Story by Whitney Carter. Photos provided by Dallas 24 Hour Club.
The program recently had a changing of the guard with two new leaders going into key positions. The changes involve two men who know the program and how it works first-hand because they both went through it.
Incoming CEO Tim Grigsby checked in as a resident at what they call “The 24” in 2012 after several stops at treatment centers and sober living facilities.
A similar story can be told of the recently promoted operations director, Joseph Sapienza. He credits his successful life after addiction to The 24.
“I am a New Yorker who had been struggling with alcoholism for close to 20 years,” Joseph says. “In 2015, I found myself in my sixth treatment center in Kaufman, [about 35 miles outside of Dallas]. I had successfully completed their one-year program in 2004 and moved back to my wife and children in New York, where I stayed sober for close to three years. However, I stopped doing the things I learned in Alcoholics Anonymous and started drinking again in 2007.”
Soon after, his wife at that time gave him an ultimatum: either go back to the facility in Kaufman, or he could never see his children again. Joseph complied, but his effort was unsuccessful again.
“I got kicked out six and a half months into my stay,” Joseph shares. “After getting kicked out, I spent a few days walking around homeless in Terrell, [about 30 miles east of Dallas]. I borrowed a phone and called the only person who would talk to me – my AA sponsor I had while I was in treatment.”
Several hours later, Joseph says he picked him up in his truck and asked what he wanted to do.
Joseph’s first thought was he just needed to get back to New York and find a way back to his family. He told his sponsor he needed to use his phone, shower, and get a one-way ticket to New York. He says his sponsor had other plans that day. Even though they were unpopular at the time, they were plans that may have saved his life.
Joseph’s AA sponsor dropped him off at Dallas 24 Hour Club.
“He knew that if he told me where we were going, I would not have gone,” Joseph says. “What happened next changed my life forever. I unknowingly learned the humility I needed at Dallas 24 Hour Club that was necessary for me to live sober for a lifetime, one day at a time,” Sapienza said.
While this was the first time he had been in the facility, it wasn’t the first time he had heard of it. He said he knew The 24 had a reputation as a place where people experiencing homelessness and living with addiction could go when they didn’t have another option. Ironically, it was never a place he wanted to end up in.
Clearly, it was the right move, as he is now in a leadership role there. Far removed from his days of homelessness and despair, but close enough to the memories to know it’s not what he wants for himself or anyone else.
Joseph says there are so many things that make the facility special. Chief among them is the people who live there. He believes the gratitude they show and the support they provide each other is magical to watch.
“The staff is also part of the secret sauce,” Joseph elaborates. “More than 80 percent of the staff are alumni who have come through The 24’s program. As a result, their message has depth and weight. Our residents can feel the understanding and compassion our staff displays because they have been in their shoes.”
In his new role as Operations Director, he ensures the facility has all the necessary elements it needs to set the residents up for success. His mission is to continue to help them, so they can train and continue to promote from within. It’s a job he says is rewarding but also full of highs and lows.
“Relapse is not part of recovery, but it is part of many of our stories, including mine. While it is hard to see someone come back desperate again, I let them know that the experience they acquired while out there was probably necessary for them to finally surrender,” Joseph says.
Once a resident successfully graduates from The 24’s program, they can apply to move to Tillman House, their sober living apartment complex, which is a 10-minute walk from The 24. Tillman House is a one-year program in which residents can continue to learn and practice life skills like paying bills, cooking healthy meals, and saving money.
“Our hope is that after one year, they are fully ready to be successful and sober on their own,” Joseph explains.
At the core, The 24 provides a compassionate experience for people desperately seeking help, even if they don’t outwardly ask for it.
“That core value hasn’t changed despite the recent changes in leadership, and fortunately, our change in leadership is smooth and stress-free.”
Marsha Williamson, who is retiring from CEO, will stay on to assist with development, and Tim Grigsby who is succeeding as CEO has worked for The 24 on and off since 2012. Joseph says that even after the leadership changes, they still have a staff that tirelessly works to support our residents and newcomers.
“By sharing my story, I can show individuals how I have a shared experience. I always tell them step-by-step what I did in that situation and not to rely on self-reliance but God-reliance. I want everyone to know they aren’t alone and that many of us have been in the same position seeking the same help,” Joseph says.
As he looks back on his journey, he has a message for those who may be living that nightmare or know someone who is.
“Keep coming back. Don’t let your ego prevent you from asking for help. There is an old Chinese proverb, ‘Fall down seven times, get up eight,’” Joseph says. “There are thirty-eight 12-Step Meetings at The 24 every week. Come to a meeting. Come fellowship with others who are doing the deed.”
Since the facility opened in early 2018, Joseph says they have helped more than 3,000 people recovering from addiction and experiencing homelessness. They have steered even more toward resource partners throughout the area that can be of service.
If you would like to support The 24’s mission by donating, hosting an event, donating clothes, or more, you can do so on their website.