a job hiding it. I figured if he found me passed out, he would call an ambulance or rush me to the hospital. THEY would tell me I needed help, which is okay. Then it would take the “weakness” off of my shoulders. I could blame it on the doctors and not have to tell anyone it was ME asking for help. No, not asking, CRYING OUT FOR HELP.
I sat on the couch and took two Lortab. I waited a while and didn’t feel anything. One more Lortab. Nothing. Crap, this was pissing me off. Two Tramadol. Waited and waited, nothing. Okay, Percocet, here we go, but two of those later and again nothing. Well, needless to say, I didn’t pass out. I eventually fell asleep, but didn’t get the results I wanted.
My best friend and co-worker, who knew a little about my addiction, checked on me that night. By then, the effects of the drugs had kicked in. I was dizzy, my heart was racing, my speech slurred and I couldn’t stay awake. I almost fell out of his truck and had to hold the side of the truck for balance. He told me then that I better make a call for help or he would, and he would also turn me into my employers. I promised him that I would call the next morning. He kept telling me I needed to go to the ER, but I talked him out of it. Looking back on that now, I realize what I did was very stupid and I am truly lucky to be alive.
The next morning, I called my employee assistance program. I am not sure what I was expecting, but what they told me, wasn’t it. I was told to go to the ER and in my mind that was not what I wanted to hear. I lied to them about how I was feeling. I was back to the “I’m Tough” mentality. I was pissed off and telling myself that I didn’t have a problem and that my friend was “blowing this out of proportion”. I called him, pissed off and told him the results of my phone call and that “they didn’t care about me and they just wanted to pawn me off to the ER”.
He told me that he remembered a website he had been told about called Serve/Protect. He said it was for first responders and that I should call them. I looked it up online and found the crises number. I made that call that saved my life.
I spoke with Sean. I was scared and shaking. He spoke with care and compassion. I told him what I had done the day before, he didn’t judge, just cared. He explained to me that inpatient treatment would include being in a dual diagnosis facility. He explained that as officers most of us suffer from job related PTSD, but often times, there are underlying issues that we have never properly dealt with from traumatic events that have happened to us. He gave me an example that one officer told him that as a young boy he had been molested. The officer said he had never told anyone. He put me in touch with someone to help, and for the first time in a long time I felt safe and I felt hope.
Five days later, I was in Newport, California in recovery. I was there with help from Serve/Protect. They had made arrangements for treatment and I accepted. I was scared and nervous and initially felt I didn’t belong there. The staff was amazing. They showed compassion and care and an interest in helping me. I trusted them and began my treatment/healing process, letting down the walls and learning I didn’t always have to have the “I am a cop, I’m tough” attitude. It was okay just to be me and fix me and most importantly come to like me again.
The drugs had an overwhelming affect of making me depressed. I continually felt I wasn’t important, I didn’t matter and that people would be “fine” without me. I never got so bad that I considered suicide, but I was at a point where I was pushing people away from me. I remember, at one point, telling my friend I was “poison” and he should get away from me.
Thanks to Serve/Protect and Morningside Recovery, I have been drug free since April 24, 2014. I am back at work and feeling healthier than I have in a very long time. I am making decisions with a clear head and working on fixing a lot of things I damaged while in my addiction. My husband, friends, family and employers have been very supportive and patient and I am so thankful for the opportunity to not only have a second chance at life, but a chance to make amends to those I have hurt.
I know that my years of working in law enforcement have given me pretty severe PTSD, and that it’s okay to deal with those emotions. I don’t always have to be tough and shove those emotions down, pretending to be strong when inside I am suffering. I don’t have to take pills or drink alcohol to numb myself to those feelings. As officers, it’s ok for us to ask for help. We are not weak. In fact, when we do ask for help we are being strong and realizing we have a problem.
I know I have a long road ahead of me and I have to continue to seek help, but it is there. Whether it’s professional help or just a call to a friend to help me get through a “trigger”, I have to lean on those people that have been put in my life, but most of all get over the idea that “I am tough, and I don’t need help”, mentality that as officers, we have.
Please know that if you are using drugs or alcohol or any other type of destructive behaviors to run or hide from the things you are feeling inside, please make that call. Get some help, it’s there waiting for you.
About the Author: Kristi Tausinga has been a first responder since she was a teenager. She was a lifeguard, an EMT/Firefighter for approximately three years before she went into law enforcement. Kristi has been an officer for 13 years. She has four beautiful children and currently works for the State of Arizona. She has struggled with PTSD for several years and earlier this year hit rock bottom. She was addicted to opiates, and struggled with feelings of suicide and depression. Kristi entered a rehab facility in April of this 2014 and was there for 30 days. She has been opiate free since then, but continues to suffer from PTSD.
She has worked closely with Safe Call Now and has done several presentations for first responders regarding PTSD and Addictions. Kristi encourages any first responders to reach out for help if they are struggling with addictions to drugs, alcohol, pornography, video games or any other “addictive” behaviors. She is willing to answer any questions a first responder may have.