The Addicted Family
A family disease
It is no secret that addictive patterned behavior affects overall family unity, family finances, physical health, and mental wellbeing, and often leaves in its wake a general state of chaos and dysfunction.
When addiction exists within a family system, no one is left unaffected. In fact, often specific definable roles emerge as each member attempts to adapt to the changes within the system. These roles are born out of survival, as those coping with an alcoholic or addict’s unpredictable behavior helplessly conform to their role, often unknowingly aiding in the dysfunction.
The study of how family members interact and react to one another is called family systems theory and is based on a view of the family as a living, breathing organism, rather than just the sum of its individual members.
A closer look at family roles
While every family is different, five specific themes or set of coping responses appear to accompany the addict’s behavior in their home life. Of course, these roles can plague adults, but most often these responses are seen in children.
The Addict: To begin, it will be important to understand the exact role of the addict in their family context. Of course, the person with addictive behaviors becomes the center of family life, in one way or another, and the one whom all others revolve around. This happens in a number of ways, as again, the ultimate concern of the family is survival. They may spend increasing time helping, enabling, or covering up the addict’s behavior. In reaction to the addict’s unstable and sometimes erratic behavior, the family rules become “don’t talk about it”, “avoid your feelings”, or “keep moving at all costs”.
The Enabler: As the caretaker of the family, it is the job of the enabler to cover for the addicted person’s behavior, help them avoid consequences at all costs, and to keep the family running smoothly. The enabler is most likely in denial themselves regarding the seriousness of the situation, and is works most directly by keeping the addict from facing reality, thus perpetuating the cycle.
The Hero: Similar to the enabler, it is the role of the hero to use positive achievements in school or athletics to distract from the addict, often taking on extra responsibility at home, and in essence, enabling the “enabler” to enable the addict (aka a future “enabler” in the making). The hero often operates from a belief that if somehow they can become “good enough” then everything will be okay.
The Scapegoat: It is the task of the scapegoat in the family to distract from the chaos of the addict’s behavior. Often caught up in addictive patterns themselves, they use rebellion and misbehavior to serve their purpose in the family.
The Mascot: Similar to the scapegoat, the mascot too is tasked with the role of distracting the family from the addict, only their tool is laughter. Through making light of an otherwise grave situation, the mascot employs humor and often carries this skill into adulthood.
The Lost Child: Often lost within the landscape of their own mind, the ‘lost’ child will isolate themselves in an attempt to avoid drawing attention, either positive or negative. The lost child usually learns to deny their own needs for attachment to others and certainly carries this tendency with them into their adult life.
Treatment for the whole family
At MD Home Detox, we understand the toll that addiction takes on the family, and how absolutely essential they are to a full recovery and lasting sobriety. This is why we offer family counseling, among other services to ensure success. Contact us today at 888.592.8541 to begin your family’s healing process.