Clear Springs Ranch


Estela Avery

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Estela Avery HouseAs a philanthropist, community volunteer and fundraiser for more than 20 years, Estela Avery has dedicated countless hours to non-profit organizations within her hometown of San Antonio, Texas including serving terms as a board member, capital campaign manager and chair of special events. Until her recent retirement, Avery served seven years as executive director of the San Antonio River Foundation.

Avery first became familiar with the medical aspects of drug and alcohol rehabilitation in the mid-1980s while working as a registered nurse. She says she was ready to try a different type of medical setting other than ICU and that an agency assignment became available in the Hill Country of Texas. At this treatment facility, Avery received a professional introduction to behavioral healthcare, which accompanied a deeply personal experience with alcoholism within her own family.

It was on this initial assignment that she first met Dr. Anand Mehendale who was serving as medical director at the facility. Several years prior, she had met Linda Werlein socially. Avery says it became apparent to her through the specialty work just how devastating the disease of addiction can be to the entire family. The assignment turned into a full-time leadership position where she worked for several years until she returned to San Antonio to manage a medical/surgical unit. Throughout her 10-year nursing career, memories of that initial and rewarding assignment with patients suffering from the disease of addiction remained strong.

Later, Avery would serve as president of the Nursing Advisory Council at the University of Texas School of Nursing and on the Texas Governor’s Commission for Women. About five years ago, Dr. Mehendale and John Lacy made a presentation to a group about Clear Springs Ranch and that is how she became involved with the organization. Avery was convinced of the critical need for just such an advanced treatment facility, and her direct involvement in the project grew, particularly financially.

Today, she is glad to know the innovative ways treatment centers have changed and expanded to include more options for caring for women. She shares that she was educated in a private girls school and understands that women are unique and learn in different ways. She feels that women in treatment need to have space where they can live together in a dormitory-like setting and express themselves freely in order to work on women-specific issues. Soon, the brand-new women’s facility at Clear Springs Ranch with these much-needed qualities will open and bear her name.

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“I hope that people will continue to get help if they need it because it can change their lives tremendously. They need to know it’s not a personal weakness. Alcohol and drug addiction is a disease, and like any other disease, they need to go and get medical attention for it,” she says.

In addition to philanthropically supporting good health, Avery, her husband, James (of James Avery Craftsman), and their family are strongly committed to charities throughout San Antonio as well as the surrounding areas of Fredericksburg, Kerrville, and Houston in a number of ways. She says they particularly support educational causes because, through education, the possibilities are endless.

Always a strong voice of encouragement to others, Avery wants everyone – especially women — to know there is hope for recovery. “For individuals who are struggling with drugs and alcohol, don’t be afraid to make that first phone call to get help,” she says.

Please join us at Clear Springs Ranch, June 16 from 10:00am-12:30pm for an open house to our new Estela Avery House, a beautiful women-only residential facility. Call 877-843-7262 for more information.

Lisa’s Story: A Clear Springs Ranch Mother’s Day Special Feature

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IMG_5509When Lisa Holliman talks about her four kids, she radiates with the kind of love any devoted mother can understand. Lisa’s journey through motherhood to the healthy destination she’s at enjoying today, however, has taken some hairpin turns.

“Sobriety is my favorite thing,” says The Clear Springs Ranch Recovery Advocate who is thrilled to share her story with anyone who will listen in hopes of encouraging others.

She shows two photos of herself — taken 12 months apart– to help illustrate the contrast between active addiction and the beauty of sobriety. Although the same blue eyes are present, the joy evident on Lisa’s face in the more recent picture is undeniable. In the individual photos she shares of herself with each one of her kids (Keaton, 19; Logan, 17; Maxon, 10; and Cecily, 8) her smile is completely contagious.

Lisa says until a couple of years ago, she was always the picture of a successful wife and mother with a supportive extended family, honor student kids, a huge home, and an expensive car in the driveway. Hands-on and active in her kids’ lives, she was helping with homework, driving them to activities and volunteering at their schools. She was incredibly productive, accomplishing more in 24 hours than most people get done in a week. Never once, she says, did she even need to hire a babysitter.

Lisa’s ability to be so effective, however, was directly linked to her usage of methamphetamines. “I never used drugs when I was pregnant, but the minute they were born, I would start immediately back. I would often binge drink. At one point I actually got kicked out of Mexico – not just a bar in Mexico, but the entire county.”

Lisa remembers several times she had her stomach pumped due to alcohol. So she switched from alcohol to marijuana – her age of first use had been in junior high school — then back to drinking before moving onto pills. She says she eventually switched from daily weed back to meth “because I didn’t want to do two drugs at once.” It was the meth that gave her the ability to stay awake and be productive.

Once she became a single mother, Lisa partied even harder but made up for it by being an even better mother to her kids. She says she never considered that she was in active addiction. “My disease was wounding and progressive, but my kids’ love was unconditional. They were just along from mommy’s roller coaster ride.”

