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She Can’t Come Back Home

Girl leaning on wall face hidden

iagirlsmom is despairing about her daughter’s endless cycle of use. At this point, she may not be able to let her back into their home again. But it’s almost winter in Iowa and wrapping her mind around this decision is not easy.

© Eric Ward via Unsplash

We keep ending up in this same spot and I think the only way to break the cycle is to make her homeless. She will not stop using in our house. Our 23 yo daughter is a non-functioning alcoholic. She hasn’t ever really held a job. She has no money, no income and no savings. She has no friends to stay with (seriously), she has systematically demolished every relationship she’s ever had including in the recovery community. Her addiction came to light her senior year of college. She didn’t graduate despite our tuition assistance for the following 5 semesters. We’ve brought her home 10-12 times in this 2 year period with the agreement she wouldn’t drink in our home but she she ends up in the ER every single time due to drinking. She has invited men over to party to get alcohol, she’s peed her bed and our bed and our carpets passed out, she’s tried to get our car keys, she gets impulsive and belligerent and argumentative. She’s up all night and sleeps all day and won’t cooperate with clean up or getting job or helping out despite any written agreement when we accept her back. Read iagirlsmom’s full comment here.

Your poor family. I understand the dilemma of having your daughter home – and all that entails – or closing the door to her so that she winds up homeless in the winter in Iowa. What are the answers for your daughter?

At this moment, she is in a sober house and starting to agitate. It looks like she may not last long. She’ll get kicked out, and then what….

Sober housing provides minimal treatment. There’s a lot of unstructured time, which is probably not good at all for her. She has demonstrated time and again that she needs a higher level of care.

The cycle you are in feels interminable (treatment, home or sober living, relapse). I applaud your many efforts to get her into care. How exhausting. Home is not the answer right now. Your daughter is ill, probably also struggling with mental illness. You are not professionals equipped to handle the depth and complexity of her situation. Having her home is very disruptive and it sounds like she uses your house to go into hiding. She’ll sleep all day, go through the cabinets looking for any approximation of alcohol at night. This doesn’t help either or you.

Your state passed a law in 2018 that allows a civil commitment for people who in the past have become dangerously ill because they failed to comply with doctors’ recommendations. The law opens the door a little wider for civil commitments. The court doesn’t have to find your daughter in danger to herself or others – a high bar which can be difficult to prove. Your comment here should be sufficient to show how your daughter is failing out of treatment.

Your daughter can absolutely find a better way to live. She has agreed to go to treatment in the past, she has had friends in the recovery community, so there is motivation in her somewhere. On some level, at some point in the cycle, she is trying. She goes into care (this is huge) but falters when discharged to low structured living, whether it is a sober home or your home.

The inpatient stays you talk about were probably short-term. The key in all this is to find a long-term, structured residential program that provides quality care for the substances and possible mental illness.

Easier said than done, I know. The residential program should have a length of stay in a continuum that lasts at least 6 months: better yet, one year. Look for a true Dialectical Behavior Therapy program (DBT). DBT teaches valuable skills for managing hard emotions. It was developed for people with personality disorders and has been applied to addiction with good success. See this link for info on DBT in our Resource Supplement.

Is she still on your insurance? Here’s one place that “looks” like what I am talking about.

It is in Canada. This isn’t a referral; we have no first-hand experience with this location. But it fits the portrait of the type of facility that we’d recommend looking into. Check it out to see how they are structured.

The cycle continues for now. Your daughter is looking to get kicked out of the current sober house. If and when she does, have a civil commitment ready to go. Use this as often as you need to keep her safe while avoid having her coming home. As we often say, civil commitments aren’t a panacea, but they buy a little time and help ensure that your Loved One is safe.

You absolutely never know when the time will come that your daughter sees the sad pattern her life has devolved into, when there is that fundamental shift in thinking that provides her some light onto a different future. It doesn’t happen until it happens. Before this, it looks like what you are going through: an endless cycle.

