I am so grateful. I can't begin to thank you for helping me like you did. I was drowning but was too proud and stubborn to admit it. You gave me life again. It is a work in progress but at least I can breathe. I will cherish the huge gift. 

2015 client

A special thank you to “all” that contribute to this very successful program. I am in awe of your approach and dedication. You have changed many lives and for that we are truly thankful.

2008 Spouse of client

As hard as it was coming in here on Sunday, it is even harder leaving on Friday. But it is time to practice what I learned.

2010 client

Before coming here I was living in a house full of circus mirrors. My life was so distorted. Thanks for giving me a normal mirror and allowing me to see my true self again.

2014 client

Before I came here and my therapist was trying to convince me to attend she told me, "it is a place where miracles happen to guys like you." At the time that comment pissed me off. But, thanks for the miracle.

2012 client

Former client to his therapist: "If you ever happen to run across another broken first responder refer them to WCPR in California. It was life changing. You did more for me with that referral than 20+ years of therapy."

2013 client

I feel this program not only saved my life but also my sanity. I thought I was the only one who felt like I did and I was wrong.

2010 client

I use to feel that because of my symptoms I was a freak in a side show. It is good to know I am just a face in the crowd.

2012 client

I wanted to call and say thank you. There is life after the badge. You guys made a difference in my life. Thanks.

2010 client

I'd love to fill you in on life thus far, let's just say...... Amazing!!!!!! WCPR has saved my marriage, life, relationships and most importantly my family. If you could do me one favor and pass on that I think of WCPR everyday and I think of those times in the rubber room, and I smile every time.

2009 client

If those people hadn’t been there for me, I honestly don’t know what would have happened. I don’t think I would be here to talk about it.

2003 LA Times

I'm doing a lot better and I owe everything to you and your group. I was in a very dark pit with no way out, but after the retreat I was able to locate the path out.

2009 client

It has been 3 years since I went through WCPR and in reflecting I am so grateful for all the help and support I received. WCPR saved my marriage, my career and me...I've found myself again. So, Thank You.

2010 client

It seems like saying "thank you" isn't enough, so i will make you a promise. I will choose to live.


It was great to be among people who had been there, done that, and survived.

2010 client

…my life has always been about taking care of everyone else. …SOS allowed me to look forward, take care of myself and focus on me for once.

SOS client

Now that I value myself - I realize how horrible the events truly were.

Former Client

PTSD was my cancer and WCPR was the chemo ...

the things I learned will be the cancer drugs I will use to combat the cancer.

2010 client

Thank you for reawakening my heart.

Former Client

Thank you for saving my life and then giving me the tools to change it. I think of you daily.

2014 client

Thank you for saving my life and then giving me the tools to change it. I think of you daily.

2014 Client

Thanks again for everything you did for me then and for what you continue to do for everyone else that needs you at the worst time of their life.

Former Client

The change that you have made in my life is indescribable. I arrived feeling very lonely, hopeless, trapped and unloved… You helped me learn that I am lovable…

SOS client

The program had a profound effect on me and I am so grateful to have found something that could reach through and give me hope.

2013 client

The SOS Clinicians and Peer support staff immediately made me relax and “trust the process”. The retreat’s refreshing reality shown with humor and in knowledge was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.

SOS client

The thing we are all fighting is the hell. The specific incident that got us into this hell doesn’t matter. It is the same hell for all of us. We all deserve help.

2014 WCPR client talking about Incident Envy

The WCPR program is the best. You accomplished more then two year of individual therapy sessions could cover because it come from the heart. Emergency responders who can and do relate to our unique incidents.

2010 client

There was no touchy/feely group hugs, etc. Just well organized instructions & discussions that helped make sense of the way I’d reacted to some chaotic events.

2002 participant

This has been a life altering experience. I am deeply grateful. …The people are beautiful souls. …Their work is transformational.

SOS client

This is what I got. I remember the moment I figured it out, “Other people's tragedies – are not my trauma.”

2010 client

When I left the retreat people asked me what I got from attending. I tell them it’s not what I got, it’s what I left there and didn’t take home with me. It helped me bring my life back in balance.

2014 Client

When I went through the program as a client I thought I was there to learn how to fix my First Responder husband. What I learned was I needed to fix myself. This helped me tremendously in my relationship with my husband and family.

SOS client

When we came here we were 6 dead batteries. Today we all have a spark. Thanks.

