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 Javier’s Story

Before entering treatment, Javier M. had served 4 terms in prison and was an active gang member since the age of 10 years old. Most of the people he surround himself with: family, friends, and acquaintances were living the same life style. He was using substances, didn’t care about anything, and felt lost. This was all he knew and the life that he thought he would continue to live. The moment of clarity came to him in the middle of robbing a man when the victim asked him to leave him with $20 so that he could get home. Medina stated in a LA Times interview, “Something happened to me, I broke down and started crying. I told him I was sorry, I didn’t know why I do this. I gave him back his phone and money, and even some of my own. I told him, ‘I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I just do stupid stuff.’” He called to enter treatment the very next day at the Omni Center.
When asked about his experiences at Omni Center with treatment and recovery, he stated “No one thought I would go into rehab. People were shocked about the changes I made and the person I was becoming. Omni Center taught me how to care again, give back to others, and become more compassionate. I was around other positive people who were trying to get better too. At times I still don’t know what to call the feelings that I experience in recovery, all I know is that it feels good to be clean and giving back. I was in a hard place and I proved everyone wrong. Some people didn’t believe I could make it, but I did. Now I can guide people in the right direction and my family is happy with the changes I have made in my life. Friends who are still active in gangs tell me, ‘I want what you have’ and I’m able to tell them what they can do to turn their life around. I am happy that I can inspire hope in others. I walked into a Subway sandwich shop once and I remember a young man who looked like a gang member say to me, ‘I can’t believe it’s you. I read your story, you’re such an inspiration. I know that if you can do it, I can too.’ I was touched by this young man’s comment and even though I was trying to hold back, I cried because I was happy to know I was helping others. I have over 3 years of sobriety now and I work at Bouchon, a French restaurant in Beverly Hills, as a baker. I started as an intern through a program they had with another agency and they hired me as one of their full-time employees. I also have my own business making jellies. None of this would have been possible had it not been for Omni Center and I am grateful for that.”

Javier M.

Omni Center Alumni


Alumni Testimonial

March 15, 2013 carrying a Hefty bag full of clothes and clutching a few photos of my family, I walked into the office of River Community to check myself in, by orders of the court, for the next six months. I sat emotionless staring down at the carpet while my husband answered the questions the staff required to admit me. There was no fear, there was no sadness or anxiety knowing I would be miles away from my two children ages 12 and 15 at the time. I had given up on myself as a human being let alone as a mother, wife, sister or daughter. Thus, there were no feelings of ever being of any use to anyone. So how could there exist any feelings of remorse?

The staff member began taking inventory of what little belongings I had. She picked up the small frame with the picture of my four month old daughter who'd passed a few months earlier. The fact that I'd poured myself a double coke and whiskey the last time I woke to feed her for the last time had enveloped my whole existence in shame and guilt. Even though the diagnosis of SIDS was given as the cause of death, my mind would not avow this truth. As she picked up the frame delicately, commenting on Molly's undeniable beauty she then inquired as to her age. At that point in my recovery, even though there had been months of six different hospitalizations, four suicide attempts, every combination of medications one can imagine, and therapists upon therapists, I had yet to say the words, "My baby is dead." She must of seen the look on my face that only another mother who'd gone through the unnatural process of having a child stolen by an untimely death can distinguish. She proceeded to tell me how she'd lost her young son at a few months of age. I remember precisely that moment as being the first time I raised my head to even notice anything other than the carpet. I saw this woman's face, soft and kind. She was no longer a mechanism in the machine, she was a human. By some cosmic power of the universe, at this time and in this minute, she was there to offer her help for no other reason than to allow a millisecond of relief for the two of us.

The coming weeks in River existed of me getting into the routine of what I though was senseless unvarying scheduling of 1) Get up, clean your room 2) Morning meditation and then classes such as "Relapse Prevention" etc… Every night we were given the chance to go down the hill into West Covina or Azusa to go to outside AA meetings where we were encouraged to get a sponsor as quickly as possible and to start the steps immediately. After having been out of River for 3+ years, I have seen many treatment centers that do not promote the 12 steps as adamantly as River does. They are set up for failure and are doing their residents a disservice. Two and a half months into my program at River I got a call from my cousin in Bakersfield where my mother lived. I hadn't spoken to my mother in five months because of a resentment I had for her not being with me at a time when I expected her there. She was an alcoholic of many years on and off throughout my life. My cousin proceeded to tell me I need to get to Bakersfield as soon as possible, my mother was in the ICU. I tried to explain that I was in rehab and couldn't just up and leave. The next words I heard were, "Your mom is on life support. They have given her less than 1% chance of living. You have to make the decision to remove life support. I am a RN by profession. I was well aware of what alcoholic pancreatitis does to the body. My mind wanted to keep my mother exempt from the inevitable. I remember before getting into the car to leave for Bakersfield, hugging staff and begging her to let me come back that night no matter the time. She told me there would be someone there to open that gate at any hour. And there it was. I made amends to my mother, signed the papers, and got back to my safe place as fast as I could. I told myself that night that my children would never have to do that.