Can you locate and pay for a long-term treatment like Edgewood, a place with solid treatment approaches that are skilled in treating the level of illness you describe in your daughter?

“Darling, what’s going on with you is very serious. I am worried for your life. I also need to think of what I can do and what my limits are. The stress and fear of you being in danger is strangling me. I love your dearly but having you come home doesn’t work for either of us. For now, it is not an option. Here is what I propose. I found XYZ programs. When you’re ready, will you have a look at the programs with me? If you lose this sober house, I will be forced to have you committed again. It breaks my heart that this is where we are right now. I’ve been looking into DBT, and I believe the programs I have found will be fundamentally different than what you have experienced. [Don’t talk about length of time in these programs….she can discover that once admitted and be convinced to stay in treatment by the staff]. When you’re ready, I am prepared to do everything you need to get in.”

Again, make it clear she isn’t coming home. Can you do that knowing you will use commitments as needed? She really is too ill to be home, given all that you have described.

What we suggest here is a slight step back from her, making it clear to her – with love and compassion – that home isn’t an option. Her choices are to stay put in the sober house, be civilly committed, or choose to go into XYZ long-term residential program.

This is what you can do. You can’t protect her from herself. You have to keep using the system. This includes ERs, police, wellness checks, and civil commitments… Your daughter is a young adult. It’s hard to imagine that she will make decisions to protect herself, but her civil rights as an adult leave it up to her, not you.

Again, I know this isn’t easy. I realize you are going to have to keep doing what you are doing, even though it feels you can’t go on like this any more. For now, you’ll continue cycling along with her, just not with her at home. You must be so tired, so scared. But you are here. We hear you and feel your pain.

As you struggle with how to frame your thinking about not letting her back in the house, I’d suggest repeating to yourself: she needs more help than I am able to provide. You can provide a home, and you have. But what she needs is not that. For her that provides more room to go out of control and cause herself more harm. Settling into your own sense of what you can and can’t do will help you when it comes time to discuss this with clarity and compassion – with her or with anyone else for that matter. I can do this: help get her into XYZ program. Communicate with love and empathy. Practice reflective listening. Meet her where she is at. Hold space for her until she learns to hold it for herself. I can’t do this: open up our home to her while she is unstable, self-destructive and belligerent. Expect different results than those we’ve seen in the past, until she has gained real traction in treatment. Until then, our home just becomes another place for her to use and go out of control.

Using CRAFT to pull out all the stops so that she is ushered towards a long-term, structured residential program is the best option you have – it’s the best option she has. There are many pieces lying on the floor of her life right now – friends, work, college, etc. Don’t give those any space right now. These pieces will be there waiting when she has addressed her drinking in treatment, but until then, they aren’t worth your energy. You don’t have any to spare.

Use the energy you do have to focus on the line you are drawing, lining up another commitment and looking into the long term places. Be prepared to hold your line without argument or debate. Keep telling yourself that you cannot provide what she needs now. One day, down the road, when she is more stable, you can consider having her in your home again. But now is not that time.

The communication skills of CRAFT still hold whenever you are able to interact with her. They can help you convey that this decision is not a punishment. There is no ill-will in this line you are drawing. You know the extent of what you have tried in the past and what has repeatedly not worked. With this line and the distance you are creating with it, the message rings clear that the reward of your home is not available given her continuous use.

Your love for her is unconditional. Your responses to her actions are your own choice, and with CRAFT, the responses are tailored to the Loved One’s use or non-use. Just as you love her but may not love her actions, your responses to her actions do not signify that you love her any more or less. You are responding the best you can with the information you have – within a painful awareness that you cannot force her to change. So you make the best choices you can within this framework.