2014 client

Do you know someone on your department who seems to be stressed out due to the job? Someone who used to be a hard worker and has now become bitter or is lacking motivation? Maybe peer support alone has not worked for them, counseling sessions have been futile? Perhaps they are already out on worker's comp time, facing discipline, or even suicidal. Well, do I have good news for you. The West Coast Post Trauma Retreat (WCPR).

To say that the West Coast Post Trauma Retreat (WCPR) literally saves lives is no exaggeration. I recently had the opportunity to volunteer there for a week and saw first hand how the program looks after our police, fire, and other emergency services personnel. They take care of the ones who take care of others.

2008 California Police Officer

For years I was stuck down in a hole and every time I tried to crawl out something else would knock me down inside. I felt so hopeless and helpless with what I called my “dark passenger” running the thoughts in my head. I did the hardest thing for me, asked for help. 

It has been a long, hard and challenging road. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the amazing people who helped me at WCPR, and the love and support of my husband. Things are by no means perfect, but I am finally out of my hole and heading in the right direction. Words cannot express my appreciation and gratitude for everyone at WCPR. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

2009 WCPR client

I came to you broken and lost (not visible to most). You saw me and you knew I was putting up a front, and called me on it. You made me realize that even though my foundation was cracked a bit that, I could be whole again. You gave me the tools to rebuild and lighten my load. I had heard that GOD sent Angels to walk among us and help us, wow! Am I ever Honored to have found the Angels Nest. Each and every one of you are the kindest, caring people I have ever met all together in one place. You gave me a soul transplant and for that I am and will always be eternally greatful. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

2013 client

"I cannot thank you enough for all that you have given of yourselves. The time, energy and effort that went into not only this past week, but again and again with the other sessions is amazing - you are all INCREDIBLE."

"PEOPLE! The change that you have made in my life is indescribable. I arrived feeling very lonely, hopeless, trapped and unloved. I heard a word in a Rambo movie years ago that brought me to tears at the time and always stuck with me because it described how I felt - expendable. I believed that I was the one that could go missing and no one would notice. I gave up who I was and trapped myself in the process."

"You helped me learn that I am lovable, that I do count, that I do have choices and it's okay if others don't like them, because they're MY choices not theirs."

"We are now beginning day 3 of somebody “else's” marriage, because ours has never been like this before – WCPR/SOS has given us common ground to build on. We both know and understand firsthand the process we've each gone through and it has created a bond between us. It truly is “FM”!" 

2008 First Responder Spouses After attending an SOS Session

I told myself I was coming here with an open mind
but while driving the winding road,
that thought faded in the distanced hills that were left behind.
Once I arrived and walked through the door, I looked at everyone's face.
I recognized the ones like me because they looked uncomfortable and out of place.
I observed the people like me and as the days went by I could see
the classes helped them, all it took was time.
I hope I can be as receptive as the people like me
because I know at the end of the tunnel there is light to see
I do know if I don't take advantage of the help & advice that has been awarded me,
to become the person that I can fully be,
knowing I'll be able to set myself free
then all I can say is "shame on me".
Because it will be another guilt added to my list that didn't have to be.

2007 participant

I was in denial about PTSD. I never believed it was real. Even when I went to the retreat I didn't think it was real. But within the first 15 minutes of arriving at the retreat I knew it was real. I knew it because as I talked to my fellow clients about some of my symptoms they all said, "Hey we got that too." I had to go through the experience of attending the retreat to get better. I had to see it firsthand.

2012 client

I was looking for something to make me complete…

I would look for that something in my children, my job, words of acceptance from others,
but I forgot the words of another can break a heart or save a soul…
Everything seemed so impossible, I thought I had to fight for every dream…
I also thought there was no possible way for me to express how I was feeling inside. ..
Then WCPR showed me that for me to be complete I had to wake up inside and be able to tell myself at any given time or place…
I'm worth it. Because I'm where my life begins.

2009 client

I'm just writing to check in and let you know that I think about the WCPR staff often. It's been over two years since I was a client and sometimes it feels like it was just yesterday. I am so very grateful to each and every one of you and I cannot thank you enough for giving me hope for a better life. My life has changed in so many ways that I sometimes cannot imagine myself as the person I once was. Being a JFU, I still have re-occurring episodes now and then but not as often as before. I have taken the tools you gave me and learned to make adjustments. You have given me a way to bring peace and happiness back into my life. It has been quite a while since I completed my "retreat" but, I just wanted to let you know that you are all still on my mind.

