#171 – Episode 171- Childhood Trauma and Addiction with Justin Long


Trigger Warning: Child Abuse

In his book, The Righteous Rage of a Ten-Year-Old Boy, Justin explores his traumatic childhood and adult addiction. Justin grew up with a stepfather who constantly criticized and punished him and a mother who escaped into religion. He never felt good enough and spent a lot of his life trying to fix that with his behavior and alcohol. Now committed to self-awareness, he is 14 years sober and sharing his story to help others.

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about this episode

For today’s episode, I’m joined by author, business owner, and podcast host, Justin Long.

In his latest book, The Righteous Rage of a Ten-Year-Old Boy, Justin examines the years of physical and psychological abuse that he experienced as a child and he explores the links between our childhood experiences and addiction. This interview was very moving and also very hopeful and I’m sure you’ll get a lot from listening.

About Justin B. Long

Justin B. Long is an author, business owner, and the host of the podcast, Straight from the Horse Doctor’s Mouth which he produces with his wife, Dr. Erica Lacher. His bestselling book series, The Adventures of the Horse Doctor’s Husband, has been enjoyed by readers all over the world. While his wife’s mission is to make the world a better place for horses, Justin’s mission is to make the world a better place for people by combatting toxically masculine ideas surrounding men and their emotions.

His current book, The Righteous Rage of a Ten-Year-Old Boy, is a raw, intense examination of his childhood, the traumatic events that formed his negative self-image, and his journey through therapy to overcome it all.

“It becomes an unconscious attitude that you assume everything is going to go wrong.”

Justin’s childhood, like so many of ours, ticked a lot of the boxes. He had two parents, food, shelter, clothing and on paper, it seemed like all was well.

In reality, Justin’s parents were both dealing with their own childhood traumas in the way lots of untreated people do: by repeating it with their children.

That manifested into a rageaholic dad who tried to control everything around him and a mom who turned to extreme religion to seek relief from her low self-esteem and lack of self-worth.

The lasting impact was the feeling of being totally alone, with no one in his corner.

After years of constant abuse and lack of support, it seemed obvious that things would always go wrong, it was just a matter of when.

Sadly, that attitude becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy – when you believe that things are always going to go wrong, they generally do go wrong.

“Our past shows up in our present.”

Growing up, Justin felt like life centered around work and punishment. He had a long list of chores he was required to complete each day and if anything wasn’t done to his father’s satisfaction (which was usually the case), he would be punished.

This cycle left one lesson ingrained into Justin: “No matter how hard I try, no matter how much effort I put in, it’s going to come up short. I’m not good enough and I’m always going to be rejected.”

Like so many of us, those insecurities that developed in childhood dominated Justin’s life well into his adult years. Our traumatic experiences become integrated into our perception of who we are and our value. In those moments, it doesn’t matter that it’s actually based on inaccuracies.

If you want to be sober, you have to look at how your past has shaped you. As much as we want to bury it, our painful past shows up in every part of our day unless we actively work through it.

“My escapism began super early.”

When you’re in such a difficult place, you’ll do whatever it takes to escape.

As a young child, Justin’s escape from reality was through books. By the time he was a junior in high school, he joined the National Guard, with the plan to enlist in the Army as soon as he graduated.

In the Army, Justin found all the things he was looking for: friendship, acceptance, and support. Unfortunately, it was also the perfect drinking environment.

At first, it was great, but despite his needs being met on the outside, on the inside, nothing changed. The older he got and the longer he continued, the less he got back from that.

Over time, it all went downhill as Justin became a bad employee, a bad teammate, and a bad husband. His insecurities followed him and grew until they took over every aspect of his life.

So many of us get stuck on this hamster wheel thinking that if we can just control our outsides then everything will be okay. Meanwhile, the real work is on the inside.

“Everything changed for me in that meeting.”

Justin didn’t have a dramatic rock-bottom moment. Instead, he describes the time before he got sober as a gradual decline into a pit of despair.

Hearing a colleague he respected talk about going to a meeting flipped a switch for Justin, opening up a possibility he had never considered. After researching AA, he decided to go to a meeting and that’s where everything changed for him.

Hearing other people talk about their struggle with not liking themselves, and the things they did to make themselves feel better, Justin saw for the first time that there were other people like him.

“It never occurred to me that everybody else was wearing a mask and pretending to be one way when they were really a different way.” – Justin Long

He finally felt understood and that made all the difference.

“Not drinking allowed me to start becoming self-aware and learn who I am.”

The process of self-discovery is for the long term.

Through his sponsor, Justin started to unpack his beliefs and experiences and what he found was that there were so many external factors that shaped those beliefs and contrary to what he thought for so long, there was nothing wrong with him.

As hard as it was to realize how far he had gotten from his true identity, it was incredibly freeing to finally embrace his truth and experiment with getting to know himself and what he liked.

“Now I realize that it doesn’t matter what other people think about what I’m doing, it matters what I think about what I’m doing. The freedom in that has been just incredible.” – Justin Long

resources mentioned

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