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Setting Up for Her to Come Back Home

Budding flower emerging through dead leaves

Fireweed3’s Loved One is involved with a man who may be sabotaging her efforts to get clean. But she’s expressed some readiness to get help and mom wants to support her in any way that she can. Mom’s working on ignoring the bad news boyfriend while setting up guidelines for her return home. She needs guidance on the details…

© Valentin Salja via Unsplash

My 20 yo daughter is in active addiction again (heroin, oxys, stimulants). She relapsed after completing treatment out-of-state this fall/winter. I was especially hopeful this time as she had entered sober living, away from home and all its triggers.

When she returned in January, she tried to reconnect with SUD IOP and meetings. But she also started spending time with a young man who has been using IV heroin for several years. She thought she could help him; but instead of him leaning into her world, she fell hard into his. Soon there were familiar behavior patterns, positive UAs, and paraphernalia in her living space (boxes of syringes, tie offs, alcohol wipes, metal bowls, etc.). I tossed everything, cleaned the space, and carefully/lovingly packed her belongings in boxes. Then I texted her to express sadness that the ADU on my property wasn't yet supporting recovery, despite several attempts.

She decided to "get back on track." Upon discharging from detox — inducted on Suboxone — we met over coffee and pastries and discussed a post-detox plan. I had 3 requests: Read Fireweed3’s full comment here.


Your daughter is again cycling through a relapse after leaving treatment out of state. This time, she has started seeing and using with a young man she met who uses opioids heavily.

You are wondering what to do about the relapse, the boyfriend, her request to come back home, and the details of possible conditions. You know she needs significant support around the eating disorder, and see this as being perhaps on top of her list of problems to resolve.

It’s not so much CRAFT that suggests you ignore the boyfriend. This suggestion is based on our experience working with parents whose kids are involved with people with addiction. If you focus on the need for the boyfriend to go, and say so, your daughter will push back, argue about her rights, and so on. The focus comes off the addiction and the eating disorder and on her “right” to have a boyfriend. She hangs on more tightly.

What a long hard road. Each time your daughter relapses you set up anew. You research what can be offered as help. You are ready to move mountains to help your daughter despite limited resources. Your tenacity has helped her get the support she needs in the past. She’s back in the cycle of use again. But your efforts are not in vain. And you have learned a great deal with each and every step of the way.

Your daughter is talking to you. She is motivated to do certain things. This is encouraging. But the boyfriend is clearly bad news right now. These drug saturated relationships can so entangle the situation. Perhaps she is ready to stop using and he decides to come home that evening with drugs. It can be extremely hard to embark again on non-use with a using partner in this type of scenario. Motivations are always shifting with drug addiction and are rarely in sync with two people involved.

You are sounding like an old hand at this. The conditions you placed on your daughter for coming home after this latest relapse are excellent. I would definitely add MAT: even consider methadone if your daughter is unable to properly dose herself with Suboxone. She is in real danger of overdosing. Also, it’s worth noting that taking opioids may be linked to your daughter’s eating disorder. You eat less on these drugs, and at times you vomit, and so you lose weight. Many drugs also curb the appetite.

You have been through several relapses with your daughter. Each time you are there to help her back up on her feet. This is so CRAFTy of you. So, yes, keep this up. I’d suggest offering her the same conditions for coming home plus MAT. The eating disorder is what she is most motivated to work on. The DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) will help with this and the drug use.

The job forces her to show up (as best she can) and puts non-using people in her life. It also, unfortunately, puts money in her pocket. You are in a unique position to allow her back in your home with a chance to revisit and refocus on the plan you made together over coffee. Can you frame this so that the help with eating disorder/ DBT is her job – essentially saying that it's more important to have accountability for this work before trying to hold a job down at this point. Gaining traction with this work may help lay more solid ground for recovery efforts going forward.

She does sounds ambivalent about the job. If she’s committing to engaging in other supports, the job would no longer be the only source of social connection. Perhaps you feel it out and go with your instincts. There are definitely pros and cons to this one. Rather than put your foot down about the job vs. DBT/ eating program, try to keep the conversation open about that and aim to candidly share thoughts with one other about the relative benefits of keeping it right now.

It is maddening to see how this relationship has dragged her back into a world she worked so hard to get out of. What a incredible pull these drugs have. But she has done significant work in the past year, and it has been an education for her in what is out there – as well as what is within her. She has made moves to help herself before. She needs a lot more practice with this, but with the right support networks, that can become her focus.

We encourage you to set up again. Provide your daughter with the services she can access and the invitation to stay in your home. Perhaps you limit her space in your home to the cot and foot locker. If she sees the boyfriend, grit your teeth. If she sneaks out, oversleeps, misses treatment, etc. so be it. You can’t police this. In an earlier comment you mentioned that putting her in a common space was not possible because of her younger brother. Space is tight. Is it possible to get your two children in a family meeting with a therapist? Is it possible to get your son some additional support and provide your daughter minimal private space?

