The Journey Continues

Celebrating sobriety in year 6: A return to Houston, a devastating loss

Celebrating sobriety in year 6: Return to Houston, a devastating loss

Ted M's dog Jacxson
My traveling companion of 14 years, Jaxson Cargo, a yellow lab, went on to the Rainbow bridge, the place pets may go to wait until that day when they are reunited with their loved ones. Courtesy photo

Editor's Note: In previous essays for CultureMap, Ted M reflected on marking five separate anniversaries of sobriety. In his latest annual installment, he looks at his life now.

The spiritual quest continues, my sixth year of an annual journal published by CultureMap Houston that describes my past year in life/recovery and its impact on the destination-less journey I find myself on. While the tracks are laden with challenges and opportunities, the lead engine pulling the train is still gratitude.

Everything old is new again. Starting in Houston in 2011, moving to Austin, then Los Angeles, St. Louis, Milwaukee, and now back to Houston. That’s a lot of moving companies vacations paid for, numerous recovery fellowships, thousands of meetings, and an infinite number of personalities whose principles had to come first.

Onward, ever onward… my story contains many grateful experiences, a legion of challenges, and a myriad of opportunities to grow spiritually, deflate my ego, remain humble and teachable, and embrace emotional sobriety. This continues through an ever-changing landscape, with its imperfections and opportunities to see myself and others in true and real lights. Through a wrestling match of acceptance and resistance, I’ve tried to stretch the peephole viewpoint of life into a more robust eagle-eye full picture.

From Milwaukee to Houston

In the past year I embarked on trying to immerse myself in a fellowship within the Milwaukee, Wisconsin, recovery community. I did this by showing up, in discomfort at times, and placing myself in the middle of their boat. My best laid plans of trading the business side of recovery for the counseling side went south with the winter.

The windfalls were some wonderful new recovery friends and a rebirth of my love for sponsoring guys in the steps of AA and the lasting friendships that came from that.

I had lived in the frozen Cheese tundra in my start-up consulting business days, sketching through the town in custom-made suits and lavish alcohol-laden expense accounts. But this version of the story was in a different era, a different set of values, and a new set of gratitude opportunities.

While the 12 step program of AA remained my anchor, a new jib of Buddhism had set sail in my practice. Through various disciplines, practices, and seed planting of new techniques,  I settled in on a series of meetings that encompassed Noah Levine’s Buddhist interpretations and Dharma Punx and Refuge Recovery meetings supplementing my core AA recovery. Helpful in my mediation and adding layers of kindness and mindfulness to the sojourn, growth has been my friend.

The seed had been planted a couple years earlier that relocating back to my fellowship of origin in Houston would benefit my soul searching. The return to fellowship familiar had worked for founder Bill Wilson, certainly it would be of purpose to me.

Getting back on the beam at 54 has proven to be a greater challenge than expected. Working in the field of recovery through most of my sobriety has shown there is not only a set of folks catered to, called the "failure-to-launch" group (usually the 20-32 year-old set), there also is another congregation considered the "failure to re-launch" set (this subset usually ex-corporate types, in the 40-65 year-old range). Within each of those segments the range of emotional sobriety is wide. The opportunity for growth, spiritual or otherwise is always enticing, and in the camp I associate with, the enlargement is available when walking through the fear of change.

So as I seek my new calling in my old town, I investigate many forms of life and career advancement. Whether my next venture in business remains in the recovery field, or some form of philanthropic/foundation work, or back to the sales consulting corporate life I once flourished in, is yet to be discovered. So, I stay vigilant on this journey, and trust the right opportunity will arise with my effort.

While the growth is apparent — the next move is cloudier — what is clear is that any form of recovery life seeking flourishment needs to be in a consistent and balanced form. My path to date has included establishing a strong foundation, then altruistic service, next a year of embracing imperfection. My fourth year was concentration on the gift of positive power through silence and stillness, then a year dedicated to kindness, and currently, consistency and balance. By honing in on these disciplines, a spiritual extension of my tenants can germinate.

A hard punch

Today the journey took a hard punch. My traveling companion of 14 years, Jaxson Cargo, a yellow lab, went on to the Rainbow bridge, the place pets may go to wait until that day when they are reunited with their loved ones. It’s near impossible to leave a vet with an empty leash and collar in hand, and then sit in the parking lot for hours not wanting to leave because that would make it all real. This dog that saw the good, bad, and impossible to come back from was the initial stepping stone to a spiritual journey I didn’t even know I had a ticket for.

Twelve years earlier, living a completely different life in Chicago, I was an early riser. Jaxson Cargo and I would walk across the street to Lake Michigan, swim to a sandbar and just sit there. While I thought there was human love back in my bed at the house, that was a mirage. Sitting here next to me was true unconditional love as the sun was rising in all its splendor, and water and nature were all around us. The beach was full of life, night crawlers and early risers. I was filled with the sense that the world was right in front of me and something bigger was afoot — a spiritual seed was sprouting its first harvest.

For so many reasons I will cherish that pet, but at the top of the list was his introducing me to a power greater than myself.

My opportunity for life in recovery continues with pride and the desire to push forward in a seamless life that does not distinguish between recovery, work, family and social life, but rather a recurrent connection of all. To those embarking, continuing or reigniting, I wish health, happiness, peace and joy.

Until next year,  I remain in today — for that is all we have.

Editor's Note: Because the Twelve Step philosophy is to preserve anonymity, we have not published Ted M.'s full name. However, he can be reached by email at tjmann14@yahoo.com.

Previous columns in this series:

Celebrating a year of sobriety: Giving up the celebrity good life for a life worth living

Celebrating a second year of sobriety: The challenges are many, the rewards are great

Celebrating 3 years of sobriety: Still one day at a time but, at last, ready to date and plan future

Celebrating 4 years of sobriety: Not as much drama but most challenging year so far

Celebrating sobriety in year 5: After hitting a speed bump, the future looks bright