By: David A., Transformations Alumnus

My name is David Alercia and my journey all started on August 1, 2020. That day I was involved in an officer-involved shooting with a male armed with an AK-47. I developed a plan to take down the suspect but during the shootout, I was shot in the arm and the bullet lodged approximately 6 inches from my head. I exited my patrol car and advanced on the suspect, still taking gunfire, where he was shot and ultimately taken into custody.

Through the traumatic event, I wound up with physical injuries and some mental injuries as well. Along with the gunshot wound, I tore my meniscus and lost hearing in my left ear. Soon after, I started drinking to numb the pain. I didn’t feel present anymore. I was isolating myself and acting out in rage and violence. All these emotions stemmed from the feeling that I failed my mission that day. I know how good I am, but for anyone else, it would have been a “job well done” and the person would receive heroic and amazing feedback for their actions. For me that isn’t good enough. I have to be the best and my mission was to kill him and I didn’t do that.

My wife was able to pick up that something wasn’t right with me and that I needed help. My anger and sleepless nights were getting worse. If I was having a bad day I tended to drink more. If I wasn’t drinking, I started drinking when an okay day went to a bad day. I then started with outpatient therapy about 2 to 3 months after the shooting. Working with CRT and CBT therapy. I confided in therapists and a psychologist for 6 months but didn’t feel like I was making much progress and continued acting out with my aggression. I was experiencing PTSD, hearing certain noises and having flashbacks as if I was back in the fight, it was like I could smell the gas from the gun. Those flashbacks would only intensify my anger.tmc David Alercia 14

My biggest advocate was my wife, Danielle who also was in law enforcement as a 2nd grade detective with the NYPD. She turned me on to another psychologist in NY who was a retired NYPD officer. I started to see him once a week along with my original therapist. I started EMDR treatment with my psychologist in NY and there was no reduction in my PTSD. So that psychologist gave me a book to read called “Mindfulness for The Warriors.” Once reading that book, I learned of a retreat called the Battle Within which is a week-long retreat for Veterans and first responders. I applied and was approved to go in September 2021. Prior to my departure my alcohol and PTSD got so severe that my wife and psychologist both believed I needed a much more intense therapy. My son, who was thirteen at the time, had told me in front of my wife that he was afraid to go somewhere with me alone, afraid of what I may to do to him or someone else. With that I agreed to go to inpatient treatment at Transformations Treatment Center in June 2021.

The biggest thing up to then and still to this day is being able to tell my story. When we tell our story, we’re not only helping ourselves but also possibly helping others who have experienced the same feelings. We may help them recognize that they’re suffering and need help or just letting them know that they’re not alone and it’s okay to get help.

Through my journey in Transformations, my overall growth helped me. I also learned some tools that didn’t help until later in my recovery journey. The staff was amazing and instrumental in helping me heal. Some of which are no longer with TTC. The ones who are still part of the staff are Clyde who was the biggest influence along with Tamara and Alley. Some added tools I learned and continue to use are box breathing, yoga, meditation and reiki. These tools help me regulate my PTSD now. I also learning about my ego. During my brain mapping we found I had suffered a TBI. While in treatment I discovered there were so many like me and no one knew where to turn. I grew a passion for helping these unique individuals. Nearing my 30 days of treatment, I decided I wanted to start a nonprofit to help first responders and military personnel. I wanted to be an advocate to let them know they’re not alone and how to get help. I wanted to be a resource for them to come to if they need peer support or financial support during their journey to recovery.

Prior to my discharge I was set up with IOP and continued with one-on-one therapy. I also started and found a first responder/veteran peer support group that I attend once a week. In September 2021 I went to the week retreat which was like a condensed 30 day impatient treatment. It was impactful and imperative to my recovery. Some things were a repeat but further instilled in me of the brain and ego, along with tools of yoga meditation and telling our story and processing it. There was new therapy introduced such as equine therapy as well, which was amazing. We did a labyrinth, wrote a letter to ourselves, and what we failed or hated about ourselves. We also walked a path into the woods and arrived at a fire and burned the letters to let go of what we were battling. We did a leap of faith. That is climbing a pole and once at the top taking that leap jumping off while attached to a harness.Screen Shot 2023 09 08 at 1.28.26 PM

I came back from the retreat and continued with therapy and even to this day with weekly sessions. I also do yoga twice a week within my normal gym routine of six days a week. There are still moments for me that I am triggered. They are followed by outbursts of anger. I do have control issues, anxiety and super hyper vigilance but it is manageable now and I can recover faster. At times I can meditate prior to going somewhere that I know will be a trigger for me. It helps me to go into it with a clear mind. Before I’d go somewhere and have my PTSD activate and I’d stay there in the fight, but now I can mostly remove myself. By saying this and my continued therapy, inpatient or one treatment isn’t a fix all and it’s a continued process that you have to work at to keep a successful outcome. I’ve now been sober for over two years. I pushed forward and am in a better space then where I was.

I created the nonprofit that I said I would. The nonprofit is named Saint Michael’s Warriors and the board was hand-picked to include first responders or veterans. Most of who have had their own demons that they’ve battled and overcome. Our mission has remained the same. You can find us on Instagram, Facebook and our website. I’m not healed, but I am in a much better place than I was before.

There were two occasions that were very dark where I contemplated taking my life. I thought I was hurting everyone around me and rather than make them suffer and hurt, I felt it would be better if they didn’t have to deal with me and my suffering anymore. Thankfully I didn’t do that and I’m here today to tell my story and to help reach others.

Another thing I want to add is besides the main trauma that led to my PTSD. I had two other events that I thought I had gotten over prior to this life changing experience. One which I carried for many years is I was active duty in the marine corps but discharged before 9/11. When we declared war in 2003 my old unit, my team, was first boots on the ground. For years I felt I was cheated and cheated them. I should have been over there with them. The other big trauma which I suppressed was in 2008. While working patrol I was called to a house fire with entrapment. I was first on scene and entered the house with a fire extinguisher. I made my way up the stairs to the top 2nd floor where there was heavy smoke and an orange glow of fire in front of me. I hit it with the extinguisher and tried to push further up but was overtaken by the smoke and fire. While trying to make entry to a bedroom that I couldn’t get to, a woman was screaming to help her, she was burning and on fire. She said this over and over. I had to go down the stairs, get air outside, and run back up 2 more times making it to the same area not being able to get to the woman. Another officer arrived and we couldn’t make it up there. The woman was later rescued by fire personnel. The woman died on the way to the hospital. These traumatic events have bothered me so much. I thought I was past them, but I was just suppressing them.

My message to you is continue with your own therapy and please check out Saint Michael’s Warriors. If you or someone you know needs help who is a first responder or military service member, reach out and we will help you on your journey as well as members of their families.


Wounded in shooting, Slatington police officer is on a new mission, to destigmatize mental health for first responders