Common roles in the addicted family Addiction and the impact on the family:
Why addiction is considered a family disease:
Any form of addiction has an effect on all members of an addicted family unit, in one way or another. There are specific roles which are filled in an alcoholic family unit and we are going to go delve into a number of these roles so that you and your loved ones can better understand the effect of alcoholism on partners and children.
Labelling is of course not a good way to go about describing people and can often seem quite inaccurate in measure. In this particular case however, it really can go a long way towards painting a better picture of the social dynamics in an addicted family, be it a parent, or a child. The best advice we can give when absorbing the information below, is to take the aspects described which best applies to your family dynamic, and discard the rest. Humans are complex beings and the family unit is also complex, therefore no one and no addicted family will fall neatly into a single category. Sometimes the roles may blur and evolve and you may find yourself identifying with different roles at different times, or a number of roles at the same time, which is fine.
What you should take away from this exercise on the addicted family:
Probably the most important thing to take from this exercise is that everyone in an addicted family is affected by addiction. Coping strategies, used to deal with the ups and downs, stresses and challenges brought on by living with an addict often have lasting negative effects. The sad reality of these coping strategies is that these addicted family dynamics and coping factors continue even when the addict is sober, passes on or leaves the family unit. They are often passed down generationally and can create unfortunate cycles in behaviour.
How do children deal with a family addiction?
Children who have addicted parent(s) very often experience unpredictable, restless or chaotic home life which can include mental, emotional and physical abuse. With the emotional neglect, a parent ignores a child’s emotional needs and chooses to focus on dealing with the addict and their needs/problems. A child may begin to feel embarrassed, ashamed, confused, lonely and even angry. Some children find sanctuary in perfection, or joke telling while others get into trouble despite not necessarily having a trouble causing nature. Have you noticed how in the addicted family the addict is given the bubble wrap treatment, with family members walking on eggshells around them so as to not upset him/her? The addict, in effect determines the mood of the whole family. Hobbies and interests are thrown by the way side and life at home becomes about survival, keeping the peace and trying to keep an implosion from happening.
Before we go into the various roles family members play in an addicted family, know that if you are keeping the addiction a family secret, you are not alone. Addiction and the resulting fallout and difficult dynamics in a family unit are often kept as a tightly sealed secret within the family. Children are instructed to not discuss the situation and as a result, feel a sense of shame, often believing that there is something wrong with them and that they are the reason that mom or dad is behaving the way they are.
Common roles played in an addicted family:
Also known as the enabler, the caretaker believes that enabling behaviours can reduce danger and harm for the family and addict. Often denying that addiction to a substance/alcohol is a problem, the enabler goes out of their way to control the situation and unite the family through a series of denials and avoidances. This person unfortunately goes to extremes to keep secrets so that the picture looking into the home is perceived to be happy, clean and trouble free. Often the caretaker is an addict’s partner, but can also be a child.
The Hero in the addicted family
This role is filled by someone in the family who is regarded as a perfectionist, overachiever and someone considered quite responsible. When the hero is a child, they look like they have it all together. They attempt to bring esteem into the family through external validation and results, be it at school, sports etc. They are hard workers and want to feel, and keep control. There is a lot of pressure put on heroes by themselves and they are often workaholics with Type A personalities.
Ah yes, the centre of the entire addicted family dynamic, the addict. Addicts are often able to function and fulfil their responsibilities with varying degrees of success. The ratio of progression is most often linked to the frequency and quality of their substance usage. The primary method of coping with problems and uncomfortable emotions and feelings is to abuse a substance. It becomes the crutch. Over time the addict will destroy relationships, burn bridges and become isolated. Alcohol and drugs rule their lives, become the centre of attention and take up most of their time. Denial, unpredictable behaviour, blaming of others for their situation and severe criticism of the family unit is an all too often occurrence, often with little or no thought about how their actions affect their loved ones.
The clown, also known as the family mascot tries to calm the waters and reduce stress through jokes, humour and goofing around. Sometimes they also resort to causing trouble and often, in children they are seen as the immature one or the class clown. Humour often becomes a shield to deflect pain.
The addicted family Lost Child
This child is not seen. Barely noticed and ignored, the lost child does not seek or receive any attention from the addicted family. He’s quiet, isolated, and spends most of his time by him/herself concentrating on solitary activities, surfing the web, watching TV, reading and playing computer games. They often may escape into a fantasy world. Flying under the radar is the name of the game for the lost child.
This poor person in the addicted family is blamed for all the family issues, dramas and problems in general. Rejected by parents, this child does not fit in, often acting out and temporarily distracting attention away from the problems of the addict.
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