Family Roles in Addiction

Family_Roles_in_AddictionFamily Roles

Often family members take on roles within a family that is exposed to behavioural health and addiction problems. They do this to cope, to reduce the stress that the dependent individual is causing for themselves and their loved ones. Whilst these coping mechanisms appear to work to the family, it is actually these traits that help enable the dependent individual’s destructive behaviour.


The Enabler or Rescuer

The ‘enabler’ or ‘rescuer’ steps in and saves the dependent from disaster, regardless of the situation. They will protect the loved one from the consequences of their destructive or abusive behaviour, effectively shielding them from the harm and negative repercussions that might arise. The reasoning might not be to protect the dependent individual, as they could be trying to protect their embarrassment or shielding the family from financial ramifications. Unfortunately this will just pile more responsibilities onto the enabler, whilst the dependent individual does not experience the pain and difficulties their actions are causing.

The Family Hero or Secret Keeper

This family member simply tries to stop the loved one from acting in their destructive behaviour, in a vain hope that they will follow their signing example. Locking away the secrets the ‘family hero’ will focus so much on their rigorous and rigid activities, that they forget or block out the emotional pain and disappointment of their loved ones abusive behaviour.

The Scapegoat or Rebel

Often borne through feeling ignored or trapped and is using the negative behaviour as an attempt to seek help. Essentially they will divert attention from the family’s primary problem (behavioural health and addiction issues) by creating other matters of concern. This is often seen in poor behaviour at school, acts of hostility or having troubles with the law. Unfortunately this behaviour often does divert the family’s attention from the loved one facing behavioural health or addictive issues, essentially allowing it to pass unnoticed or neglected.

The Lost Child or the Adjuster

The lost child appears to be ignoring the entire problem. All hell can be breaking loose at home and the lost child stays secluded from the drama. The lost child isolates and behaves apathetically. The lost child cares about the chemically dependent person in the family and the confusion which surrounds the disease, but he/she reacts by staying away from the entire situation.

The Mascot or Clown

The mascot attempts to use humour to shield the family from the pain of the disease. A quick joke or a humorous facial expression is meant to divert attention from the serious consequences of the addictive behaviour.

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