Note: This is an excerpt from “Not My Child” by Dr. Paul Hardy (2018)

Another title for this work could be “100 Grateful Recovering Addicts Said.” The book is the result of hundreds of hours of work at the Recovery for Life Treatment Center. We have asked people who are active in their recovery, either by choice or court-ordered, most of the questions you want answered about the addict in your family.

They are honest and, at times, raw responses. We invited them to help us help you!


You see, we have a big problem. At Recovery for Life, we have been working with people with every addiction imaginable for about 20 years. We partner with people to rescue and empower them to seek freedom from everything from drugs and alcohol to bad behaviors like gambling and over eating.

In our treatment program, we work with people from 16 and up who have gotten DUI, drug possession charges, or failed drug test. I have been conducting an informal experiment for several years now. Here’s how it goes. In our group treatment program, we meet in a room of about 12 people with differing levels of substance use.

I ask them to pair off. One person pretends to be 16. The other person is an adult. It is the adult’s job to convince the teenager NOT to do what they have done. That is, not to take the path the adult has chosen. We ask the adults to focus on arguments that will be both convincing and compelling.

Before we get to their conclusions, here are some of the most common ideas they have come up with (not in any priority order):

“You will go to jail, losing your freedom.”
“It’s all about your bad influences. Get new friends.”
“Talk to someone, find a mentor.”
“Think about the consequences.”
“Set meaningful goals for yourself.”
“I’ve had a near death experience, or I saw someone die.”
“It will cause financial hardships on you and your family.”
“You need to learn coping skills.”
“If your parents bribe you not to use.”
“All new drivers should have an interlock on their cars.”
“You need to become educated about drugs and alcohol.”
“You need to go to a ‘Scared Straight’ program.”
“Admit I’m weak-minded…”
“Accept that I’ve been through traumatic experiences.”

Here’s the real problem. The conclusion every time we do this experiment is the same. None of these things, nothing we could ever come up with, and no one would have deterred the 16-year-old from doing what they’ve done (drugs and/or alcohol).

They felt that no person or experience could have kept them off the path they have taken.


Nothing. No one. Nada. Zilch. Zippo. No argument would be compelling or convincing enough to keep a 16-year-old from making the wrong choices. As a parent, grandparent and therapist, I hate that! “Give me something to work with guys,” I explain every time. The resounding “nothing” comes back every time.

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