How to Recognize the Role Family Plays in Addiction

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Sep 26, 2016

How to Recognize the Role Family Plays in Addiction


As we engage in a process of drug addiction recovery, it’s important to consider what our role is within the family dynamic. An individual’s role within a family dynamic allows for a better understanding of how each individual within the family system develops their understanding of life and their ability to make choices.

How to Recognize the Role Family Plays in Addiction

At the Guiding Hearts with Hope’s 2014 Annual Community Recovery and Wellness Conference, Virginia Satir, Claudia Black and Sharon Wegcheider explained how drug and alcoholism become the organizing principle within the family system. It is key to understand where one stands within a family system in order to address and disrupt the cycle of silence and bring to light the impact of diseases like alcoholism and addiction.

5 Roles Within a Family System in Addiction Include:

  1. 1. Hero: The hero is an individual who is successful, organized, self-disciplined and goal-oriented. This individual also has negative traits, including perfectionism, difficulty with asking for help and the need to be in control.

2. Placater: The placater is an empathic individual who listens well, is sensitive to others and exhibits care and compassion to fill their need to people please. This individual also has adverse aspects, including an inability to receive, feelings of false guilt and a high tolerance for inappropriate behaviors. As a result, they are anxious and hyper-vigilant.

3. Scapegoat: The scapegoat is creative, has less denial and more honesty, has the ability to learn and is able to own feelings. This individual struggles with inappropriate expression of emotion is self-destructive, defiant and rebellious, and appears to be irresponsible.

4. Lost Child: The lost child is independent, has an easy going attitude and is quiet and flexible. The negatives of this person include his/her fear of making decisions, lack of direction, being a follower and a tendency to be ignored or forgotten about.

5. Mascot: The mascot has a sense of humor, is flexible and is able to relieve stress or pain within a family system. This individual also engages in attention seeking behaviors, has difficulty with focus and has poor decision-making abilities.

How to Recognize the Role Family Plays in Addiction

Those seeking treatment for alcoholism and addiction gain insight into the harmful aspects of their roles within their family systems and are provided with tools of recovery to make healthier choices and make strides in building self-worth. As the loved one is struggling with addiction and/or alcoholism, the direct impact this has on the balance within the family is far more significant than any one member may assume. This creates changes within the family system, which at times creates turmoil due to a dynamic’s resistance to change.

Once a change is made, recovery is possible within the family as a whole. When one person within a family system begins to change their role, the entire dynamic is then able to make a shift towards transparency, healthier communication, and healing.

The first step towards recovery is simple. Ask yourself “what is my role?” and set forth on the journey of self-discovery to begin building upon strengths and letting go of negatives to work towards internal happiness and wealth. The beginning can be as simple as asking ourselves, “What do I want in my family?”, Why don’t I have it?” and “What am I willing to do about it?”

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