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  • Writer's pictureJeff Johnston

My Addiction to Vulnerability

*This blog may contain comments or opinions that are sensitive and potential “triggers” for some and are my thoughts and opinions only.

Vulnerability. A term often used to describe someone who is willing to show emotion or expose a weakness to others about themselves. The act of being “vulnerable” is often regarded as a selfless act, a way to reveal how you really feel about something or how something has impacted you. The opposite of vulnerability would be to withhold feelings and repress emotions. On the surface, it would seem that being vulnerable would be preferable to “holding things in.” Letting emotions out or having conversations with others is a great way to release pent up anxiety and stress. However, the reality is that most people, for their own reasons, are more content with avoiding conflict or suppressing personal traumatic events at potentially their own peril. For some, like myself, I have become addicted to becoming vulnerable. For me, It’s a very seductive, intoxicating, and liberating state of mind, precisely why I am becoming concerned.

Each time I feel as if I have gone too far, pushed the narrative of my story to its limits I am reminded of the difference this journey is having in the lives of others. Recently, I received this note from a friend back in my high school days;

“Jeff, I just finished your book. It gave me the courage to call a close relative today. He was incarcerated for a few years and was a drug dealer and user. Now that he has been out, I am concerned he’s using again which has me scared and it seems easier to avoid than to face. After I had a good cry from reading your book, I picked up the phone and called him to remind him I loved him. He did not answer, but he will see I called, I hope. Thank you for your raw honesty in the book, Jeff. I will move forward being forever touched by your words.”

As I was speaking with her she received a text from this very person. Her fear of reaching out to her relative was extinguished by the mere fact she read my book. That’s all it took. I can’t tell you how many times I almost did not finish “This One’s For You” out of fear of telling too much or triggering someone into relapse or something worse. The many late nights I spent staring at the computer screen, searching deep within so I could find the right words to communicate my intense pain, anger, confusion, and frustrations. I am so grateful I persevered and listened to that “voice” in my head and pushed through. However, I am becoming concerned I could go too far with this project if even that’s possible? Yet something inside of me keeps saying, “In order to ultimately achieve “true” peace you’ll need moments as far from peace as you can go.” Death, divorce, alcoholism, and more has me fairly certain I have been close to as far from peace as I can get.

Addiction. A term often used to describe someone absorbed in a compulsive commitment to a practice or habit. As much as I want to believe I am addicted to life I have slowly become obsessed with chasing death, unable to stop or slow down the velocity of growth of this deceptive monster I have created. I am not even sure I know exactly the questions for which I am seeking answers for? Or that I even want answers at all for fear I may stop searching? Odd isn’t it? As Dr. Henry Frankenstein said in the 1931 classic, Frankenstein, “ Look! It's moving. It's alive, it's moving, it's alive! It's ALIVE! Followed later by Dr. Waldman famously saying, “you have created a monster and he will destroy you!” It’s possible, if I am not careful, I will have created my own personal “Frankenstein” monster of which I will need to destroy eventually.

When I started this journey approximately a year after Seth’s death I really had no idea where this would take me and I possibly, naively, neglected to develop an end game, a point in time where I would be satisfied. But, like most alcoholics, drug addicts or compulsive gamblers I needed “one more” fix, one more way to continue my story. A non-profit, a book, a blog, a podcast….where does it end or will this journey of becoming vulnerable turn into an “addiction” if not already? Isn’t the irony of all ironies becoming something I am trying to prevent?

American lecturer and author Brene Brown says;

“Vulnerability is not a weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage”
“People who wade into discomfort and vulnerability and tell the truth about their stories are the real badasses.”

Courage, truth, badass. Sure, but if not careful, vulnerability could become a drug, an addiction in and of itself, needing to be continuously fed, like a chained up beast. Not a weakness, more like a thief stealing your time and distracting your attention from those that your attention is needed most. I know what addictions are, trust me. I can positively tell you I am addicted to Seth’s death. My addiction to being vulnerable isn’t that monster just yet. I may have created it, but for now, I will continue feeding it daily yet keeping a keen eye on it’s growth.

A very good friend of mine, whom I trust and respect greatly, saw some of the personal “issues” I was planning to reveal to others and expressed some concern. He was primarily worried that by revealing the fact I “was” a compulsive gambler in my past this may look poorly concerning I am in the wealth management business. There is no doubt I am taking a risk discussing this however I don’t perceive some risks as having a guaranteed negative outcome. For the time being, I am focused on personal healing and interpersonal growth. Becoming vulnerable has become who I am.

Live Undeterred!

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