Last January, during her oldest son’s senior year of high school, the family’s world came crashing down. Lisa was drinking, driving and using drugs constantly within the framework of an unhealthy, toxic relationship. Her boyfriend at the time relapsed and went on the run while on probation. Lisa walked away from her kids to follow him. Eventually, the police killed him. At the end of her rope, Lisa began to seriously contemplate suicide.

Until that point, Lisa’s extended family had always bailed her out. This time, they began working on a plan to get her into treatment. Interestingly, the girlfriend who helped her family make arrangements was the same one (several years by then into her own recovery) Lisa had smoked pot with as pre-teen. “When I finally agreed I was sick and needed help, an hour later I went to treatment in California. Until then, I thought that Alcoholics Anonymous was a cult and meetings were weird. I was very closed off until I accepted during treatment that I was broken. I began working through some deep childhood traumas that had peaked with my boyfriend’s death.”

Lisa found a newfound joy and hope that came from admitting she had a problem. She describes the most beautiful spiritual awakening that happened after her first breakthrough during treatment

It was through her 12-Step work that the changes began. “Journaling helped me realize all the things I didn’t have control over. I was so stubborn. Even though I was raised in a Christian home, I wanted my higher power to do what I wanted. In treatment, I finally wept and cried for God to take this addiction from me because I realized I wanted my life and my kids back. I wanted to be healthy, and I needed help. Boom! Just like that I started feeling better and getting through my 12-Step work, peeling away the onion layers and letting out my authentic self.”

Lisa says her life benefited from becoming accountable for her actions and telling people she was sorry – and meaning it. She began to let go of grudges in place of offering forgiveness. She worked on righting her wrongs with others, telling the truth and restoring friendships. “Recovery doesn’t mean that my life will be perfect but that I have been given the tools to become a healthy adult. The 12-Steps are not meant to be worked individually, but as a whole; they’re a recipe for life.”

Lisa likes to use the example of her hair as a metaphor. “I have naturally curly brown hair that I have tried to change my whole life, like my soul. Similar to my hair, I was chemically treating my soul: drinking, taking meth and smoking weed. But when the drugs wore off – like hair coloring — I was still the same Lisa underneath.”

She says she’s stopped fighting who she is and addressed the issues below the exterior surface. “I just love who I am. I’ve never been able to say that.”

“You get the help you need. I always struggled with healthy boundaries and was very co-dependent. I am finally learning how to talk to people. In the past, I enjoyed playing the victim and my behavior indicated it. I was sick and didn’t know it.” Lisa says she knows now it was the spiritual disconnect that had her filling her life with temporary highs and fixes.

Lisa recognizes her tendency to isolate from others so she stays active within the recovery community by looking for picnics and concerts in order to have fun and bond with others. When she gets too stuck in her head, she says she gives it over to God and goes out of her comfort zone to help someone else. “In recovery, the goal is to stay sober. This seems exhausting but so is living under bridges and running from the cops. I know I can’t be lazy because that’s fuel for a relapse.”

It’s important to Lisa for people to see what she’s been through and where she is today. “I agree that the past is the past, but I don’t want to forget it. I want to remember because forgetting would make it easier to go back.”

Lisa says her kids got their healthy momma back, not the one who was unsure and struggling. “My past is my testimony. I don’t have to be ashamed of my story.”

What she’s learned as a mom in recovery is that life isn’t supposed to be smooth sailing; otherwise we wouldn’t need a higher power. “Take the moment to pause and breathe. Inhale the good. Exhale the bad. Let it go. Make it your purpose not to be reactive.” Lisa now understands that things are not supposed to all go her way.

Although she lost custody of her kids, she does get to see them every weekend, and for that, Lisa says she is incredibly grateful. She’s very open with them about her commitment to her recovery and invites her kids to meditate and pray with her. When they text her to check in during the week and she doesn’t answer right away, they know she’s in a 12-Step meeting. When she does her nightly inventory on the weekend, the five of them talk over their days. Lisa’s goal is to model for them the way to get through life without the use of substances.

She encourages other moms to support themselves emotionally, spiritually and physically by setting aside time doing things that minimize stress. As an outdoor enthusiast, Lisa loves grabbing her bikini and relaxing by the water, reading, painting her nails, listening to the birds and meditating. She also enjoys staying physically active by doing 12-Step yoga, walking, and putting on music and dancing around the house to help her stay mentally clear. “Don’t be redundant and boring. Enjoy who you are and have some fun. Get some girlfriends together and head to a new environment. Have some fun!” she says.

Lisa says she’s learned that if she puts all her effort into everyone but herself, it will wear her down. “If God isn’t first in my life, I don’t have my recovery. If recovery isn’t second, then my children and the rest of the world don’t have my true authentic self.”

Lisa has some final wisdom she wants to pass onto other moms. “You are absolutely worth the life that is waiting for you. You – and especially your kids — deserve it.”

