When I said, ‘I can’t live like this,’ things started to get better
While serving in a high-stress, high-responsibility role as a corrections officer, Wayne developed a serious problem with alcohol, and he knew he needed help to overcome it.
My alcoholism was getting worse and worse, until I was totally depending on it to function. I was losing myself and justifying it in my own head. When I started to believe my own lies, that’s when the mental illness set in. And when I tried to quit on my own, it showed.
Wayne entered a detox program, but within 48 hours, he was hallucinating and suffering from DTs. He then fell into a nine-day coma that nearly cost him his life. Soon after, he was admitted to McLean Hospital’s LEADER program. Specifically designed to help police, active-duty military, and first responders deal with mental health and addiction issues, LEADER was the ideal place for Wayne.
I needed a medical detox because I couldn’t do it on my own. The doctors and staff in the LEADER program helped me through that. They always followed up, and they helped me make healthy choices. Also, it helped to be with other people like me—first responders, other correctional staff. It made it very relatable.
Wayne has been sober for more than five years, and today, he’s in a position to help others. He serves as a captain at his correctional facility, and he makes sure to support his fellow corrections officers who may be going through tough times.
I, along with other officers, run a peer support group at the prison. We help and guide the employees when dealing with sensitive situations that unfortunately arise with this kind of career. I use myself as an example. I explain how humbling it was to be one of the guys’ guys working at a prison, being part of the tactical team for several years, and having to go to rehab because I couldn’t control my drinking. I tell them that I couldn’t push it away, so I decided to own it. I tell them where I went during my dark time—and that when I said, ‘I can’t live like this,’ things started to get better.
Helping others and talking about his past struggles serves a kind of “self-therapy” for Wayne, but his recovery involves far more than talk. He lifts weights, focuses on nutrition, and he recently took up blacksmithing to make his own knives. Wayne believes that committing to personal interests and activities can truly help people struggling with mental health issues and addiction.
Whether it’s music, gardening, painting, exercise—don’t lose that. Alcohol and depression go hand in hand, and when you allow things you once enjoyed to take a back seat due to drinking, it’s like closing a window and blocking out the light and fresh air. Start opening up those windows, start going back to the things that you enjoy. After I got sober, I opened up all my windows again, and I found some new ones.