Keith’s Story of Recovery

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I told myself I was fine. I believed I could handle it. That was until the hand that was connected to my arm, that was connected to my body, that was supposed to be connected to my mind, slapped my son so hard, it left a mark on him. At one time or another, everyone will have the final straw that breaks the camel’s back. In 2010, on a cold November morning, when I’ve done just about everything to hurt myself and my family, I voluntarily checked myself into rehabilitation at WestCareCalifornia.

Along with my life, my addiction took over my savings account. I didn’t have the funds to pay for my recovery, but I knew I needed help. Thankfully, I was able to secure a spot at WestCare free of pay, and for that I am forever grateful.  

Addiction is like a disease, and like any other addiction, it takes control.

When I hit low points, I realized I needed help and recovery. I tried detoxification, but didn’t succeed. Then the slightest hint of happiness occurred, and I felt fine. At one point, I even told myself that I was the only one who was being affected by my addiction.  It was easier being addicted. 

There were, times that I considered then, good times. I made acquaintances and created bonds with others I then, considered friends. I was living the party life. There were also bad times. I’d lose my temper easily. I’d be so irritated, I wouldn’t let others finish their sentences before blowing up at them. My addiction took over my life. Things were never clear; life wasn’t clear. 

Rehabilitation is not easy; it is fulltime work. There were times when I thought I was taking five steps forward and ten steps backward. I felt myself chasing my own ass, and it got frustrating. It was a rollercoaster. With the support group and counselors, I was able to get the help I needed.

In recovery, I traded one addiction for another. There are good things to be addicted to. I relied on what made me truly happy; I relied on my hobbies. I had always loved working on model airplanes, but because of my addiction, my work was never completed and followed through. I worked on model airplanes, loved it and was good at it. Occasionally, my mind was entertained with those “good time” thoughts of my drug addiction, but I refused to let my focus stray and worked on my model planes.

My wife and son also played huge roles in my recovery. I am involved in my son’s life. The usual, “Hi Son, how are you,” has now turned into, “I love you, Son. Let’s build a train track or play outside. What’s on your mind?” My wife and I have date nights now. I love knowing my wife better than I have before. We are connected, and I am focused on my family.

Previous family gatherings, I wasn’t ever happy being there, couldn’t stop focusing on drugs and when the family gathering would end. It felt like a burden. Now, I am so thankful for my family and the quality time we spend together. I realize how important my family is. 

Even as a rehabilitation graduate, I rely on my support group, friends, and counselors, because it still isn’t easy. I stay involved in WestCare’s alumni program. I serve on the advisory panel, where recovery agencies come together and share ideas about working together towards recovery. There are a lot of variables for every person during treatment; I understand treatment is not the same for everyone and try to be the voice that can lead them to a successful recovery. It is also interesting to see things from another point of view. 

When I look back at my life before recovery, I was arrogant, selfish, a liar and foolish. I was a robot, being controlled by my addiction. I am amazed with myself now. It shocks me to see how I handle situations differently now. I don’t blow up in anger at others, as I did before. I take the time to understand all sides to a view, not just my own. My thoughts, priorities and life have cleared up and changed. I realize it’s not all about, “Me, me, me,” anymore. 

I recall when I first entered treatment and met one of my counselors at WestCare, he said to me, “I’ll get you to love you again.” That is exactly what I feel. I love myself and am truly happy. Remember that the rewards are huge. Recovery is not easy; in fact, it is a struggle. But the same amount of effort that I put into getting dope, was the same amount I put into my own recovery. I fought for my recovery and my life, and it was all worth it.


Simple Tips for a Successful Recovery – Derrick Bressel, Vocational Counselor

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-Give recovery a chance.

-Be open-minded.

 -Let the counselor know where you are at in your recovery & what you want to accomplish. If you don’t know, ask questions! For example: “What can I work on?”

 -The healing process will be slowed if you are not open to share what you have been through. If you don’t take advantage of the opportunity to talk or express your feelings, it can be difficult to truly recover.

 -When it comes to repairing relations with your family, focus on yourself first before you try to achieve the type of family life that you want.

 -Sometimes, being “ok” in one’s mind is not actually ok in the public’s view. Be open to constructive criticism.

John’s Story of Recovery

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 People say when you give up, you’ve failed. But I’ll tell you, when you’ve given up a cocaine addiction, you’ve just defeated one of drug’s toughest competitors. For about eighteen years, cocaine was both my friend and my enemy. It brought me up and it set me back. Cocaine was at one point, my euphoria. I did everything against what I was taught by my mother and grandparents to feed my addiction. I lied, cheated, and tricked those around me. I was hooked. That feeling got my mind off of my emotional imbalance.

 After starting my cocaine use in 1985, it wasn’t until 2003 that I realized that I’d become my own drug dealer’s hoe. It became clear to me that all addicts are nothing but hoes to their dealers. I had hit my ultimate low. Since then, I have not had any controlled substance enter my body.

