Tag Archives: Family

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.  

What Are the Signs of Enabling a Loved One’s Addictive Behavior?

Signs Of Enabling Addiction - Fight Addiction Now

Any family that experiences addiction in any capacity will undoubtedly fall victim to enabling behaviors. It’s vital to know how to identify these behaviors and why they can be so destructive to people struggling with addiction.

Family members and loved ones of a person struggling with addiction will often look for any way to help. Unfortunately, these good intentions tend to lead to dangerous patterns of enabling that can prolong their loved one’s addiction, rather than ending it. You can prevent this within your family by knowing the signs of enabling and addressing them swiftly.

What Is Enabling?

“Enabling” in the substance abuse world a very broad term that can apply to any behavior that prolongs an addiction. A person struggling with addiction may enable is or her own habit with negative behaviors, such as:

  • Selling personal property to pay for alcohol or drugs
  • Neglecting financial obligations like bills and rent
  • Committing crimes like burglary or theft

Ultimately, a person with an addiction will do whatever he or she feels is necessary to support the addiction. Family members, friends and other loved ones of an addict engage in enabling when they prevent their struggling loved one from experiencing the full consequences of the addiction.

What Are Some Common Signs of Enabling?

What Is Enabling Addiction - Fight Addiction NowThese are a few of the top signs of enabling the addicted person and shielding them from the consequences of their actions:

1. Ignoring unacceptable behavior. This can extend all the way from overlooking negative attitudes and actions to denying that there is a problem at all.

2. Feeling resentful of the responsibilities one has taken on. The enabler begins to feel angry with the addicted person while continuing to enable them.

3. Consistently putting the needs of the addict ahead of one’s own.

4. Having trouble expressing emotions honestly. Enablers are often unsure what kind of reaction they will get if they express their feelings openly – to the addict or acquaintances – and are afraid it will be negative.

5. Being fearful that something one does will start a big fight or make the addict threaten to leave. An enabler will do everything possible to avoid these frightening situations.

6. Lying to cover for their mistakes. The enabler will lie to keep the peace, rather than becoming confrontational.

7. Blaming other people for the addict or one’s own problems. Enablers know who is really responsible to protect the addicted person from consequences (the addict himself or herself).

8. Continuing to offer help when it is never acknowledged or appreciated.

Enabling entails several possible long-term complications as well, and these typically revolve around an addicted person’s one-on-one relationships with his or her loved ones.

When Enabling Evolves to Codependency

Patterns of enabling behavior may eventually evolve into codependency, a relationship in which both parties feed off one another for their emotional needs in an unhealthy way. A person struggling with addiction may manipulate or threaten a loved one into helping maintain the addiction, sometimes subtly and other times overtly.

The other person in a codependent relationship feels compelled to help out of fear of losing the relationship. The longer a codependent relationship exists, the more difficult it is to fix.

Why Is Enabling Destructive?

Ignoring negative or potentially dangerous behavior or allowing it to continue puts everyone involved at risk. When enabling relationships to develop, it’s essential for everyone involved to recognize their negative contributions to these cycles and work to change things.

Breaking Down Family Barriers and Bad Habits

Enabling typically occurs within families or intimate relationships. An enabler could be a spouse, romantic partner, sibling, parent or even the grown child of a person with an addiction.

When people who are enabling addiction acknowledge their contributions to these destructive cycles, change can happen in the family dynamics and the interpersonal relationships with the addicted loved one.

Stopping enabling behaviors often requires reflection over short- and long-term pain. While it may be painful to stop enabling a loved one’s addiction in the short term, doing so could potentially save his or her life and prevent other tragedies in the future.

The Importance of Interventions

An intervention is one of the most crucial parts of a recovery experience because it can set the tone for healing and rebuilding within a family or circle of loved ones. During an intervention, the people closest to an individual with addiction will let him or her know how the addiction has affected them.

It’s also an opportunity to encourage a struggling relative to enter rehab and show him or her that the family cares about what happens next. The best interventions provide opportunities to discuss and overcome patterns of enabling behavior within the family. If the enabling continues when the loved one returns home from rehab, the recovery is likely to fail.

Identifying and Avoiding Enabling Behaviors

During an intervention, the family and friends of a person struggling with addiction can address their enabling behaviors and explain how they will no longer continue. For example, if a parent has been covering an adult child’s rent because the child has spent all of his or her savings on alcohol, the intervention would be a good time to tell him or her that this financial support is over. This can come as a shock, but it must happen for him or her to recover.

We encourage you to explore our intervention resource page to learn more about how an intervention could help with your family’s situation. Addressing enabling behaviors is a crucial step in recovery, and an intervention is a perfect time for this to happen.

Learn More About Interventions

I don’t Have a Problem: Substance Abuse, Addiction and Denial

I don't Have a Problem: Substance Abuse, Addiction and Denial

“They try to make me go to rehab, but I don’t have 30 days to be on punishment. My mom thinks I’m fine. And there’s nothing wrong with me. Everybody uses a little sumpin’ sumpin’.”


