Stick to Your Guns!

relapse recovery boundaries Allies in Recovery addiction family intervention

Illustration © Eleanor Davis


A mom on our Allies in Recovery member site wrote in about her daughter’s recent relapse. Her daughter has been staying away from home, reconnecting with an ex-boyfriend who was dealing drugs, on a binge drinking heavily and doing coke. She lost her job and is couch surfing. Mom writes: “Should I stick to my guns and not let her stay here if she’s seeing him? It is peaceful here without all her drama. But I worry constantly, I thought she had turned a corner….”


The following is Dominique Simon-Levine’s response to this member’s comment:

Drug and alcohol abuse do create these fast-moving sagas. As a parent it is so hard to stand by and watch your daughter relapse and make very bad decisions. I’m sure other members on this site have been where you are.

It can be hard to accept that your daughter is an adult and free to make these bad decisions. These young adults can be so immature that we often find it hard to accept them as adults.

In the two weeks since you last wrote in, your daughter lost her job and is now couch hopping. Her ex-boyfriend, a drug user, is back in her life. Your home life is quieter and you are sleeping better.

Continue to “Do Nothing”?

The question is do you “stick to your guns,” and continue to do nothing or do you let her come home.

We’ve written elsewhere on this blog about letting a loved one come home. In our opinion, the decision to let a loved one come home should be based on their motivation to try to stay clean and sober and to accept help. Allowing your daughter home while she is still using invites chaos into your home, and may actually extend her “run” by providing her with free and comfortable room and board.

You’ve created a boundary, which I actually see as working. Life is calmer, you’re sleeping. Your daughter’s options are shrinking. She’s lost her job. Since the relapse her use is out of control and this will be picked up by her probation officer. When that happens, you’ll be able to step in and argue for treatment.

Beware of Pointing the Finger

You mention the possibility of allowing your daughter to come home if she is willing to ditch the boyfriend. It is extremely hard to watch our loved ones choose to be with people who are a bad influence, especially when they are romantically linked to that bad influence.

It can be appealing to focus on the boyfriend: get rid of the boyfriend and your daughter will clean up her act.  Unfortunately, it rarely works in this order. More likely the boyfriend will stay in the picture until your daughter takes the step to stop using. As she works to recover, she will assess her network and make choices to be with people who are healthy for her to be around.

There is a tendency on the part of parents to blame the intimate partner for their child’s behavior, which too often is not useful. Remember, there is only one key question: are they or are they not using? The answer determines how you respond and the decisions you make. Focusing on the boyfriend confuses the situation. Your daughter will sense you are butting into her affairs and this can cause a rift between you. Your messaging to your daughter can become muddled when you focus on the boyfriend. Ideally: you are available to help with the substance abuse. Period.

Inaction can be Action

I’ve said before that inaction, in certain cases, can be action. You are holding an important line with your stance. I see this as the opposite of doing nothing. You have treatment figured out for her, you continue to maintain communication and to offer your help with treatment, you’re getting some sleep. There is movement. Look into the pros and cons of section 35. We’ve written several articles about section 35. It is not a panacea but it’s something you can do.

You simply cannot chase her around trying to protect her from herself. Allowing her home wouldn’t make things any safer for her if she’s continuing to use. You are doing what you can.



By | 2017-11-22T20:58:28+00:00 May 12th, 2016|CRAFT, Family Addiction Intervention, Rewards|

About the Author:

Dominique Simon-Levine
Dominique launched Allies in Recovery in 2003. Her work has been featured on HBO and NPR. She is a facilitator and a trained speaker on issues of addiction and the family. She has worked extensively developing and evaluating federally-funded substance abuse programs for organizations and clinics throughout Massachusetts and New York. With an interest in recovery and substance abuse that spans 20 years, she sees a huge need to help families develop the skills that will help a loved one recover fully in a supportive, whole, and lasting way in their families and in their communities. Her mission is to have Allies in Recovery fill that gap.

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