Addiction doesn’t only impact the addict but their entire family. Addiction to alcohol or drugs causes a decline in the physical health of the addict, diminishing their spirit and impairing their mental state. It also wears down the relationships in their lives and makes it difficult to maintain employment, finances, and social activities.
Family Roles in Addiction
Living with other people, in general, can be a difficult task. However, when it comes to living with an addict or alcoholic it can present even more of a challenge. In every family, each person plays a part or often multiple parts for assisting the family in functioning and maintaining the level of balance, stability, and tranquility the household needs. Therefore, when addiction is introduced into the individual’s family, the dynamics and roles will adjust naturally to the new behaviors needed to deal with the addiction and maintain balance and order.
Regardless of the previously assumed roles, once an individual becomes an addict, they become the family center. Whether family members intend to make the addict the center of their world or not, the addict’s actions begin to impact every family member.
Family members typically begin to assume the following roles when dealing with an alcoholic or addict:
- Victim: The addict usually plays this part. Many addicts feel guilty, ashamed, and remorseful regarding the distress and pain they are causing their families. However, some addicts display this behavior by demonstrating angry and disrespectful behavior towards their families. The addict might play the victim by blaming the family for their addiction or be in denial that they have a problem. No matter which way the addict chooses to play the role of victim, they have the entire family’s attention.
- Hero: The rescuer or the “star” who plays a role similar to the enabler doesn’t let any incidents become a “problem.” The hero lies for the addict, covers up for their mistakes, and protects them from the world. The hero keeps up appearances to people outside of the family. The hero only speaks positively as if no issues exist. This family member is a high achiever and often over-compensates. They also deny there is an addiction problem, and as the situations worsen, they take on responsibilities that were once the addicted individuals. If the addict gets into trouble with the law, they will prevent the addict from experiencing the consequences.
- Enabler: The enabler or caretaker is typically closest emotionally to the victim & serves as the family’s protector. This role is usually played by a parent, spouse, grandparent, or significant other. They typically appear self-righteous, super responsible, sarcastic, passive, physically sick, or like a martyr on the outside. They provide the addict with the means to continue using, give money, provide transportation and shelter.
- Mascot: The mascots are the people who use their sense of humor to change the uncomfortable tone of the house. The mascot knows their mood can bring comfort and relief to the family and prevent the family from unpleasantness in the household. Therefore, the mascot maintains this role to accomplish that sense of comfort and balance.
- Scapegoat: This is the member of the family who has a habit of misbehaving and showing unnatural and annoying tendencies, the problem child. Sometimes one of the younger members of the household can get themselves in trouble at home and school. The behavior by the scapegoat is to deflect attention away from the addict. The scapegoat could also be the child of an addict. Sometimes children of addicts assume this role as a cry for help, and other times it’s to protect their addicted parent and take some of the heat.
- Lost Child: The Lost Child is usually the quiet individual. They like to spend time alone and out of the way from other household members. This family member is extremely independent not to bother or create more work for the already fragile family.
What Can Families Do to Heal?
Once you have accepted that your family member has a problem with drugs or alcohol, you will improve your ability to help them tackle their addiction by educating yourself on the disease of addiction. More information is available today about addiction than there was in the past; however, there is still a large amount of misinformation and stigma that comes with it. The more you know about how addiction develops and how drugs impact the brain, the better position you’ll be in to empathize and understand what your family member is going through.
Al-Anon or Nar-Anon Meetings
Al-Anon is a mutual support group of individuals that share their experience with using the principles of Al-Anon to problems related to the effects of an alcoholic in their lives.
Nar-Anon is a meeting comprised of individuals affected by the disease of addiction in a relative or friend.
Family therapy is a crucial part of substance abuse treatment. A behavioral health program that includes family therapy works better and leads to faster recovery. When combined with individual treatment, family therapy can reduce relapse rates, improve medication adherence, and relieve stress. Family therapy helps to discuss the behaviors, emotions, and thoughts of individuals struggling with addiction and family members impacted by the effects of the disease allowing everyone involved to feel validated. Our therapists will identify new skills and coping mechanisms and coach family members to practice these newly developed skills.
The stress of taking care of a family member struggling with addiction causes each family member to neglect themselves. Addiction takes a toll on everyone involved, not just the addict. The recovery process is a journey, and each member of the family needs to take care of themselves while our facility takes care of your loved one.
Asking for Support
Embracing the dysfunction of family roles when dealing with an addict can lead to codependency over time. While the initial reasons for adopting the functions may have been good intentions, the unforeseen consequences eventually lead to issues. Most family members take on these roles to cope with the situation and reduce the stress on themselves or others. Still, it only temporarily fixes the issue, and the problems still exist.
While roles for coping with an addicted individual may feel necessary and helpful, they only help support and enable addicts and their behaviors, creating more problems for the family. Therefore, it is more beneficial to seek help from a professional. Please contact the Avatar Alcohol & Drugs Recovery Center to help you, your family, and your loved one begin the journey towards sobriety.
The Avatar Alcohol and Drug Recovery Center in New Jersey provides quality drug and alcohol addiction treatments and behavioral health services. If you or someone is struggling, please call +1 (973)-774-7222 for more information. We provide a variety of treatment services for individuals struggling with addiction and mental health issues.