Addiction Denial

Denial is the biggest hump keeping people from enrolling in a treatment program and improving their life.

Addiction woos us like an obsessive lover, slowly taking over our time, money and every aspect of our lives. Willingly, we succumb to our lusts, unaware of the power of addiction. They say love is blind.

What everyone else can see eludes the addict, who is blinded by substances. This individual becomes emotionally compromised, judgment impaired and unable to ascertain his or her own reflection.

Signs of an Addict in Denial

Lying to themselves and rationalizing their drug or alcohol problems, people try to ignore the disease that has become their one and only love.

If you are the friend or family member of someone struggling, you can help by recognizing the signs of denial and addiction:

Touting the Ability to Stop Whenever They Want

We’ve all heard addicts who say, “I can quit anytime I want,” yet apparently fail to ever want to. The bottle never gets put down, the pills keep going into the mouth or the needle still enters the vein.

In reality, the opposite is true: People can’t stop an addiction anytime they want. They need support and treatment.


We have all heard the phrase “dry drunk”, referring to someone who is sober but has not addressed their core issues and alcoholic-type behaviors. Dry drunks and active users are often angry.

Anger can cover up deeper emotions, and it often stems from guilt. Addicts are not stupid people.

Subconsciously, we know when we have a problem, but we learn to rationalize it, ignore it and hide it. Even through the dirty lens of a mental disorder, we can sense when something is amiss, but we put up defenses to push away a reality too painful to face.

Excuses and Rationalizations

Instead of pondering and evaluating evidence of their problem, people often make excuses and rationalizations for their behavior. We can always find a reason to use substances.

People rationalizing their behavior is normal; everyone does it to some extent. We say we will quit when we get a good job, find a loving partner, or some other malarkey that you and I know won’t change a thing.

Refusing Help

A tell-tale sign of denial is an adamant refusal of help. Somewhere deep within our souls, we know the truth when we hear it. Truth can be painful and difficult to confront. So we hide from it, run away.

Asking someone to get help for an addiction is difficult. The request is usually met with a refusal. Think about it: If someone confronts you with a problem, though your initial reaction may be defensiveness, you are able to consider the legitimacy of your loved one’s words. Not so with denial and addiction.

Addiction Is Serious

Addiction will kill you; it is a life-threatening illness. Untreated, substance-related and addictive disorders have no other end points than jail, insanity or death.

The DSM-5, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Vol. 5, reports that substance-related disorders and gambling disorder cause changes in the brain that distort thinking, behavior and bodily functions. These pathological changes can last long after the intoxication from the drug of choice fades.

Mental disorders, by nature, skew thinking. There is a neurobiological factor and cerebral dysfunction that makes it very difficult for individuals in active addiction to admit they have a problem.

Beginning to Recover

The first step toward healing is acceptance. Until a person accepts the truth and admits the dream world they pretend to live in is, in fact, a dream world, they will not have the motivation necessary for successful treatment and recovery.

Only about 11 percent of those suffering from addiction actually enter a treatment program. Denial is very common. Admitting there is a problem and seeking help and treatment takes strength.

Lies, Victim Mentality and Self-Centeredness

Those abusing drugs and alcohol (and pathological gambling) have honed lying to a master level. To feed their compulsion, they beg, borrow, steal…and lie. It’s a survival tactic; one cannot maintain a serious addiction for any length of time and remain honest.

Eventually, people start lying to themselves. People stuck in addiction know they are not bad people, yet they experience cognitive dissonance – uncomfortable, irreconcilable thoughts – because their behavior contradicts their values. Telling themselves lies and rationalizations only worsen the disease.

Along with the lies, we tell ourselves, demonstrating a victim mentality and acting in self-centered ways are signs of addiction. Being a sympathy seeker feeds our need for rationalizing our addictive behavior. “I can’t help it; my life is so hard” Statements are meant to draw sympathy and an excuse to drink or use.

There is something narcissistic about being an addict. Here again, it’s not intentionally done; it evolves as a product of the illness. Over time, the person puts their desire for their addictive behavior above all else, including people. They unwittingly become selfish.

Promises and Blame

Failed promises go hand in hand with compulsive behaviors. We mean well. We just can’t follow through.

Someone going through stages of addiction denial will inevitably make promises of cutting back or controlling their behavior. What they haven’t learned yet is there is no controlling addiction.

Blaming other people and circumstances for drug and alcohol abuse is another common characteristic of denial. Some common excuses addicts use to transfer responsibility are:

  • Parent(s) used or were abusive
  • Critical or difficult mate
  • Stressful job
  • Difficult children
  • Loneliness, depression, anxiety or other mood disorder

Reminding your loved one what they were like before substance use can help them see that drugs have had an effect. Those of us dealing with addiction know firsthand that goals, dreams, work and relationships fall to the wayside when we’re using. Being reminded of who we used to be when we were sober can be jarring.

How to Help an Addict in Denial

Living with an addict in denial practically requires sainthood. However, there are ways you can help your loved one see that they do have a problem. People in denial need a wake-up call.