2009 client

It has been awhile since I was at WCPR and my world seems to be getting a little better with every new day. Before meeting you, I couldn't see much reason in going on with my life. I had been through a lot as a police officer. I did things and saw things that I will never be able to let go of. I’d like to forget these things but I understand now that just because I can’t forget, doesn't mean I can’t move on. Every fight, every shooting, and every traumatic event I had ever been in was constantly replayed in my head. Every day was like being back behind the gun. Even though I had turned my badge in I was still in a fight for my life every day. 

You helped me see past the horror show and showed me that I still have some life left in me. I couldn't have done this without you and your team. I just wanted to thank you for everything. I don’t know that I will ever be able to repay you for helping me get my life back on track but if there is ever anything I can do for you, please let me know.

2014 Client

Saturday when I woke up, I spent the entire day reflecting on the past week. No sound, just silence. I have come to the conclusion you're correct, life is too short...it's time to start living. I miss you though and the guys down there and that makes me sad somewhat, but it's comforting to know I have a new family in all of you, and it makes me smile. Yea me, the one who seldom smiled.

2009 client

Thank you for giving me my life back. My wife says I have changed as all of you said would happen. The cracks had been coming slowly, but when we held each other as a group, the dam collapsed. What an amazing moment in my life. I spent so much time helping people as a police officer and got so little In return, but seeing what your organization did in such a short amount of time is indescribable.

2013 client

Thanks again for everything. I was very skeptical towards the end that it wasn't going to work but it seemed everything fell into place. I realize I still have a lot to work on but I have the tools to be more successful and not be surrounded by my issues. I am so happy you started this program and I can't imagine how big of hearts you all carry. It meant a lot that you all would take on so much mental weight for strangers.

2013 client

There is an old story about two monks who were walking along a road. They came to a swollen river and found a woman who feared she would drown if she tried to cross the river. She asked the monks for help and one monk refused saying that it was against their code to touch women. The second monk picked her up and carried her across the river. As they walked away from the woman the first month monk said, "I can't believe you touched that woman." The second monk said nothing but continued to walk. About an hour later the first monk was still chastising his brother monk for touching the woman. The second monk turned to the first monk and said, "I left that woman at the river an hour ago.

Thank you for helping me leave my baggage at the river.

WCPR client

To say that the week at WCPR was "positive overall" would be like saying to a person who was drowning "I hope you enjoy this flotation device." I can honestly say that my week at WCPR saved my life. Like really saved my life. You all are not only amazing clinicians but even more amazing people. There are not words that exist to really explain the depth of my gratitude to everyone that was there that week and everyone who has had a hand in WCPR's development and maintenance.

I have a good friend dying of cancer and I saw him after I came back from WCPR. He said to me the next day when I saw him again, "I can't tell you how wonderful it is to see you. It's been a long time since you disappeared and it is so great to have you back." Here is this guy in the hospital all messed up and he noticed an incredible change in me. And I always put on my best face for him when I saw him before WCPR.

The week was perfect. You all were perfect. There was not one small, tiny detail left unattended. You all really really did save my life. I will be back as a peer.

2014 client

What I learned is that recovery isnt a magic pill. It is waking up and saying, "Today I am going to be happy, today I won't drink, today I wont isolate. I will practice my faith, connect with people I love and be determined to not allow the incident to destroy one more day. Recovery is taking responsibility for your life. Recovery is a choice".

2012 client

What I look for determines what I see.
What I focus on determines what I miss.
Before I looked for flaws, which gave me an excuse to reject, but now I look for goodness, which gives me a reason to respect. Instead of looking for dangers to flee and fear, we look for possibilities to pursue and encourage.
I have turned from evaluating to valuing. We grow from fault-finding to something far bigger and better: beauty finding.
Look for the good today. The good within you will cause you to look for good in others, even your enemies, and especially your perceived enemies who may not be enemies at all, but potential future friends.
Be looking for possibilities upon leaving here on Friday, possibilities you never thought possible.

A prayer offered by Chaplain Warren Hayes at a WCPR session

You have taught me so much and I find myself missing you. I wanted to fake my way through and could have, but I felt safe and felt I could trust you to help me . You are such awesome individuals with integrity, wisdom and compassion and I just want you to know the profound impact you all have had on my life. It is great to know the "why's" of my negative reactions in scary situations. It helps so much.

