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The 6 Family Roles in an Addicted Household

Medically Verified: 2/1/24

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All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Addiction is known as a family disease, meaning the effects of addiction impact the individual and members of their family. When people live in the same household as an addicted individual, family members must navigate and endure the chaos of addiction. This causes loved ones to adopt varying coping strategies that may have lasting negative effects. For example, many family members develop anxiety, depression, and feelings of guilt while attempting to help their addicted loved ones, leading them to adopt negative mechanisms of coping.

Let’s take a look at the 6 most common family roles in an addicted household.

Types of Family Roles in an Addicted Household

Individuals who are addicted to drugs may lie, steal, cheat, and manipulate to obtain drugs and continue their substance abuse. Unfortunately, the effects of addiction trickle down, affecting other family members as a result. This causes family members to desperately navigate a loved one’s addiction. While attempting to cope, many people develop negative coping mechanisms and behavioral patterns that only exacerbate their problems.

Role #1: The Addict

As the name suggests, this family role is filled by the individual who is directly struggling with substance abuse. While the addict may cause chaos among the household as a result of their addiction, they might not even realize it. In some cases, the addicted individual may be in denial that they even have a problem at all. Therefore, they would not be aware of the ways in which they are affecting their family and causing dysfunction. Additionally, the addicted individual may blame others for their problems, take advantage of their family’s roles, and continue engaging in dangerous behaviors until the family intervenes or sets boundaries.

Role #2: The Enabler/Caretaker

The enabler is also known as the caretaker or codependent. This is the most common family role among individuals living in an addicted household. Because of the popularity of this role, there are even support groups designed to help the enabler, as well as the addict, recover. This role is typically assumed by spouses or parents of the addicted individual.

Enablers struggle to create and uphold healthy boundaries with their loved ones, as they feel responsible for their pain and struggles. Oftentimes, this person will make excuses for their loved one’s behavior, lie to keep the person out of trouble, lend them money, and unknowingly enable their loved one’s addiction. This typically leads the enabler to lose their sense of self, neglect their own physical and mental wellbeing, as well as develop depression and anxiety due to the stress associated with codependency and enabling.

Role #3: The Hero

The hero role is similar to the caretaker, as this person tries to conceal the addict’s behavior to restore balance and normalcy within the household. Typically, this role is assumed by an older child who strives to overachieve in everything they do. Most of the time, people would describe “the hero” as someone who is extremely responsible and self-sufficient. However, usually, this individual continues to maintain outward appearances while struggling internally.

While making desperate attempts to create stability for the family unit, the hero begins to struggle to live up to their individual goals. Oftentimes, these individuals suffer from high levels of anxiety and stress. Similar to the caretaker role, the hero’s actions often enable the addict instead of helping them.

Role #4: The Scapegoat

Opposite of the hero, the scapegoat is typically a “problem child” who acts out in defiance and anger when dealing with the effects of their loved one’s substance abuse. Whether this individual acts out in violence, promiscuity, or general unwanted behaviors, they often distract the family from the addict and end up taking all of the blame. As a result, all of the time and attention is focused on the scapegoat, leaving the addicted individual’s behavior unchecked.

Role #5: The Mascot

The mascot is comparable to a class clown, in a sense. In other words, the mascot attempts to use humor to relieve tense or stressful situations related to their loved one’s addiction. This role is typically assumed by the youngest child and revolves around attempting to make others laugh to mask their pain and their family’s pain in relation to substance abuse. While laughter is always difficult during stressful times, this individual takes their humor even further by using it to avoid feelings, confrontation, and anxiety.

However, humor will not work to mask the effects of addiction in a household forever. Once humor ceases to work, the mascot will begin to struggle to cope with the effects of addiction in the household. Unfortunately, this may lead the mascot to attempt to soothe uncomfortable feelings by turning to drugs or alcohol themselves – further exacerbating the cycle of addiction among the family.

Role #6: The Lost Child

The lost child is a role assumed by an individual in the household who feels left out or abandoned because of everyone’s attention being placed on the addicted individual. This person is usually quiet, shy, and introverted, causing the family to feel as if they do not require much attention. As more and more attention is diverted from the “lost child”, this individual becomes consumed with the chaos in the household.

Because of this chaos, the lost child may struggle to make decisions, have a hard time developing meaningful relationships, and isolate themselves from their family. Unfortunately, these individuals may also begin to self-medicate or experience mental illness as they age. This is typically due to their underdeveloped coping mechanisms that resulted from growing up in an addicted household.

Healing Family Roles and Recovering from Addiction

Whether you’re looking to stage an intervention for your loved one or participate in family addiction therapy, our treatment experts are here to help. Our drug and alcohol rehab is dedicated to helping people heal from addiction as well as providing resources to family members who have been affected. If you have a family member struggling from addiction, contact Carolina Recovery Center today.