Our staff, our clients, our supporters, our collaborative partners and our friends! We are Thankful for all of you! We will never take for granted all of the love, support and memories you have given us over the years and the lessons that you teach us everyday. Have a Happy Thanksgiving and please enjoy these stories from three of our WestCare family programs!
11/20 – Holiday Luncheon at Turtle Lodge
WestCare staff Jeff Estes and Annette Ortega took five clients to celebrate their Native American heritage at a holiday luncheon hosted by Turtle Lodge. There was drumming, good food, old and new friends and plenty of fun to be had that day. Andrea N. got down and dirty during the cherry pie eating contest even though she did not finish her pie first, she gave it a valiant effort. All WestCare clients and staff who attended took a new unwrapped toy to donate to the Toys 4 Tots drive being held there. It was great time for both the clients and the staff.
11/24 – The Living Room Thanks Volunteers and Donors with a Thanksgiving Luncheon and Gives Back
Staff at the Living Room held a Thanksgiving luncheon to say thanks to their volunteers from MAC Cosmetics who have given their time at The Living Room and to donors and community partners from the Imperial Dove Court who have shown their support throughout the years. After the meal, the remaining food was served to over 60 homeless individuals on Belmont Avenue!
11/24 – SJVV Fresno Thanks Their Veterans with a Thanksgiving Luncheon
Staff at SJVV Fresno took the time out of their day to prepare a meal for the veterans that they serve to show just how thankful they are of everything that they have done in their time with the armed services. In all, the staff served over 75 veterans!
For over 40 years, WestCare California has been providing an opportunity for individuals to lead fuller, richer lives. Our team of multi-cultural, experienced and credentialed staff is dedicated to providing the best care to everyone who enters our doors. Our goal is to uplift the human spirit by providing the skills and support necessary for individuals to achieve their dreams and transform their lives.
WestCare provides a wide spectrum of health and human services in both residential and outpatient environments. Our service domains include mental health & wellness, substance abuse and addiction treatment, housing opportunities, education & prevention, criminal justice and veterans programs. These services are available to adults, children, adolescents, and families.
Hi, my name is Raymond Gonzales. I work as an Outreach Specialist with San Joaquin Valley Veterans (SJVV) and have been in this position for over a year and a half. I’ve previously worked with Westcare eight years as an alcohol and drug counselor.
I served in the United States Marines in the 70’s and 80’s, while the Iran hostage Crisis was happening in 1979, and was deployed to Okinawa, and Korea. I am proud to have served my country and would go again if I could.
I am thrilled to be throwing out the first pitch at WestCare Night/San Joaquin Valley Veterans Night! Let us always remember to show appreciation for our military! Happy Fourth of July weekend and Go Grizzlies!
My name is Salvador J. I have been addicted to alcohol and substances for 27 and half years. My abuse of alcohol and substances has caused me to make a multitude of bad choices over this time period. Some of the negative choices are as follows: Involvement in crime from the age of 13 until the age of 40, involvement in a validated street and prison gang, participation in violent crimes inside and outside of prison, transportation of narcotics across the state of California, total non-involvement with family and friends, eleven years of incarceration and [going] in and out of various treatment programs to name a few. I have [been] asked to share with you about the changes I have made and continue to make on a daily basis. Upon entering residential treatment on February 21, 2015, I knew for the first time in my life that no matter what, I would do whatever it took to overcome my many downfalls. The first crucial thing that I did was surrender to the fact that I am an alcoholic/ addict and that I am completely powerless over that. Also, my life will always become unmanageable if I made the choice to use. Next, I developed a relationship with a higher power, which I choose to call God to help restore my insane thinking. I believe that doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is insane and is exactly what I did time and time again.
“I believe that doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is insane.” – Salvador J.