Former client

Do you remember?

Every day, maybe every damn hour, it was something or maybe nothing. Triggers.
Time passing was just a void, numbness of aloneness remained, uncertainty and fear.

Do you remember?
Images: video style maybe? Frame by frame in vivid color with deafening sound.
You feel it, smell it, see it, taste it and hear the screams.
Just happens. Again and again it is always there.

Do you remember?
Being overwhelmed, got to get away, being so full yet empty.
Night terrors, a pounding heart, soaked sweaty sheets, now wide awake.
Ever wonder why? Did you even sleep? Rest is rare, tired and worn, so used up.

Do you remember?
Invisible darkness stranded, alone, the pain, the frustration.
Feeling and thinking the only way to end it, was to end it.
Desperate, you thought it, planned it, you just don't care.

Well, first responder? Do you?
Do you remember? They do, your family does.
Your Spouse,
Your Children,
siblings, parents, aunts and uncles, cousins all them who knew the real you
They feel your anger
They smell your booze
They see your mask
They hear your screams
They watch in fear and are afraid
They remember. Your family is in this too.
Just like hundreds of first responders and families before you, you are not alone.

That above was me and I am remembering it all. Now I have tools to fight back.
And now I choose to live. WCPR saved my life and my marriage.
There is more work to do, but things are getting better.

2014 client

Don't Hug Me ....

I arrive at the scene of your dying loved one,

You look at me as your only hope,

I know I could take the easy road and just call it, but my empathy and selfish want as to
not deal with your sudden realization that your loved one is gone",

Makes me run the code ...

I work my protocols to the ER, watching your loved ones eyes slowly lose life,

only thinking of you and your soon to be known pain ...

Arrival at the ER is most concerned about covering my ass and sell this tragedy like a
used car and hope they buy it. ..

Now I face you, still full of hope that somehow I saved the day as you do not know what
lies behind code curtain number 1 ...

You embrace me with the Hug of your life and thank me with tears in your eyes ...

Knowing that all I did was give you false hope and protected myself from your grief ...
Don't thank me, and especially Don't Hug

Former WCPR Client and Retired Paramedic

First and foremost this is about ME!!!!!!!!! It's not about you or anyone else it is about ME!!!! If you read this and have some similarity or can relate to this GREAT. But it is still about ME!!!!!!!!!! If I can pass on this knowledge and you can learn something about it GREAT. I can not change anyone. I only have control to change myself. So you can learn from me but if you want to change, you have to do it yourself.

I just returned from the West Coast Post-trauma Retreat. I let MYSELF fall. I thought someone would pick me up. I was wrong. The people I wanted to pick me up didn't. They don't know who they are and it really does not MATTER. The FACT is I needed to pick MYSELF up and I did learn that. I turned MY self-pity, hurt and anger into self destruction. I knew this and could not help MYSELF so I sought help and found it.

If you need help, you have to find it. If you need Directions, ask. It's all out there, just find it. I learned at the Retreat I was not going crazy. Excuse the language the truth is I discovered I was JUST F-CKED UP. There are a lot of people out there that have the same feelings. They are as normal as MYSELF. Going through this process at the end I found out it was F-CKING MAGICAL.

Everyone can change if they choose to. Most people know wrong from right so it is your choice. If you are going to do right, it is your choice. If you are going to do wrong, it is your choice. Just remember there are a lot of consequences if you choose wrong. Wrong choices hurt not just yourself but everyone you love and who loves you. But Remember this is about ME not YOU so don't let any of this make you mad.

Former WCPR Client

I am feeling a tremendous sense of gratitude because today is my ten year anniversary of surviving a near fatal helicopter accident on the Straylor Fire. I am still breathing while also retaining the ability to enjoy love, life and this beautiful world we all inhabit. The ability to make this statement at this ten year mark is why I feel so grateful.

It took unbelievable good fortune to even survive this helicopter crash but it also took 67 men and women firefighters ready to risk their own lives during extreme wild-land fire behavior after the crash to save my life as well.

In addition it is my experience that it takes family and a community to heal a firefighter. I was severely injured, both physically and emotionally from this accident, and being able to return to a life like I knew it was not a given. So many people contributed in so many ways to make my recovery possible, and this includes family, friends, co-workers, peer support, nurses, physical therapists,mental health clinicians, doctors and surgeons.