 Although cocaine was no longer a necessity for me, I realized that I was emotionally and mentally unstable. I learned that recovery doesn’t always have to connect with drugs or alcohol. It can also be about understanding our emotions. Just like a drug addiction, you have to overcome your emotions. If we don’t learn how to control them, they control you.

 Growing up, my feelings were controlled by mean kids at school. I was picked on throughout school for being blind in one eye. Even though I knew was an intelligent person, I couldn’t carry that confidence proudly because I let others tell me otherwise. I told myself I wasn’t ever going to be good enough because their insults became gospel for me. I let them control my feelings. I told myself that I was stupid and despised myself, carrying a lot of guilt and hurt with me as I grew up.

 This emotional imbalance was what led me to drugs, anger, and placing false judgments on people. I wasn’t confident; as a result, I’d fill those holes by buying women’s love through materialistic items. I was buying acceptance and happiness because I felt that I didn’t have what it took to earn it. I was only fooling myself. I soon realized that the only way I could ever accept myself was if I could be true to myself.

 In recovery, my anger was my biggest setback. I would get angry with people who’d ask me for cigarettes and hurt when I see people conning others. I feel disrespected and angry when past dealers contact me. If they know I am recovered and respect me for it, why do they still contact me? If I allow myself to get caught up in these arguments and let my adrenaline go up, I will wind up back in jail. I learned that I have to remove that anger and myself from the situation. I am the only one in control of my feelings and actions, not those around me. I now find myself standing up for those being conned, because I now know what is right and what is wrong.

 Being in control doesn’t mean it’s easy. It’s easy to go back to jail. It’s very easy to start up drugs again. Once those euphoric thoughts get in your head, you start to lose control. It’s a mentality change; once you let it start, it’s hard to stop. It’s easy to go back to your old ways. I overcome these struggles by attending my DRC courses. I continue to attend these classes to help me remain stable and confident while I address my issues.

 I feel that before you can pursue anything, whether it be searching for a career or maintaining a job, you have to be mentally and emotionally stable and be committed to this balance. If you are not committed, you’ll find any excuse to get out of it. I can say that I am committed to myself today. I walk and live with confidence. I am defined by my actions and I get stronger each day. But in the 63 years of being on this planet, it took a long time to figure this out. It’s going to take a long time to continue with this recovery when you don’t truly know yourself. You have to know yourself.

 When I knew who I truly was, I was able to identify my problems and behaviors and control myself accordingly. I’ve also realized that I was put on the earth and in this body just the way that God intended. I didn’t get to pick and choose the way I came into this world, but I do have the say on how I take care of this body and personality I have been blessed with. I am now happy in my own skin.

 I have my parole agent to thank for the direction my life has gone in since my last visit to WestCare in 2011. She was the person that suggested that I attend DRC courses. At first, I was blinded by my perceptions and attitudes. Once I let these go and started thinking objectively, I developed a high level of respect for her.

 I often give talks about understanding your self, because that is the key to success. Someone might have a diploma, but do they truly know who they are? I feel that I have been blessed with the knowledge and wisdom that it takes to give back. I help with teaching a younger generation because there needs to be larger focus on educating our youth. By giving back to others, I feel that I can remain in charge of myself.

 Life is hard and people might be out to get you, but you can’t let this get you down. When you feel like no one around you cares, give yourself a chance! It’s all inside; you just have to believe it. It all starts and it all ends with you.

Every Problem Has a Solution

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“Determine that the thing can and shall be done, and then we shall find the way.”                        – Quote, Abraham Lincoln

Success is only achieved by learning to recognize the problem first. Admit that it is not bigger than you and conquer it.

The First Steps to Recovery: Raymond Gonzales, RMS Counselor

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It’s key to seek help from somebody that’s in a position to encourage you & lead you in a positive direction. Old friends have to be left alone if they’re going to lead you astray. You might need a change of playground and a change of playmates. It’s not that simple, but if you have a desire to stay clean and sober, you will make positive choices to change your life.

The first thing you have to do is be honest with yourself. Honesty is the first key to recovery. If you’re not honest with yourself, you won’t be honest with anyone else. You have to stop & look at yourself for a while. Then you have to seek help.

I’m often asked, “Where can I find this help?” The first place is the phone book. Detox centers, NA/AA meetings, recovery centers. You have to be willing to reach out and change. It’s difficult, but it’s not impossible.

Start Today!

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“Remember, today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday.”          – Quote, Dale Carnegie

When you are facing a problem, start now because procrastination will not move you forward. Start today and look forward to all of the accomplishments you can achieve.

Vincent’s Story of Recovery

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Throughout most of my life, I found myself digging my own holes until I finally put the shovel down and buried it under cement. After 35 years of drugs and crime and having gone through 9 penitentiaries, 3 terms and 11 violations; I made it out alive with a new understanding of who I am and what I can achieve.

