Overcoming addiction is a team effort; when one member falls victim to substance abuse it’s the rest of family’s duty to lift them back up. And in doing so, each family member is called to fulfill a certain role – a position in which they may not normally occupy, but a role in which they naturally adapt. Though most of the time things can become much more complicated when in the midst of adversity. Dealing with addiction at home is like receiving a curve ball, which no one could have properly anticipated, simultaneously secreting distortion into the normal structure of living. And as a result, the five following common role types are created.

The Enabler

While the enabler means only the best for the person contending for control of their life, they, many times, only reinforce their negative behaviors in trying to protect them. By playing the “safety net,” this enables the addict to continue in their ways without feeling the negative repercussions that naturally occur.

This can be done through covering up for the victim by paying their bills, creating excuses for them for missed work or school, or hiding evidence which would permit detrimental consequences. After a portion of time, the enabler usually becomes exhausted while the addict shows minimal to no signs of improvement with their addiction.

Learn more about enabling and other common roles within the family when facing the tribulation of addiction.

The Hero

Everybody needs saving from time to time, especially in a family where either a husband, son, or daughter is battling addiction, even if that person is not necessarily the victim. This is where the hero comes into play.

The hero is the person who provides doses of encouragement for the family by being the shining light. This individual is usually considered the overachiever and a healthy model for the family to refer to, as well as an appropriate role model for the codependent individual to look toward.

This person may also take the initiative to fill a pre-existing role that may be absent, for instance, a son helping to pay the bills while the father is out of work due to his current clash with addiction, in efforts to preserve the family as a whole.

The Scapegoat

Similar to the hero, the scapegoat also provides a certain dosage of distraction away from the person in addiction, although these diversions tend to be on the opposite end of the spectrum of the hero’s.

This member continues to stir the pot with their own troublesome ways, like poor grades in school or legal offenses. While these distractions are less pleasant than the hero’s, it provides opportunities in making the addict feel better about themselves as well as a means of release for other family members that may be at their breaking point.

The Lost Child

This individual usually neglects to address the issue of addiction within the family and secludes his/herself from the situation as much as possible. The lost child maintains a positive reputation by adding neither positive nor negative news to the table, but by sustaining a low profile. By remaining in their own lane this member of the family is able to personally steer clear of stress from the family matter at hand.

The Mascot

This member of the family is the peacemaker; the mascot often makes light of the more tense situations – providing temporary escapes of humor. This individual is the entertainer of the family and provides more alleviating distractions for those that may be on the brink of breaking. This person may intentionally be spared the details of the severity of the issue at hand in order to maintain the positive spirit this particular family member brings.

If you, a family member, or loved one is struggling with substance abuse or alcoholism we, at Orlando Recovery Center, would love to help you find the addiction treatment you deserve in order to live the marvelous life of sobriety.


“Roles In The Addicted Family System.” MARR Addiction Treatment Center.  Marr Inc. Web. 09 Jan. 2016.  <https://www.marrinc.org/roles-in-the-addicted-family-system/>

“Addicts Family Roles.” Hamrah. Hamrah.Co. 2015. Web. 09 Jan. 2016.  <https://hamrah.co/en/pages/addicts-family-roles/>

“Chapter 1 Substance Abuse Treatment and Family Therapy.” NCBI. National Center For Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine. 2004. Web. 09 Jan. 2016.  <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK64269/>

Neese, Brian. “On the Road to Recovery: Addiction in the Family.” Alvernia University. Alvernia University Online. 13 Aug. 2015. Web. 09 Jan. 2016.  <https://online.alvernia.edu/addiction-and-the-family/>

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The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.