My daughter thinks she can detox and then go back to drinking occasionally How do I change her mind?

My daughter, who has been drinking heavily since she lost her job last summer, has agreed to go to rehab. She said she believes she can still drink occasionally if she is just able to detox, and not need alcohol every day. She wants to go to a week-long detox and then come home and go to meetings and an outpatient program. She has good insurance and can go to further treatment, but she refuses. We are at an impasse. What should we do?

All too often, we think we can see so clearly what our children need to do, and we don’t understand why they can’t see it, too! I would say that you are probably correct, but there is only one way to know unless you are prepared to draw a hard line in the sand and tell her she is not welcome home until she completes a longer program. I’m assuming that if you haven’t already told her to leave while she is drinking “heavily” in your home, you may not be prepared to do that. The most important rule in this situation is not to make idle threats; rather, we create rules and boundaries to which we are sure we can adhere.

There’s a phrase that pertains to your situation—”rolling with the resistance”—and I suggest that you learn how to roll. Sit down with your daughter and let her know you believe in her, and that although you think she would be better served by completing an inpatient program, you are prepared to support her in her choice. However, if she begins to drink again or is showing signs of “pre-relapse,” such as not adhering to her recovery plan, skipping outpatient or counseling sessions, or going back to other behaviors that indicate a relapse is imminent, then she will agree to go to an inpatient program.

Maybe you’ll be happily surprised, but if you are correct that her plan is not enough, you have a specific, action-orientated, and agreed-upon plan that she is aware of and has agreed to. While she is in detox, take that reprieve as an opportunity to find resources for yourself. Find a family coach to work with you on behaviors that are counterproductive to family recovery. Find an in-person meeting such as Al-anon, or an online family support group such Magnolia Addiction Support on Facebook, to connect with others who are struggling with a loved one’s addiction. Just as our children need connection to the recovery community, we also need to build a support system that is knowledgeable and understanding of our situation.

Sending love,

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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