Thursday, October 11, 2007

Role in families dealing with addiction.

Many people find their way to this blog through asking a search engine to find information about the roles people take on in an addicted family.

The classic model of what these are describe five basic roles. The Chief Enabler, the Family Hero, the Family Scapegoat, the Family Lost Child, the Family Mascot.

The chief enabler could be a parent, spouse, someone the addict works with. It is the person that protects the addicted person from the consequences of their addiction. The family hero is the person that makes the family look good from the outside. This could be a star athlete, a top employee at work, a family member who gets top grades in school. The scapegoat is generally the problem kid who gets in trouble at school or at work. The scapegoat has obvious problems. The lost child is the one that stays out of the way, socially a loner, avoids attention. The mascot is the class clown, a joker, uses humor to deal with stress, a social comedian.

What is the problem here? The main issue is that these roles are taken on as compensation for the family's inability to deal with what is really going on, typically a family members addiction. We look at the roles of enabler or scapegoat or lost child or even the mascot and we can see the down side but what about the family hero? The problem is that all these roles are compulsions that develop to buffer the individual from the craziness within the family. As I have mentioned in an earlier blog these are all forms of enabling because it help the family and the individuals to avoid focusing on the main issue.

These roles don't just go away. The person who has developed a role for themselves doesn't generally know that they are reacting to the addiction in their family through there role. When the chief enabler becomes angry and bitter, the family hero becomes a stressed out perfectionist and the scapegoat winds up an addict, the lost child becomes more socially isolated and avoids responsibility and the mascot becomes depressed and runs out of jokes they may wonder how they got to this place in their lives.

This is why it is important to understand what these roles are,and how they impact peoples lives. These roles are unhealthy survival techniques that are used by individual family members to adjust to living with addiction in the family. These roles are used to soothe each persons own anxiety but does absolutely nothing to impact on the main issue which is the disease of addiction.

The roles are another symptom of the disease of addiction as it effects the family. There is no healthy way to adjust to addiction in the family at some point the family needs to face it to get healthy.