We feel how excruciating the pain is of facing such a decision – of facing the ups and downs of these past several years. You have been doing such a commendable job. And all of this has taken its toll. Even for a few minutes a day, please make a space for yourself to be as you are as a whole, living person. A person who is above all responsible for their own well-being. It won’t serve you or your daughter to put this off. Showing up for yourself is something you can do, something over which you absolutely have control. This may look different from one day to the next. We encourage you to embrace this commitment. And as you draw that line and keep your house on one side of it for the time being, make some changes in your home to reflect the way you want to enjoy your own space. Clear out that which is old and stagnant. This can help serve as a physical reflection of your conviction that the help she needs is not within your home. It is a healing of sorts for the space and for yourself as you work through this.

We are here for you and we hold you and your family in our hearts. Please keep us posted as things continue to unfold. Sending your love and strength.


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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 am new to CRAFT. This article is such a reflection (plus drug use) of what my 35 year old daughter and I have lived together. I have a revolving door to my home and when she binges she is like a tornado. In her sober mind, she and I agree we can not live together.
    She has been in and out of programs and talks about living sober. When she comes out of treatment she talks about having a glass of wine or a drink socially. We are a family of social drinkers so alcohol is always in our home. I don’t know how to handle that with her around.
    She is now living in a shelter that offers a program to help her get on her feet not treatment.
    What I am learning is to step back, prepare a list of resources to offer when she is ready to talk, Stay positive about what I am seeing her do right. I pick her up to visit in the home when we have family functions then return her to the center. When she asks for help such as employment or house hunting I have been assisting in the search. Am I still over involved?
    The modules, podcast, and blogs have been very helpful, and I will keep growing and learning. Thank you for the support.

    1. Welcome to the site. We’re so glad you found us and that you’re finding the eLearning, podcast and blog posts to be of help.

      The situation with your daughter sounds quite challenging! I agree that preparing the list of treatment options and looking out for change talk from her is a great goal. In the meantime, yes — staying positive about what she’s doing right, Yes! And stepping back, yes, as long as it’s during moments of use, or use-related drama.

      As for the question of being over-involved or not: I’d say that overall, if she’s the one asking for help with job-hunting or house-hunting, it’s great for you to be there to assist her. Beware, however, of requests for money, which often go hand in hand with house-hunting!

      It’s wonderful that she is reaching out to you, and happy to come home on various occasions. As you get the hang of CRAFT (we recommend that all our members watch all the modules, several times!), we’d suggest you come in closer as often as possible, creating all sorts of opportunities for her to feel the warmth and lovingness of her family. Think about what she likes, who she likes, and how you can invent new rewards for moments of non-use. This will increase the contrast in her mind and body, between the warmth of family and the less-wonderful feelings associated with times she’s using and not welcome. Write in if you need guidance on rewarding/removing rewards. We’ve recently published a two-part series on this:

      #1 —
      #2 —

      Finally, regarding the alcohol in your home, we strongly recommend that you and your family make the effort of not drinking when she is present. Anyone who has a serious history of Substance Use Disorder (SUD) and is still relapsing frequently (or is simply in early recovery), cannot be expected to have their substance of choice being consumed under their nose and stay on track. While locking the alcohol up is probably unrealistic (and she’d get to it if she were motivated), it would be a huge help to her to have it out of sight, and for the family members present to agree to abstain while she’s there.

