Recovery specialist reflects on his own battle with addiction

Nigel Williams works with teens and young adults to help them stay sober

SAN ANTONIOEditor’s note: This content was created exclusively for KSAT Explains, a weekly streaming show that dives deep into the biggest issues facing San Antonio and South Texas. Watch past episodes here and download the free KSAT-TV app to stay up on the latest.

When it comes to substance abuse, experts say it’s usually friends and family members that ask the person suffering to get help. That was the case for Nigel Williams.

Williams was a teenager when his parents noticed problematic behavior.

“It’s the same old story,” Williams said. “My grades had dropped in school a little bit. My interest in all of my other hobbies and activities dwindled to almost nothing. Once they confirmed that I was using mind-altering substances, they reached out to Rise Recovery to help get me help.”

Williams said he was initially resistant, and that his recovery has had ups and downs, but he’s now been sober since 2014. And he has decided to give back. For the past five years he has been a peer support specialist at Rise Recovery, helping teens and young adults with their battles with addiction.

When he talks about his own journey getting sober, Williams credits mentors at Rise who had once been in his shoes.

“It took me sitting across from someone who had sat and been exactly where I had been for me to truly want to accept the help,” Williams said.

The services Rise Recovery offers are more essential now than ever. Evita Morin, CEO at Rise, said she has observed some troubling trends since the start of the pandemic.

“What we’ve seen is similar to what the education field has seen, which is that kids are very disconnected,” Morin said. “As a result of that, we see a lot of increases in depression and anxiety. We’re seeing a lot of struggling with sobriety and a lot of relapse.”

Rise Recovery works with teenagers, young adults and families. Morin said this is a community of people often overlooked in the substance abuse world.

Spotting addiction issues in teens can be tricky because they are hormonal and prone to mood swings. And identifying addiction in anyone of any age can also be complicated by the stigma. The stigma is something people working in recovery would like to change.

“I grew up an Air Force brat,” Williams said. “It had nothing to do with any kind of moral lacking on their part or my part. When we talk about addiction, we have to talk about it like a mental health disorder. Because it truly is.”

While more people are turning to substances to cope, the pandemic has made the job of helping these people more challenging. Rise Recovery, like other recovery centers across the city, has had to shift some operations online.

“You meet anybody in recovery, we’re always giving out hugs,” Williams said. “Face to face interactions are what helped me want to get sober in the first place. Having to change and adapt to a virtual setting has been more than arduous at times.”

But when it comes to his own sobriety, Williams said his recovery has helped prepare him for the isolation of the pandemic.

“Having the world be unpredictable, having to spend time with yourself, being trapped alone with your thoughts, that’s kind of the bread and butter of what it took to get sober,” Williams said. “Was to learn to be OK with myself.”

If you need to seek help for substance abuse, call this 24-hour recovery helpline: 210-927-4644.

About the Authors:

Lexi Salazar produces KSAT Explains, a weekly, in-depth streaming show that digs into the most important issues facing San Antonio. She previously produced the News at 9, San Antonio's first streaming-only news program.

Valerie Gomez is an Emmy-nominated video editor and San Antonio native. She is the lead editor for KSAT Explains and also loves Jeff Goldblum.