I’m worried he may never recover

Joe Herzanek, Author, Addiction Counselor and Interventionist

Joe Herzanek, Author, Addiction Counselor and Interventionist


Hi Joe:
I purchased your book in Jan. I read it from front to back several times for more than one reason. It was so full of information I wanted to make sure I absorbed it all.

My 20 year old son has just entered rehab for the 3rd time. We have tried to send him to the best places and so far have spent $30,000.00. He is addicted to Oxycontin. I had so much hope the first few times and now I am starting to realize what a stronghold this drug has on him. I am worried that he may never recover.

I am also feeling so much guilt and keep looking back to try and figure out what I could have done differently when he was growing up. I’m constantly convincing myself that if we had only been more firm with him, had more rules, if I hadn’t been a working mom and put him in so many daycares, things would have ended up differently (he wouldn’t be addicted to Oxycontin). I know that I’m just trying to find a way to ease my pain and guilt. Do you have any suggestions?

–Guilt-ridden in Minneapolis

Sorry to hear about your son who is addicted to Oxycontin. I’ll get right to the point. He doesn’t need another rehab to go to; he can completely stop using pain meds if he wants to–and you didn’t cause his addiction.

His age is a big issue. Most treatment places won’t even take him because he’s an adolescent. They have learned over the years that the success rate for treating adolescents is abysmal. He needs to feel the pain and consequences of his use.

I would use the tough love approach if it were me. Foster Kline’s book, “Parenting Teens with Love and Logic” is a book you should also read.

If the “want to” is there, your son will be able to quit. Your job is to make it crystal clear to him that you love him and will help him on the journey to recovery. And you will not do anything that keeps him from growing up and becoming a mature adult.

This is a process that will take some time but needs to begin now! The longer you wait the harder it will become. He will fight this in the beginning, that’s just the way it is. “Do you love your son enough to let him be mad at you?” I hope you do because that too is part of the process.

Seek some wise counsel for yourself as well.

Best regards,

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3 thoughts on “I’m worried he may never recover

  1. Tammy

    Hello Joe,
    I completely agree with your advice. My husband has been an addict since adolescence with many different drugs. Between his parents enabling, and my enabling he would never get clean. He is now 48 years old. However, finally about 2 years ago, I said enough was enough, and I used the tough love. He could not live in my house, he could not see his children, and no longer will I enable him to continue in his behaviors. He went through a long period of living on the street, no home, car, and finally no where to turn. He went to another rehab (5th trip to a rehab), and has been clean now for a year and a half. Tough love works. I still have to give him the tough love treatment. I have told him you are a want and not a need, and I will never live like I did for many years with him. He knows it to! Tough love is hard, and you can barely watch them destroy themselves. But hey you have to be at the bottom before you can climb to the top.

  2. jherzanek Post author

    Dear Sue,

    Thanks for the question.

    This gives me an opportunity to talk more about this stage of life called adolescence (some refer to it as temporary insanity).

    Do I consider a 20 year old to be an adolescent? Yes I do. There is nothing magical about being 19 one day and 20 the next. One of the signs of moving from adolescence to young adulthood is a person’s ability to function at a higher level–to be independent (i.e. more responsible as demonstrated by handling life’s ups and downs–similar to the way a mature adult would). This means being able to function independently, work hard in college or on the job, pay their own bills, avoid many common problems like not getting lots of traffic tickets, avoiding criminal behavior of any kind and so on.

    I don’t expect perfection from a 20-year-old, but to convince me that they have left adolescence, I need to see many of these things at least beginning to be part of their life. In addition to that there has been a ton of research done that gives light to the fact that most 20-something “men and women” do not demonstrate this level of maturity. It is now believed that adolescence often begins at puberty and extends into the mid 20’s. Obviously there are exceptions—like my daughter Jessica (-:

    Here is a link that might help.

    Although being nurtured in a loving family environment does help avoid (or at least delay) substance use and abuse, it’s not a guarantee by any means! The later in life that experimentation begins–the less likely it is that a person will become alcohol or drug dependent. One reason for that is that early use can start a young person to begin to see and rely on their use as a “coping skill.”

    Waiting till later in life forces a person to learn other coping skills for life’s struggles “if I can make it to the age of 25 without beginning to use drugs I will have had many disappointments and frustrating experiences that will have helped me gain the confidence that I will need to handle life on life’s terms” (so to speak).

    Concerning part two of your question (“do you find the consequences of drug addiction to hit in one’s mid to late 20s (as opposed to later in life) if family have a strong history of NOT enabling?”)

    I would, in a very general way, say “yes“. It often takes several years for real problematic consequences to present themselves. So generally speaking I agree–but there are sooooo many variables.

    Enabling at any stage is always counter-productive.

  3. sue g


    Thanks for your book – i too have read it cover to cover.
    In your response to the mom who is afraid her son will not recover after having been in 3 treatment programs, you referred to her son as an adolescent yet in her post she says he is 20 years old.

    do you consider a 20-year-old to be an adolescent? As an aside, in your experience do you find the consequences of drug addiction to hit in one’s mid to late 20s if family have a strong history of NOT enabling? I ask because it seems to me that is the case from all my readings…..

    Thanks in advance

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