I’m a Cop and I’m in Recovery From Heroin. Now I’m Working To Support Other First Responders.

My name is Michael Koch and I was a police officer for 19 years. In 2000, I promoted to undercover narcotics detective for a term of 4 years and transferred to property crimes for 3. I went back for a 6- year term as a narcotics detective until my life changed forever on 01-19-2012 when I was arrested.

My story starts as a 19-year-old wanting to do good in life and have a career that would help others. I went to college for my degree in criminal justice, worked two jobs and got hired as a reserve police officer. When I graduated college a year later the department hired me as a full-time police officer and sent me to my second police academy. I loved being a cop and as I grew and matured I became well respected as being honest, tenacious and fair. Alcohol abuse was a big part of my life. I was able to maintain and hide my dependence on alcohol as it escalated into a daily need. Then I found the one thing that solved all of my problems, Vicodin.

When I got injured the doctor prescribed me Hydrocodone or Vicodin. Because of this opioid I was able to switch from alcohol and I gladly accepted this prescribed medication for pain as my new outlet for escape. As time went by and my addiction grew to dependence I began doctor shopping and lying about injuries so I could get more. Worried about getting found out I was convinced by my addict-mind to switch to heroin.  I had an ongoing supply because of my position and access to the evidence room. No one knew besides me and my God that I voluntarily abandoned in 2002 for no particular reason.

I was living in torment, shame and hopelessness. Living this double life, I hated what I had become. I had everything I wanted in life but I was living a lie. To me there was no way out. I stopped on my own for short periods of time but I never worked a recovery program. How could I ask for help? I didn’t trust anyone, especially myself.  I wanted to do this on my own and I failed every time until there was no turning back.

The knock on my door from two of my coworkers of 19 years was the end of the life I knew. It was devastating being found out but I was relieved that this secret hell was done. In the first 6 months of sobriety I went to rehab, lost my career, went through criminal charges, got divorced, went through bankruptcy, lost my reputation and friends and stayed sober. I have 5 ½ years sobriety thanks to the support of 12-step recovery.

First responders are the ones who help others and sacrifice their safety to protect the safety of others. It is no wonder why many don’t seek help. They are the ones that are sworn to help, not be helped. Asking for help and admitting you are stuck in addiction can be perceived as a sign of weakness. First responders must handle the situation, maintain professionalism, hold back emotions and go home safely. The stigma of having a substance abuse issue keeps many quiet. The fear of not getting the promotion or the loss of respect from fellow officers and command staff keeps officers stuck in the grasp of addiction. I now have a life better than I could ever have imagined. I went back to school and now work in the recovery field.

Michael C. Koch, BS, CADC II, SAP, is a former narcotics detective who now works as an addiction counselor in Encinitas, CA.  Michael is dedicated to helping all of those who suffer but he has a special place in his heart for the recovering peace officer.