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.

When an Ex-Boyfriend Threatens Recovery

Allies in Recovery, AiR, Dominique Simon-Levine, dominique simon levine, addiction, addiction recovery, recovery, Craft, opiates, college, relapse, treatment, addicted boyfriend, sober housing, threaten, threat, sobriety

What can the family do when their loved one is making great progress in recovery but mixing with shady characters from their past, such as an ex-boyfriend? An Allies in Recovery member wonders how she can support her daughter with this additional challenge:

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 get a taste of the Allies in Recovery eLearning program, click here.

“My 22 year old daughter left rehab three weeks ago after a 3.5 month stay. She is now living in a highly structured sober house about to begin a year-long program at a beauty academy. Returning to college is out of the question for now. She would likely be at high risk for using/relapsing on campus. Her last two relapses came about in connection with a particular boyfriend (heroin addict). This is when she began smoking crack and snorting heroin.

While she was in rehab, this boyfriend was arrested and spent two months in jail.  After she left rehab, she told me that she visited the boyfriend while he was still in jail.  Everyone has cautioned her about this relationship. The good news is that she didn’t lie to me about visiting him. I told her that I would appreciate knowing the truth, rather than being lied to. As much as I wanted to tell her to stay away from him, I refrained. I understand I have no control over this part of her life.

I can only hope that once she begins her new course of study, while also living in the sober house and attending AA/NA meetings, the relationship will naturally slow down. Meanwhile, can you make any other suggestions that I might not have thought of?”

Dominique Simon-Levine responds to this concerned mother below:

I am grateful to hear about your family’s good fortune. Others will appreciate its hopeful message. Thank you for writing in.

Your daughter has been on quite a journey. Your description of her treatment and plan for living highlights the importance of structure and the message of recovery so critical in day-to-day life. Her willingness to accept a new way of life shines through. It’s just wonderful.

(A note about college. Many are developing sober dorms and providing other ways of supporting sober students. It’s worth looking into what is available should she want to return to college some day.)

Handling the boyfriend situation calmly

The ex-boyfriend is also being shepherded towards recovery, albeit more roughly, through the criminal justice system. I hope for him too that he may get the spark that will lighten his life immeasurably.

In terms of your daughter’s continuing ties with this young man, your instincts are very good. You can’t ask your daughter not to see the ex-boyfriend; you can ask your daughter not to lie to you.

Maintaining recovery is a process

It’s common to be blindsided, being drawn to or bumping headlong into people/places/things that can trigger you to use (like an old dangerous relationship). You pass the corner where you once bought drugs and a wave of anticipation for the drug floods your every sense. You think you can sit on a bar stool with your old network but just not drink or do lines of coke with them in the bathroom like you use to.

Your daughter has been taught to recognize these moments as triggers. She has been taught to quickly do the calculation in her head …. “Ah, wow, that’s what they mean by a trigger! I have gained something in my abstinence that is not worth throwing away by using.” Here’s a poem that has been widely shared by recovering folks.



~ a poem by Portia Nelson

Chapter 1

I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost, I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter 2

I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend that I don’t see it,
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in this same place.
But, it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter 3

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there,
I still fall in. It’s a habit … but, my eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

Chapter 4

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk,
I walk around it.

Chapter 5

I walk down another street.

Would you say your daughter is in Chapter 3?

As you know, having loved and cared for someone (even someone who is self-destructive and bad news) is terribly hard to shake off. And in a sense, we can all understand this. Why would you want to rid yourself of love and compassion for another? I hope for your daughter that she can appreciate the vestiges of love and compassion for this young man AND still honor the need to move on.

She told you about her visit with him. You have done an important thing building that bridge with your daughter so that she shares truthfully with you.

Old boyfriends, street corners, and bar stools are everywhere in sobriety. As long as your daughter continues to prioritize her recovery, trust that she will walk on by.

Since 2003, Allies in Recovery has addressed substance abuse in families by providing a method for the family to change the conversation about addiction. We use Community Reinforcement & Family Training (CRAFT), a proven approach that helps the family unblock and advance the relationship towards sobriety and recovery and to engage a loved one into treatment. Learn about member benefits by following this link.


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.