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Counting Stitches: The 108 Challenge for Recovery

Cardinal Innovations Healthcare — September 9, 2020 — 4 min read
Eric Burgiss got lucky. Someone passed by the run-down house where he lay – unconscious, pale, and lifeless from an overdose of drugs laced with the deadly substance Fentanyl.

“I had a little Fentanyl in my drugs and didn’t realize it,” he said.

Burgiss was clinically dead for 15 minutes, they later told him, before medics revived him with two doses of lifesaving NARCAN. They took him to a hospital in Greenville-Spartanburg, S.C., where he spent two nights before being released.

“I was broke, busted and disgusted,” he said. “And I was homeless and hungry. It was my point of no return. I hitchhiked back to North Carolina after that and started this new life. Thank god I had people around me who never gave up on me.”

Stepping up to the Plate

Back in North Carolina, Burgiss went to see his mother. She gave him a place to stay for a few days. That’s when he found what he needed – a battered, beaten, dirty, old baseball from his youth when stepping up to the plate was everything.

“There I was about three days in and I took a pen and started making a mark on each stitch on the baseball. I said I’m going to mark every stitch for each day of my recovery,” he said. There are 108 hand-sewn, red double stitches used to cover every baseball. That works out to about three and a half months of sobriety per ball. 

Burgiss founded The 108 Challenge, which “encourages sobriety and empowers you to work on your sobriety one day at a time by marking a baseball stitch one day at a time. Sobriety is up close and personal. It is in the palm of your hand!”

He now partners with Cardinal Innovations Healthcare and other organizations to spread his message and help others searching for something to help them with their recovery.

“I thought about when I was in baseball. The ball gets hit, bounced on the ground, dirty – recovery requires that same kind of grit and commitment,” he said. “(The baseball) is recovery in the palm of my hand.”
 
The 108 Challenge Baseballs

People who do The 108 Challenge for recovery mark their successes next to stitches on the baseball each day. Eventually one ball becomes two and then three and so on. Each one serves as a tangible reminder of the successes the person has had so far. Marking all 108 stitches gets you a baseball trophy case. A plaque marks the name of the participant and the date when they reached the 108th stitch. 

Reaching out for Recovery, Prevention

Burgiss also produces a weekly podcast at 7 p.m. on Mondays via Facebook Live. You can access his podcast by going to one of his group pages – either The 108 Challenge group or The 108 Challenge 2 group. The podcast covers a number of recovery related topics with experts who join him on the program.

In April, Burgiss organized an event aimed at sharing resources to help people seeking recovery and their families. The pandemic forced the event to go virtual, which resulted in it reaching even more people. Burgiss said he was expecting about 300 people and 60 vendors. The virtual event ended up reaching 10,000 people in 11-states. Watch Part 1, Part 2 and the Resource Session from this event on YouTube.

For National Recovery Month in September, The 108 Challenge is planning an event with the Davidson County Substance Abuse Coalition and Davidson County Community College.

Burgiss is also planning a fall 108 Challenge event focused on recovery and living your best life by “unlocking your positives” and covering how to “stop getting distracted by things that have nothing to do with your goals.”

“We want to send a message of encouragement,” he said.

Learn more about The 108 Challenge.
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