 I grew up in Dos Palos, CA in an abusive family that was plagued by addiction. At the age of 5 or 6, I was molested by both a male and a female that were outside of my family. Despite the negative environment that I was raised in, I knew that a sense of love existed; it just wasn’t shown or understood. Regardless of everything that has happened, I’ve held no grudges with my parents. I had a brother and a sister, but my bond with my sister was the strongest.

My drug use began when I was 9 years old with marijuana and inhalants. When I turned 11, I began using speed. In the 6th and 7th grades, I found myself starting fights with other children as well as my teachers. I eventually got into the habit of stealing drugs from my parents.

My first run-in with the law was when I was 14. I shot off a pellet gun into a van full of women. I received nothing more than a slap on the wrist with a pardon from the juvenile court. The only lesson that I took from that was simply I could get away with anything. In high school, I was caught with drugs. But, I got off easy once again; I was untouchable. When I graduated high school, the doors opened to my own success in failing.

I was always on something, whether it be alcohol, marijuana, LSD, PCP or meth. My cousin and I referred to ourselves as “The Fryer Brothers” since we were fried every single day. I became a “garbage can junkie”, never limiting how far I would go for the next fix. 

At the age of 19, I was a father of one son. My second son was born when I was 20. When I turned 25, my luck with the law ran out. On a count of armed robbery with a hostage, I was able to beat a 16 year sentence down to 4 years. I was out of dope and money, so I chose to rob somebody weaker than me. Despite my sentence, I thought it was cool that I was on the news for it. I ended up serving only 2 years in prison and was released with the idea that I could still do whatever I wanted to.   

I tore up all of the lives around me. I treated women like play things and never felt love for the mother of my children, only lust. The drugs never allowed me to feel anything and I never cared. I was worse than an animal and far worse that the creepiest monster you could imagine. People would call me “Sinner” or even “the Devil”. My life was chaos and I embraced it. I never killed anyone, but I destroyed everything I touched. I felt as if people lost a part of their soul when I was mentioned. My only faith was in the devil. I once took pleasure in the thought of pulling at least 12 Christians away from church to take them down with me.

I spent the 90’s going in and out of prison. I stayed out from 1998 until 2001, when I returned for 3 more years. I then returned in 2007 only to be released in 2011. This was no way to live. For the majority of my life, I played the roles of both a thief and a liar. I got away with too much, even when I did get caught. If I was caught for everything I’ve done: stabbing people, robbing people, manipulating people; I would still be in prison facing a life sentence.

For 30 years, I was addicted and never had more than 6 months of being clean. I knew from the start that I was an addict and didn’t care. I knew that people knew I was addicted and I didn’t care, nobody could make me care. I got diseases and could have gotten HIV, but it didn’t matter because all that I needed was the dope. I was scared of life, so my best defense was not caring. I have since been clean for 14 months and 4 days.

On February 22nd 2011, I was released from prison on the same day that my granddaughter was born. I realized that I needed to stay clean for her. In her eyes, I saw a future & told myself “Grandpa is there for her, now.” With funding from parole, I voluntarily checked myself into WestCare for a whole year. The funding ran short and I left early, but the lessons I learned will always stay with me.

I found leadership in my counselor, Raymond Gonzales, one of the first people that I could truly bond with and confide in. Without hope, I had nothing; Raymond gave me hope. I feel that God put him in my life to guide me through my darkest times. I also found inspiration in Margaret, Brenda, Tammy, Derrick, Sammy,Sydney– these counselors truly cared; just to name a few. They will care about you until you care about yourself. On my last day, I was brought intoGary’s office where he told me, “Think about everything before you do it. Think it all the way through.” That is the best advice I have ever been given; I apply it every day.

My faith in God was also restored. I visited the church next to the MLK Residential facility often and am now involved in a bible study. I want to be a better Christian. Instead of figuring things out on my own, I’ve realized the need to cast my cares on Him. Many doors have opened for me and I have God to thank for that.

I love my granddaughter; I see nothing but hope and a bright future in her. One of my sons is in prison and the other wants nothing to do with me. Times change and so do people; in time, we will all be united again.

I am currently going to college with plans to get my AA degree and become a drug and alcohol counselor. Because of my experiences, I feel that I can do better for other people and in turn, do better for myself. I plan to help other people for the rest of my life. I often speak atFresnoStatefor counselors so that they have an idea of the background of the clients they may be helping.

My life has been rocky, but I have changed for the better. I have found the love of my life and we have each other. When I look in the mirror now, I see a man who wants life and wants to live life. I look back at my old habits and think about how predictable I was, but now I think of myself as a box of Crackerjacks that always has something good to offer.

If recovery is not what you want, then keep on doing what you’re doing. But know that you’re going down the same predictable road. If I have any advice for anyone out there, it’s this: give life a chance.