I accomplished this while at Tri-Counties Treatment in Oroville, CA. I was then blessed with the opportunity to come to Visions of the Cross’s sober living house on March 21st, 2015. In the three months that I have been here [and] with the help of the great staff members here at VOTC, Inc., I believe I have done very well in starting to make positive choices and taking steps in putting my life back together. Please allow me a moment to explain. I’ve completed all of the court appointed community service I was sentenced to and have also worked off two thirds of all fines that I owed to the courts. I’ve set up a monthly payment plan to pay off all remaining fines. I start Shasta College on 6/16/2015 to obtain an Associate of the Arts degree in substance abuse counseling and will then go to a four year college to obtain a Bachelor’s Degree in social work. I attended two very helpful groups weekly here at VOTC, Inc. that truly have helped me in conflict resolution, anger management and learning solutions to dealing with my alcohol and substance issues. I also meet with my case manager, Tami, and go over my treatment plans. She has been very supportive and encouraging to me. I look forward to our weekly sessions. I also have an AA sponsor who I talk to daily and meet with weekly to do step work. I attend 3-5 meetings weekly and am learning so much and really enjoying them. Currently, I am on step 4. I work for people in the community doing handyman work to make the money I need for car insurance, a cell phone bill and gas for my car. I am also a senior resident at Sober Living Housing. To conclude, I am very thankful to have been given the opportunity from WestCare/STOP to be able to come to VOTC, Inc. I would like to thank WestCare/STOP and VOTC, Inc. from the bottom of my heart.
I often sit and daydream about how my life could have been if I never used drugs. But, I realize that everything in my life is exactly the way it is for a reason. I will not neglect my past; I will learn from it everyday. My life has been rough, but that pain and trauma has been replaced by love and joy.
I grew up in a dysfunctional family and was a child of divorce. I was the middle child of three with one brother and one sister. I was born and raised inTexas where our home life was healthy. We would attend church regularly and have friends over for dinner. I knew everybody in Texas, but after my mother’s divorce, we moved to California where I knew nobody.
The combination of my mom’s many divorces and moving to California changed us as a family. The wholesome memories of Texas were replaced by drugs and abuse. My sister was using with the neighbors, the boys next door were trying to get physical with me, and my mom was never home. When she was, her full attention was on the toilet that she was throwing up in. Looking back, I feel as if I’m not looking at my own life, but someone else’s.
My sister hated me and my brother just didn’t care. At a young age, my sister molested me. She herself was a product of rape, and because of her mental illness, she didn’t realize what she was doing to me. Despite all of this, I remained a good child that never got in trouble.
At the age of 14, I broke my good streak and cut a class one Friday with friends in order to go to a party. The school notified my mother and she came to find me. She did not just pick me up, she made a big scene. She called me a bitch and a whore in front of everyone and kicked me into the car, almost causing serious injury.
I was sent to my room and was not spoken to for the longest time. I sat there with all kinds of thoughts about punishment going through my head and thought that I could just leave if I wanted to. So, I pushed my dresser against my door and left out the window.
There I was, 14 years old and hitch-hiking to San Francisco. I was away from Fresno for 5 years. My mother hired a private investigator who was never able to find me. While there, I tried drugs, but didn’t like the feeling. I eventually married a man that was 14 years older than me. It was an abusive relationship, but I consider myself lucky back then. At that time, it was common for girls to wind up missing, raped, murdered or pushed into pornography.
At the age of 19, I came home and divorced him. I was back in Fresno to start over. I worked at a bar and began drinking. I tried drugs again, but it wasn’t a regular habit. It wasn’t until after my first child was born that I began using meth all of the time.
The addiction took control. I tried to get out, but I couldn’t succeed. I lost my home and my mother took my daughters away from me. I found myself scared and alone with nothing to keep me going. This all added up to cause a nervous breakdown.
I was arrested on several occasions for possession of a controlled substance, paraphernalia, and stolen property. Every time that I did jail time, it was always 2 weeks or under. In 1996, I was sent to a Salvation Army drug treatment program as ordered by a judge. I was there for 3 and a half months, but left because they tried too hard to push their beliefs on me. I then sat in jail for 11 days until my next court date. I was sent to The 3rd Floor, where I did outpatient treatment. I completed, graduated, and walked across the stage.
After I graduated, I got an apartment with my youngest daughter. At this point my oldest daughter had lost trust and wanted nothing do with me. At first I was doing fine, but I was slowly starting to slip. I would send my youngest off to church, but I would stay home. I eventually stopped going to meetings and failed to keep myself in check. I had a neighbor who was disabled and was getting ripped off on the drugs that he was selling. So, I used this as a justification to buy for him and start using again, since I was helping him out. I was justifying everything, and still saying I was fine.
It wasn’t until my sister visited that I spiraled into regular use. Seeing her triggered memories of what she did to me as a child and I sunk to my lowest low. Because of her mental state, she had no idea what her presence did to me or how she brought back my old habits. I could not cope with those devastating memories, so I sunk harder and harder to numb them. My use became so bad that others would have to inject my neck with the needle because I couldn’t find a vein on my own. Around this same time, my oldest daughter tried to integrate back into my life, but my relapse and my actions drove her in the opposite direction, once again.
