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Family Roles in Homes with Addiction

Medically Reviewed by: Charley Allen

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Family Roles in Homes with Addiction - Design For Recovery

Addiction does not only affect the addict but the whole family. Substance abuse has a vast impact and can cause family members to take on certain roles in the household. Unconsciously or not, these roles are developed with the best intentions and the goal to help the addict. These roles, however, often result in family members neglecting their own personal needs and, in many ways, enabling the addict’s use. Households that develop these roles often result in the members developing mental health issues, such as trauma, depression, and anxiety, along with developmental issues. This blog will discuss the 6 main family roles developed in households with addiction. Identifying which roles you assume is essential in unlearning these behaviors.

6 Family Roles in Homes with Addiction

Dr. Claudia Black, a family systems and substance use disorders expert, has identified 3 unhealthy rules households with addiction follow that deeply impact everyone involved:

  • Don’t feel
  • Don’t trust
  • Don’t talk

These rules are followed in an attempt to minimize the pain and guilt associated with the addiction they are experiencing. These rules, however, force members of the family to adopt toxic and rigid roles within the family that can not only affect how they behave within the household but also outside in the world. Here are the 6 roles family members tend to take on within a home with addiction.

The Enabler/Caretaker

The enabler is also known as the caretaker or the codependent. Codependency can be understood as excessive reliance on another individual, typically on someone who requires support. This individual’s goal is to protect the addict from experiencing the consequences of their use. The enabler will cover up, lie, or make excuses for the addict. Moreover, the enabler neglects their own well-being and needs and instead focuses their attention and energy on the addict. 

Oftentimes, the enabler is a parent or partner who may feel responsible for the addict. Over time, this individual will lose their sense of self and most likely develop mental health issues due to neglecting their own needs.

The Mascot

The mascot uses humor to relieve tension or to calm stressful situations. This role is usually taken on by a younger child or sibling. This individual’s job is to make others laugh and cover up the pain they themselves are feeling. The mascot uses humor whenever possible to avoid feelings and confrontation. The mascot finds their purpose in providing comedic relief and is desperate for approval. When this individual can no longer use humor to avoid uncomfortable or distressing situations, they find it hard to cope. The mascot often ends up self-medicating with alcohol/drugs and continues the cycle of addiction within the family.

The Scapegoat

The scapegoat is typically the older or middle child who takes on the blame and resentment from the family. This individual offers the family someone else to direct their feelings at, sheltering the addict from the family’s anger and the consequences of their behavior within the home. The scapegoat tends to grow up and engage in risky behavior and act out.

The Hero

The hero is usually the oldest child and is the overachieving, perfectionist of the household. This individual tries to control what is happening at home and overcompensates in other aspects of their life to try to bring some normalcy to their life and their family. The hero often puts too much pressure on themselves and develops anxiety, stress, and depression as a result.

The Lost Child

The lost child is most often the middle or youngest child. This individual gets lost in the chaos due to their shy and soft-spoken nature. They tend to feel invisible and neglected within the family. As a result, this individual may have trouble with decision-making, developing meaningful relationships, and socializing.

The Addict

The addict is the role in which the other roles revolve around. This individual is struggling with addiction and they may lie, cheat, steal, or manipulate others in order to use. The addict may blame others for their addiction or even deny the existence of their addiction altogether. They may not even realize they are causing chaos in the house as they are so wrapped up in their addiction.

Although these roles may feel deeply ingrained in your family unit, they can be overcome. Identifying which role you adopt and unlearning the behavior will allow you to live a much more fulfilling and free life. If your family is ready to break free from these roles, family therapy is a great way to heal together. If not, addressing your own unhealthy behaviors and tendencies can significantly improve your life and can help break the cycle of addiction within your family.

Defining Your Own Role with Design for Recovery

If you’ve realized you’ve adopted an unhealthy role within your family, Design for Recovery can offer you a safe environment to unlearn these behaviors. Design for Recovery is a sober livings in Los Angeles. While living in Design for Recovery’s structured, safe environment, you can begin to reap the rewards sober life has to offer. Residents work hard daily to develop new skills, values, and coping mechanisms for approaching life in early recovery. Allow Design for Recovery to help you become your own person and not let addiction determine your familial role.

Read Further:

How to Help a Son Who is Addicted to Drugs


Edited by: David Beasley

David Beasley - Design for Recovery

David Beasley is a certified RADT (Registered Alcohol/Drug Technician). David, moved to California from North Carolina after many failed attempts to get sober.

Medically Reviewed by: Charley Allen

Charley earned his Masters of Clinical Psychology from Antioch University, Los Angeles, and is a California Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT).He teaches mindfulness to both adults and children in group setting such as schools, corporate workplaces, and medical treatment facilities.

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