QUESTION: Our alcoholic/addict 26 year- old daughter is 3 months sober and drug-free. She met a recovering heroin addict (27) at sober living on the east coast 3 months ago. He became her boyfriend. Recently she has been living with us in California and now has flown him out here to be with her.
One of our boundaries for her to live at our home was that she focus on her recovery plan and not a relationship for a while. (All the literature recommends at least a year). We did allow her to continue phone calls to him with the hope that she would cut off the relationship as she became more solid in her own self-worth and sobriety and clear thinking. THAT DIDN’T HAPPEN. This relationship is very codependent and we are not sure of the boyfriend’s motives or seriousness about his recovery. Our daughter thinks she can save him.
So even though our daughter has been sober and drug free while at home, got a cashier job and is going to meetings and therapy, we are torn with the decision now to make her leave our home because of this relationship. She is not doing what is necessary to focus on herself for now. Her younger 23 year old brother and I are very upset with this latest decision to fly this boyfriend out suddenly without clearing it with us. (As it is his last resort, as his parents have cut him off). Her mother is anguishing over the decision to make her move out, as it may force our daughter into a worse, stressful situation that spells relapse. But it’s almost like our daughter is setting it up so we will be forced to ask her to move out. She has said she needs to figure life out on her own. She doesn’t want to lose her family, yet this relationship is more important to her. Thank you for this site and your thoughts.
EXPERT ANSWER FROM RICKI TOWNSEND
First, I’d like to suggest several questions that will help paint the bigger picture and point to some possible solutions:
You say your daughter is in recovery, which is wonderful. Is she being drug tested randomly? This is important to safeguard your home, your relationship with her and to help support her in recovery. Who paid her boyfriend’s way to visit? Who pays her bills and her rent?
If your daughter were living alone, paying her own bills, and working, I would answer that who she sees is really none of your business or “not in your hula hoop.” You could even say, “We love you and don’t feel comfortable with this young man, but understand you can make your own decisions. We would like to ask that when we are with you for dinners, or coming over to the house, please don’t include him.” You then are giving her a choice. She may reply, “I am sorry that is out of the question.” Again, this is her choice. As adults, we cannot protect our children from anyone or anything. We must trust, and let go. She does need to figure her life out on her own. That is a very truthful statement she has made. Let her do this. Believe me, parent to parent, I know it can be so hard.
Did you come up with a written or verbal agreement about the terms under which you would support her? If you specified that your support for her is contingent upon her not being in a relationship for a year, then she has broken one of the rules of your contract and you should stick with your agreement.
It is much easier to stick with a written agreement because then the terms are in black and white for all to see, but a verbal agreement should be respected, too. Understanding what is on the line may be the thing that inspires her to really look at the choices she is making, and the consequences of those choices.
Bringing this young man here seems to have been a disrespectful decision on her part. So you may want to ask yourself if this is the person you want to live with. Setting healthy boundaries means taking care of ourselves and not letting others hurt us with their poor or selfish choices.
You mentioned the high stress level in the family, which is completely understandable since chemical dependency takes a toll on everyone. I invite you to take a look at how you are you reducing your stress Are you going to parent Al-Anon meetings or seeing your own addiction therapist? Chemical dependency impacts the entire family, and you need to claim the resources and the time to heal, too.
I am sorry that sometimes there are not any easy answers. Please get support for yourselves, and don’t shame or guilt yourselves for the decisions you make in response to your daughter’s choices.
Ricki Townsend, http://www.apathtorecovery.com/
Board Certified Interventionist, Drug/Alcohol Counselor, NCAC1, CAS, RAS, Bri-1