Getting to Know: Chris Lacy, Director of Information Technology and Risk Management

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Chris LacyChris holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Information Systems from Bellevue University in Omaha, Nebraska. He joined The Ranch at its inception as the Director of Information Technology (IT) Services. He has 15 years of professional IT experience and has worked in various positions of technical support and customer service for a wide range of industries, including five years as the Executive Support Liaison at Texas Instruments in Dallas. While there, Chris was responsible for all technological requirements for the corporate leadership team including meeting support, aircraft data connectivity, and remote technical support. In his free time, Chris likes to fish and read as his daughters keep him too busy for much else.


Q: What is your professional title with our organization?

A: Director of Information Technology/Risk Management


Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

A: Just do what’s in front of you to the best of your ability.


Q: What one word would the people who know you best use to describe you?

A: Thoughtful (and considerate)


Q: What motivated you to choose a career in recovery? 

A: My family’s history in recovery and the treatment field


Q: Besides working at Clear Springs Ranch, what hobbies, sports, or activities do you enjoy? 

A: Reading, exercising, and sometimes golf


Q: What’s your favorite movie? What’s your favorite book?

A: The movie would be “Pleasantville,” and the book would be “The Moon and Sixpence.”


Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share about your personal story?

A: I’m an open book, so what you see is what you get.



Getting to Know: Belinda McElyea Director Food Services

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belinda3As Food Services Director, Belinda is in charge of all operations concerning Clear Springs Ranch’s kitchen. This Tennessee native received her degree in Culinary Arts from Texas State Technical College in 2009. Prior to joining Clear Springs Ranch as Head Chef in 2012, Belinda helped to open a very popular local restaurant.


Her extensive food service experience includes management roles in a number of bustling restaurant settings, including an elementary school cafeteria. For six years, Belinda even owned and operated a housekeeping business for regular clients, which gave her the occasional opportunity to prepare meals for special events.


She and her kitchen staff at Clear Springs Ranch are known for an innovative blend of Texas, Nashville, and Mexican cuisine that includes daily specials, heart-healthy entrees, and truly spectacular desserts. In the words of one devotee, Belinda and her team create, “the best barbecued beef and beans you have ever tasted.”

Q: What one word would the people who know you best use to describe you?

A: Determined


Q: Besides working at Clear Springs Ranch at Clear Springs, what hobbies, sports, or activities do you enjoy? 

A: Softball!! I am team mom of a 14 and under select travel team. We travel once a month to different cities and participate in weekend long tournaments. I love my softball family!!


Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share about your personal story?

A: The thing I like best about Clear Springs Ranch is the hospitality. Everyone wants you to feel welcome. We like the time we spend with our clients, making sure they’re well fed and nourished as well as comfortable. You don’t get that in a restaurant, and we like that feeling.




Getting to Know: Anand Mehendale, MD – Chief Medical Officer

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Dr. Mehendale is board certified in both Neurology and Addiction Medicine. He has been a pioneer and a visionary in Texas regarding physician health issues including Substance Use Disorders (SUDs) for over 25 years. He is currently in a private practice of Neurology at Phoenix Medical Associates in Kerrville, Texas. Dr. Mehnedale is the Chief Medical Officer for Clear Springs Ranch and the Medical Director of OnTrac Relapse Prevention.

Throughout his impressive career, Dr. Mehendale has been appointed and elected to various leadership positions. Instrumental in the development of the Texas Physician Health Program, he is currently on the governing board of that program, which is administratively attached to the Texas Medical Board. Additionally, Dr. Mehendale was on the governing board of the Texas chapter of American Society of Addiction Medicine and served as the chapter’s past president. He is also a past member and chairman of the Texas Medical Association’s Physician Health and Rehabilitation Committee and has served as a consultant to the organization.

Dr. Mehnedale wrote a chapter on epilepsy for an international book titled “Hemisyndromes: Psychobiology, Neurology, Psychiatry,” and he has published many journal articles. For six consecutive years from 2010 to 2015, “Texas Monthly” selected him as one of their Super Doctors. “Leading Physicians of the World” chose him in 2013, and he is listed in “America’s Top Physicians” in 2014. He is currently the section editor for “SM Journal of Neurology and Neuroscienceand editor in chief of “Journal of Addiction and Prevention Medicine,” both of which are international peer reviewed open access journals.


Q: What is your professional title with our organization?

A: Chief Medical Officer


Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? 

A: My father told me, “The only thing you have to give other people in the world is your attitude and your word.”


Q: What one word would the people who know you best use to describe you?

A: Trustworthy


Q: What motivated you to choose a career in recovery?

A:  My personal recovery was an influence along with the fact that I am Neurologist and that addiction is a brain disease.


Q: Besides working at Clear Springs Ranch, what hobbies, sports, or activities do you enjoy? 

A: I enjoy photography and writing. I also like playing volleyball and table tennis.


Q: Is there a personal fact you might share that would be hard for others to guess about you?  

A: I love the TV show “Alf!”


Q: What’s your favorite movie? What’s your favorite book? 

 A: My favorite movie is “Star Wars,” and “The Prophet” by Khalil Gibran is my favorite book.