Become a member of Allies in Recovery and we’ll teach you how to intervene, communicate and guide your loved one toward treatment.Become a member of Allies in Recovery today.

She Secretly Struggles with Bulimia and Alcohol

Her high-functioning daughter secretly struggles with bulimia and alcohol. As her daughter is looking for help with a loan to buy a home, mom wonders about striking a deal: treatment in exchange for co-signing…
*This post originally appeared on our Member Site blog, where experts respond to members’ questions and concerns. To sign up for our special offer and benefit from the Allies in Recovery eLearning program, click here.

“My 24-year-old daughter struggles with Bulimia and alcohol, both of which she denies and refuses to admit she needs help. I even started emailing her info and leaving helpful information lying around the house (which only ended up in the garbage).

On the outside, everything looks great – she has a full time job, a stable boyfriend and shares a nice apartment on a golf course with a childhood girlfriend. But her addictions still haunt her and I have much less influence now that she has moved out. I have been praying and waiting for an opportunity to help her. And I think the opportunity has arrived, but I need advice.


She wants to purchase a house, but has no credit to get a loan. Therefore, we could go in with her and put the down payment on the house. We would all be on the mortgage, but she would be responsible for the payments. She IS financially responsible. She graduated college and holds a job with medical insurance. We have no doubts that she would be able to manage the payments.

My question is, can I tell her that for us to help her with the house, she would need to get counseling? She has already walked away from multiple car accidents, of which three vehicles were completely totaled. I fear that either she, or the driver of the other vehicle, will not walk away from the next one. Please advise.”

Dominique Simon-Levine agrees that this mother could work out a deal in order to help her obstinate daughter.

Welcome to the site. Your daughter is drinking alcohol in ways that don’t seem to affect her job or friends. She has, however, totaled three cars and you worry about the next time this happens. She is also bulimic.

Bulimia and drinking is a growing problem in young women. Combined, the two can accelerate the harm caused by purging.

You are asking whether helping her purchase a home might be sufficiently rewarding that she would agree to treatment.

Let’s start with the Bulimia

Before addressing the purchase of a home, I wonder if you have provided her also with treatment options for eating disorders? She could be more willing to address the bulimia than the drinking to start. Leaving treatment information lying around is a good idea. Perhaps you put it all together in one document and provide it to her in a moment when she is more willing to listen. Learning Module 8 (available to our members)  talks about these moments, and how to orchestrate a planned talk. You can also read this blog post on recognizing motivation in your loved one.

Should that planned talk include an offer to help with the house purchase? CRAFT suggests rewards as positive reinforcements for non-use. The reward should be easy for you to give, and easy for you to take away. Co-signing and help with a down-payment are not easy to take back. (Read more on Rewards here)

Your daughter can say all the right things now to convince you to help purchase the home, but down the road continue to use, struggle with bulimia and refuse to seek help.

You are unwilling to help with the purchase of the home if she doesn’t seek help.

Make a deal

I wonder if your daughter would be willing to complete a program and agree to follow its aftercare plan BEFORE you sit down and sign papers.

This idea is less a reward as CRAFT suggests, but a straight up deal between you. Your daughter would get treatment, skills, and education about her eating problem and the drinking; she would be much more aware going forward of what she is doing. You would have given her insight, to the degree she is willing to listen, and provided her with a way out, should she start using and purging again. She would know about treatment and self-help, where to go. In AA, they say you will be messing up her drinking because when she uses in the future, she will have a belly full of booze and a head filled with AA.

There is a difference between someone who is legitimately unaware of the effects and dangers of what they are doing, who doesn’t have, or has not experienced, behaviors of healthy living….and someone who has. When and if they go back to problem drinking and bulimic purging, they are doing it with the knowledge of the mechanism inside them that fuels this, and of the solutions available to them when they lapse.

Your daughter needs both the drinking and bulimia addressed in an integrated way. Would you be willing to co-sign and help with the down-payment AND pay (possibly, depending on insurance) for a quality long-term dual diagnosis program? It doesn’t need to be inpatient necessarily but may have to be in the case of bulimia (I know less about evidence-based programs for bulimia). Your daughter follows the program and the aftercare for 6 months or so, then you sit down and sign papers.