We live in a society that values strong individualism where people should be able to pull themselves up by their own boot straps after taking a fall. And I can understand why this concept is valued the way it is, but I can also say that after surviving a life changing event like this one that there is an overwhelming reaction to feel isolated and alone with all consuming fear that is normal for post-traumatic stress injuries. I believe there is equal value in having the courage to ask for help, especially when everything seems crazy emotionally. And I could not sing this declaration of hope and joy today if there were not equally courageous men and women of character, filled with compassion and understanding, ready to lean out their hand to help and support me along the way in my recovery when literally everything that I valued looked so uncertain.

To everyone who were there for me during these many years, a most sincere thank you!

2014 client

"I cannot thank you enough for all that you have given of yourselves. The time, energy and effort that went into not only this past week, but again and again with the other sessions is amazing - you are all INCREDIBLE."

"PEOPLE! The change that you have made in my life is indescribable. I arrived feeling very lonely, hopeless, trapped and unloved. I heard a word in a Rambo movie years ago that brought me to tears at the time and always stuck with me because it described how I felt - expendable. I believed that I was the one that could go missing and no one would notice. I gave up who I was and trapped myself in the process."

"You helped me learn that I am lovable, that I do count, that I do have choices and it's okay if others don't like them, because they're MY choices not theirs."

"We are now beginning day 3 of somebody “else's” marriage, because ours has never been like this before – WCPR/SOS has given us common ground to build on. We both know and understand firsthand the process we've each gone through and it has created a bond between us. It truly is “FM”!"

2008 First Responder Spouses After attending an SOS Session

I have to admit it was hard leaving on Sunday. I broke into tears several times in the morning and felt like I was going down hill. I was going through many emotions and at times thought it would be nice if the program lasted three months, I could handle that. But, it didn't, so I'm back home. When Gary Larsen dropped me off at the airport I stepped out of his truck and realized that after five days of living in such security, Gary was my last line of defense, and I now had to fend for myself. I felt dizzy, out of place, and confused so I sat on a bench and watched Gary drive away. Once Gary was out of sight I stood up, stretched, and walked into the terminal. As I entered the terminal everything was blurry and it seamed as if I was walking in slow motion, I had tunnel vision. I thought, CRAP, what is going on with me? Here I am at the airport and I'm starting to freak out. I stopped walking and stood still for a couple minutes, took deep breaths, and began to walk again. Now, I was feeling better. I checked my bags, got my ticket, and went through security. I walked through the terminal and arrived at my gate where I sat and waited to board. I was in group C so I was one of the last one to board the plane. I sat in the first row middle seat. I could see the door that I boarded through. Going back to my ride with Gary, as I was riding in his truck away from WCPR I felt like I had strong rope attached to my back. As we continued to travel it felt like all the negative feelings I came to WCPR with were getting sucked out of my back the farther we went more feelings were coming out. The rope was still attached as I sat in my seat, I watched the door as the attendant closed it, SLAM, the door closed and the rope got cut. I had a calm go through out my body. The plane took off, I was still feeling the calm. After a two hour flight I arrived back home, did some laundry and went to sleep thinking I would wake in the morning and be back to the way I felt before WCPR. When I woke I closed my eyes to go back to sleep, I was scared I would wake up feeling the way I felt for the past year. Instead of falling asleep I got up. I felt great!!! I couldn't remember the last time I felt this good. I did more today inside and out, including joining a gym, than I have in the two years. Words cannot explain what you guys have done for me. Now, I know now I am not alone.

2007 participant

I realized tonight, that none of us have any guarantee for tomorrow.

I thought whole heartedly I may never be able to raise my head again, and look at either one of you in the face. For you have not only sat and listened to my brokenness, but now you can see it.

As much as I feel completely exposed and totally destroyed....
I realize, I AM NOT. I am here, I am present, I am human, and I am thankful~

I have had many close calls, where I wasn't supposed to make it by all accounts, and I am here, as we all are for a reason~

This greater purpose, This greater thing, This greater being~
Then ourselves, My second, Third, and Fourth chance to get "it" right, just may be why I'm still here~

So with all of this said, and the guarantee, there are No guarantee's~
We are not promised a tomorrow- - It is with that, that I say my over whelming desire to hang my head and let my shame be my prison- Stops here, and Starts with, Thank you~

If there was no tomorrow, my greatest desire today, is to convey how deeply thankful I am to each and every one of you~

Mark & Stephanie- For donating your time and expertise, for giving of yourselves & families, so that other's might succeed- In hopes we all leave here a little bit better then when we came-

Peers- Your selfless time, your willingness to share your personal stories, your ear to listen, and of course your words of encouragement and great cooking!

