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Must I Accept this Backslide?

Woman smoking weed in glass pipe

Fireweed3 is "getting into the weeds" … her daughter isn't taking recovery work seriously and between the constant pot use, and spending time with a boyfriend who is using again, Mom fears things may quickly spiral out of control. She isn't ready to accept this backslide.

I am getting "into the weeds" as Dominique says. I need help getting back on the path.

My 19 yo daughter completed residential treatment in March. Promptly relapsed. She reached out to the center to get help again and was readmitted. After a couple weeks, she and a male client (25) were discharged due to violating the fraternization policy. They have been dating since. Needless to say, the relationship is complicating her recovery, especially now that he has relapsed (late June).

My daughter was strong in recovery when he relapsed. Her plan was to "let him relapse, go to treatment, and then be here for him when he gets back." She viewed sobriety as a way to maintain power in the relationship. It was her narrative — a way to stay on track. But he didn't go back to treatment. He is trying to function while using, still attending summer school classes at the university.

To manage the stress, she's smoking weed now. Daily. Large quantities at times. On that slippery slope again.

Marijuana was the drug that primed her brain for addiction to meth/heroin. Historically, she uses it like oxygen. She often smokes throughout the day. She never just takes a "couple of hits." I'm seeing old behaviors return — things that trigger my fear, almost like PTSD.

I observe a lack of engagement with recovery activities. Read Fireweed3's full comment here.

Your daughter was homeless, living on the streets with a man who was all around bad news. You were able to get her into treatment. She went, relapsed, called the treatment center and was readmitted. She then got kicked out for fraternizing with another client, a young man she is still seeing, who has since relapsed.

Her room, a converted garage on your property, is where she stays. She is smoking a lot of pot, and showing little effort with her recovery work (both treatment and self-help), as well as classes and a job she quit after one month.

She is hanging on by her fingernails. Poor thing. She must be very uncomfortable. She knows what she needs to do, and rather than push herself out the door to do them, she smokes pot at it, which is surely not helping the anxiety very much. She probably finds some comfort in the relationship with the young man. He, too, is hanging on by his fingernails.

What if we flip your solution on its head for now: what if we see the boyfriend as the reward?

What if she can stay in the garage and see her boyfriend when she wants, if she picks up the loose threads of her recovery work.

He would be welcome on those days she manages to get out of the house and attends some recovery activity. The boyfriend cannot bring drugs to the house.  AND—this is a big AND—

She needs to get on Suboxone to protect herself from an opioid relapse.

I worry that if you make the boyfriend’s visit what you focus on, it will have the opposite effect and will distract you and her from what is more important. Guys come and go at that age, especially ones found through a rehab romance.

This is just an idea. What do you think of it? Can you see her picking up her energy for recovery if the boyfriend is welcomed? Will she consider Suboxone?

BTW, people who smoke pot all day long are chasing a high that doesn’t materialize. A lay explanation is that the cannabis receptors are full, and you simply don’t feel the high when adding on and on to it. It’s frustrating, unfulfilling, and can lead to seeking out a different drug for a surefire high. She hasn’t done that and may not. She definitely got a sense of recovery, from what you write. She can get there again.  



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. I had coffee with a friend this morning — a mother of young adult son who uses fentanyl and heroin. Goes without saying, she is afraid for his life.

    Some of her friends are encouraging her to report him for outstanding warrants. The thinking goes, if he’s in jail, he can’t use, and he can’t die. But the downside is, by reporting him to authorities, she would risk breaking trust and damaging her relationship with him.
    Moreover, he would have to detox in jail, and he would be at significantly higher risk of overdosing after being released. (His warrants are in a county north of here that does not provide naloxone upon release.)

    When is it appropriate/wise to nudge someone to jail in an effort to save their lives? Can you point me to some information/resources that may help my friend weigh pros/cons?

    As an aside, my daughter is still in treatment out of state, and is talking now about sober living. This is progress because last time she discharged from treatment, she wanted nothing to do with sober living. Still, I worry about the underlying eating disorder. I’ve noticed that she’s losing weight. She tells me she “doesn’t want to use again” so she’s “not going to gain any weight.” The clinic isn’t able to provide evidence-based treatment for the ED. It’s a huge concern. I’ll post separately on this soon.

    Thank you as always.

    1. Your friend is thinking of turning in her son for outstanding warrants as a way to put him safely in jail. She is understandably very concerned about the opioids he is using.

      Jail is part of the parade that unrolls in front of many of us. We have seen jail help by scaring a Loved One, or through programs located inside the jail. And, yes, the person going to jail will become free of drugs but the detoxification process can be long and very uncomfortable. This sort of detox is a violation of human rights in my estimation.

      Read Dominique Simon-Levine’s full response to Fireweed3 here:

  2. Dominique,

    Just as I suspected, my daughter’s cannabis use led to relapse. After allowing a couple of “friends” from treatment crash in her garage space (not allowed by the way), she tested positive for oxy, benzo, THC and meth. After vomiting for 2 days, and not tolerating food for several days, she cut ties with those “friends” and focused on her recovery and relationship with boyfriend.

    At that point, I implemented your suggestion (to use boyfriend as the reward). It worked! It motivated her to attend NA meetings more regularly and to follow through with a few more tasks/responsibilities.

    However, her boyfriend continues to use, and his instability is causing her emotional pain. He promised to take her out this past week, only to show up late and high on Xanax. He wasn’t present for the outing, and he said harmful things to her (weakened her already fragile sense of self). Long story short, their relationship is unraveling and she’s struggling not to use. Two nights ago, she came into my room at midnight, searching the closet for Qtips. When I asked why, she said, “I just took a shower, I need to clean my ears.” A year ago, I may have been naive, but not now. She took her Qtips back to the ADU. I texted her and told her I was feeling scared that she may use (heroin) to numb the emotional pain (as she has done recently). Then I tried to hand my fear/worry to the universe.

