Posted by Steps to Recovery on February 26, 2013

When a family is impacted by the addiction of one of it’s members, everyone’s life changes. In fact, often times the family members take on roles that they don’t even necessarily realize they are playing out in relation to the addict. The following are six common roles that may be played by family members of addicts whose lives have been impacted by the addiction:

1 – The Addict – This is the person who is directly engaging in the inappropriate behavior. The addict’s behavior is not limited to substance abuse – for example, it may take the form of compulsive gambling, an eating disorder, or other types of dangerous and dysfunctional behaviors.

2 – The Hero – The hero does whatever needs to be done to “fix” the problems and keep all of the family members of addicts as happy as they can be under the circumstances. One example of the hero is the older brother who makes sure that the younger children are fed, clothed and off to school when mom or dad is too drunk, too hungover or not even home at all, and then goes to school and gets straight As.

3 – The Scapegoat – The scapegoat distracts attention from the addict and attracts attention to himself by behaving badly. The scapegoat is usually acting out of misdirected (perhaps even unconscious) anger at the pain that addiction has caused.

4 – The Mascot – The mascot is the family jester. Mascots divert the family’s attention from the pain and drama of their dysfunction by telling jokes and doing whatever else is necessary to keep the other family members of addicts smiling. Though often outwardly confident and popular, mascots often have difficulties making real connections with people, relying instead on superficial, humorous relationships.

5 – The Lost Child – The lost child may also be referred to as the invisible child. Because of the addict’s behaviors and the varied resultant behaviors of the other family members – the hero’s overachieving, the mascot’s goofiness, the scapegoat’s misbehaviors – these family members of addicts are often overlooked to the point of being forgotten.

6 – The Caretaker – Also referred to as primary enablers, caretakers define themselves by their ability to “protect” the addict. From cleaning up addiction-related messes (both figurative and literal) to possibly even procuring drugs for the addict, these family members of addicts substitute an ability to take care of their own emotional health by exerting control over the addict.

Which role are you playing in the drama of your family member’s addiction?