Valerie Fairman died Wednesday at the age of 23, following a long battle with substance abuse

By Brittany King
December 23, 2016 02:13 PM

Prior to her death, Valerie Fairman struggled with substance abuse for years following her stint on MTV’s 16 and Pregnant, but she wasn’t alone — her ex David Pryce says he tried desperately to help get her back on the right path.

“I sent her to rehab one time,” Pryce tells 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.”

“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. It’s just a shame,” he adds.

On Wednesday, Fairman was found unresponsive inside a locked bathroom at a friend’s house, she was 23 years old.

Pryce explains that, while the former reality star had tried on multiple occasions to get clean, she ultimately succumbed to her addictions.

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

Pryce, who dated Fairman for about nine months nearly three years ago, admits he blamed himself when he first heard the news of his ex’s death.

“I was really upset when I first heard, no one wanted to tell me,” he shares. “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,” Pryce says. “But I couldn’t get her to come back …. There was just no way to get in touch with her and tell her that.”

As for Fairman’s daughter, Nevaeh Lynn, 7, Pryce says she’s “a little [too] young to realize what is going on.” For now, she’s staying with her grandmother, Fairman’s adoptive mom.

“I see her daughter all of the time, [she] is perfect,” he says of the first grader. “She’s so happy and gets a lot of attention.”