    Anyway, now that boyfriend may not be in the picture, I need to find other ways to incentivize/reward follow through with recovery activities. Back to the drawing board…

    A couple questions:
    When you suggest Suboxone, I assume that’s because of her intermittent IV heroin use (while “in recovery”) and the risk of overdose. Would she even meet criteria for MAT? I will send an email to her psychiatrist, but I’m not sure she qualifies, given her history of poly-substance use including meth/heroin (goofballs). Please share your thoughts.

    Also, curious about your comment in another post, when you stated that stimulant misuse (Adderall) is more psychological than physical. Does that premise apply when someone snorts it as well? Or is nasal inhalation of prescription stimulants a sign of addiction?

    Thank you, as always.

    1. Your daughter is struggling in early sobriety. She continues to live in your garage apartment and the boyfriend is no longer really in the picture. You are asking about Suboxone for your daughter and are concerned she would not meet the criteria. I am not sure what criteria clinics are using to prescribe Suboxone. I know that even intermittent use is quite dangerous since street drugs are being mixed with fentanyl more than ever. So yes, goofballs would qualify.

      The concern clinics have at the forefront are the people coming in whose only intention is to get on the drug in order to sell it on the street. Suboxone is being used prophylactically: it is being prescribed to people who are not currently addicted and using, but who are in danger of using again. This is the case with the jail I work in. We are regularly taking people who have been in jail for months, ostensibly drug free, and putting them on Suboxone just before they get out, as a preventative.

      Read Dominique Simon-Levine’s full response to Fireweed3 here:

  3. You nailed it with the statement – “But I see the path she’s on, and it’s hard to witness. I guess that’s what we do…we watch our loved ones cope or suffer with this chronic brain disease. It’s hard for me to accept at times.”

    Fireweed3, you aren’t alone. I totally relate to this and have a hard time with the feelings that come up for me – sadness, frustration, angry, disbelief, etc.

  4. I have been trying to apply the CRAFT principles I’ve learned here and through the book; Beyond Addiction, with my 25 year old son. Previously we were in “tough love” mode (my husband still is: too hurt and angry from years of chaos, lies, stealing etc.) but it was not easing my own peace of mind so I’ve tried to spend time working out, or having lunch with my son when he seems to be doing the right things. Occasionally, he will come to church with us and go to lunch with us and friends (who are always warm, welcoming and encouraging to our son).

    Last week, the gym where he trains (he is a strength and conditioning coach) clients, hired him as their operations manager and coach. He was very flattered as he greatly respects the gym manager, a former Army Ranger, who asked my son to work for him because of his work ethic and talent. It’s the first employee he has hired and he’s been in business for 5 years.

    I thought it was great news. But two days later, my son was clearly using ( usually high quantities of adderral), and I had to tell him that I loved him but could not be around him when he was using. He was upset and called and texted me later to apologize (never did that previously).

    My son is terrible with money. He gets it, he spends it: no discipline, despite being raised and tried to teach him restraint, saving and prioritizing. In addiction, like many, he’s gone through thousands—both his AND ours.

    My question, and I apologize for the lengthy backstory: is it common for addicts to sabotage themselves when they start to see success in the real world? A friend’s daughter (heroin) has relapsed after quickly rising in a job and being promoted, then: boom! She was lost.

    Thank you. And how should I encourage my loved one to stay the course?!!!

    1. I am hopeful for your family. Your son is responding to your CRAFTy strategy and is behaving in ways that get him noticed and got him a job offer. Yes, substance users use in both good times and bad. It makes little sense to those around them.

      He gets a great job offer and then pops some aderrall. So he isn’t out of the woods yet. He has very hopeful prospects; he also has your support and encouragement. But external circumstances don’t always immediately bring about internal changes. He still has work to do.

      Read Dominique Simon-Levine’s full response to mandybrownaz here:

  5. My son recently completed 2.5 weeks in jail and therefore abstained from alcohol (his addiction). He told me on the night of his release that he had a new outlook on life for the better, and he realized that the other inmates were really just people, like him. He said he and I were lucky to be as well off as we are. I was ecstatic! He promised to talk to me more at length about it, but when he found his truck had been impounded while he was in jail, he went into a tailspin. He called me after being up all night and day trying to get it back, then I think he began drinking again. I got him a motel room that he could walk to and he promised to call me when he got there but he didn’t. I live 1000 miles away from him. What can I do to help him recover his life. He needs a job badly, but of course that’s much more difficult without a vehicle. I have scouted out resources in his area to help but I can’t make him go. What do I do now?

    1. Your son has a long history of problematic drinking. You live far away from each other. He’s just spent a brief time in jail and is out, upset about his truck being impounded. You got him a motel room. Now he’s sitting in that hotel room drinking.

      Families far away are indeed more limited in implementing CRAFT. We’ve written about this before in other posts.

      He calls you when he wants, not when you ask him to. You’ve found some treatment and self-help resources in his area, but he doesn’t go.

      People say a lot when they’re in jail. It is a pause in the action, with a lot of time for reflection. This is not such a bad thing. We see this all the time in our jail work in western Massachusetts. The moment they get out, the will to change their life quickly evaporates as the barriers come slamming down in front of them. Your son, who has a quick and violent temper, lasted just a couple days.

      Read Dominique Simon-Levine’s full response to katie1chad here: