It’s so easy to compare your own trauma with somebody else’s trauma but trauma is trauma. You can have no kids and not be married, and put your dog down. And that can be just as traumatic as somebody who went through losing a child. All of our pain is unique to us and it’s painful to us no matter what it is. But at the end of the day, we are all left with two roads – one is the road of anger, despair, and hatred and the other is a road of inspiration and motivation – which one are you going to take?

On this episode, Duane speaks with Jeff Johnston about his story of loss and grief, losing his eldest son and his wife to addiction, and having to deal with his own recovery from alcoholism. 

Jeff was a functional alcoholic who has been drinking since he was in eighth grade. He was also a compulsive gambler for 15 years. But his pivot point in his life came in October 2016 when his 23-year-old son, Seth died from fentanyl poisoning and heroin overdose.

Jeff initially drank his way to cope with the pain. Then in December 2017, as an alcoholic since eighth grade, he just woke up and realized he was tired of being tired. Although we always have two choices, there was only one choice for him because the bitter road was never an option for him. In June 2021, his wife died of alcohol abuse at the age of 46. 

Jeff took the deaths in his family as the beginning of something beautiful. For Jeff, things didn’t happen to him, but things had to happen for him. With this kind of mindset, he is committed to living a life undeterred. He made a choice to turn his pain and suffering into something transformative, not only for him but also for other people. And out of that came his Living Undeterred project, where he tours around the United States, working to change the narrative on mental health, substance abuse, and addiction. 

In this episode, you will hear:

  • Jeff’s story of losing his 23-year-old son
  • The two roads you can go down
  • Do things happen to you or for you?
  • Pain is unavoidable, suffering is a choice
  • Jeff’s coping mechanisms
  • Keeping yourself from being addicted to your vulnerability
  • Reframing your situation
  • Ending the stigma of addiction
  • About Living Undeterred
  • The opposite of addiction
  • The quiver of arrows metaphor in life 

Key Quotes:

[08:43] – “Death presented an opportunity for me to be a better man, not a bitter man.”

[10:20] – “We have one road of anger, despair, and hatred, and we become alcoholics ourselves. Or we have a road of inspiration and motivation, and this can be the single greatest moment in our lives to make our own lives better and those around us.”

[11:40] – “As an alcoholic since eighth grade, I just woke up and said, I’m tired of being tired.”

[13:21] – “Do things happen to you or do things happen for you?”

[15:20] – “Pain is unavoidable, but suffering is a choice.”

[23:00] – “A death of somebody doesn’t have to be the end of you. It can be the beginning of something beautiful.”

[27:59] – “The opposite of addiction is connection.”

[31:06] – “We all have a “why” and you just have to find it. And then when you find it, your way gets revealed right in front of you.”

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Supporting Resources:

Living Undeterred


This One’s For You: An Inspirational Journey Through Addiction, Death, and Meaning

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