Sabine Kuenzel cares so much about helping others recover that she changed careers, leaving urban planning and development to become an Alumni Support Representative at La Hacienda in June 2018. Alumni Support staff teach Big Book classes and are the primary source of 12-step information for patients while they are in treatment. They also prepare patients for making the transition to 12 Step after treatment, helping to identify meetings in their home areas and connecting them with other alumni.
From City Planning to Life-Changing
Sabine (pronounced “sah-bee-nah”) holds a master’s degree in Community and Regional Planning from the University of Texas at Austin. She used that education and training while employed by the cities of Kerrville, Sugar Land, and College Station. But her personal recovery experience at La Hacienda in January 2015, and the opportunity to guide and help others do the same, encouraged Sabine to switch vocations.
A Good Listener by Necessity
Sabine’s alcoholism almost caused her to go blind. “I could not see. I could not read. My eyesight was terrible.” It impacted her recovery because she could not read the Big Book. Discussions about the resource often hop back and forth from page to page, so recorded versions were not much help during meetings, she says. Her vision improved with time and recovery, but the experience forced her to sharpen her listening skills. It was the only way she could learn. A positive result is that she pays careful attention to what patients tell her. “And sometimes it helps me to hear what they are not saying.”
Watching People Come Back to Life
From experience, she knows there are “success stories and heartaches” in the recovery process, but the patients’ transformation makes the work worthwhile. “Almost daily, you see people coming back to life, from hopelessness to being filled with hope.” “I don’t even really think of what I do as work. I do it as a calling. You approach it differently when you think of it that way.”
Doing What She Loves
Sabine likes the fact that in addition to helping others as a 12-step sponsor in her free time, she also assists women and men in recovery as a part of workdays. “I get to devote a lot of time to what is expected of people in recovery.” “I get to use a huge percentage of my work time to do what I fell in love with during recovery—helping others.”
An Interest in Tiny Houses
Born in Germany, Sabine came to the United States as an infant with her family. She grew up in a German-speaking household and did not learn English until Kindergarten. She still speaks German better than French, in which she has a bachelor’s degree. In her spare time, she hikes, dances, researches areas of interest to her, and does Tai Chi and Pilates with the help of her Chiweenie, Marlie. She admires tiny houses and would like to start a small home community. “People don’t need a lot of space to be happy.”