Joseph’s Story

A VitalSmarts founder must confront his son’s drug addiction.

Joseph Grenny has spent the better part of his life studying human behavior and principles of effective living. But nothing could’ve prepared him for the phone call he received one sunny afternoon while at a soccer game. On the line was his daughter, calling to explain how she’d discovered her brother, Seth, Joseph’s son, using heroin.

“I couldn’t even understand the sentence for a long time,” Joseph says. “It was just so out of the realm of reality for me. If my daughter would’ve said Seth was on the moon, I would’ve thought it more credible.”

After describing the scene—the foil, the spoon, the dilated pupils—Joseph’s daughter said, “Dad, please come home.”

“It was the longest, most miserable, anxiety-ridden drive of my entire life,” Joseph says of the ride home.

That ride continued for several years. Seth did not immediately abandon his drug use. In fact, his addiction escalated. He consequently found himself in jail, on the streets, even in the hospital following a near-fatal overdose.

Here was Joseph, an expert on leadership and effective living, in the midst of an organizational storm—the family organization. His son’s life literally hung in the balance, and Joseph desperately wanted to save him. But he couldn’t save him. He could only inspire his son to want to save himself, and then support him in that effort.

In the video at top, Joseph recounts the hopelessness he felt in the face of this all-too-common family ordeal, and how coming to a new appreciation for the principles he’s been teaching for 30 years helped him help his child. ◼

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The opinions expressed in this article are the opinions of the storyteller and do not reflect the view of VitalSmarts.

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