  2. I can’t seem to let it all go. My daughter is finally in a treatment center for dual diagnosis/mental health track right now. Which is great. Over the last five months or so, she was going in and out of quite a few rehabs doing IOP and living in their housing, which I was suspicious of being pretty shady. They use medical marijuana in their treatment program and would provide the clients there with it even if they did not have their medical card (we are in FL and medical marijuana is legal here). I was not in agreement with any of this, but my daughter is 25 and I had been trying to stay out of her way and let her make her own decisions with her attempts at recovery. These attempts were not going well at all. She would be able to go about 3-5 weeks and then would either leave the place or get kicked out of the place. She would be missing/on streets for a couple of days and then end up in another one of these places. This went on for about 6 months. There was a couple of weeks where she seemed to be doing pretty well and I would go pick her up, take her to church and to eat and she seemed to be ok. About a week week ago she left the last place she was at and it turns out that she was raped and wound up in the hospital. She called me from the hospital and they were releasing her. So I did go and pick her up and brought her home and she stayed at our home for a couple of days. She was very agreeable to going into this latest treatment facility saying that she needs some “real help”. To add a little background to this, back in August she was in PA doing well for a time but then left where she was and was caught up in a human trafficking situation (that is what she told me anyway). So, I flew up to PA and brought her back down to FL (home). Within one week she left our home and relapsed, relying on prostitution to fund the drugs. This is when all of the ins and outs of the programs started. So, I am trying very hard to let go of all of the terrible behavior with the prostitution and leave it in the past. However, this is what I cannot seem to be able to deal with . . . . I recently found out that while she was in sober living, with a roof over her head, food stamps for food and me putting some money on her books each week, she was still prostituting! Instead of looking for a real job and working a program, she was prostituting while in sober living. She also got a job as a “dancer” (stripper). I don’t think she ever began that job, but I did see that she told some people that she got that job. She does not know that I know this information. Here I was taking her to church and taking her to eat and trying to be supportive of her “recovery” and she is prostituting the whole time! I am furious with this information. I have not mentioned it to her (I saw her the other night as there is a family night at the facility). I know I need to put all judgment aside and be empathetic, etc. I am trying I really am. And I can do that when it comes to prostitution in active addiction. I can separate the addict from my daughter. However, this information of her prostitution while supposedly “in recovery” is very hard for me to deal with. I guess my question is do I say anything to her about knowing she was doing this while in the sober living places? We were discussing the possibility of her coming home to live after treatment (as none of the sober living places seemed to be helpful at all). But I am going to have a problem with any attempt on her part to do this while living in my home. I really am at a loss as to how to handle all of this. I am wondering to myself does she like it? Is that why she does it? Is it part of the disease even though she wasn’t actively using while doing it? Is this more on the mental health side of things (She has bipolar, BPD, ADHD, anxiety, depression, trauma PTSD). Was she really “trafficked” while in PA? Was she really raped? I just don’t know what to believe. And I certainly don’t know how to address my concerns with her. I am furious and it is keeping me up at night. I feel awful for being so angry. But I can’t seem to put any of this in perspective.

    1. Your daughter is in early recovery. She gets into programs, lasts for a while, and then leaves. You know that she has prostituted herself while on the street, and just recently learned that she was continuing to do so even while in a sober house.

      You are understandably very upset. You are questioning what she has told you about having been raped and trafficked. Is returning to prostitution a separate problem, one possibly related to her mental health condition?

      There is no way for either of us to know. Your daughter has been supporting herself with prostitution. She is looking to be a dancer in a strip club. The lure of these pursuits is strong. She is young, attractive, and there are few alternatives in the street that can earn you that kind of money. It is also a milieu where drugs are plentiful. Prostituting and using drugs is likely a longstanding “pattern,” it is part of her street high.

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

  3. I keep messing up. I understand what you and everyone are saying. I really do. But I’m apparently not capable of following through with anything. She was kicked out of the last sober house for not providing the required UAs after only 7 days. We can’t afford to keep her in other housing so she came home. Quite literally it was that or homeless. Today I found a vodka bottle in her room almost empty. She started working a few days last week and somehow brought it in. Snuck it in. No idea how she paid for it.

    We have no idea what to do anymore. We say she can’t stay here if she drinks in the house, but then she does, over and over, and she has no where else to go.

    Her sister is here for holiday break until Monday. I have to avoid a scene. I spoke with the attorney when she was kicked out of the sober house and he said we couldn’t file to recommit unless she was a danger to herself or others. He said there weren’t new grounds unless she was driving while drunk or suicidal or physically threatening us. Especially since she was going to work. (We have to drive her) Or unless a medical professional intervened.

    She isn’t seeking treatment so that won’t happen unless she ends up in the ER. Why should she stop drinking when we don’t do anything when she breaks the house rules? We have been storing the car she drives (that we own) and continued to pay the DUI insurance, even after she cut the breathalyzer out.

