Pursuing Uncomfortable with Melissa Ebken

Pursuing Courageous Vulnerability with Justin Brien

October 04, 2023 Melissa Ebken Season 9 Episode 4
Pursuing Courageous Vulnerability with Justin Brien
Pursuing Uncomfortable with Melissa Ebken
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Pursuing Uncomfortable with Melissa Ebken
Pursuing Courageous Vulnerability with Justin Brien
Oct 04, 2023 Season 9 Episode 4
Melissa Ebken

Welcome to a special episode of the Pursuing Uncomfortable podcast. Today, we are joined by the incredible Justin Bryan, a mental health advocate, speaker, transformational coach, and author. Justin's journey is one of immense courage, vulnerability, and ultimately, triumph. From battling self-esteem issues as a child to struggling with substance abuse and mental health challenges as a young adult, Justin's story is a testament to the power of resilience and self-discovery. In this episode, we dive deep into Justin's experiences, his work in helping others overcome their own suffering, and how he found the strength to pursue a path of healing and growth. Get ready to be inspired and challenged as we explore the importance of courageous vulnerability and the pursuit of a better future. Join us as we embark on this transformative conversation with Justin Bryan on Pursuing Courageous Vulnerability. Let's dive in!

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Show Notes Transcript

Welcome to a special episode of the Pursuing Uncomfortable podcast. Today, we are joined by the incredible Justin Bryan, a mental health advocate, speaker, transformational coach, and author. Justin's journey is one of immense courage, vulnerability, and ultimately, triumph. From battling self-esteem issues as a child to struggling with substance abuse and mental health challenges as a young adult, Justin's story is a testament to the power of resilience and self-discovery. In this episode, we dive deep into Justin's experiences, his work in helping others overcome their own suffering, and how he found the strength to pursue a path of healing and growth. Get ready to be inspired and challenged as we explore the importance of courageous vulnerability and the pursuit of a better future. Join us as we embark on this transformative conversation with Justin Bryan on Pursuing Courageous Vulnerability. Let's dive in!

Follow Justin

Support the Show.

More From Melissa and Pursuing Uncomfortable:
fiLLLed Life Newsletter
Leave a review
Pursuing Uncomfortable Book

🎶 Podcast Intro: Welcome to the pursuing uncomfortable podcast, where we give you the encouragement you need to lean into the uncomfortable stuff life puts in front of you, so you can love your life. If you are ready to overcome all the yuck that keeps you up at night, you're in the right place. I am your host, Melissa Ebken let's get going. 🎶

🎶 Episode Intro:  Welcome back to the 100th episode of Pursuing Uncomfortable. Today we are joined by the incredible Justin Brien. Justin is an advocate, a speaker and a transformational coach and an author. Justin's journey is one of immense courage, vulnerability, and ultimately triumph. From battling self-esteem issues as a child to struggling with substance abuse and mental health challenges as a young adult, Justin's story is a testament to the power of resilience and self discovery. Friend, we go deep into this episode into Justin's experiences. He talks about his rock bottom, his lowest point, and how he was able to overcome that suffering and found the strength to pursue a path of healing and growth.  His story is going to inspire you so let's jump in. 🎶

Melissa Ebken  0:00  
Hey, Justin, welcome to the Pursuing Uncomfortable Podcast. How are you today?

Justin Brien  0:05  
I'm doing very well. Thank you so much for having me on your show. 

Melissa Ebken  0:09  
My pleasure. Tell us for yours zooming in from?

Justin Brien  0:13  
I'm calling all the way from Salmon Arm in British Columbia, Canada.

Melissa Ebken  0:18  
Cool. That's far west, correct?

Justin Brien  0:21  
Yeah, it's about five hours from Vancouver. If anybody doesn't know their geography of Canada, I'm right near to the Pacific Ocean.

Melissa Ebken  0:28  
Awesome. Well, thanks for coming in today to talk with us. And can you tell us a little bit about who you are? And what do you do?

