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I Saw Her Phone Log and She’s Back in Touch with her Ex

Girl walking by smoking peers

AiR member Millicent recently had a challenging phone call with her 21-year-old daughter who is navigating her recovery 3 hours away from her parents' house. Millicent wonders about the right stance to take and dearly wants to have an honest relationship with her daughter…

"Hello- My 21-year-old daughter experienced a relapse last fall (Nov 2016-Jan 2017), in part because, after a year of sobriety and treatment, she moved into her first apartment and got involved with a young heroin addict. He introduced her to crack cocaine and within a short time she was using again, losing her apartment and her job. She returned to our home, got a job, but gradually began hanging out with old high school friends and began drinking and using cocaine again. She tried to enroll in an out-patient program, but couldn't maintain sobriety. In mid January she initiated another inpatient rehab stay, seeming very positive and determined to stay sober. After a month, she moved into a rooming house near the rehab (three hours away from home) and got a part time job, reconnected with her very mature sponsor and kept a regular AA meeting schedule. She also developed a new romance, against standard recommendations. A few days before her 22 Birthday (last week), my husband had a heart attack (he is now fine). As a result, we did not visit on her bd, but I did drive out to see her the day after, the same day the new guy broke up with her. I can see her phone log and realized that she now is back in touch with the heroin addict and his family, who like her very much. After about a week of knowing this, I confronted her in what I tried to be a positive and supportive, non-judgemental way. I admitted that we saw the phone bill, told her I don't like checking on her and that I want to have an honest relationship, which is why I came clean. I asked her why she had been in touch with the guy and his family. She became angry and defensive. I told her I loved her very much and said goodbye. That was last night. I am not planning to call her again, hoping she will stay sober and call me. Any suggestions/advice/comments are welcome. Thank you."

A sustained recovery takes repeated efforts, it’s a process. While knowing this intellectually, it is hard to live by the reality of this statement. Your young daughter is making repeated attempts at getting and staying sober. She is young and this level of effort on the part of someone so young is rare. It may seem like an endless circle but your daughter is continuing to make an effort. I hope you can take some solace in this fact. 

Being the family of a person struggling with substance abuse is not a fair fight.

Try to remain respectful in tone and in your communication with her but, in our book, keeping your eyes peeled for information about “how she’s doing” is fair. You collect this information to inform yourself however, not to confront her with it.  If and when there comes the need for an intervention talk around the table and the need to encourage more treatment, you can pull out some of the things that have concerned you. Until then, we suggest you keep facts like a phone log to yourself. It’s not the right time and it’s not in pursuit of treatment.

She’s got to make her mistakes.

It’s hard to know where to stand relative to a Loved One in the instability of early recovery. She’s got to make her mistakes. You've got to keep your distance enough to let her, but also gauge “how she’s doing” and her drug use. You’d like to catch a relapse before it happens, but that’s going to be hard in practice.

A phone log + unexplained cancelations of plans with you + a drop in meeting attendance (may equal) = the need for you to start looking for treatment options and preparing a planned talk with her. 

In taking these actions, you would be deciding that relapse is imminent (or is already happening). The rest of the time, keep the conversation light, build your bridge with her, and keep your eyes peeled.

From the way you describe it, it sounds like you managed to keep your cool and spoke to her in a positive and respectful way. That couldn’t have been easy. Working to stay calm during a very loaded conversation shows an effort on your part to care for yourself. 



In your comments, please show respect for each other and do not give advice. Please consider that your choice of words has the power to reduce stigma and change opinions (ie, "person struggling with substance use" vs. "addict", "use" vs. "abuse"...)

  1. Hello again– Thanks for your response, Dominique. My daughter, in fact, did relapse, as you suggested in your answer to my recent post. Last week, she went to her therapist, who realized what was happening and in the midst of their session, brought my daughter back to the rehab. I had to empty out her possessions from the sober house and dropped them off to her there. The rehab took her phone away. I asked that they not allow the heroin-using boyfriend to visit and they complied with my request. She is (of course) upset that she can’t see him, but believes it’s the rehab who is not allowing him to the visit. Part of me believes that she is going to find a way to see him one way or another. Meanwhile, my husband is planning to visit over the weekend. He has a very strong relationship with her and believes she may be more open to talk if he is alone (I agree). He wants to be tough with her for the first time. Her relapse occurred a few days after he suffered a mild heart attack (now he is recovered) and right after her birthday. He has done everything possible to help her and plans to say that he views her relapse as a “slap in his face.” I’m scared that will put a huge wedge between her and us–I know that part of her is humiliated etc about failing to stay sober. At the same time, I feel like she has really crossed a line and is heading for a continued downward spiral. This relapse was in connection with much heavier drugs than in the past (snorted heroin for the first time and smoked crack cocaine.) Any observations, suggestions would be so welcome. Thank you.

    1. I am sorry your daughter relapsed. It sounds like her therapist did an excellent job of moving her quickly to inpatient.

      Being in touch with bad-news people, trying harder drugs….. unfortunately, these can be part of testing the limits of sobriety/relapse. Hopefully the feedback she will get back from these actions will echo what folks in AA are fond of saying:

      Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity.

      We are glad your husband is okay. Here is the stance I might suggest your husband take when he sees her. What follows are some generic guidelines, which he will want to personalize. There are several key areas to touch on:

      … Read Dominique’s full post here:

  2. Dear Millicent, I can completely relate to all you have going on in the midst of what you’ve gone through with your daughter. “When it rains it pours” feels so very true in these times. I remember thinking “Wouldn’t it be enough to just deal with the turmoil and terror of my son going through addiction??” But life seems to hand us many challenges simultaneously. I am so glad your husband has pulled through, how much worse things could have gone! Your daughter is so very young still, it’s hard to see them as adults and out of your care even though they have entered their 20’s. We just recently talked about the madness and worry this disease drives us to as parents and what some of the things are that we have to learn to not get involved with on a recent Coming Up for AiR podcast (I believe it’s the one called Drama). Unfortunately the more we investigate or criticize, the less they seem to hear. Which in my case, sometimes made me try harder to be heard, resulting in even more frustration on all sides! It is a process that doesn’t happen over night. The healthier you become, the better chance she has to choose healthy for herself. Take care of yourself, continue to come to this site, the modules, blogs and new podcast are packed full of information and encouragement for you as you find your way to peace in the midst of whatever might be going on with her. If she has been in treatment and has had a sponsor, the truth of recovery and the peace of sobriety are still resident within her. It can happen again. And remember, you are not in this alone! Annie

    1. Thanks, Annie. Very supportive and realistic advice. BTW, my daughter texted me this afternoon en route to therapy, saying that she appreciated my phone call and how I said what I said. She said she was sorry that she wasn’t ‘receptive’ at the time. I took that as a positive!