The Six Common Family Roles in an Addicted Household

Addiction, often described as a “family disease”, earns this description as it affects everyone involved, not just the person with an addiction. In homes where addiction is present, the behaviour of those struggling—often characterised by lying, stealing, and manipulation—can create an unpredictable, disturbing and chaotic home life. Family members may feel they are constantly “walking on eggshells” as they quickly become aware that the person with an addiction dictates the mood of the entire family.

These behaviours cause a ripple effect that deeply impacts every member of the family as they learn how to deal with their family member’s addiction. In their efforts to maintain stability or manage stress, many family members adopt dysfunctional and co-dependent coping mechanisms and behavioural patterns, which can exacerbate the situation. 

How Camino Recovery can help your family 

Big family hug, love and beach walking, bonding or enjoy quality time together for vacation

Addiction wreaks havoc on all aspects of family life: emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually. But with proper treatment, care, and support, recovery is possible.

If you are concerned about dysfunctional family dynamics and want to learn more about how we support families in addicted households, our experienced, caring team at Camino Recovery can help. The path to recovery is not just for those struggling with addiction but for the entire family. At Camino Recovery, we provide the tools and support needed for each family member to redefine their roles and embrace healthier interactions. 

Camino Recovery stands out with its unique, comprehensive, and personalised program, catering to clients in Southern Spain and the United Kingdom.

With an impressive track record of over fifteen years, our highly skilled and experienced clinical team expertly facilitates a variety of effective therapies, providing top-notch care to a wide range of clients and their families. Each member of the Camino Recovery team possesses a unique skill set in diagnosing and treating various emotional, behavioural, and physical conditions.

Our luxury residential setting, surrounded by the tranquillity of rugged mountains and the beauty of the Mediterranean Sea, serves as a serene backdrop and enhances the treatment process, ensuring its effectiveness and accelerating the healing rate.

At Camino Recovery, our primary goal is to empower clients, helping them enhance their quality of life, lessen their emotional and physical suffering, and regain balance and independence so that they can live the life they truly deserve.

To learn more about our family treatment programs, contact our specialist team in Spain today, who will happily provide additional support and information.

Discovering the family roles in addiction

An expert in the field of addictions and codependency, Sharon Wegscheider-Cruse, identified six common family roles as a way to highlight the effects addiction has on the family. These family roles help clarify the emotional and psychological landscape of households dealing with addiction. 

At Camino Recovery, we understand the impact of addiction on every family member, who may unknowingly adopt specific roles. Recognising these family roles is crucial in initiating healing and transforming family interactions.

This article will explore six common family roles in households battling addiction.

The six common family roles

1. The addict

Male junkie at the table with drugs and syringe

Centre stage to the family dynamics, the addict’s behaviours often completely destabilise the household as their lives revolve around their addiction. The Addict famously blames everyone else for their problems and often sees themselves as victims. They can be critical, angry, and unpredictable and are usually unable to notice or care about how their actions affect others.

2. The caretaker (enabler)

Often overshadowed by their efforts to maintain order, Caretakers prevent the family from confronting the real issues. The Caretaker (Enabler) shields the addicted person from the consequences of their actions to keep peace in the household. This family role, usually a spouse but sometimes a child, involves making excuses for the addicted person, taking over their responsibilities, and continually providing second chances. While being a peacekeeper may temporarily ease tension, it perpetuates the addiction cycle and creates unhealthy, co-dependent relationships.

3. The hero

The Hero is a serious perfectionist who works hard to project an image of control and success to distract from the family chaos. The person in this family role strives to counterbalance the negative impact of addiction by being overly responsible and successful. They often excel in academics or careers and appear confident and self-controlled. Their overachievement is a coping mechanism to maintain a sense of normalcy. Heroes are usually highly stressed workaholics with Type A personalities.

4. The scapegoat

Childhood Trauma. Young boy sitting with an alcoholic parent.

Scapegoats bear undue blame and shame, leading to feelings of extreme isolation. The Scapegoat, often a child rejected by his parents, is the family member accused of problems unrelated to their behaviour. The Scapegoat faces extreme criticism and frequently acts out or engages in rebellious activities as a form of protest or to distract and draw attention away from the main issue—addiction.

5. The mascot (clown)

By using humour to cope, mascots often mask deeper emotional insights. While humour temporarily relieves the stress and pain of the family situation and can bring necessary comic relief to high-tension situations, it can also prevent Mascots from facing the harsh realities of their environment, delaying emotional maturity and understanding.

6. The lost child

The Lost Child, often unnoticed, avoids conflict and attention. They are quiet and withdrawn, often immersing themselves in solitary activities to escape the family turmoil. By “flying under the radar”, this role might reduce stress in the household but often at the cost of neglecting their own emotional needs.

Camino Recovery can help you heal from dysfunctional family dynamics

Men and women sitting in a circle and holding hands during group therapy

Do you identify with one of these common family roles? Are you experiencing dysfunctional family dynamics? Camino Recovery can help you overcome the effects of coping with an addicted household and learn healthier strategies for life. 

Many adult children of addicts struggle with intimacy and trust and have difficulty expressing their feelings and loving themselves. If you and other family members are struggling, having an honest look at these six common family roles is an important place to begin. If you see these roles playing out in your family, or if you’re seeking support in managing addiction’s impact on your household, reach out to us. 

At Camino Recovery, we take a holistic, person-centred approach to our treatment, tailoring our support to your specific needs and challenges. We can help you plan a healthier, more harmonious family life.

For more information about our family services or our addiction treatment services, please call Camino Recovery today.

Don Lavender

Don specialized in addiction studies, earning an MDiv and a master's in Management, Administration, and Counseling. As a priest, he supported Step 5s in local treatment centers for nearly 40 years, excelling in "family systems work" in the addiction field.

Additionally, Don pioneered equine-assisted psychotherapy (EAP) in the US and UK during the 1990s. He authored "Equine Utilized Psychotherapy: Dance with those that run with laughter" and gained media recognition, including appearances on 'the Trisha Show' and features in The Daily Telegraph.

In the early 2000s, Don and his wife, Meena, founded Camino Recovery in Spain, providing tailored addiction treatment programs aimed at fostering happier lives.

More from Don Lavender

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