Recovery center hosting Holiday Survival Class for families touched by substance abuse

Free class teaching communication, boundaries will help people in recovery plan for gatherings

SAN ANTONIO – The holidays can be stressful, especially for those recovering from substance abuse.

The pandemic has exacerbated mental health and addiction issues, so gathering for the first time this holiday season may be tough.

That’s why a local recovery center is holding a class open to the public that will help families plan healthier and happier holiday gatherings.

“Drug addiction just kind of took over my life,” said Alex, who only wanted to use his first name for this story.

He moved to the sober living facility at Blue Heron Recovery at the Los Patios Campus in San Antonio, a public sober community with restaurants, shops and services.

Alex said it’s a safe place that may be stressful to leave for holiday gatherings.

“Sometimes when you get sober, the family dynamic doesn’t know where to go. And the holidays can be triggering for a lot of people,” he said.

“So we’re all going to sit home and stress and worry. Should I go? Should I not go? What happens if Uncle Bob’s there and he’s throwing back vodka?” said Blue Heron Recovery Director Christine Varela Mayer.

Mayer said that’s why, for the first time, they’re holding a Holiday Survival Class open to the public.

“It’s just an open, fun, honest class about how we can communicate with one another, support one another and enjoy the holiday as much as possible together,” Mayer said.

“We’re calling the program, ‘It’s Beginning to Look a Lot like Chaos’ and playing things like Family Dysfunction Bingo just to lighten it up and make it relatable,” she said.

The main lessons will be about communication, boundaries, and preparation.

“Depending on where you are in your recovery might be the difference between not wanting people to bring up things that might trigger you, or if you’re further along in your recovery, telling people not to have to walk on eggshells around you,” Alex said.

He explained that some people aren’t ready to open up about their recovery to extended family.

“Aunts and uncles say, ‘How you been?’ And you don’t really know what to say,” he said.

That’s why he’s thrilled that family or friends are encouraged to attend the class together, so the people closest to you can support you and help you prepare for holiday interactions as a team.

“My mom is really excited about coming,” Alex said.

He hopes others in the public will see how helpful this class will be, not only for the holidays, but for life in general.

“We have this idea of what we want the holidays to be. It’s a really high expectation, for everything to be perfect. What I’m excited about is learning how to embrace your dysfunction, learn how your family dynamic works, and what we can do to make it the best we can,” Alex said.

The Holiday Survival Class will be held at Blue Heron Recovery on the Los Patios campus at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 15. There will be food, fun, non-alcoholic drinks, and life-changing conversation.

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About the Authors:

Courtney Friedman anchors KSAT’s weekend evening shows and reports during the week. Her ongoing Loving in Fear series confronts Bexar County’s domestic violence epidemic. She joined KSAT in 2014 and is proud to call the SA and South Texas community home. She came to San Antonio from KYTX CBS 19 in Tyler, where she also anchored & reported.

Before starting at KSAT in August 2011, Ken was a news photographer at KENS. Before that he was a news photographer at KVDA TV in San Antonio. Ken graduated from San Antonio College with an associate's degree in Radio, TV and Film. Ken has won a Sun Coast Emmy and four Lone Star Emmys. Ken has been in the TV industry since 1994.