All of you, just for even being willing to be here and try this "Retreat," speaks volumes of your character~ Your efforts to work hard, do better then before, and be a good, "whole" person~ It is with that, I Thank you.

2007 participant


Neither did Clint Eastwood, Jack Webb, nor my father, I was told, so neither would I. My heroes helped shape my mind so life’s unexplainable and unfair situations could be deflected from penetrating the mental steel armor I put on every day working for the CHP. In the beginning I wanted my new shiny armor to be as thick and hardened as the old road dogs that were my training officers, my new heroes. I was trained to always be hyper-vigilant and in control, to project a strong command presence that would bring order to the chaos. Weakness was not an option.

I thought the steel of my mental armor was impenetrable as it was tempered again and again by the fire of the tragedies that I witnessed, the unjust mayhem, injuries, and death. When I thought that my armor was starting to crack, I would seek the counsel of my comrades to weld up the weak spots. We would reinforce our armor with new layers of steel forged over coffee between calls, during after shift barbeques with beer, and other untold occasions where I was reminded that “This is the job we signed up for.” Over time I saw my peers temperaments change as they wore their armor, now dented, scarred and scorched from their own calls, without complaining, and that reinforced the concept that weakness was not an option.

In 1992 I was told as a new supervisor to look for cracks in the armor of my troops, and refer them to seek the assistance of professionals through the Employee Assistance Program. I thought that my own armor had become as hard as titanium as it was tested again and again by all of the horrendous crashes, the high speed pursuits, the shootings, the murders, and even the suicide of my classmate last year. My armor had to be invincible since weakness in a supervisor is not an option.

After 23 years on the road I felt like I was fireproof and that my armor could withstand even the fires of Hell itself . . . until September 16, 2006 at 10:25 P.M.. It wasn’t my call or even my shift since my long day was over, but since both C-watch units, two shift sergeants, and the Area commander had responded to this second fatal collision for the day, I stayed over with another officer to help cover other calls. When I realized that it was a multiple fatality accident and the responsible driver had fled the scene on foot, it was inevitable that I would take myself there to help, and again expose my armor to yet another scorching. I arrived on scene to another unjust tragedy that wiped out three generations of an entire family returning home from a baptism reception. I have seen parents and grandparents die before due to the selfish actions of drunk drivers, but my battle hardened armor was pierced, straight through my heart, when I could not accept the truth that I could not find a pulse on the six month old baby who appeared only to be sleeping in the security of his car seat, or his three year old brother who was only noticed because of his small arm protruding from the twisted metal. When Captain Scott Silsbee gave me permission to help and try to find the miscreant that caused these innocent people to die, I quickly welded a patch on my broken armor and did what I was trained to do. A team of officers with their own personal armor intact worked through the night and the next morning without rest until the still drunk driver was captured two blocks from his home by my newest hero, Officer Dan Yeager. The team watched the driver lie and deny his responsibility from an adjoining room while the MAIT investigators did their best; eventually getting a confession mixed with lies late in the afternoon from a person incapable of showing compassion for those not living his gang infested life style.

Although consumed before by other investigations, this one was different, as countless hours by the investigation team during the case preparation turned the days to weeks, and the weeks to months, because any weakness in the case was not an option. After the funerals were long over and the case was delivered to the District Attorney’s Office, I noticed I was constantly welding cracks in my armor that had gone undetected; the cracks were depression, confusion, nightmares, unexpected boiling of emotions, and other cracks too long to list. I used my seasoned and field tested coping skills to weld up the cracks, but more cracks were appearing and some old welds were failing. I began to believe that my armor was weak, and at times I thought I was going crazy; but I put on my ‘game face’ every day to not let anyone see my weakness because weakness was not an option.

