Sage: A Testimony of Transformation

By: Kristin Mudge

Sage Sanderson joined the “party crowd” in the summer of eighth grade. But what started out as a party quickly spiraled into loneliness and desperation.

Sage grew up playing sports and was sought out by a few high schools in his city for basketball. “I’d actually received a few scholarships. My freshman year, basically, all I had to do is just stay the right path.” But Sage chose the route of popularity and opportunity. He went through different schools and cities, having to make new friends at every turn. “The only kind of common factor was alcohol.”

Hiding his alcohol use, and trying to appease his parents, Sage attended a junior college for a brief time. “At that point, alcohol became the most important thing for me.” His parents were allowing him to live with them, providing him with a safe place to stay, and Sage admits that he took advantage of that situation and their love for entirely too long. “Eventually it got to a point where they didn’t want me to drink in the house. So, I basically had to drink outside of the house.”

“At that point, I started drinking a lot more heavily. The people that I surrounded myself [with] became more lower tier people.” At six-foot-six, Sage was quite noticeable while out drinking on the streets. “I got multiple Drunk in Publics, which is probably the one thing that did save me.”

Sage tells us that while he was nearing his rock bottom, his parents started learning about programs like Alcoholics Anonymous, “and my mom decided to get sober. So basically, all my tricks… and everything was exposed, and she learned the right ways to love me.” One night Sage came back from getting a “drunk in public” citation and tried to enter the house, and his parents wouldn’t let him in. “That pivotal moment was because of their tough love. They had exhausted every single sort of love and resource that they had for me, and none of that worked. And the only love that they had left was tough love.”

“And because of that…I was able to seek help.” Sage reflects, “You start burning bridges and start hurting not only yourself, but people that you love. And basically, you start isolating, because you don’t want people to see you in that situation.” This downward spiral continued for Sage, but “luckily, I was able to find help through The Salvation Army ARC.”

The Salvation Army’s Adult Rehabilitation Centers (ARCs) provide a non-clinical, faith-based rehabilitation program to individuals with a variety of social and spiritual needs who have lost the ability to cope with their problems and provide for themselves. Sage found himself one of many beneficiaries seeking assistance and opportunity for change in one of The Salvation Army’s inpatient rehabilitation programs.

“Alcoholism is a very lonely place, … and The Salvation Army kind of forces you out of isolation. Now you’re surrounded by 120-plus guys going through the same thing.” Sage tells us that through the ARC program, “God’s basically allowed me to learn how to follow, allowed me to learn how to lead, allowed me to learn how to be available for others.”

Starting as a truck driver, Sage has worked for The Salvation Army for over eight years, going on to fill the roles of dispatcher, administrative assistant, and now as a counselor. “The key moment was when I was offered the opportunity to be the intake counselor. I basically went from sitting in the lobby hopeless, to now being in a position where I can help people in the same position I was, and offer hope, and let them know that I was, too, inside that lobby, and get them into the program that helped me.”

Prior to his time in the ARC, Sage says he had always had a selfish mentality, “But now my whole mindset has changed to where it’s, ‘how can I help others?’ And when I do help others, it’s not because of me. It’s because of God and what He’s done in my life that I’m able to even do these things. I totally took myself out of the situation and replaced it with God getting all the credit for it.”

Sage says everything clicked into place for him after getting baptized in 2019. “That’s where everything changed for me, caused me to mature.” He says moving away from the enabling environment of home and no longer having the safety net of family helped him to learn to take care of himself. “And then here I am in Austin, nine years later, and I finally stopped doing what I wanted to do and my plan; I surrendered to God’s plan.”

Sage tells us, “The biggest blessing of the Salvation Army has been that my son Cade has never had to see me use or drink … I get to be a part of every aspect of his life, which would have never been…an option had I had not turned my life and my will over to God and entered into The Salvation Army ARC program.”

“I think The Salvation Army does a wonderful job of helping people that would have been forgotten. They also offer services throughout the whole world where basically they’re just doing different deeds for people in bad situations that need help. But they’re doing this all just to express why, which is Jesus Christ. They get to express the love and grace and the story of salvation to different people that have maybe never heard the message.”