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For many years before her death, “16 and Pregnant” star Valerie Fairman struggled with substance abuse.

Fairman’s ex-boyfriend David Pryce admitted he desperately tried to help her get back on the right path.

“I sent her to rehab one time,” Pryce told PEOPLE. “She was trying to be clean, but one time I came home and she was lying on the couch passed out with a cigarette burning, that was it [for me]. We wouldn’t have a place to live if she [had] burnt the house down.”

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“She went in for a 28-day program, but then she ended up moving in with her sister after that. She’s been on and off ever since,” he said. “It’s just a shame.”

“She would really, really try hard but then people and places and things would change that,” Pryce added. “Just getting a phone call or being around somebody changed [her mind].”

Fairman, 23, was found unresponsive Wednesday inside a locked bathroom at a friend’s house. Investigators believe she died of an overdose.

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Pryce dated Fairman for about nine months nearly three years ago. He said he blamed himself when he first learned of her death.

“I was really upset when I first heard, no one wanted to tell me,” he said. “I was on the phone with her biological mother … I heard in the background her husband say, ‘Tell him.’ I took it really hard. I blamed myself. I should’ve tried harder. But I couldn’t get her to come back …. There was just no way to get in touch with her and tell her that.”

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