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She’s on a Binge – and I’m Flipping Out

Father pointing finger

AiR member help4t wrote in and shared her distress about her daughter's bingeing …

"We have had a very bad couple of weeks. My daughter has gone on several 2 day binges over the past few weeks. From what I can tell, something or someone says or does something (I think pointing out the using) and she goes off and does more. She has not yet joined another IOP, and again probation let her off with a "see you next month". I then found out she was seeing her ex boyfriend (former heroin addict, who appears to have gotten his life together a bit, but whom she has said was a trigger).

I flipped out with her went to get her at his house and said if she sees him she can't live with us, so she left. My husband and my sister also lost it with her, as they are so fed up. I found out that he had left her at a bar drinking while he went to work a few hours. I went to see her there and as I expected she was under the influence of some drug, not sure what, and drinking. She was angry and upset that her Aunt laid into her and said things. The truth hurts is what I told her. I tried to calm her down. Said we could work on things together but that she needed to get help if she wanted to come home. She said she didn't want to come home and would stay with friends or a shelter first. I ended up meeting with her ex and told him I didn't approve of this relationship now for sure. That she needs serious help and he can't give it. And leaving an intoxicated young woman in a bar alone was not cool. I asked him to please try and talk to her and encourage her to get the treatment she needs. I left her with him and went home.

I have shut off her phone, because I was mad. I am really struggling now with how to move forward using the tools I have learned here. I know I did not handle this well at all this time. I know from her friends that they were staying away lately because of the excess drinking and up all night etc. This is why I know she sought out the ex boyfriend because he allows her to do as she wants and does not say anything. I also know her self esteem is zero. She needs help and I just do not know what to do. Thank you."


It is difficult to watch a Loved One bingeing, even more so when you’re aware of the threat of further legal action, should she be caught. With all the stress this causes, it is understandable that you might react as you did.

A principle with AiR is to step off your Loved One’s coattails, following closely behind, going up and down with them emotionally as they go up and down. Like a lot of this program: simple to say but not so easy to do.

The stance we ask you to take:  observing, neutral, non-judgmental.

The focus:  equally on your life as your Loved One’s.

Your role:  to suggest and support getting help, to partner with them in this pursuit.

As you experienced at the bar when you found your daughter, talking to her while she’s using doesn’t work.

Probation Officers have a lot of leeway. It sounds almost certain that your daughter is snorting cocaine along with the drinking. This will show up in her urine tests and cannot go unnoticed for long.

Getting convicted of a crime is simply not the worst outcome. It could wake her up and get her out of the bar. We’ve talked elsewhere on this blog about the punitive aspects of criminal justice (see post DBT for recovery support). When it comes to non-violent offenders who are struggling with substance abuse, there should be a path to divert them into treatment. This is happening more and more across the country. The advent of drug courts is one example, albeit controversial.

If your daughter violates probation and is called before the court, the attorney should argue for intensive treatment rather than jail. You can help the attorney by figuring out the treatment and providing him/her with the details. This time, you might want to look for longer residential care (over 90 days), like a Phoenix house.  I am not underestimating how difficult this is to find, and, especially, to pay for.

Alcohol and cocaine is a powerful combination and tends to follow a pattern of binges. The cocaine allows you to drink more without feeling its effect as much. The alcohol softens the brittle, spiky, speedy edges of the cocaine, making the high smoother.

When the cocaine runs out, the withdrawal is devastating: depression, insomnia, lethargy, plus the hangover from the alcohol. Be assured, your daughter will run out of the cocaine. Her job in a high-end restaurant is almost certainly a source, but these are fair-weather relationships.

Your daughter is out of the house, presumably staying with the ex-boyfriend. Everything I’ve described thus far is out of your control, except helping the attorney find treatment. To this I would add only one other thing to do: look into Section 35 in Massachusetts. Assess whether this is an option. Get the form, gather any paperwork that is required. We’ve spoken elsewhere about Section 35, you have to weigh the pros and cons for your situation (see this blog post).

You’ve spoken to your daughter. It sounds like she knows you’re there to help with treatment. You’ve spoken to the boyfriend, and he knows you are there to help when she wants help.

While the tone of things was angry, it doesn’t sound like you’ve severed the bridge between you.

Can you now step back and wait? Come up with a few realistic treatment options and wait. Inaction can sometimes be action.

Things change on a dime with substance abuse. I’m talking weeks.

Try hard to get back to yourself and your life. I hope it helps to know that you are doing what you can by looking into treatment and Section 35.

I'm sorry that this is happening. Substance abuse is indeed baffling to those of us who love someone who is struggling. 



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. Since I last wrote, my daughter called after being out for two weeks and asked if she could come home. She said she was tired of living the life she was living. She wanted to get back to working full time and living at home. She was able to acquire a new job as we told her that was one of the stipulations for moving back home. She started that job two weeks ago and seemed to be doing well. We had a big get together with family and friends many of whom were my daughters age. All of the parents were talking highly of the children and the successes they have all recently had. I could tell my daughter was feeling uncomfortable, embarrassed, and out of place. No one is aware of her situation other than one. She’s just not happy with the way she is living her life, and feels everybody thinks the same of her. The fact that she has not completed College and is working at a restaurant waitressing. She ended up going out with a friend. And the friend called me at two in the morning and told me my daughter had overdosed. They were able to bring her back with Narcan thank God. She is exceptionally embarrassed today of what she did last night. Said she has not done that for over five months. I can attest to that at least for the last previous four months because I had been drug testing her. And when she was living at home the last two weeks have seen no indication of it. She said she know she made a very bad choice. And wants to move forward. Does not feel that she needs to detox and that was confirmed by the ER. She does not feel that she wants to go away to a program, she feels that that brings her down as she does not feel that she has an addiction to this drug, just uses it on occasion. However she has overdosed on it three times in the past year and a half. She is told me today that she will reach out to me when she feels the need if ever to do that again although she claims she will not. I am confused as to how to go forward. The police department indicated to me that I could section her up. Obviously I know that’s an option but I also know that I need to prove that she’s a danger to herself and someone else. That is something I am unable to do because she has not been using drugs consistently over the past several months. Also drinking has been limited over the past few weeks and she has been home. I am inclined at this point to go along with what she wants. She’s indicated to me she will go and speak with her therapist home she recently started seeing and really likes. I guess I need to know if the right thing for me to do is to allow her to be here if she’s working and having clean drug tests. She does see her probation officer monthly, and the possibility of drug testing through there. She feels IOP’s make her want to use more then when she’s not in one. She feels this is something she can handle on her own by getting herself involved in her job. I feel she needs more than that. And I’m not sure how to get her to add more to her plate for instance going back to school, or volunteering