I first was introduced to Joseph Sanchez about three years ago when my work with ROCKSTAR SUPERSTAR PROJECT crossed paths with Sanchez’s recovery work in Texas. I immediately connected with his energetic personality. As our conversations continued, I was inspired by his passion to make a difference and his efforts to give back to the recovery community. Let me introduce you to Sanchez, president and co-founder of RecoveryATX.
“My name is Joseph Sanchez. I am a person in long-term recovery. What that means to me is that I haven’t had a drink or a drug in my body since Oct. 2, 2005.”
That’s how I introduce myself today. Not too many people know of my past, and they really can’t picture me in my darkest moments, restrained to a hospital bed, begging for the ventilator to be removed so that I could just speak.
I actually had a great upbringing and to others seemed to be a happy teenage boy. I started drinking and using drugs at a young age because it felt good. It was fun. After years of struggling with drugs and alcohol and my identity as a gay man, I found myself in a detox facility in El Paso, Texas. The 12-step fellowship brought meetings to the facility, and it was there that I heard my story from people who had found themselves in the position I was in and had gotten to the other side of the darkness. I am forever grateful for the opportunity I was given at Casa Vida. I later joined their team.
My mentors in this process have been great change leaders and strong role models. I have witnessed how to keep providing authentic services to the recovery community and assist in the growth of the community they serve. With this passion and my overwhelming need for growth, I moved to Austin, where I helped to start the RecoveryATX, gaining a greater understanding of giving back in order to keep what we have worked hard for.
My Personal Mission Statement
To internationally inspire positive thinking and forward movement through M.E.E.: motivation, education and empowerment. Through recovery, I have been given many opportunities to learn and grow, such as when I participated in a leadership institute provided by Addiction Technology Transfer Center Network and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. That is where I learned to tap into my strengths and created a vision that brought my passion alive. I had already begun training peer recovery coaches and wanted to develop curriculum that would support people in recovery grow as leaders and advocates. At this institute, I realized I wanted to motivate people to reach for their best selves, educate people on how to best accomplish their goals, and empower them to take charge of their lives and become leaders.
A Defining Moment
Bruno’s death. I met Bruno in early recovery. We hit it off as friends, both on fire and excited about our newfound recovery. We made plans to volunteer, take road trips and travel from recovery convention to recovery convention. I had not had a friend like him for a long time. He taught me about faith and how to trust the process. We shared many side-splitting laughs until a diabetic coma took his life in 2005. It was the first time I had experienced death sober, the death of someone I was hoping to grow up in recovery with.
It was a very emotional time. I still miss his laugh. After a good while of mourning, and tons of prayer and meditation, I got to a place of peace. I remember sitting on my bed crying and then feeling a presence whip over my face from my head to my chin. I stopped crying and started laughing. I knew that Bruno hadn’t gone anywhere but was everywhere. I could feel his kindhearted spirit, sense of humor and passion for recovery. He wasn’t physically here anymore, but that wasn’t going to stop me from doing what we were going to do: to help people in recovery.
Advocacy and peer recovery can happen anywhere. I am open about my recovery, not discouraged to talk about the hard truths. When asked what I do, I like to leave the person with a little seed of understanding and curiosity. Recently, I found myself stranded at the post office at night. My car was acting up, and by chance, a tow truck pulled into the parking lot. The gentleman asked if I needed help. We struck up a conversation. I told him about my work. It just so happened that his mother-in-law was an alcoholic. That chance encounter led to a conversation that led to his family talking to her about their concerns and encouraging her to get help. Advocacy and peer recovery can happen anywhere.
My Five-year Vision
Married to the man I love; having coffee in the backyard with our dogs, Chula and Liza; listening to the wind blow and the birds singing; remaining true to my passion; inspiring people to grow, to learn and to live a full life. I hope that the work I do for my own recovery can spill on to others as a message of hope because whether one is in recovery or not, there is always room for spiritual growth and enlightenment.