Men’s Issues: Vulnerability


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At Jaywalker Lodge, we deal exclusively with men seeking lasting recovery. Most of our men have also struggled with finding and maintaining recovery over the long term. That’s what makes us Jaywalkers, just like the parable in the book Alcoholics Anonymous. But in our efforts to help men in recovery and from our experience of being men in recovery, we have noticed that there are a lot of issues, hang-ups, and tricky situations that occur frequently. Whether they are new to recovery or seasoned alumni, old or young, fathers or sons, these concerns and problems affect a lot of men — maybe even most men.

These issues that pop up most frequently deserve a closer look to see if we can offer any helpful insights or solutions. Helping men in recovery is what we do here at Jaywalker Lodge and is the main reason why we delve into Men’s Issues each month. This time, we’re going to talk about vulnerability.

What Is Vulnerability?

According to the dictionary, the definition of vulnerability is “the quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally.” Admittedly, that sounds pretty awful. Being exposed to the possibility of harm? How could that be good in any way? Here is where we need to embrace an understanding of the word as it is used in more common ways. In most relationships and interactions between people, being vulnerable means being open. It’s being in a state of acceptance and understanding of ourselves, knowing who we are and what we’re doing here. This acceptance allows us to be confident, unafraid, and unconcerned about potential harm because we are rooted in the truth about ourselves. Being vulnerable doesn’t mean laying down and exposing all your weaknesses and soft spots or begging people and situations to hurt us. It’s not that at all.

Why on Earth Would I Want To Be Vulnerable?

If you’re still unconvinced, let’s look at this from a wider angle. Not wanting to be vulnerable creates a sense of constant inner fear. We fear the next potential harm from any and all sources. We’re so scared of having a weakness or vulnerability exposed that we recoil in fear from any situation or person that is unfamiliar to us. Not wanting to be vulnerable actually leads to a lot of cowardly actions, even if they’re subconscious. We tell ourselves that we’re only being smart, being cautious, and protecting ourselves. It’s natural. It’s what strong people do.

Actually, it’s not. The truly strong don’t live in fear. They trust their strength and their source of power. They walk through life unconcerned about appearing vulnerable because they are aware of their real strengths. See, when we stay so concerned about appearing vulnerable we block ourselves off from life. Unconsciously or not, we put up walls to keep out anything and everyone. We’re so afraid of any potential threats that we shut off the possibility of having any experiences.

How does this look in daily life? We don’t want people to think we’re not smart, so we stay quiet, even when people want us to participate. We just tell ourselves we’re stoic or the strong, silent type. We don’t want to appear unskilled so when we’re invited to a board game night or an evening of mini-golf, we suddenly remember we’re tired or have work to do. We tell ourselves that we’re just being responsible. Someone engages us in a deep conversation and tells us about themselves, but we don’t open up or reciprocate their earnestness. Soon this person realizes they are alone in the conversation. We end up losing the chance to connect and even more importantly, we lose the opportunity to be honest and be of service. It’s even worse to think this stranger might have really needed our help — maybe we have specific experience that could save their life. Not every new person we encounter will need us desperately and not every stranger will become our best friend. But we’ll never discover the opportunities for growth, connection, and service that life offers us if we stay closed off just to be “safe.”

Find the Truth of Vulnerability in Recovery

I put “safe” in quotations here because, in this context, it’s an illusion. The only way to keep something truly safe is to lock it away forever. Like a princess in a tower, safe from everything but not experiencing anything. To live is to get a few bumps and bruises, a couple of broken hearts, and maybe even some broken bones. That’s what life is. We learn from the injuries, we grow from them, and they help us understand other people. But if the lesson we learn from our vulnerability is to close ourselves, then we’re learning the wrong lesson.

Fear is a life-stealer. The truth of vulnerability is this: I know who I am, I know my higher power is my source of power, I can be open with you, I can help you, I can connect with you, and no harm that comes to me will keep me from being myself and being of service.

Especially for those of us in recovery, we need each other. We don’t find recovery alone, and we don’t remain in recovery alone. If our sponsors and friends weren’t vulnerable with us, we would have never been able to trust them, and we might never have found our recovery. Imagine that, it was their vulnerability that saved our lives. It saved their lives, too. We owe it to them and to ourselves to follow suit. Our primary purpose is to help people, particularly other alcoholics and addicts seeking recovery. We can’t do that from behind closed-off walls. It’s okay to be vulnerable — there’s nothing to be scared of here.

It’s hard to be open with people, especially strangers, but too often we refuse to be vulnerable with even those closest to us. To suffer alone and live life hidden away inside is not only unnecessary but can hurt us more than the pain we’re trying to hide away from. The truth of life, no matter who we are, is that we need people. We need each other. This is especially true for alcoholics and addicts in recovery. Without those who have gone before us, none of us could find recovery. And it works because we keep helping the next man. If we stop doing that, it could all far apart, or at the very least our own recovery could. It is ceasing to be vulnerable that allows us to open ourselves up to all life has to offer. Sure, there will be some tears, but our lives in recovery will be so full of joy, fellowship, and purpose that it will be well worth it. If you are ready to begin your journey in recovery, call Jaywalker Lodge now at (866) 529-9255.

author avatar
Stefan Bate, MA, LAC, CCTP Chief Clinical Officer
Stefan Bate, BA, MA, LAC holds a Master's Degree in Applied Psychology from Regis University and is a Licensed Addiction Counselor in the state of Colorado. Stefan has wide-ranging experience in the field of addiction recovery including: working as a recovery coach, therapist, and program director.

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