Justin Brien  0:37  
Well, my name is Justin Bryan. I'm a mental health advocate. I'm a speaker, a transformational coach, and I'm an author now of an Amazon Best Seller, Chasing Shadows; Fighting the Monster Within

Melissa Ebken  0:49  
Congratulations on that, 

Justin Brien  0:51  
yeah, thank you very much. It was a, you know, it was a long time coming. I didn't, you know, if you were to tell me I was gonna write a book, I wouldn't have believed you. But I definitely wouldn't have believed that I would have written a book on the topic of mental health, substance use, suicide, you know, personal development and learning lessons.

Melissa Ebken  1:12  
You know, I took a quick peek at your website. And when I say took a quick peek, I mean, I cyber stalked you. Because that's what I do.

Justin Brien  1:21  
Fair enough. 

Melissa Ebken  1:22  
You have a lot of tremendous programs, you've helped a lot of people. You've spoke at a lot of events, you travel around and speak to schools and all that. But it didn't start there. You have quite a story about how you got where you were.

Justin Brien  1:38  
Yeah, no, it was, it's been quite the journey, one that I believe I'm blessed to have, you know, I wouldn't change any of it. I would definitely change some of the decisions and actions that I've made for sure. However, you know, I wouldn't change any of those dark days lonely nights. Because now I get to do what I get to do. And that's serving other people. It's helping people move past their, you know, suffering beliefs, and really creating that imagined future that they want, but also allowing them to do it themselves finding within themselves and take that direction a little further. I also get to help people with their mental health. I'm not a counselor, by any means but I think teaching coping mechanisms that there's more to life than just being sad all the time, you know, that there is help out there and that there are lower. My journey started off as a kid I battled self esteem, self worth, self confidence. And I didn't know what those things were back then. Right. I was young. I had a family that loves me. I was atheletic. I had people that liked me. But you know, I didn't like me. I was always comparing myself to other people. And I, I wanted to be everybody else. But me. I grew later than everybody else. And that and so I was smaller than everybody. That was a little tough for me. Um actually at one point I was calling my buddy and mowing his lawn and be like Calvin said, Justin or girl on the phone. He'd be like, you're you were I can hear you.

You're not here.