I finally sought the counsel of only a few retired and active members who I knew I could trust with my damaged armor, and was directed to the same place, the Employee Assistance Program. The professional help I sought was good, but the new coping skills I was learning were not fixing all of the cracks in my armor. Through forces beyond my control, other people’s lives crossed my path, and I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to attend the twenty sixth session at the West Coast Post Trauma Retreat (WCPR) in May. The professionals at WCPR are all veteran police and fire personnel who have ‘been there ’, and they let me take off my damaged armor for the first time since 1983. The staff at WCPR gave me a new set of tools to manage the old memories, and the future memories that are inevitable in this line of work. I am feeling better now since finishing the most intense week of my life, and have a new group of heroes; the dedicated staff at WCPR, Assistant Chief Lauren Dummer, Captain Scott Silsbee, Captain Fred Stiesberg (Ret), Sergeant Jim Howarth, Officer Rick Mattos, Flight Officer Leslie Berndl, and last, but not least, my wonderful wife; all who gave of themselves from their hearts with true compassion and genuine understanding.

I feel lighter and stronger now with the old armor off, and want to share my experience to help other members of the CHP family with their own cracked armor; for no matter if you have been to one critical incident or dispatched us to a hundred, getting help is not a weakness; but a strength. I know now that it is O.K. to grieve and cry for the unjust tragedies that we experience on the road and in the communication centers. When I returned home from WCPR my five year old daughter Angelina exclaimed “My daddy’s home!”, and little did she understand that she was right in more ways than one, and if anyone ever told you that John Wayne or Clint Eastwood never cried, they lied.


Scott Klocker, CAHP Sgt.

Scott Klocker, CAHP Sgt.

Life is like riding a bicycle; you have to keep moving forward to stay balanced." Boy, do I know about that. I am an avid bicycle rider now. Not the Lance Armstrong Tour de France type. More like the Harley Davidson "Live to Ride, Ride to Live" type. I not only ride to live, I ride to survive, because my drivers license is suspended. I learned that DMV and the courts tend to frown on three DUI arrests, two within 48 hours. So, I ride my donated, used mountain bike to school, to the store, to A.A. meetings, to mandatory DUI classes, to meet my probation officer. You get the picture.

I build time in to reaching my appointments for weather, traffic conditions and the occasional stop and F.I.

Bicycle riding does not lend itself to "business casual", so inevitably it is work boots, blue jeans and thick jacket. I have been stopped by officers who checked for warrants. While standing on the sidewalk with my hands in plain view, there is no way that the officer could know that, at the top of my game, I was buying and orchestrating the purchase of multiple pounds of meth, dismantling clan labs, leading teams on high risk search warrants, testifying as an expert in Federal court, etc.

So, what took me from the top of my game? Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression, hypertension and alcoholism to name a few things. My symptoms included extremely high blood pressure, not eating, withdrawal from everyone dear to me, nightmares and night sweats, waking up with my brain in overdrive, flashbacks at any given time, irritability, inability to concentrate or focus, and of course increased alcohol consumption.

At my worst, I could tell you what my pistol tasted like after firing a test round into the dirt. I truly believed without a shadow of a doubt that I was weak and going crazy. I thought that absolutely no one could begin to comprehend what I had seen. I thought that I was alone. And because I was alone, I thought that asking someone, anyone, for help would be about as effective as yelling for help into a jet engine.

My story is longer, much more involved. But, eventually I was homeless. I had become what, as an officer, I had despised ; a hopeless and helpless alcoholic, wandering the streets at night with an unsteady gait, red, watery eyes, the odor of an alcoholic beverage on my breath. So sad that it physically hurt, if you would have looked at me, you would have seen expiration dates in my eyes. I had, in fact, lost everything. My family, job, friends. Mainly because I did not ask for help.

I had been found homeless, and was forcibly checked into a medical detxox facility. After 28 days, I was picked up and taken to WCPR to attend session 29. WCPR is led by clinicians, but it is peer driven. I found out that although my story was unique and heart wrenchingly painful to me, it was not unique to my peers. Our stories may vary, but our pain was the same. I reached out to the offered hands and support of my peers. And reaching out saved my life.

I am now 1 year and 4 months into my recovery. Life is not perfect and cleaning up the carnage of my past is not easy, but it is possible. I believe that if I show up and do the next right thing, good things will happen. And I know that I have my friends from WCPR who will help me in any way that they can. All I have to do is reach out.

