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Meet our Program Staff

Our Program Staff, Joseph Sapienza, Briar Carter Akins and Michelle Luna, have a conversation about their roles at Dallas 24 Hour Club.

Give us some background: how long have each of you been on the program staff?

Michelle: I’ve been here 6 months

Briar: I’ve been on the program side about 2.5 years

Joseph: Since we opened this facility, so almost 4 years

What is the biggest takeaway of being on the Program staff?

Michelle: For me the biggest thing is at the end of the day I get to feel like I did the work of a power greater than myself. Anything I do during the day like giving out consequences or telling someone congratulations or helping them with something small, it all coincides with my main goal which is to provide a safe place for people to recover. I just like to give the same opportunity that I had.

Briar: For me, it is knowing that when someone comes in they have an opportunity for a whole new life; for their life to be saved and for it to be transformed beyond anything they could have imagined. And by just walking in the door, they have that opportunity. After they’ve been here for awhile, it’s great to see those miracles happen in their lives.

Joseph: I get to share my common experience with those people who find themselves homeless as a result of their addiction to alcohol and drugs. I get an opportunity to share my experience, strength, and hope with them at The 24. Sharing that experience is how I continue to stay sober because I see the light go on in their eyes when they realize that they aren’t alone. It gives them a little hope.

Briar Carter Akins, Joseph Sapienza, Michelle Luna

What is the most challenging part of being on the Program staff?

Michelle: rounding up feral kittens. All laugh

Michelle: Seriously though, helping our residents understand that what we do is for their benefit.

Briar: I feel like one of the big ones that I struggle with is when someone comes in and they just don’t get it. If they only knew, or if I could shake them and wake them up.

Michelle: Exactly

Joseph: It’s like having the number winning lottery ticket but they don’t want the numbers. The most difficult thing I have is when the need for our service exceeds our capacity and we have to turn people away to a program that I know would ultimately benefit them. We do provide additional resources, but it’s hard knowing that the magic here that happened for me could have happened for them.

How does this role affect your own recovery?

Briar: It definitely reminds me of what my life used to be like.

Joseph: More or less, I think we can all identify with that. I see on a daily basis that it gets worse never better. That the disease of alcoholism is something that never goes away. I think we can all agree, it’s important that I don’t make what I do here at The 24 my complete program. It reminds me that I have to work with people inside AND outside The 24.

Briar: As a job and my everyday life.

Joseph: Exactly. The disease isn’t confined to the walls of The 24. There are sick and suffering alcoholics in the world who don’t get to experience what we do here. It’s our job to carry the message whether we are sitting behind The 24 desk or not.

Michelle: It reminds me that I’m giving one day at a time and my sobriety is contingent on my spiritual daily maintenance outside of these walls.

Joseph: And getting the free haircuts at The 24 is vital to my recovery. All laugh

Is it difficult to not get emotionally involved in the residents – especially when someone relapses?

Briar: Yeah, but I think it’s also us just being in recovery. We know so many people who relapse. It’s kind of inevitable.

Michelle: And the longer people stay the more you get to know them. Whether they leave on good terms or bad, it’s hard to say goodbye.

What is one thing you would want every new intake to know?

Joseph: My phone number (for emergencies). All laugh.

Joseph: And that there is a charmed life for each of our residents waiting for them, but they have to walk through the fear to get to the other side. On the other side of their fear is a life waiting for them that will make them happy, joyous and free.

Michelle: I tell a lot of people this on intake: it’s hard work, but if you are honest about it, the hard work does pay off.

Briar: I like to let them know that as a staff we have all been where they have been and came out on the other side and that it can be done.

Any fun stories we should hear?

Joseph: We’ve got the possum story. In the old building, the shower was leaking and the whole tile came down with an entire family of possums in the middle of a 12-Step meeting.

Briar: Were the possums ok?

Joseph: The possums had more sobriety than anyone in the room.

Our Program Staff is available 7 days a week by calling (214)823-3200. If you or someone you know needs help, please have them call.


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