But I didn't start to get down on my knees and I prayed to bigger, I prayed to be stronger and preyed to be faster. But I also prayed to be normal, and I'd pray to be normal becuase I didn't know how to deal with those insecurities that I had. So what did I do with those insecurities? Well, I grabbed an imaginary bag and I put it up low self esteem, low self worth low self confidence. And I zipped it back up and I put it on my back and I went through junior high school, through elementary sorry, and high school. And when that bag started to get heavy, I took it off and opened it up. But instead of unpacking that, I started to put guilt, shame, anger, depression and suicide, drugs and alcohol into that bag and put on my back and I just kept on walking. By by the time I was 21, I was drinking almost every single day. And by the time I was 24, I was at house basically a full blown alcoholic where one time I had a bartender come up to me and asked me he says Justin, do you think you drink too much? And I looked at him and I brushed him off and he listen anybody and said there's no way I drink too much. You know, I'm young I like to have fun. I'm in this big beautiful city at that time. I was living in Vancouver and it's it's right on the ocean. There's a nap this amazing night lights there. Right? And I'm a young kid. I was only 24 years old, living life. There's no way I drink too much. So I did what I did every single night. I would, I closed up that bar within 15-20 minutes. I got out for power half hour Power Hour got as drunk as I to it at the club. You know started walking home and on the way home I'd always want to dial a bottle so we can have more alcohol delivered to my house when I got there. With this sign as I was walking to cross Camden Street Bridge in Vancouver and that throught raced in my head and it was his voice thing Justin, you drink too much. And I stopped and I was like, there's no way I drink too much. I'm like, you're young, you like to have fun, I'm in this big beautiful city and I'm a bartender. So I, you normalized it. Yeah, absolutely. And you know, that's what people do with alcohol and substances is they find reasons to drink reasons to not give up drinking or using the substance. So I ended up taking a couple more steps and then my voice going through my head says Justin, are you alcoholic? Well, I actually said this word for word. There's no way I'm an alcoholic. I go to work, I pay my bills. I'm not a low life, and I am too smart to be an alcoholic. I was so smart in fact that I graduated that year from alcohol abuse to drug abuse. At 24 years old, I did cocaine for the very first time and I didn't remember doing it so I phoned up my buddy he told me what happened and I was like, whoa man Okay, and then he said something to me that you probably shouldn't say to a person with my mindset and he was like, Man, you were funny last night. Well all right. And then and there, it clicked you know, I have alcohol for confidence. I have drugs to be funny. You know, I got the super special power now that I just have one shot of this and one shot of that and then I'm super Justin right? Well, I can tell you I was the only one that thought I was super Justin. You fast forward six months down the road. I end up moving back home to Salmon Arm, the small community and I started managing the nightclub. And I had to get a ride home one night because I lost my license for drinking and driving. On the way home everybody started talking about the topic of depression where I looked at him and I said this, depression is for the weak, depression is an excuse. You have to man up. You have to to to work and you got to pay your bills. Now I don't know why I said it back then. But I definitely know why said now because I was trying to look sharp on the outside and when I was trying to what I felt on the inside because I still had that feeling of less than. So now at 24 years old I have two major problems. I have substance abuse and mental health. I'm 24 years old I'm ignoring two major problems, my substance use and my mental health. And I took that with me until about four years later I was 28 years old I finally admitted to myself, hey Justin, you need help. You are depressed, you abuse substances drugs and alcohol. So you need to get help. So at 28, I finally asked for help but when when I asked for help it actually began the start of my suicidal thoughts for six years. How does six years every day I asked myself Justin, you gonna make it man? Like are you going to make it to see your son score his first goal in hockey? Are you going to make it see him graduate, you know, gonna to teach him how to ride a bike and the answer and everly every single time was no, you know, I couldn't picture myself in his future. And I couldn't picture that because the way I felt and the way I just I kept using every time I tried to quit. Now when I had my son, I just got out of rehab. I was clean for about two months and then I started drinking again and then six months after that my girlfriend had to make the toughest decision of her life, for me pick up my son and leave me at my lowest point. So here I had my I only got to see my son twice a week for four hours at a time for a court order and I couldn't drive with them in my car, so my I just started to deteriate you know I was just messing up life I was on a leave of absence from work so my suicidal thoughts started to get more and more and more to where I actually thought he would be better off without me so I ended up becoming an organ donor took milk thistle for my liver and kidney flush because I was actually reparing my body to give to someone that I thought I believe truly deserved it. I'm like well, Justin, you're smart, athelitic, funny people like you, but you're wasting your talent just wasting away and there's someone out there that can really use a heart, really use a set of lungs. Was getting ready to to donate body you know around that time I started to listen to motivational speaking. And we always

Melissa Ebken  8:35  
Can we just pause there real quick. To think that your body, the embodiment of your own spirit, would be better off with someone else than yourself, that you couldn't see you were a viable recipient of that. That is a big, big red flag a big point in your life, a big low point.

Justin Brien  9:00  
Yeah, it was, it was you know, I remember walking into the DMV to, that's where you had to become an organ donor and looking at the lady and saying I want to be an organ donor. And she just had a smile on her face. She's like Oh, good for you. No, it's really good to hear and I'm just sitting there thinking I'm like, if you only really knew. And I just walked out and it's just that's how I truly felt about myself I thought I was wasting my God given talent. My God gave me. I though I was wasting it so finally I actually started listening to motivational speaking and started talking about find your why find your why. So I started to ask myself Justin, well what is your why what is your why is going to drive you and motivate you to get better? What is your why that's going to pick you up when you fall down? So I started to reframe my thoughts and look at that little boy again I once thought of you know, what if instead of, you know, ending this way is a better dad. Well, what if I'd be better so to become that dad, you know, if I get better for him, I get better for me and if I get better for me I actually help other people. With that I made my son my why, I made him my anchor. Now a lot of people are gonna say, hey, you know, you got to do for yourself. Yeah, yes, you should do it for yourself. However, for a lot of guys, that I went to rehab with people like me, myself included, we couldn't do it for ourselves. So we had to find a reason. And my reason was my son. Now, the thing about that is when you, I made my son, my why, it still keep back on me, I got better for him. But I got ultimately better for me, that was a whole end goal. So whatever you get better for it's going to come back on you. Now it's better when you can do it for yourself. Now I could do it for myself. Now I can see that I'm worth it. Right, so I can do that for myself. But with that, I went back to rehab again. And I did all my stuff and and courses, and they started to teach us things like gratitude. Reminding yourself what you're grateful for every day, you know, doing it consistently, journaling, getting your thoughts out of your head and onto paper. What are the biggest things I learned, besides your diet and exercise is the power of acceptance and forgiveness. How acceptance and forgiveness is actually for you. Now there are gonna be times in your life where people are gonna hurt you, an event is going to happen. Maybe someone passes away unexpectedly, and you actually might even be mad at God. Right. And it's hard to get past that. But the way to get past it is you have to accept it, you have to accept it because it truly happened. Now, that doesn't mean you don't have to like it. But you have to accept it. So you can forgive and you have to forgive it so you can move on. Now, when it comes to the people that hurt you, you don't have to forgive them to their face. You don't they don't even have to know about it. But we get a visualization thing in rehab, where we sat down, closed our eyes, and our instructor talked and he read picture someone that hurt, you, you know, talk to them. Like for tell them how they hurt you. Now and forgive them. And I actually started to cry, right. And that really helps. And I had to realize during my conversation that I was having in my head in that visualization that I was to blame, too. I had a friend tell me, you are 100% responsible for 50% of your relationships. So I started to realize, you know, I'm putting all this anger towards that person. And I'm not taking responsibility for my part of it. Right.

