Family Roles in Addiction

Family Roles in Addiction hero

There are six (6) main “roles” that tend to develop in the presence of addiction: 

The (Dependent) Addicted One

The first is the individual who has developed a substance use disorder (SUD). This person abuses drugs and alcohol as a means of coping with stress. Out of a need to sustain their addiction, the Dependent often exhibits unhealthy behaviours toward their friends and family such as lying, manipulation, and blaming others. 

The Enabler

The Enabler constantly attempts to “smooth things over” in the family by making excuses for the Dependent’s behaviour. They may believe they are shielding everyone from the effects of the addiction – or be in denial that it exists – but the reality is that they encourage the addictive behavior to continue. 

The Hero

Often the firstborn child, the Hero is a Type-A personality who tries to give the family hope through their own achievement. This pressure to make up for the Dependent’s actions can lead to extreme anxiety and stress-related illnesses. 

The Scapegoat

Frequently the second oldest child, the Scapegoat will – either in-and-of themselves or from family members – give the family a sense of purpose by taking both the focus and the blame for the Dependent. They tend to develop chronically low self-esteem. 

The Mascot

The Mascot tends to be the youngest child, who attempts to restore light-heartedness to the family through comic relief or other means of deflection tactics. While they mask pain with humor, they often develop SUD’s themselves to cope with the covered emotions. 

The Lost Child

In the chaos of focusing on (or being in denial about) a family member caught in addiction, the Lost Child is whose needs get overlooked. Since avoidance becomes their main coping mechanism, they often struggle in life with decision-making, maintaining close relationships, and isolation.  

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