If she starts circumventing your deal once she’d back at home, it will become apparent that your home may not be right for her while also being too stressful for you. You are wonderful to consider having her home again, despite the difficulties. The virus causes a huge layer of additional thinking for everyone. It also makes it hard to be as flexible with your home as a reward.

The best way to get rid of the boyfriend is not to address it, but to continue to engage your daughter in treatments. It is treatment and self-reflection that begins the transition to wanting a healthier life. It is the desire for a healthier life that will help your daughter make better choices.

Those choices can be on a micro and macro level. But whatever the changes are that she can handle at first, any healthy choice tends to build momentum towards making better choices in general. Whether she chooses to end things with the boyfriend sooner or later, you want to do anything you can do to support healthier choices right now. They may not be the ones you’d choose first, but you want to position yourself in such a way that you can support even the slightest desire for a healthier life.

Understanding the patterns and nature of her partnerships is something she will inevitably have to reckon with along her path to recovery. You have done a heroic job – practicing CRAFT in general, and in choosing not to interfere with her relationships. This has helped build trust between you and you have been able to reach her on many occasions because of this trust. As as you continue to take a CRAFT approach, and strengthen that bridge you have so painstakingly built, she will have space to find more moments of valuing herself, of desiring something better for life.

As you have seen, there are limits of what can be done for your daughter. But the openness of the communication you have cultivated with her is a blessing. She is sharing her life with you, telling you what is going on with her. Through these openings, you set up what you can to help her. You also let her experience the consequences of the choices she is making. This is the hardest part, but you have showed so much strength and compassion with this in the past. To continue along this path, you know self-care must be at the forefront.

To hold all that you are holding, it is essential to show yourself the greatest level of love, kindness and understanding that you can muster. You deserve your own well-being and any moment of peace and relaxation you are able to find. Make sure you are tending to yourself and your needs however you can.

Your commitment to working in partnership with her provides her a model of what a true partnership is built from. It’s a blessing that she knows you are there for her.

We are grateful that you’ve shared all of this – I know it is so painful. Thank you, for being on the site, for communicating about all of the details. You are helping others as you reach out for help yourself. We thank you and send you all our love and support. We are always here for you.



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. My 21 year old daughter wrote me a letter when she was in treatment recently. In it she says:

    “I just really want to tell you how grateful I am for your continuing love and
    support throughout the last 6 months. [She had relapsed 6 months prior.] It
    literally means everything to me…You’re so careful not to enable me, but to
    just LOVE me no matter what, or no matter where I am…I could always feel
    your strength within me. That’s what gave me the courage to say enough is
    enough, honestly…”

    To me, this illustrates how she experiences my CRAFT approach: compassion for her struggle, positive behavior reinforcement (“enable” behaviors I want to see, not those that support drug use), help to access treatment, and my own self-care.

    All those nights, when I refused to Apple Pay money for food when she was “starving” were okay afterall — our relationship stayed in tact, and she knew, despite my boundaries, that I still loved her. I recall an afternoon this spring when I invited her over for something to eat (instead of sending her money) and she looked very ill. She was experiencing withdrawal from opioids: pale, sweating, chills, restless legs, runny nose, irritability. She begged me for money between sobs, but I refused, telling her I could not risk paying for drugs that resulted in an overdose. (She uses pressed Oxys with fentanyl.) It was gutwrenching. I wanted to take her pain away. Instead, I watched from inside the house as she drove away in a car I’d never seen before. I thought my relationship with her would never be the same. I worried that I would not hear from her for a while. But she texted me within 24 hours, and came over another time that week for dinner with me and her brother, social-distanced on the porch.

    I’ve been on this CRAFT journey for 2 years. I still make mistakes. But by loving her, and understanding her behavior, and checking in with myself about what I’m willing/not willing to do, and finding ways to stay connected with her, and taking care of myself whenever possible, I have managed to survive.

    Three weeks ago, she left treatment and returned to her boyfriend, a longtime heroin/fentanyl user. I won’t lie — it knocked me down hard. Harder than any previous relapse. When I feel despair, I try to remember that she and I are still connected, despite this illness that wants to pull us apart. Moreover, she has accessed treatment several times since she got very sick in fall 2018. For that I’m grateful.

    I hope this provides some comfort to those of you who wonder if CRAFT is helping or not. In my experience, while not always visible, it IS helping.