Melissa Ebken  12:46  
Were you able to forgive yourself then?

Justin Brien  12:48  
I have yeah, I did. It was about eight months ago to completely accept and forgive myself. It's it's been a process of accepting some of the things I've done, but to completely forgive myself, it was probably about eight months ago. 

Melissa Ebken  13:05  
So it's been quite a journey, then. 

Justin Brien  13:07  
Oh, yeah, absolutely. No and so that's one of the things I was going to say is that there's going to be times in your life, where that thing that you're gonna have to accept is something you did. And that person you're gonna have to forgive is yourself. And for me, that was the longest, longest part of it was was forgiving myself and realizing you know, I'm not perfect. Nobody will ever be perfect. I'm a human. But I made mistakes. Now, I can hope others forgive me as well. But it took me quite a while to do that as well. But then I got out of rehab, and it started working again. And as you can guess, within two months later, the pink cloud hits. And it's I stopped doing my coping mechanism. I've stopped going to counseling, I'm going to stop taking my medication. All of a sudden, one night I had my son and I was like, Okay, I gave it to my mom. I'm like Mom, I, I can't right now. I couldn't deal with them. Even though it was just sitting there. We were just sitting in a quiet room watching the movie, but my thoughts that didn't contain them there I was, I was mad. I was iritable, I was angry. I was depressed. I was lonely. I was suicidal. Now when you don't get help for your mental health, you're gonna have hard time regulating your emotions, right? And you're gonna go through this plethora of feelings, and you're not gonna be able to control it. You're gonna be in deep and all sudden you can be sad, then you can be mad then you can be happy. Right? So I couldn't deal with it. So I gave it to my son. I started drinking again. And finally, on January 1, I don't remember doing this. I quit my job. I told my boss, I don't remember I was drunk in the morning. And I quit my job and then I came to, I'm like awe man. So I was like, you know what, whatever, just keep drinking. And then I woke up, I came to on the morning of January 4, 2019 and I'm sitting in my basement suite alone I'm looking around at the picture of my kid on my on TV stands and all that I'm looking at his toys and I'm looking at his hockey stick in the last. And I'm just like, Justin, you have two choices. You can get help or you are you end it. And one of the things that I started to picture was my son growing up without his biological father, and being teased. And, I know that's you know, might sound weird for other people. But for me that kind of that, that's what I had to do. Right. So I phoned my mom. And I got her to come pick me up. I said, Mom, you need to take me to the hospital. With that, she took me to the hospital. And with my dad to my left of me, my mom in front of me and a counselor to my right, I finally admitted those words out loud that if I was gonna continue to feel the way that I did that I had a plan and that plan was to end it. Once I said that, that weight got lifted off my shoulders, and no 50% of it anyways, not all of it. But it felt great to say that. And they let me go home with my mom that day because I was living underneath her. And from that day on, I've been sober ever since I'm almost coming up on my five year anniversary. I went back to school to be a speaker to be a coach to help people with mental health. No, not in the counseling realm. But I also got back together with my ex three years after, and we have a beautiful baby girl now too. And I got to see my son score his first goal in hockey.

Melissa Ebken  16:36  
Awesome. Awesome. And I bet he looked up at his dad when he did. 

Justin Brien  16:41  
He was pretty pumped. 

Melissa Ebken  16:43  
Yeah. So Justin, you were sitting there with your son watching this movie. And all of these things were going through your mind, it was a really dark point for you with your mental health. And I can't help but think man and your why is right there next to you. And it's just magnifying all of those things. How can you have those feelings and be sitting right next to your why. There's no question you had to find a way out of that for a moment, that would have been tremendous pressure for you. 

Justin Brien  17:21  
Yeah, it was tough its I stopped doing my coping mechanisms. Right, I stopped getting the help that I needed. You know, depression isn't your or your mental health isn't a one way streets. You know, what does it know Spencer, he said, I forget that quote he has, but it's something like its it it's not about the destination is about how you drive. Right? I know, I still struggle with the anxiety a bit, you know, I can still get sad and knocked down and can, right but I still have a counselor. And I reach out my hand when I need to. But at that point, I stopped seeing a counselor, I stopped taking my medication, I stopped my journaling. I stopped doing everything that I needed to do. And I didn't remind myself of my why. I thought I would go back into that mindset, again of you know, maybe he's better off without me. He's better off without me. Even though I am, he is the reason I should be alive. I went back and got that negative internal dialogue, again, started to believe the things that I was telling myself, you know, that your internal dialogue can make or break you. I mean you and the thing about that is, is that your thoughts aren't facts. But we can tend to believe them. Even if we know they're not true. So we got to question those thoughts, saying, is this true? Is it absolutely true? You know, how would I feel if I didn't have that thought? My friend had that thought, what would I say to them? Can I see it myself? But I couldn't decipher that. I just believed everything I said about myself? And I would actually I would I would implant a conversation into a friend's head of mine. Of what they thought about me. 

Melissa Ebken  19:14  
I know exactly what you're saying. And I think a lot of people might understand that too. They have no idea that they had this conversation with you, but you had the full conversation with them in your head. 

Justin Brien  19:24  
How often have you been sitting at home and you're, you're you may be disappointed in yourself. So you're like, Oh, well, that person is probably disappointed in you. And now all of a sudden you're having this imaginary conversation with how they feel about your actions, or what you're doing in life. And then I started to do that, so I'm like, well, then it must be true, even though nothing was said. We turn our thoughts into beliefs and then our beliefs become our truths and then our truths start to control our actions. So then I started to drink again, because that was my peace, that was my solace. That was my escape. That was the way that I found love. 

Melissa Ebken  20:02  
Can you tell us about the moment when you finally forgave yourself?

Justin Brien  20:08  
Well, that was after a counseling session and he's just says like, can you do anything about it? And then we had a conversation with somebody sitting in a imagining a person sitting in a chair. And I just say, you know, those times it just clicks, you know it's just like, there's nothing I can do. And I don't necessarily like it when people say, hey, that wasn't me, because it was you. But it's a version of you, that doesn't exist anymore. And that was a version of me that didn't exist. And it was an intoxicated version of me. And just so I don't ever say that, you know, that wasn't me, because it was me, I did it. But I know that in different circumstances, that would have been different, some of the things that I've done. And there's only way that I'm going to be able to live the life I want to live. I'm going to have to fully accept and forgive myself, and then hope that other people do as well. And that kind of felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders.

Melissa Ebken  21:16  
Well, the truth of it is, as broken as a person was as deep and darkness as a person was that person still made choices that got you through to where you are today.

Justin Brien  21:28  
Yeah, and absolutely, I wouldn't like I said I wouldn't change the dark days and lonely nights because I actually, it made me who I am today, and helps me to do what I do.

