How do we quarantine during the Covid-19 pandemic with our noncompliant child?

We are coping with our adult daughter during the Covid-19 pandemic at home. We decided to bring her home as she was asked to leave her recent sober home as she was not sober. She attempted suicide and upon release from the hospital with no follow up plan (her choice) she would have been homeless. Usually that means 1-2 days, then back in hospital. Most days she is very drunk (our house rules on this ignored) and will also go beg money at local stores and not practice any type of social distancing or hygiene measures. We are at a loss as to what the right thing to do in this situation as we dont want her to die or ourselves! Please help us make a good decision.

Unfortunately, there is no “good decision” here, and you are in good company asking this question. Many families are faced with the decision of whether to let their child come home or have them stay in an overcrowded sober home or on the street, despite their own personal safety or what they think is best overall.

The Covid-19 pandemic has forced many of us to make difficult decisions. Families who love someone with a substance use disorder make difficult decisions every day, and this just adds one more painful choice into the mix.

You are taking a risk having your daughter in your home, but I know you’re aware of that. Any decision or boundary you put in place will need to be abided by, so make sure you can stick to anything you say. That may mean asking her to leave or refusing to allow her into the house if she won’t comply.

Remember that detox from alcohol can be dangerous, so as much as you want her to stop drinking, she may need a medical detox in order to do that. If she has any moments of clarity, encourage her to connect with a sober support person or online meeting. Don’t get caught up in arguing about her drinking at this point. It’s not the time.

We hesitate to let our loved ones decide whether they will abide by our rules for fear that we will have to enforce our boundaries. Even in this time of Covid-19, we still have the obligation to protect ourselves. Try to speak with her when she first wakes up and before she has a chance to begin drinking. Explain to her how much you love her but also that if she doesn’t follow the house rules, you’ll be forced to ask her to leave. Explain that the choice is hers and that you understand she is struggling, but you need to protect yourself from her behavior.

If you have decided that you will allow your daughter to live with you during this uncertain time, then can you enforce handwashing before she is allowed to enter the house? Can you try to distance yourself by requiring her to remain in her room? Can you make sure you are not sharing utensils or bathrooms, and the rooms you and your husband normally occupy are off limits to her? During this uncertain time, you may need to act as if she is infected and be as vigilant as possible to protect yourself from being infected as well.

Coach C.


Disclaimer: The above advice is not meant to be construed as medical or legal advice. If you need professional medical, psychological, or legal advice, please contact a doctor, lawyer, or medical center.

Maureen Cavanagh is a peer recovery coach and interventionist who works with families and loved ones supporting a person struggling with a substance use disorder on their own recovery. She is the founder of Magnolia New Beginnings and Magnolia Recovery and Consulting, and the author of If You Love Me: A Mother’s Journey Through Her Daughter’s Addiction and Recovery, published by Henry Holt/Macmillan, and NAADAC-approved FAST: Family-Focused Addiction Support Training. You can learn more about her at

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