Family in Addiction Recovery Part 1 - Roles

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Hi it's Dermot again. If you read my last blog from 19th April, you will know that this is a follow up to that blog and part of a "Recovery from Addiction Series", If not read on:

I decided as part of my bloging series, "Recovery in Addiction Series", to include a few blogs on family. It is an undisputed fact that family are directly effected by addiction and in most cases it is the family that eventually help to motivate change in an addict or atleast do their utmost to do so. Families also suffer immense hardship through addiction and it does leave emotional scars in everyone. No one escapes the impact and effects of addiction.


In addiction the "Abnormal becomes Normal". This is where normal family functional behaviour tends to literally turns upside down, back to front and inside out. Adults (in addiction) become the children, Children become the adults, a strange hierarchy is formed and the family, learn to live by their wits end, going from one crisis to another. In spite of all of this many families do manage to cope, and do their utmost to keep the problem within the family.

Most of these changes happen over time and on a subconscious level and are just a coping mechanism to help people deal with adverse situations.

Here are a few examples of family roles:

What are Family Roles?

a.The Addicted Person is the Central figure.

b.Family revolves & evolves around the Addict/ Alcoholic in the household, be it Parent or Child.

c.Individual Family members change their behaviours and attitudes to adapt to the   alcoholic’s behaviours and attitudes & become pre-occupied.

d.They try to predict what the person in addiction will do next.

e.This change is on a sub conscious level & is a coping mechanism, in the family unit.

f. “Abnormal becoming Normal”

Different Roles:
1) Family hero
2) Placate (Enabler)
3) Scapegoat
4) Lost Child
5) Mascot

1) FAMILY HERO (Responsible one) –Takes over parenting role, Looks after younger siblings, Organizes household, Role model.

“This role is normally adopted by the spouse or eldest child”

Positive attributes: Organised, Leadership Skills, Decisive, Initiator, Self-Disciplined, Goal Oriented

Limitations: Perfectionist, Difficulty Listening, Inability to follow, Lack of Spontaneity, In flexible, Un willing to ask for help, Fear of mistakes.        

2) PLACATER (People Pleaser/Enabler)-Tries to keep the peace, Avoids taking sides, Avoids confrontation, Easily led, Does what he/she is told.

 “This role can be adopted by an abused spouse or child”

Positive Attributes: Caring/ Compasionate, Empathic, Good Listener, Sensitive to Others, Gives Well, Nice Smile.

Limitations: Inability to receive, Denies Personal Needs, High tolerance for bad behaviour,
Fear of anger or conflict, False Guilt, High anxiety/ fearful.

3) SCAPEGOAT (Acting out)-Appears not to care, Rebels against household, Detaches from family unit, Behaviour is similar to that of the addicted person, Out spoken, First to be blamed.

“This role can be adopted by spouse or any child”

Positive Attributes: Creative, Less Denial, More Honest, Sense Of Humour, Close to Own Feelings, Ability to Lead (in the wrong direction). 

Limitations: Short tempered, Inability to follow direction, Self destructive, Intrusive,       Irresponsible, social problems at a young age, Under Achiever, Rebel.

4) LOST CHILD (Adjuster)-Isolates, Stops communicating, Avoids drawing attention, Neglected, Does not complain.

“Usually the youngest child”

Positive Attributes: Independant, Flexible, Ability to folllow, Easy going attitude, Quiet, Follows without Questioning.

Limitations: Unable to initiate action, Withdraws, Fearful of making decisions, Lack Of Direction, Ignored/ Forgotten, Difficulty perceiving choices and options

5) MASCOT (Family Clown)-Makes light of situations, Never serious, Childish behaviour

“Middle or youngest child, most insecure”

Positive Attributes: Sense of Humour, Flexible, Able to relieve stress & pain.

Limitations: Attention seeker, Distracting, Immature, Difficulty focusing, Poor decision making,   Not taken seriously.

It is very daunting when you suddenly recognize that yourself and other family members fit these roles. Most families, I work with are initially very angry as the realisation suddenly dawns on them, just how effected they have been by addiction. When the abnormal becomes normal, you do not notice that you have been effected by addiction at the time. All family members become co-dependent, but I will be covering co-dependency in a later blog.

My next 3 articles are on Family & Addiction/Recovery. The next one will be on Enabling on Tuesday 24th April 2018

The articles in "Recovery from Addiction" Series, are the opinion of the author and if you would like to contribute to it, please leave a comment in the comment box below. If you want to subscribe, for free, to any further blogs of mine please leave your email in the blue box below.

Recovery is about growth and everyone does grow at a different pace. My advice to anyone in early recovery is to wait at least 2 years before making any major life changing decisions that might have emotional ramifications. An example: get a mortgage, get married, change career, emigrate. In light of this everyone has dreams and we all do want to better our lives in one way or another, so it is important in early recovery to start to put those dreams into reality by creating achievable goals which can be reached in time. I found in my early recovery, although I had dreams, I wasn’t aware of creating goals and my life unfolded by default. It turned out well for me, but had I had clear goals, I do feel that it would have been even better.

I do try to learn from my mistakes, and that is why they are little miracles in themselves that happen for a reason. I am a growth seeking being I will continue to seek change in myself. What motivates me is the Pain – Pleasure, which moves me away from my pain points (a lack of finances, time & peace of mind) to my pleasure points (freedom of finances, time & peace of mind). The way I have found to achieve this freedom and to move away from the “Groundhog Day” of life is through on line marketing. I have taken this step into the abyss, I’m not tech savvy at all, and with the support of SFM, I am working my way through it. The internet is here to stay and is the future for all of us, so don’t get left behind because it is gaining momentum. If you want to learn what I am learning and are in a point in your life where you want change, then I offer you, through my mentors, a no obligation FREE 7 day video series to watch.


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