Living with an Addict: Family Roles

367 words | 2 page(s)

The following paper considers the numerous roles that are played by individuals in families with substance addiction. To begin with, Lander et al. (2013) explain in their article that a parent with substance abuse issues is usually mood-altered and largely preoccupied with substance issues (getting high or recovering from substance overdose). As a result, the child cannot foster a healthy attachment with his/her parent (Lander et al., 2013). In families where one or more family members have a substance abuse disorder, a certain pattern tends to develop. Specifically, each of the family members is prescribed a role; these roles are essential to sustaining the pattern of drug/alcohol abuse.

Among these roles, the following have been identified: addict, hero, mascot, lost child, scapegoat, and enabler. First, there is the addict. This person is at the center; everything revolves around him/her. Much of the negative (or positive) attention is directed at this person depending on the circumstances (negative in case of drug/alcohol use and positive if the person makes a step toward recovery). Second, the hero is someone who directs all of his/her efforts at covering up the issue (e.g., helping the other parent by taking on adult responsibilities). This person tries to conceal the pain, shame, and negativity of the family circumstances by doing everything in the best possible way. Third, the mascot is someone who usually clowns around and tries to make fun (even though the situation looks more like a tragedy); he/she carries a wounded child inside. The lost child is a silent, quiet, and reserved individual who never makes trouble; he/she usually gives up personal needs and wishes. Moreover, the lost child avoids talking about the issue with anyone. The scapegoat is rebellious and noisy; he/she aims to attract attention by acting out. Finally, the enabler is someone who sustains the addiction; he/she balances the family situation and covers up for the addicted family member. Furthermore, the enables does not reveal the family issue to the public, keeping it behind closed doors.

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  • Lander, L. et al. (2013). The impact of substance use disorders on families and children: From theory to practice. Social Work in Public Health, 28, 194-205.

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