Here are some things you can do to wake up your loved one in denial:

  • Keep a written record of dates and events that show a pattern of abuse and the behavior of someone intoxicated.
  • Hold an intervention.
  • Use love.

Compassion, kindness and acceptance make incredible differences in the lives of all people. Instead of approaching someone out of frustration with verbal attacks and anger, why not go to them softly and say, “Honey, I love you. I value you (or this relationship). How can we work this out?”

They still may not listen, but don’t give up on them. Taking an empathetic approach allows you to keep your dignity and feel good about yourself.

Continued efforts can make a difference. Keep talking to your loved one when:

  • They are sober.
  • You can remain calm and caring.
  • You can talk without judgment.

Many people in recovery attribute their awakening to a family member or friend not giving up on them.

Weighing In

To those of you who are in recovery, we are curious how long it took you to realize you were in denial. Most people have to be clean and sober for a time before they recognize that they were in denial about addiction and other issues in their lives. How long did it take you?

If you could give one piece of advice to your former self about denial, what would it be?

Join our community discussion about denial and addiction. Answer the questions immediately above in the comment section below, or head to our online forum to discuss these important issues. You might just help someone else in denial!

See Real Stories of Overcoming Addiction

Signs of Codependency, Substance Abuse and Enabling Addiction

Codependency, Substance Abuse and Enabling Addiction - Fight Addiction Now

What Is Codependency?

It might seem terribly unromantic, but Valentine’s Day is a great time to evaluate the health of your relationship. One aspect that can be especially important to those struggling with addiction is codependency and enablement in relationships.

Codependency is defined as an imbalance of power in a relationship, to the point where one person does not have a sense of identity. He or she will blindly support the other person and rarely, if ever, give any criticism.

Typically, codependent people are raised in dysfunctional families in which one or more members are suffering from mental or substance abuse issues. Unlike healthy families, dysfunctional families refuse to discuss feelings, show emotion, confront issues or develop trust. These characteristics make relationships one-sided, creating codependency.

The family member with the mental health or substance abuse issue becomes the energy focus of the family, while the codependent member will do anything in his or her power to take care of them. They are always “coming to the rescue.”

How Does Codependency Support Addiction?

Codependency and Enabling Quote Bryant McGill - Fight Addiction NowCodependency becomes a larger issue when perceived helpful behaviors become enabling to addicts. Since there is no frame of reference for “normal,” co-dependents do not know the best way to help someone. If a family member or significant other is struggling with addiction, he or she will do all they can to prevent that person from feeling the consequences of their actions.

Protecting someone from his- or herself is supporting and enabling addiction. A common example: Child Protective Services visits the home of a family with an abusive person suffering from alcoholism, and the entire family denies the presence of a problem. The person at fault is not held accountable for his or her actions.

Denying there is a problem inadvertently gives a person struggling with addiction permission to continue the destructive behavior. It provides them no incentive to seek treatment.

In romantic relationships, it is important to keep each person accountable for their actions. When you catch yourself making excuses for your loved one’s behaviors, you may need to ask yourself some difficult questions.

8 Signs You Are Codependent

Read through these descriptions and see if any apply to your family or romantic relationship situation:

  • Have a history of living with abusive or addicted people
  • Have a hard time saying “no”
  • Low self-esteem that results in severe indecisiveness
  • Feel guilty when you need to stand up for yourself
  • Fear of being alone or abandoned
  • Poor communication skills
  • Belief that others’ lives or opinions are more important than your own
  • Avoiding conflict like at all costs

OK, Yes, I’m Codependent: Now What?

The first and most important step is recognizing your problem. Secondly, do your research. Changing unhealthy behaviors or lifestyles is possible when you understand why it’s happening. This may involve therapy on your part to understand how you have developed this trait.

If you are currently in a codependent relationship, whether it is familial or romantic, you may need to seek therapy with the other person. With the aid of a therapist, you can recognize patterns in your life, change them and create your own healthy “normal.”

Unfortunately, you can only control yourself. Accepting this fact is a hard pill to swallow for people who are codependent. While you may be willing to acknowledge the changes that you need to make, the other person may not.

When you do begin the journey toward change, you need to make the other person aware. Whether they agree with it, they need to know you are making changes and the status quo will be different. People do not like change, so expect them to be nervous or even defensive.

5 Codependent Habits to Change Right Now

Get started by following these directions:

  • Stop enabling: Encourage treatment for substance abuse or mental health issues.
  • Don’t cover for other people: They must take ownership of their actions.
  • Understand, don’t deny problems: Research, research, research.
  • Stand up for yourself: Express your concerns and your emotions.
  • Stop placing blame: Everyone has their own burdens to bear.

Coming to the realization that you are in a codependent, enabling relationship can be difficult. It is important to understand the problems so you and your significant other can work through them to build healthier habits.

Share your experiences with us in our online forum, where you can discuss codependency, substance abuse and enabling addiction.

Are you codependent? When did you first realize it?
How have you dealt with enabling in your relationships?
Please comment below.