It will take time and require patience

You may not have a totally recovered daughter at the end of this but you will have moved her to the next stage of recovery: an informed young woman who has experienced a pause in the progression towards a more chronic situation.

Your daughter has aspirations, she sounds creative and capable. This is the moment for her to make a choice as to how she wants to live. It’s an intersection of sorts…you are willing to help if she is willing to experience living a healthy lifestyle for 6 months. What she does afterwards is up to her. You will still love her and be there to help, regardless.

You are looking to provide her with a huge step up towards her goals…the goals however are stunted if she continues to lead a secret and self-harming double life. The moment is now. Suggest to her that you as her parents are willing to make this deal. She can go back to her old life afterwards, and she will now have a house. You are aware of this possibility. You are providing her a critical piece of education by striking this deal. She has to expose herself to another way of life through the program (don’t say “treatment” anymore, sounds like she has a knee jerk reaction to the word)…that is what you ask in exchange for helping her obtain the house.

BTW: she will probably see problems doing this with her job. She will need to ask for a health leave of absence. Yes, it is that serious.

Yes, the family DOES have a role to play. Your stance, behavior, and choices DO make a difference. At Allies in Recovery we are absolutely convinced of this. “Tough love” is not a successful technique. Our learning platform is set up to help family members learn the techniques that will reduce conflict, build that bridge of communication, and be effective in guiding your loved one into treatment. Together we will move your loved one towards recovery. Learn more here.

image ©


Related Posts from "Communication"

“What We All Require Is To Be Heard”: Kayla Solomon On Effective Communication and Connection

In March 2023, Allies in Recovery’s very own Kayla Solomon led a 90-minute ZOOM conversation with leaders of the East Bay chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) based in Sacramento, California. The result was a dynamic primer on the use of CRAFT, the Allies approach to building trust and connection with Loved Ones, and the vital role of listening and affirming when supporting a Loved One with mental health and/or substance use challenges. Click above to watch the recording.

Trusting A Loved One in Early Recovery

Her husband is in early recovery, but he doesn’t want to share details with her. She’s nervous and struggling with trust due to his history of SUD and lying. She’s reluctant to let him come home, and unsure how to talk to him about it. Dominique weighs in with an idea of what to say based on the CRAFT (Community Reinforcement and Family Training) approach that we use at

How CRAFT Can Help: Supporting Your Partner to Successfully Moderate Opiate Use

His partner is trying to moderate her use of heroin and methamphetamine with no formal support. Her use consumes so much of his partner’s life that it’s hard to see her “moderation” as progress. But his loved one wants him to acknowledge how “well” she’s doing, and there hasn’t been room for more discussion. Read on for suggested strategies from to engage his partner into treatment, using the CRAFT (Community Reinforcement and Family Training) approach.

How to Use the CRAFT Approach to Communicate with a Loved One Living with Substance Use Disorder

Substance Use Disorder can often involve volatile emotions on all sides. When family members use the CRAFT approach that we teach at, it can help disentangle emotions from practicalities, leading to greater calm and more effective outcomes. This mom recently had an exchange with her son who is struggling with Substance Use Disorder (SUD), but held back from responding in fear it would end in a heated argument. So, she to turned to Allies for guidance. Read on for some pointers on how best to communicate with a loved one in active addiction using the CRAFT approach.

Real Allies in Recovery Success Stories: Families Share How CRAFT Helped Their Loved Ones with SUD

Read real success stories from families who used the CRAFT approach to help their loved ones with Substance Use Disorder (SUD). Learn how CRAFT helped them engage their loved ones into treatment, and how it improved their relationships and reduced stress levels. Discover how you can use the CRAFT method to help your loved ones find recovery, and visit for more stories and resources.

How Do I Prepare for My Daughter with SUD to Come Home? And What About Her Boyfriend?

Her daughter is involved with a man who may be sabotaging her efforts to stop using substances. 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…Allies in Recovery weighs in with some CRAFT-based tips.

Collaboration Vs. Ultimatum

When your loved one is returning, communicate and collaborate about your expectations, concerns, and plans. Keep on collaborating over time, so if concerns arise your loved one can take responsibility, have agency, and you’re not running the show on your own. Without their “skin in the game,” little can change. Model engagement, which is also part of the treatment process.