While an individual diagnosed with a substance use disorder plays the role of “the Addict,” it does not mean that other family members do not also play crucial parts in the disease of addiction. These roles may be unconsciously taken on by loved ones. Just as the addict may be coping with their emotions through drugs or alcohol, family members may handle the addiction through developing familial roles. Unfortunately, partaking in these roles can hinder recovery for both the person suffering from addiction as well as for the entire family.

What are Familial Roles in Addiction?

A family’s world appears to revolve around the addict. This individual becomes the primary focus of attention. Typically, one family member wants onlookers to believe everything on the home front is normal. This individual is labeled as “the Hero”. The Hero pretends that the problem, as well as the familial roles, are not happening. They are typically perfectionistic in nature and help shield other disappointment and emotional pain. Fear, guilt, and shame tend to fuel this character.

Family Roles in Addiction

We each remember the class clown from primary school. Families dealing with addiction have one of these within their dynamics as well: “the Mascot.” This role tends to share unfitting jokes regarding those involved in the addiction. Embarrassment, shame, and anger tend to underlie the Mascot.

The individual who stays quiet and out of the way is considered “the Lost Child.” This person tends to stay clear of creating any problems. They pretend that none of these roles are occurring. The emotions playing into this role are neglect, anger, loneliness, and guilt.

When attention is highly focused on someone struggling with substance dependency, it is likely that another family member will feel as though they are receiving no attention. “The Scapegoat” often feels empty and acts off their feelings of guilt and shame. They redirect the attention of the main issue upon themselves by rebelling and acting out.

Lastly, there is the individual who is considered “the Enabler” or “the Caretaker.” Helplessness, inadequacy, and fear drive this individual’s behaviors. Via attempting to encourage balance, the Enabler makes the family’s problem appear non-existent. Excuses and avoiding talk of addiction help are some of the Caretaker’s behaviors.

Treatment is for Both the Family and Those Directly Addicted

A desire to live a sober life is important for both the individual addicted to alcohol, cannabis, opiates, or other illicit substances. Developing a lifestyle that supports your recovery does not need to be done alone. That same longing for sobriety from family members can aid in that same individual in maintaining their sobriety. Working with trained professionals at Discovery Place in Burns, Tennessee will allow you to gain healthy coping skills to stay sober as well as to learn ways to effectively support your loved one’s recovery.

At Discovery Place, we know how much family really matters. Call us today at 1-800-725-0922. While we would love to help you help those you love to maintain their sobriety, it does not mean that as a loved one of someone in an alternative treatment program you are not also in a tough situation. We know there are years of emotional hardship you have endured watching your loved one go through their addiction. You are not alone! Family recovery is attainable.


  • Discovery Place was the answer for my son. He did the 90 day and then the step down program and sober living. We give this organization 10 stars. They met my son where he was …emotionally, mentally, physically. They helped him put his life back on track. Discovery Place employees care about their guests. If your son, brother, nephew, grandson or husband needs excellent supportive care THIS is indeed the facility.

    Kim Morton
    Alumni Parent
  • I have remained sober and it is because of DP. DP is the best place there is, hands down. I keep everyone there in my prayers, and I encourage everyone there to take what they are practicing and do it in their lives, after.

    Roy Mantelli
  • Over the past year, I’ve been putting into actin what Discovery Place taught me, and I have experienced a complete perspective change of the world, and the people in it. I get to be a man of service and love today, and for that I am grateful to Discovery Place.

    Matt Kassay
  • Discovery Place means the world to me. They showed me the tools that I’ve tried to use everyday in my life to think less often of myself, and more frequently of others. I am learning to lend a hand when I am able and to have a honest and humble relationship with God and the people around me. Not only am I clean and sober, but also I am happy and fulfilled.

    Tommy Parker
  • Discovery Place and the men who work there made recovery attractive, and more importantly, fun. There is strength in the struggle. I am forever grateful for my time at Discovery Place.

    Creed McClellan
  • When I got to Discovery Place my whole life was in shambles, but I didn’t know it. I spent 6 months in their programs, participating in all three phases, and was met with kindness and love all along the way. It is unbelievable to me, where I am now relative to where I was when I arrived at DP.

    Lance Duke
  • I can never say enough good things about Discovery Place and the people who work there. Before checking in to DP, I was out of options and out of answers. Fortunately, Discovery Place has a solution. Taking suggestions from the staff at DP saved my life, and as a result, I’m now more content and hopeful about life. I’m grateful for Discovery Place showing me how to live a healthy life so that I can become a better man and help the next guy.”

    Tyler Buckingham

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