One night, my youngest looked through my cracked bathroom door to see a reflection of me in the mirror with a needle in my arm. She was scared. Scared of losing me, scared of what I was doing to myself, scared for our future. She cared about me and risked her own well-being to watch after me. She was kicked out of Clovis High because she was afraid to leave me alone. I knew that she wanted to help, but instead I always kept her at a distance.
When I was caught in 2000, I knew I was going to prison. It was 2 days before my youngest daughter’s 15th birthday. I always seemed to get arrested around this same time. Thankfully, although I was brought in on 10 charges, they were gracious enough to only hold 3 against me. I will never forget the tears as I sat in jail & watched my daughter through the glass; I had to tell her that this time, I wasn’t coming home.
I was discharged from prison in 2001 and was sent to WestCare for both residential treatment and aftercare. It was here that I realized what I had become, and what my life truly was. I began to understand myself, but I knew I still had a long journey ahead of me. I understood at this point that relapse was not an option. I was turning it around for good. Upon completion, I was limited on where I could work because of my past. But I found a job at McDonald’s, managed a few apartment units, got a car, and eventually a place of my own.
On this new journey in sobriety, I realized I wanted more in life. I decided to go to school and started interning at WestCare. In 2006, I began working on the women’s unit as the staff on duty. During this time, I received full guardianship over my niece, who was disabled. My night schedule made it hard to raise her, so I was allowed to take a shift on the men’s side during the day. I showed that it is possible for a woman to work with and handle male clients.
I love my job at WestCare and I love helping others see the light. I love everything that we do for recovery. On one occasion, there was a client in the women’s unit with 5 kids that relapsed on a day pass. No one could get through to her. I told her, “I can’t help you if you don’t get honest. It’s not about us, it’s about you. You have to be honest with yourself. Say the words out loud to yourself and admit what you’ve done and where you are – and then when you’re ready, the staff will be here to help you.” When I would get difficult male clients to work with, I would tell them, “If I could do this, you can do this. Anyone can, but you have to want it.” It’s about the clients, not us.
On my 5th year of sobriety, I had a party and my mom surprised me by showing up. We have always had a rough relationship. We loved each other; we just had trouble dealing with the past, and it made it hard to be around each other. Seeing her rekindled our bond. Around that time, I was involved in a bad relationship, so my mom took me in with her. We became roommates, and she didn’t once ask for a dime. I began getting my life together and I had her to thank for it. Although I am now making payments on the house, I realize how she has gone above and beyond to make things affordable for me. We are happy living together.
Today my struggles lie in my relationships with my daughters. With my oldest daughter it is still non-existent, but I can accept that and only want the best for her. I recognize what she went through with my addiction, and I know that those wounds will take a long time to heal. I hope they do. My youngest and I have a great relationship, but I struggle with letting her be a mother. I have to love her through it and let her do it. I keep myself in check and feel that I’m getting better, but every now and then, I have to spank my butt and make myself mind.
I only see love and happiness now; the world is a wide open space where anything is possible. Recovery has truly changed me for the better. My children have seen enough turmoil in my life to abstain from drug use themselves. I want them to know about where I have been and why they shouldn’t take that route.
I have learned that all people are generally addicted to something, it can be anything; my addiction was to meth. I can’t change the past, but I can’t deny that it has indeed made me stronger. Some of us have to die in order for others to live; fortunately, I was blessed with life throughout my struggles and my journey. You can’t do anything about the past, so why worry about it? Sometimes you just have to cowgirl up, dig in, and find your inner strength. Deal with what is here right now.
My best advice for those in recovery is this: Never forget where you came from. Remember that tragedy, trauma and triumph so that it won’t happen again! You can’t push things down within, you have to remember them; those memories are what have made you who you are, what keeps you strong and what keeps you moving forward.
I always think back to the hurt I caused my youngest daughter when I told her I was going to prison. I never want to cause that kind of pain again. I will never forget my past, I will use it to reaffirm why I live the life that I do now.
Learn to take life one second at a time. Those seconds will eventually turn into minutes and those minutes will turn into hours and those hours will turn into days. Keep track of those seconds in recovery, because it matters; because you matter, and people will love you through it. Never forget that you are somebody and that if you find yourself struggling, you can start your day over at any time.
Start your day over and make it what you want it to be.