As I was sentenced to be at River for 7 months, thank God in heaven for doing for me what I could not. I was afforded the opportunity to incorporate my children into my weekly therapy sessions. The staff at River were always more than happy to accommodate the difficulties we encountered trying to get all my family members up to the River at one time. Never once did I ever feel as though the people- from counselors to cooks- were paid staff. Most, if not all, were working their own programs, so it was like we were all there to help each other. I came to see the staff as family, truly 100% invested in my success in sobriety.

Today I have 3+ years of sobriety. I work with girls in treatment centers, I speak at meetings both in my hometown and the surrounding areas. I sponsee no less than 3 girls at a time and I make sure these girls are actively giving back to this program as it was given to them. I do the things I do in memory of my daughter and I tell anyone who listens to me that going to River saved my life. It is not just a place that helps you to abstain from drinking or using, the setting is an actual social model to help the recovering addict assimilate back into society.

Thank you!
Teresa M.
River Community Alumni





Kelsey Procter, a positive developmental psychology student at Claremont Graduate University is conducting a study in which your participation would be greatly appreciated.

Volunteers need to be graduates of Social Model Recovery, be at least 28 years of age, be fluent English speakers, and have not misused drugs or alcohol for at least 5 years.

Your participation would involve an interview, approximately 45 minutes long, and a short survey, which should take no more than 15 minutes. The interview will be recorded and will include questions about the greatest influences (good and bad), what you found most problematic, as well as your accomplishments and your future goals. The interview can be conducted in-person, as well as over Skype and phone. The deadline to set up an interview is February 10 2016.

Volunteers will receive a 5-dollar Amazon gift card as a token of appreciation. If you can help with this research that will aid in the understanding growth and leading a flourishing life within the recovery community, or have any questions please contact Kelsey at

The research being conducted is Kelsey Procter’s Master’s thesis project. Professor Jeanne Nakamura and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi of the Quality of Life Research Center at Claremont Graduate University are Kelsey’s advisors for this study. If you have any questions, please contact Anna Lee at or by phone at 626-332-3145 ext. 270.


Alumni News

Alumni Testimonial, January 2016

I started on my path to recovery in July of 2005 and can proudly say that I have 10 years of sobriety now. I had received treatment before, but it was through the motivation of a “get out of jail free card” and did not take it seriously. When I entered SMRS Mid Valley Drug Court program in 2005, I had no intentions of remaining clean and sober once my court obligations would be completed. I could not imagine living a life of sobriety because I did not think that I would be able to face the tragedies and traumas experienced in my life up to that point. I was gang raped at the age of 16 years old and kidnapped and raped for several days in my early 20’s. The use of substances numbed away what I believed to be an unjust and cruel world. I believed that I had a right to hurt society because it had done me wrong. I wanted to hurt anyone who came across my path because I felt that was my way of evening the score. My anger and resentments consumed every ounce of my being and I stayed lost in a drug induced haze. I could see no hope and no light in this abyss.
Through Mid Valley, I had a counselor who helped me to face these demons, let go of guilt and shame, and find hope. I attended 12 Step meetings, found a sponsor, and worked the 12 Steps. I received individual therapy from an outside agency in conjunction with the substance abuse treatment I was receiving at Mid Valley. I learned that I could cope without the use of substances and immersed myself in the healing process toward recovery, not only from substances, but from depression and PTSD. I finally found hope, forgiveness, and acceptance. Since graduating Mid Valley Drug Court in 2006, my life has drastically changed and my past experiences have become the purpose and passion in my life. I entered school to become a certified substance abuse counselor in 2007 at a local community college. I earned my A.S. degree in Drug Studies and continued for a B.S. in Human Services at Cal State Fullerton. I just graduated with my Master’s in Social Work from the University of Southern California (Go Trojans! Fight On!). I am working within the substance abuse and co-occurring field currently and absolutely love the work that I am able to do with program participants. I am often amazed and honored to hear the stories shared with me while working. I feel privileged that I have this opportunity to be a part of someone else’s recovery journey and I hope to be able to give back the love and compassion I was shown. Life is truly amazing today and I wake up each morning feeling blessed. It has not all been easy to come to where I am now, but well worth the effort and stubborn determination to not let my disease defeat me. I am truly grateful to Social Model Recovery Systems for being a light in my life and helping me to make all this possible.

