By Chris Hoyer, Retired Police Officer
First responders often struggle with the anticipation of retirement for various reasons, including concerns about a lost sense of purpose, being disconnected from their peers, and thoughts about what is next (First Responder Retirement Academy, 2023; Robb-Dover, 2021). After years, even decades, on the job, it can be difficult to imagine life beyond the badge. Generally, the uncertainty of what retirement will be like can be uncomfortable and anxiety-provoking. While there is much to look forward to (e.g., more time with family, freedom to travel, and relaxation), experiencing such a significant change is not easy. Though, this is not always widely discussed. Retired officer Chris Hoyer explains his perspective and offers advice for the next generation of retiring officers below.
Retired First Responder: Now What?
Retirement. I never knew how important that word could be to me.
Twenty years and 64 days, and believe me, that was more than I could handle. During my time in my department, I experienced more than I would ever have dreamed of, even after I had considerable experience under my belt.
After my fourth Officer-involved shooting (but my first gunfight), I thought I was still squared away. May 18th, 2016…the day it happened was when I really “checked” out of law enforcement. On July 5th, 2018, when I physically retired was when I figured it out. Where I failed was not noticing or acting when the issues became problems.
Sleep deprivation, anxiety, short-tempered, no-care attitude, and a few more to boot. Luckily for me, these were the big ones. Unlike many other folks who experience much more significant issues, I was lucky they were manageable.
After I realized I needed to take care of myself, I trolled back to my early pre-hire days. It dawned on me that in those days, I began setting goals. Something I had never done before. So, it seemed logical to follow that same path. Now what did the new goals look like?
More than goals, they were dreams. But how do we achieve our dreams?
Setting Attainable Retirement Goals
A stolen quote from a favorite of my movies is…in dreams begin responsibilities…YES. For me, it was:
- Move to the ocean
- Find a way to train the law enforcement community in tactics and wellness and more
- Become a professional public speaker
- Write a book
All very attainable goals…DREAMS, and as it turned out, not a herculean effort was needed. Just some grit and determination. As many folks do, I also experienced divorce, so moving out of state was now much simpler. I got hired as a recruit training officer for a local police academy. I had been speaking for a few years but refused to be paid for my efforts. After I realized I still had to eat, combined with the idea that “free” stuff often comes with no value, I began reluctantly charging. I was surprised to find that not only was I getting paid, but my presentations started becoming more detailed and applicable.
After a buddy was killed during the worst day of my professional and personal life, I began writing. Three years later, I was holding a copy of my book in my hands. This was a major accomplishment. It certainly didn’t take me long to realize that I had worked hard for my career. And now, I had worked even harder to live the life I had always longed for. And despite being stubborn, I finally admitted that I deserved it.
First Responder Retirement Academy. (2023). What do you do when you no longer need your daily adrenal rush? https://firstresponderretirement.com/
Robb-Dover, K. (2021). Mental health after retirement – Common issues for first responders. FHE Health. https://fherehab.com/learning/mental-health-retirement-first-responder
About the Author
Retired Police Officer, Christopher Hoyer is a protector, survivor, and advocate for mental, physical, emotional and spiritual wellness.
After over 20 years as a street cop, having been faced with the worst horrors imaginable, he has turned his focus to public speaking and writing various articles worldwide. Having recently published a book he is helping the law enforcement and first responder community prepare for the trauma and joys that come with the job. He has spoken to thousands, including first responders, mental health advocates and various professional entities, sharing his story in hopes of saving lives.
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For resources on stress management, please visit our Stress Management and Burnout resource page.