Joesph Sapienza, Program Manager, shares his unique perspective on his journey in Recovery and how it continues each and every day.
Several years ago, I found myself in a very strange state, both figuratively and literally. This New Yorker found himself without a home, wandering around the streets of Terrell, Texas.
For decades I systematically dismantled a wonderful life that I had only just begun to create for myself and my family. Years of unacknowledged selfish behaviors, years of an “I” can fix this mentality, years of pointing the finger of blame towards others, and years of not looking inward by getting down to the root of my problems found me time and again at various predicaments, ultimately leaving me penniless, homeless & hopeless.
After years of “research,” I had to finally concede to my innermost self that the problem that had been plaguing me for all those years had never been the substance that I put into my body. A substance that provided me the much-needed temporary relief I desperately needed to fix the pain and anguish I was suffering. Instead, the problem had always been staring right back at me each and every time I had the nerve to look in a mirror. My eyes were always the mirror to my soul. This explains why those last years of alcohol abuse rarely saw me out in the world. Instead, I retreated to a world of loneliness and isolation. A life where if you just left me alone and stopped judging me, I’d be ok. Becoming “dangerously anti-social” was my latest remedy for the tattered quilt of my life. In retreating to my own small little world, I would not have to look the outside world in the eye in the fear that if you looked into my eyes, you would see how empty and vapid my life had become. After all the feeling of being found out and the humiliation that brought me had one and only one solution ……. another drink.
That’s what showed up in Alcoholics Anonymous and eventually the Dallas 24 Hour Club 8 years ago at the time this was written.
Asking for help seems simple, but so hard to do and even harder to accept. The first Step of my journey began when I asked a man that had seemingly recovered from this hopeless state of mind and body to Sponsor me. At our very first meeting, he outlined his terms and conditions. All of which I later learned were outlined in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous.
His candor and conviction had caught my attention; however, when he said to me, “Joe, you need to learn how to live a life based on Spiritual Principles is when I felt the bottom drop out….. again. However, instead of doing my typical head nod in agreement just to get past something I wasn’t comfortable with, didn’t understand, much less believe in, I did something different. I asked, “How do I do that? How does a guy like me learn how to live a life based upon Spiritual Principles”.
Well, Joe, he said, based on the little I know of you, we will need to keep this simple.
1. Just do the next right thing, and when you don’t, you need to tell on yourself.
2. Do at least 3 random acts of kindness each day.
3. Suit up and show up each day. The actions you take for others are just one stitch.
4. Most importantly, do your best to be honest with me every step of the way as we take these Steps.
I asked him, “Where do I find these random acts of kindness”? With that, he laughed and reminded me that I was living at Dallas 24 Hour Club, a place where if everybody pushed their problems into the middle of the room and instructed to grab the pile they wanted, in a heartbeat, I would hustle to grab mine back. He said, just keep your eyes open, and for a moment, stop thinking about yourself; you will find them all over …… he was right.
I had my marching orders. Each day I would suit up and show up. I’d find some random someone I could secretly help, keep my mouth shut, and from time to time, from a distance, I got to observe their gratitude displayed to discover their laundry was folded, their morning house chore completed, and signed off on or an anonymous affirmation about them “mysteriously” showing up an old chalkboard we had in our meeting room for everyone to read. Just to name a few.
Each day, I suited up and showed up, one day at a time, just one stitch at a time. Simply put, I just followed directions. I suited up (threading the needle), showed up (helped others), and went on to do the next right thing …… the next stitch.
Before I knew it, one day turned into one week. One week turned into a month, and ultimately months began to turn into years. Every so often, I would look back and wonder to myself how in the world did I get from there to here. Here was a place of happiness and contentment, a place of respectability and self-worth. There was a place finding that what I do for a living is absolutely what I’ve wanted to be doing all along. A person who gets to share his experience, strength, and hope with others who still suffer.
You see, each day, I just suited up, showed up, and did the next right thing. Each day, I just did one stitch at a time as I moved forward. Every so often, I look over my shoulder to see a pattern that had been created that I had absolutely nothing to do with. I just learned how to live by those Spiritual Principles one stitch at a time and God took care of the rest. He created the pattern. I just played the role He assigned one day at a time.
Today, I get to live a brand new life, a life that I totally want but did not ask for. Each day I take care of my stitches, and I let God take care of the rest.