2009 client


Why do the bad things stick to my mind
So many good things in my lifetime
I been down, now I’m raised up
The God in me wouldn’t let me give up

Yep I been there before
Pain so bad, hurt me to the core
Behind closed doors
I spent most nights knelt on floor 

Pushed them all away
By myself is where I like to stay
If I flash back I won’t hurt nobody
Get my glass pour me some Bacardi 

When I’m up I’m down when I’m down I’m up
I can’t figure me out
I been through too much
I’m on overload, I’m about overdose
You already know PTSI is my diagnoses

Nighttime is the worse time
Crazy thoughts run through my mind
Too scared to sleep
PTSI got control of me
Don’t hit my trigger
Might act up if on the liquor

I can’t let it go
My minds at war
And I’m about to blow

I kept trying to get what can’t be got
The old me gone like or not
I’m what life made me but I wanna change
I’m sick I’m tired I can’t live this way 

New face to you but to me he’s the one
The one that wants to kill me so my hands on my gun
I can’t be in crowds cause I wont see him come
Living life like an outlaw on the run
I made that phone call that changed my life
WCPR made me all right

JFU, if you went you know
What you waiting for, trust me go
It won’t be easy, 6 months of therapy in one week
Is crazy but the s…. amazing
You deserve to live so get your seat
At West Coast Post Trauma Retreat

Nighttime is the worse time
Crazy thoughts run through my mind
Too scared to sleep
PTSI got control of me

Don’t hit my trigger
Might act up if on the liquor

I can’t let it go
My minds at war
And I’m about to blow

First step, Angwin California
It’s a safe place, no need to warn you
Leave your guns at home, turn off your phone
I’m a let you know man, you are not alone
Table for 7 but it’s all about you

Everybody there just like you
Late nights no sleep
Feeling tired feeling weak
To empty your box you got to open it up
Talk about what’s been holding u up
Keeping you from living the life you deserve
Yes sir you got to put in work 

Pain tears, face your fears
I been holding this bull.… in for years
I’m tired of struggling, the pain is real
Its time to fix me, it’s time to heal

2014 Steve Darden

This week marks the one year anniversary of my attending WCPR as a client. It is also marks my birthday. I remember spending my last birthday with all of you and almost running out the door after dinner. It has been an interesting year. I have made many positive changes in my life thanks to all of you! Hopefully this "open letter" will let you know how important a role you have played in reconstructing my life.

My life has changed in ways that I never thought were possible. Considering only a year ago; I was in such a dark and terrible place that I never thought I would see daylight again. Through your collective efforts, I have had the veil of depression lifted from my face and now I see how beautiful and fulfilling life can truly be for me.

I have had the opportunity to reconnect with my family and rebuild ties that I had damaged through the years of self-destructive behavior. That has only been possible because of the huge amount of support and love that they have shown to me. I would also like to express my gratitude to the SOS staff for the help and caring they have provided my wife since her time with them.

In my attempt to repay my un-payable debt; I have become involved in my department's peer support unit, providing assistance and help to other officers in need. I have started co-teaching a class on stress to other first responders. And finally, I have had the opportunity to return numerous times to WCPR as a peer and I have had the privilege to act as a peer helping clients with their 90 day plans by following the example that was demonstrated to me when I was a client.

As I have become healthier, my eyes have been opened and I now see so many of my co-workers suffering from stress. People that I had passed every day and never really saw their need as I wallowed in my own PTSD Hell. I understand now that life was provided to me so that I might reach out to others and do what I can to help them escape their darkness and despair.

I thank you all.
With my sincerest gratitude

2009 client

To each of you that changed my life in 2010. If you have forgotten who I am, I graduated Spring 2010 from WCPR. I was the angry person who was preparing to retire.

I wanted to share with each of you how in one way or another you made a difference my life. Your dedication and willingness to help others is second to none.

It was a fluke I found WCPR. I came across it while researching PTSD. I think my discovery was more than a coincidence but I don't want to be too warm and fuzzy and ruin Pool's philosophies :)

I hope each of you know what you do is so important, especially to each one of us who want to reach out but either can't or don't know how. As I reflect back on my week there, getting my ass kicked mentally and knowing I paid to have that done was worth every penny. I don't think a day goes by I don't have some thought of something that happened while there.

I wish for each of you in 2011 to stay healthy, be happy and keep doing what you are doing. Okay I sense that's enough niceness. I can envision the vein on Pool's forehead protruding.

Happy New Year!

p.s. Who the hell decided to call that a "retreat"? How about "West Coast Post-Traumatic Kick Your Ass Mentally Non Warm and Fuzzy Gathering." That's probably to lengthy too fit on the coffee mug. Enjoy!

2010 client