    1. Dear Fireweed3,

      The entire community here at Allies in Recovery feels for you, with this recent crash of a wave that you were both surfing gloriously for months. We commiserate with you as you grieve the end of this particularly promising chapter of your daughter’s recovery adventure. And we stand by you in solidarity and optimism, looking towards the horizon and visualizing her climbing back out of the trap she has fallen back into for now.

      We also want to thank you so very sincerely for your generosity. Despite the heartache you are feeling, despite how hard this relapse knocked you down, you took the time to share with us all some invaluable and encouraging proof that the CRAFT approach is working.

      Read my full response to Fireweed3 here:

  2. Thank you as always Dominique.

    I’m going to respond to a few of your statements, and then give you (and others) a quick update.

    Your insight: “If you focus on the need for the boyfriend to go, and say so, your daughter will push back, argue about her rights, and so on…She hangs on more tightly.”

    I agree. I learned that lesson the hard way. (Review my posts from fall 2018!) Today I try to remain neutral about the boyfriend/relationship. When she talks about him, I avoid giving it any additional energy. When she expresses frustration about him and/or their lifestyle, I try to listen with reflective statements. When this leads to change talk, I lean in with a bit more warmth/affection and “reward” words and actions that align with health, safety and a desire to be well.

    With this said, I am struggling to accept the differences between my approach and boyfriend’s mother’s approach. Note: I am dear friends with boyfriend’s mother. I love her AND I worry that my CRAFTy strategies are (inadvertently) undermined by her support of the relationship. She views the relationship as a positive in her son’s life — a potential path out of darkness into recovery. He is 5 years older, has been using significantly longer, and has received very little in the way of treatment. I agree wholeheartedly that by using together, they are engaging in harm reduction. But that is where our common ground ends. I’ve shared CRAFT with her, but things don’t seem to be shifting. Recently, she reassured my daughter that her son loves her. Sadly, my daughter had been planning to come home and get back on track in the days and hours leading up to this diversion. Can my CRAFT efforts work when other forces are directly working against it? I imagine this may also happen in 2 parent households, when one parent is guided by CRAFT, the other is not. How does this work? How CAN this work?

    Your insight: “Also, it’s worth noting that taking opioids may be linked to your daughter’s eating disorder. You eat less on these drugs, and at times you vomit, and so you lose weight. Many drugs also curb the appetite.”

    YES. My daughter said the same thing to me. I also heard this from a local addictions therapist. So while she’s not using (as many) stimulants, she continues to use opiates to purge food/calories. Everytime I see her, she asks “Do I look fat? I feel like I’ve gained weight.” I’m deeply concerned that by not treating the underlying eating d/o, she will not get well. (Amy Winehouse comes to mind, as do others.)

    Your suggestion: “You are in a unique position to allow her back in your home with a chance to revisit and refocus on the plan you made together over coffee. Can you frame this so that the help with eating disorder/ DBT is her job – essentially saying that it’s more important to have accountability for this work before trying to hold a job down at this point.”

    This is what she and I discussed — DBT IOP for eating d/o in lieu of going to school and/or working. Three months of treatment, 8-12 noon. Sadly, her child support dries up in two months so I can no longer offer this option. If she moves home after she turns 21, she will have to contribute somehow (work). In early recovery, she easily becomes overwhelmed by tasks. Developmentally, she seems to have regressed. Prior to spiraling out, she was an honor student juggling AP classes and employment, on her way to a scholarship at a local university. Anyway, she’s in for a surprise if/when she comes home now, as she will have to work while engaging in DBT treatment.

    Your insight: “Understanding the patterns and nature of her partnerships is something she will inevitably have to reckon with along her path to recovery.”

    Yes yes yes. I believe her need to be in relationship (at any cost) is due in part to her attachment disruption with her dad. She tells me she wants a therapist to help her address trauma/attachment issues, but during active addiction, she is completely unaware of time. To her, 3 pm is morning and midnight is dinnertime. Sunday is Thursday. May is March. Any work around relationships will have to wait, unless she has a burst of insight while using — and is capable of following through with therapy appointments. (She even misses phone appointments, which is why Kaiser no longer prescribes suboxone.)

    Long way of saying: She did not come home as discussed, and continues to use heroin and pressed “oxys” (fentanyl). She is also engaging in risky behavior to raise money for drugs. I fear further trauma, and even sex trafficking. I am scared. I am trying to pratice self care — meditation, prayer, gardening, quiet walks in the evening, virtual connections with friends. I ordered some blank journals from Amazon. It’s all I can do, other than be there for her, as you stated above.

    Thank you again. Your support is like a lifeboat to me.

    1. Nice work. What a sophisticated use of the communication skills you’ve acquired over the years. Remaining calm in your manner is also key here, helping you and helping her. Not reacting to your daughter’s love issues when every ounce of you wants to shout, cry, explain, warn…is on par with winning an Emmy!

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