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The College Conundrum — CRAFT’s Position

An Allies in Recovery member has arranged a tentative contract with her son with regards to financing his return to college. He is in early recovery and is quite motivated to return to school, the place where his use spun out of control. He has agreed to pay for his own tuition for now. Allies in Recovery founder Dominique Simon-Levine weighs in with some CRAFT perspective, below.

It is one week since my son tested clean for everything!

We tested again tonight and it came up positive for alcohol. He readily stated he’s had three beers, one at a time and not on consecutive days. We’re thrilled. He is gradually attending more NA meetings and will hopefully sit with a therapist this week. He uses nicotine and we figure we don’t see this in the same light as Kratom, alcohol and marijuana.

He’s supposed to head back to college at the end of August. This is where his using really took off and became a habit – eating more and more into his social and academic life. He wants to go back but we are going to take the stance of not financially supporting him. This is our idea:

If he wants to go back, he’ll have to pay for it. I’ll help him figure out a loan. At the end of each semester and at the end of the year, I’ll pay for every A or B. He pays for any C’s or lower.

If he agrees to verifiable counseling and regular drug tests, which I have access to results through a consent form, then I’ll pay for A/B/C’s… as long as the drug tests come back clean and he can verify counseling.

What do you think of this idea?”


Thanks for writing in and sharing with us the encouraging news that your son’s withdrawal from Kratom has given way to early recovery, with the exception of a few beers. It is wonderful that he is attending NA meetings and plans to see a therapist. All of this gives reason to be hopeful and to continue to reward him, for the progress he has made, and what he is undertaking in order to maintain abstinence from use and to cultivate recovery.

You also shared with us the contents of a contract that you’ve worked out with your son for his return to college and asked us to comment on what position CRAFT/Allies in Recovery might take.

The Decision to Return to School: Early Recovery and Hopefulness

Often this decision to return to school occurs within the framework of their early recovery — a volatile time for anyone who is living it, and consequently for the family/entourage, a time of hesitant hopefulness. We have published several posts by now on the complex but crucial conundrum of parents paying for their child’s return to college after a battle with drugs or alcohol. A membership to Allies in Recovery offers unlimited access to an evolving archive of blog posts covering a variety of relative topics including “college”. Click here for details.

CRAFT: Rewarding Abstinence from Substance Use

Although the contract you present may end up working out to be the equivalent of paying for college (depending on the outcome of his grades, etc.), our recommendation thus far to parents has been to: 1. Consider rewarding abstinence from substance use; and 2) Help the loved one get closer to their desire for independent living in a bigger world than they were inhabiting when they were using, by paying for the college semester up front, with clear expectations outlined.

We know that college and its many positive points also presents risks and dangers, namely peer pressure around using. Each family must measure — as we suggest doing with any reward you’re considering using to support non-use — how rewarding the reward is likely to be for your Loved One. How strong is their motivation to succeed in school? How gratifying has school typically been for them?

CRAFT: Assess the Availability of Ongoing Support for your Loved One

Another consideration before agreeing to pay (semester by semester) is the availability of recovery support services, groups, and therapy on campus or in the neighboring towns.

It sounds like you and your son are already laying out some of the most important elements of an agreement that would grant him financial support from you: regular support/counseling for recovery (can you also set up a way to monitor his attendance by having him sign a release form?), drug testing to which you’ll have access, and the monitoring of his grades (maybe not the be-all and end-all, but a good general indicator of the seriousness of his commitment to his studies).

CRAFT: Leverage, and Giving your Support Now versus Later: Assess Risks/Benefits for your Situation

Leverage is one of the main issues here. Though college tuition is no small commitment on your part, and can feel like a substantial risk, your being willing to reward his recovery and other steps forward is also a strong, rewarding message of support. You are leveraging what you can, matching his effort, willingness, and optimism with your own. Psychologically, there is a difference between your taking that risk and providing your support now versus doing so later IF he hasn’t messed up.

Either way, using the way we’ve laid out in previous posts on the college topic – available to view with a membership to – or using the way you and your son have initially sketched out, you are going in the right direction. The “financial support now” option is a more immediate, perhaps stronger message of support and good faith, but the choice is yours. We know the stakes are high. We wish your son all the best as he navigates this next chapter of his life.

Dominique Simon-Levine


With a membership to Allies in Recovery, you will have access to this article – and hundreds of others – in full. Allies in Recovery members have access to all of our blog posts including the ability to search a variety of topics such as those mentioned in this blog post, and many others.

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With Allies, you’ll get information critical to understanding your loved one’s alcohol/drug addiction; you’ll learn the strategies and skills you need to engage your loved one onto the path to recovery; and you’ll get guidance on how to identify and cope with the flood of emotions you are feeling – because when you are coping better, you can better help your loved one.