6 Family Roles That Appear with Addiction: Which One Are You Playing? 

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No addiction affects just one family member. As the entire family tree is uprooted, each member copes in different ways. Often, this involves taking on one of six dysfunctional family roles. Are you currently playing one of these parts? Take a look at Jon’s family and see if you can find yourself in the mix. 

Find Yourself in The Cast

Jon: Jon frequently lapses on his responsibilities in the household. His family covers for him, making excuses and covering up his mistakes. He has become the central focus of much of the family’s time, attention, and efforts, while Jon’s energies are focused on getting and using drugs. 

Jon is “The Addict” 

Carol: Jon’s older sister Carol is the one who most often covers for Jon. She wants to keep the family at peace, so she shoulders the brunt of his responsibilities. Carol also prevents Jon from feeling the consequences of his actions.  

Carol is “The Caretaker” a.k.a. “The Enabler 

Brian: Jon’s younger brother Brian also spends most of his time covering for Jon. His efforts have made him highly self-sufficient and responsible. He strives to be the perfect child to create the appearance of a normal, healthy family.  

Brian is “The Hero” 

Mike: Quite the opposite of Brian, Mike strikes out with defiance to authority and hostility toward his family. He attracts negative attention which diverts attention from the addict’s behavior. 

Mike is “The Scapegoat” 

Steven: As the father of the family, Steven feels powerless to control what’s happening under his roof and attempts to cope with the situation through humor. He has become the comedian of the family and attempts to defuse stress with silliness. However, if he is faced with downtime, he becomes depressed. 

Steven is “The Mascot” 

Shannon: Amidst the chaos surrounding Jon’s addiction, Shannon has become nearly invisible. While the rest of the family is focused on Jon, Shannon tries to stay out of the way. She remains quiet and avoids interactions with her family.  

Shannon is “The Lost Child” 

Typically, family members adopt these roles in an effort to help the situation. However, these roles can lead to codependency and additional problems. Any relief their “character” provides is only temporary. It ultimately only masks a problem that needs to be addressed. The family members’ actions enable The Addict rather than truly help him.  

Recast Your Family 

If you see yourself in any of these roles, support is available. You can learn how to cope in healthy ways with your family member’s addiction. Find resources here to develop the skills and tools you need to break out of dysfunctional roles and change your family dynamic.

Additional Reading: The Dangers of Unprofessional Interventions

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