    We keep preserving this life for her despite what she does. Why do we do it? Why can’t we stop?

    When I type out all the things she’s done and list all we tolerate and permit I can see how stupid we look. And yet we continue. We don’t have money to private pay additional long term treatment. We barely have enough to keep paying her bills as it is. I can’t logistically see how to make her homeless. The attorney said since she gets her mail here and only lived temporarily in residential treatment or sober living the last year that this is considered her permanent residence and we would have to formally evict her. Everything we do ups the ante.

    My decisions make everything more complicated; the committal, if we kick her out/evict her she won’t qualify for housing on her own, if we get rid of the car (she gets her license back next month) she’ll have more excuses to not go to work or treatment, etc… I don’t think we’re capable of forcing her out onto the street and we’re obviously not capable of preventing her drinking in the house. She can do whatever she wants and we’re left reacting to it. I haven’t the strength to make this stop and so it continues I guess. I feel like I’m the one that’s broken.

    1. I am so sorry about the trials you and your family are going through. You love your daughter above all else and don’t want to see her suffer. I get that. You say you cannot kick her out but you also sound like you are working your way up to that. It is a process for us as well as them.
      Have you checked out the “day bed and locker” option? You can read up on that through the link on the right side of the page.
      I’m not saying that you should do this, just offering another avenue for consideration.

    2. Your 23-year-old daughter continues to drink despite multiple treatment episodes. She was recently thrown out of her sober house for being unwilling to submit to drug/alcohol testing.

      You are fed up, really fed up. She has been home but a short time and has already begun to drink. You are keeping her life together for her. She is back home, you are paying her car insurance, driving her to work. When you look at where you are, you are almost ashamed of it all, preserving the things she needs to live while she continues to drink.

      Read Dominique SImon-Levine’s full response to iagirlsmom here:

  4. I have as well decided that having my daughter in our home does not benefit any of us. She has choices, but that is not one of them. I have been trying to enforce a civil commitment (Marchman Act in Florida) since September (as well as having filed previously several times). My daughter keeps leaving treatment, AMA, regardless of the order that is supposed to be in effect. The court has difficulty enforcing the order due to having to protect their civil rights (giving enough time for hearings, being properly served, etc.). These civil rights are a roadblock in the system. As it leaves a lot of gaps and time where they are out on the street using. My daughter will be out for a bit and then get herself back into detox and treatment only to leave again when the urge hits or the slightest inconvenience or issue. However, I am going to keep trying to enforce it and keep on going strong. I do not know how long it will take, but I am standing my ground as to not coming home and just have to hope and pray this all sinks in for her to want to change. I believe my daughter would, in the past, get herself into so much trouble she knew she could call me and pull on my heart strings to have me pick her up and just bring her home – because nothing else was working. That has always been her strategy. Has not worked for her or for us. So now, with this firm line of not being able to come home, it may be what she needs to start taking her treatment seriously. Not being able to have coming home as an option is the only thing I have not done in the past. It is hard. So hard. I hope you stay strong in your convictions, as you need to know that coming home will not help any of you.

    1. Tinasananes: thank you for this declaration and for your continued willingness to do what is best for all of you. It may help to rid some ill feelings about not having her home, by looking for safe landing places she may not already know of where she can go for help. I am thinking of a list that gives her the details of shelters in the area (doors open times, getting admitted requirements etc.), some respite care places for mental health?, any other low threshold places, like recovery centers.

      We want a few options for your daughter for a temporary place to stay if they exist in your area. Again, what is available to someone who is homeless? Research housing and homelessness options — funding for homeless programs can be separate from treatment

      1. Believe me. She knows very well all of her options of where to go. She could be running her own treatment center at this point. Helpless she is not. We have walked this road so many times she is extremely well educated on treatment and recovery options. It’s whether or not she chooses to walk the walk of recovery or stay in her life of chaos. All I have to offer her at this point is insurance. And that will expire in less than a year. So I am hoping and praying she takes this time to choose life and wellness