Anonymous Mid Valley Drug Court Alumni 2006


Social Model Recovery Systems has established its first Board for the Alumni Association. This dynamic team will work together to generate new and exciting activities for our Alumni such as fundraising events, ceremonies, and other leisure activities. After a long process in determining how the Alumni Board was going to function, there were six members who stepped up to take the leadership. SMRS wants to extend our gratitude and appreciation for their proposed volunteerism and desire to bridge the gap between graduating from treatment and after care. The Alumni association would not be possible without the help of these great individuals. Thank you Alumni Board.


Tiffany Conant (Chair)

Diana Redondo (Secretary)

Jeff Winner (Treasurer)

Vanessa Moses (Events Coordinator)


Alumni News

Alumni Testimonial, January 2014

It was 1993 when I left River Community. It was my first time in treatment. Prior to entering River Community, I was housed at Glendale Memorial Hospital on the psychiatric ward. I had no family support -- they were ashamed that I had resolved to take my life. I was placed in ICU and awakened in Daniel Freeman Hospital with doctors all around asking me my name. I was in a fog for several days. I was among so many strangers that were making decisions about me. I was relieved and at the same time did not know what to expect. I surrendered to them. I was receiving help from strangers. I was sent back to Glendale Memorial for further care. I was a mother, daughter, and sister and yet I was alone with the reality that I tried to end my life.

It was about 11 days that I was there when I began to reach out to the community for residential treatment. At that time I was dually diagnosed. I could not find any center that would receive me along with psych meds. I felt at my wit’s end. I started to give up. I called the last number I had -- it was the River Community. A lady by the name of Judy was on the other end of the phone. She was different. The way she spoke to me was as if she knew me and it was okay. She asked if it was alright to come and talk to me. I agreed. I had no visitors except for an anonymous donor who had left a large box of beautiful clothing for me. This is when I began to receive the love from strangers (I call them my Angels of Light). I wondered on several occasions how a young woman like me wanted to end my life and leave three little boys alone in this world?

Just a little history -- I suffered childhood trauma at 14. I was initially diagnosed Major Depression Single Episode. My mother warned me not to disclose the events that had taken place in our home. There was no treatment or therapy for me. I began to descend into a world plagued with darkness, drugs and pain until entering River Community in the Angeles National Forest via Judy. At that very moment I did not know that it would take me another 10 years to discover that I was personally responsible for my recovery. I made some strong bonds while living at River Community. The day I graduated Jim O’Connell spoke on my behalf. He spoke so many positive things about me. I had not had a graduation because I dropped out of school in the 9th grade. His words planted a seed in me that day in the National Angeles Forest. I left River Community with the desire to live, learn life skills, get a sponsor, and use the tools of recovery.

I realize today that outpatient treatment at River Community Covina is so important too. It took several years to realize this very simple but profound statement, “I AM PERSONALLY RESPONSIBLE FOR MY OWN RECOVERY”. I took this very statement to heart and emerged as an independent and motivated woman. I have 29 months of sobriety and I plan to keep it one day at a time. Outpatient treatment was very interesting; painful because of the responsibility and growth. I began to see positive outcomes rather than negative consequences. It was outpatient treatment where I met Kimberly. I had to maintain a routine that was conducive to my recovery. With each day, I was dedicated to the responsibility of my recovery. I was very vigilant to people, places, and things. I began to live a spiritual life -- I mean from the inside out guided by my Higher Power. I am so grateful that I realized that. I wished I knew that sooner because it would not have taken me all these years to live such a beautiful life.

Kimberly W (River Community Alumni 1993)


41 months clean and sober today;
My son’s birthday is today too --14 yo.
- Alumni Anonymous


 Buy your Social Model Alumni wristband for just $1.00!   All proceeds will go to the Alumni Association for fun activities and other exciting events.  For more information, email us at the address above.


Join our team of alumni to stay connected after treatment, help support those individuals through recovery, and give back to your communities.  Why?  Because treatment is just the start of a lifetime journey towards recovery.

At Social Model Recovery Systems, we believe that the primary relationship is between the participant and the program community rather than with an individual staff member.  This is why we need you on our team!

Our Alumni Association meetings are held every third Saturday of the month from 5:00 to 6:30 PM at 3430 Cogswell Road, El Monte, CA 91732.


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