Melissa Ebken  21:38  
I think with people that struggle with forgiving themselves, it's hard to see that that person that they forgave that past version of themselves, did the best they could in the circumstances they had. And it got them to where they are now. And it's time to say thanks. But I'm going to take the wheel now. And to see you do that, and to show such, the phrase, courageous vulnerability keeps coming to my mind as I talk to you. Because, first of all, thank you for being so vulnerable with us. And it's courageous. And that courageous vulnerability, not only to share your story here, but also within yourself, and to look at it and just sit with it. That's powerful. And I think that it's going to help so many people it obviously already has, but for the person listening to this today, you can be courageously vulnerable too and if you don't think so, you know reach out to Justin, have a conversation, there is a link to his website in the show notes, click it, see his story, connect with him theres. Scroll down the page at the bottom, there's a big ol button that says reach out to me, so do it. Justin, I bet you would have a big ol bunch of grace, for the person that reaches out to you in that way.

Justin Brien  23:06  
Absolutely. And, you know, I've had some many, I had made a post today about my failures. I put I am a failure. Because I have failed at a million things. And I've listed a lot of my failures and then some and what I learned and my friends say, some one's like whoa, I'm really happy to see how you can speak like that and be so vulnerable. Its because I hid from vulnerability for so long. That it tore me up. Being vulnerable, not only helps me, helps people see who I really am. But it can help others be like okay, well maybe I don't have to hide anymore. No, maybe I can get rid of that man up stigma. You know, what does that even mean? It wasn't me. Instead of saying man up, be like, ask for help or hey I'm here, I'm listening. And hopefully you can encourage other people to you know reach out for help. Because if I can do anything with my life, I hope it's encourage and empower people to reach out and just live better lives and realize that they're not alone.

Melissa Ebken  24:16  
Justin, I would say the depth of our relationship has lasted what an hour or maybe in the times that we've spent speaking with each other texting or emailing. And in that time, I can say you've had a profound effect on me a positive effect that your courageous vulnerability just shines through. And if someone can be impactful in that amount of time, boy, you can do a whole lot and I'm so glad you are here on this planet and walking this life on this earth and sharing the gifts that you had. I'm glad you donated your organs to yourself. And I think you're the best donor and the best recipient.

Justin Brien  25:03  
Well I appreciate that. Thank you very much. It's a humbling feeling and I'm glad that I could impact you and its in a good way because I never would have thought that what I'm doing was possible. I didn't think I'd make it this far I didn't, definitely didn't think what I would. It's so weird seeing people, like I just go and be vulnerable on a post and then try to put a learning lesson at the end. And people say, oh, you're so inspiring. And it's, it's still I don't even want to fully resonates with me. Because I'm just trying to be me, right? Because I hid from me for so long. That if I can be my best me that someone else can be their best them.

Melissa Ebken  25:42  
Tell us the name of your book again.

Justin Brien  25:45  
So it's called Chasing Shadows; Fighting the Monster Within. It's an in depth look at my life. It's it talks about suicide. Talks about things that I've done to myself, it talks about the struggles that I've gone through the things that I've witnessed in more detail. It's broken into three parts during alcohol after alcohol and learning lessons. Talks about the comebacks also talks about how to make change you know that key difference in your human needs and how I took a Tony Robbins course and that with six human needs of one thing can meet. Well, four those needs, that it may become an addiction for you and the alcohol did that it gave me so much. And I talked about yesterday in a post that says addiction let me Sorry, I'm just gonna look it up real quick here. Addiction is giving up everything for one thing. Recovery is giving us one thing for everything. And alcohol, I thought it give me everything. I thought it made me happy. It gave me this, it gave me that, it gave me comfort. But giving it up. You know gave me life, gave me my family. But I didn't just give up alcohol. I still did the work. I did the counseling, did the medications. I'm not on medication anymore. But I still did all those until I was comfortable enough to get off the medication because it literally helped me to learn all those things. Keep my mind in a healthier spot so I could learn the natural way of doing it as well.

Melissa Ebken  27:28  
Justin, thank you so much for being here today.

Justin Brien  27:32  
I appreciate that. Thank you very much.

🎶 Episode Outro: Thank you so much for tuning into today's episode. If this encouraged you, please consider subscribing to our show and leaving a rating and review so we can encourage even more people just like yourself. We drop a new episode every Wednesday so I hope you continue to drop in and be encouraged to lean into and overcome all the uncomfortable stuff life brings your way. 🎶