FAMILY ROLES IN ADDICTION
The family typically adapts to the dependent person by taking on family roles that help reduce stress,
deal with uncertainty, and allow the family to cope with the craziness and fear created by the addict.
The Enabler is a family member who steps in and protects the addict from the consequences of his or her behavior. The motivation for this may not be just to protect the addict, but to prevent embarrassment, reduce anxiety, avoid conflict or maintain some control over a difficult situation. Therefore,the Enabler may try to clean up the messes caused by the addict and make excuses for him or her, thus minimizing the consequences of addiction.
The Hero is a family member who attempts to draw attention away from the addict by excelling, performing well and generally being “too good to be true.” The Hero has a hope that somehow his or her behavior will help the addict to stop using. Additionally, the Hero’s performance-based behavior helps to block emotional pain and disappointment.
The Scapegoat is a family member who creates other problems and concerns in order to deflect attention away from the real issue. This can be through misbehavior, bad grades or his/her own substance use. Often, the Scapegoat is very successful at distracting the family and others from the addicted individual.
The Lost Child
The Lost Child is a family member who appears to be ignoring the problem completely. There could be a fight, with yelling and screaming, and the Lost Child will be absent or secluded from the situation. They are often perceived as the “good” child because much time is spent alone with books or involved in isolated activities. While the Lost Child will not be successful at drawing attention away from the family problem, he or she is able to avoid stress personally.
The Mascot attempts to use humor as a means to escape from the pain of the problems caused by addiction. He or she will often act out by “clowning around,” cracking jokes or making light of serious situations. While the Mascot can certainly help lighten up a desperate situation, the real intent is to ease tension, keep the peace and serve as a distraction. Many comedians come from dysfunctional homes.