Dysfunctional Family Roles Centered Around Addiction

Addiction never affects just the addict when it comes to a family. Living with an addict affects the mental and physical health of all family members. It also has a negative impact on the family’s finances, feelings of unity, and overall family dynamics. It can also have a dangerous impact on adults and children as it places them under extreme stress. 

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence states that addiction “stresses a family to the breaking point.” The addiction touches each family member in its own way, often causing that family member to adopt one of six unhealthy family roles. 

Generally, these roles are adopted by children but adults have been known to fill them as well. Family members tend to cling more tightly to these roles as the stages of addiction progress. 

Family Role #1: The Addict

Family Roles That Come With Addiction

The person with the addiction is the center of the “cast.” The family’s world revolves around this person causing them to be the center of attention. The addict is the source of the family’s conflict as most decisions center around their behavior, needs, and choices. 

It is this familial reaction to the addict and his or her behavior that makes the rest of the roles necessary, as they attempt to restore the balance this inequality has created.

Family Role #2, The Hero

The Hero is the family member with the pressing need to make all the members of her family look good. They tend to act as if problems within their family do not exist and they ignore the addiction and the consequences that it brings. 

This person is usually a perfectionist, overly-responsible, and self-sufficient. They may make attempts to fix the family dynamic behind closed doors. 

Family Role #3, The Mascot

The Mascot in the family has a role akin to that of a court jester. They often provide genuine comic relief for the family in an attempt to lessen the stress of the home environment. 

Sometimes the jokes they make are hurtful, mean, or inappropriate jokes about the problem in the family and the family members themselves. In these cases the humor is harmful. 

Family Role #4, The Lost Child

The Lost Child is the one who is careful to remain quiet and out of the way. They never mention the problems of addiction, even when only the family is around. They go out of their way to not create problems and tend to be very quiet and reserved. 

They learn over time to avoid all interaction and essentially make themselves disappear. 

Family Role #5, The Scapegoat

The Scapegoat is the black sheep of the family. They are the individual who is constantly acting out, even in front of others. They rebel and they rebel hard. 

The role of The Scapegoat is to cover up or divert attention away from the real problem in the family by attracting negative attention. They are the opposite of The Hero. 

Family Role #6, The Caretaker

The Caretaker is another role that makes all other roles possible. They will break their backs trying to keep every family member happy and achieve some sense of balance. They make excuses for the behaviors of ALL of the other family roles including that of the addict. 

Like The Hero, The Caretaker presents a family with no issues to the public. Unlike The Hero, however, The Caretaker never brings up the addiction or mentions recovery or the detriment to the family.

If you have a family member that is ready to consider rehab, it is important that you be ready to move forward on that decision. Reach out to the staff here at the Discovery Place in Tennessee. for information regarding our Long Term Alternative Recovery Program. You can chat with us on our website or give us a call and speak with a trained staff member at (800) 725-0922 today.


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