When there is a crisis or an on going stressor within the family everyone in the family is effected in some way. This is especially true when a family member or close friend suffers from the disease of addiction. We may not even be aware that we try to maintain control of the situation by taking on new roles. We act in certain ways in an attempt at responding to the addiction in our family. Everyone does this, it is unavoidable. The problem is that many of the typical ways family members react are not healthy for them and do nothing to help their loved one.
What are these roles? They are ways of trying to adjust to the disease of addiction in the family. In her book "Another Chance; Hope and Health for the Alcoholic Family" Sharon Wegscheider Cruse describes these roles. She has labeled these roles as the "Enabler, the Hero, the Scapegoat, the Lost Child, and the Mascot." Unfortunately these roles have become labels for people and labeling is not healthy either. An example would be the Enabler, everyone does this behavior to some extent. Think of enabling as a behavior rather than a title. When family members attempt to manage the addicted person by doing for the addicted person what that person should be doing for themselves that's enabling behavior, when family members find themselves shielding the addicted person from the consequences of their addiction that's enabling behavior. Family members enable in order to deal with their own anxiety and this way of dealing with the anxiety caused by the disease of addiction in the family is not helpful to the family members or the addicted person.
We get caught up in adjusting to the addiction in our family and Sharon Wegscheider Cruse reminds us that "the only healthy response to would be not to adjust to it but to open it up by voicing honestly your practical problems, your mental confusion and your emotional pain." This cannot be done alone. You need a support system. Al-Anon, Alateen, NA, AA.
More on roles in coming blogs.