Alcoholic Family Roles
By: 2SC Staff
Have you ever wondered about some of the alcoholic family roles that you may hear during various recovery based meetings? Has your therapist or substance abuse counselor used different terms when referring to people within your family unit? If so, you are not alone.
In the world of addiction and recovery, there are a number of common names that are given to individuals within the alcoholic family system that are used to describe roles and behaviors. Because many of our Chicago counseling clients have asked questions about these roles, we thought it might be helpful to offer something on the blog.
1. Dependent person
The person who has the addiction (the alcoholic, substance abuser) is referred to as the dependent. It should be noted that in many families, there can be more than one dependent person. In many cases, these are folks who are addicted to the same substance – such as alcohol.
This person is usually a spouse or significant other. Generally speaking, enablers will do everything possible to make the addictive behavior stop – except what works. Confronting the person living with the addiction or leaving the relationship is not done. Enabling behavior is habitual; it will often continue for many years until something catastrophic happens to the dependent.
3. Family Hero
This is the person in the family who sees and hears what is happening and takes responsibility for the family pain by becoming successful and popular. The hero is often the oldest child in the family unit and quickly forms an alliance with sober members of the family. This person is sometimes thought of as the “good child” or the “angel” and is a source of stability and dependability. Hero’s may over-compensate for dependent person’s behaviors through over-achievement.
4. Family Scapegoat
This is the family member who commonly rejects the family system. The scapegoat is often the second oldest child in the family and gets the family’s attention by developing angry and defiant behaviors. Scapegoats are often blamed for all of the “wrongs” happening in the family. Many times these individuals are referred to as the “black sheep”
5. Lost Child
This is the family member who quietly and unobtrusively withdraws from family system. This is often the third child in birth order who is quickly overwhelmed by older siblings. This person often gives up and tends to be isolated – physically and psychologically.
In many cases, this is the youngest child within the family unit. This person likes to play the class clown and jokes around a lot to relieve family tension. Conversations with mascots often are superficial because deep, meaningful dialogue can trigger deep pain and shame. Mascots often try to be funny or make light of a given situation in order to relieve family tension or to gain parental attention.
If you are interested in learning more about various roles that family members play in alcoholic families, we would like to recommend, Loosing the Grip by Jean Kinney.
Inside, you will find tons of helpful information on how an addiction to alcohol and other substances impacts the family as a unit. We also like this book because it provides a concrete resource for exploring problematic drinking and examines the motivation to create positive change.