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Category: Family + Addiction

Family Roles in Addiction

Addiction affects the entire family. Family roles in addiction for each family member can often accompany the identified person who is actually using substances. This is why it’s important for loved ones to be involved in an individual’s recovery. Because recovery is holistic, families can play a crucial role in supporting their loved one’s journey.

The Role of Family in Addiction Recovery

Involvement in a loved one’s recovery provides an opportunity to better understand and explore familial history, behaviors and relationships. That being said, families can often also be triggers or sources of deep-rooted negative feelings for an individual in treatment. Sometimes, it’s best for individuals in outpatient treatment to seek sober living accommodations in order to have some space and distance from family and home environments as they work to process, recover and heal. Loved ones should accept these decisions rather than feel hurt or offended.

Family involvement in the recovery process can help create a supportive and healthy environment for the addict to recover, and strengthen family bonds by working through problems within the family that were influenced by the addiction. Additionally, through therapy and addiction treatment, family members can better understand the various family roles in addiction. This will help individuals identify their own role in order to set boundaries, adjust their mindset and determine how to best support their loved one for the best chance of recovery success for all.

Of course, every family is unique and different. But by learning more about the commonly accepted traditional family roles in addiction, and better understanding these roles – including how they can lead to codependency – loved ones can learn to incorporate healthy behaviors and develop new skill sets, thought patterns and healthy coping mechanisms in order to heal from addiction.

Family Roles in Addiction

The Addicted

To have family roles play a part in addiction, there first needs to be an addiction. The addict of the family will portray dependent behaviors as they continue to attempt to sustain a life of active addiction. The family’s “world” revolves around this person, causing the addict to become the center of attention. As the roles are defined, the others unconsciously take on the rest of the roles to complete the balance after the problem has been introduced. As the consequences of addiction unravel, the addicted family member will usually portray negative behaviors to others in the family including lying, manipulating, and pointing fingers of blame. Often, they become unable to regulate moods, leading to outbursts of anger and avoidance behaviors.

The Enabler/Caretaker

The enabler of the family does not create necessary boundaries with the addict, and may even be in denial about the existence of an addiction issue. They try to keep everyone in the family happy and in balance. They may make excuses for the addict’s behaviors, not seeing it as a “big deal” and never mentioning recovery or getting help. They present a situation without problems to the public, often worried about image and perception by others. They might be trying to protect the family but are actually just masking the bigger issue – and making it more challenging for the family to heal.

The Scapegoat

The scapegoat of the family often gets blamed for many of the family issues, regardless of fault. This role is most likely to be the middle child or second oldest. Often, this person feels that their purpose is to provide their family members with an outlet for blame, protecting them from feeling these emotions themselves. The scapegoat of the family will eventually be unable to manage his or her anger and act out in avoidance behaviors – they may rebel, make noise, and divert attention from the addict and their need for help. They cover and draw attention away from the real problem.

The Hero

The hero of the family is the one who is most controlling. Often a perfectionist, their focus is making the family, and role players, look good. They present things in a positive manner, usually ignoring the problem and attempting to provide their family with the illusion that everything will be okay. This role is often played by the firstborn child, as they are the oldest, most likely to have a type A personality, and feel as though they are a leader to their siblings. Because of the position they put themselves in as a leader, they may experience extreme amounts of stress and are often unable to manage their anxiety.

The Mascot

The mascot of a family is the jester – the person who may try to use humor to try to resolve tension during family arguments or drama. These jokes are often inappropriate about others involved, or harmful humor that hinders addiction recovery. This role typically seeks out approval from others in the family, and is often the youngest sibling. Humor serves as a defense mechanism to avoid experiencing the strong negative emotions brought about by addiction in the family.

The Lost Child

The family role of the lost child is a sibling who may not be as involved in family relationships as the others. Typically the youngest or middle child, they might not have received as much attention as the other siblings and tend to be quiet and reserved, and careful to not make any problems. Typically, behaviors include isolation and the inability to maintain lasting relationships as a result of addiction in the family – neglect and loneliness are common feelings in this role. They give up self needs and make efforts to avoid conversations around the problem.

Family Support Groups and Therapy

    When it comes to the negative impact that addiction can have on a person’s life, the most devastating one is often the impact it has on the addict’s family. The negative consequences of addiction can be felt by parents, spouse, children, friends, or other extended family members. That’s why family therapy in Atlanta is crucial to finding sustainable and lifelong recovery. We offer family support groups and family therapy in Atlanta. 

    Find Family Therapy in Atlanta Today!

    At North Atlanta Behavioral Health, we believe that lasting recovery from addiction and mental health disorders – and a happy and fulfilling life – is possible. If you or a loved one is seeking alcohol or drug rehab in Georgia our experienced team can get you to the right place and help with family resources and therapy. We can also assist in providing resources and options, including Georgia detox facility recommendations and/or interventionists with years of experience assisting families and individuals. We know what you’re going through and you’re not alone. Call us today at 770-230-5699.

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