Nothing exists in a vacuum, in order for addiction to grow and thrive within a family system it takes a village. Everyone plays a part whether they know it or not. Here are some of the roles people may unwittingly play in enabling an addict to thrive and the feelings they serve to suppress:
The Addict: The person with the addiction is the center, and though the key to alcohol and drug addiction recovery, not necessarily the most important in family recovery. The “world” revolves around this person, causing the addict to become the center of attention. As the roles are defined, the others unconsciously take on the rest of the roles to complete the balance after the problem has been introduced.
The Hero: The Hero is the one who needs to make the family, and role players, look good. They ignore the problem and present things in a positive manner as if the roles within the family did not exist. The Hero is the perfectionist. If they overcome this role they can play an important part in the addiction recovery process. The underlying feelings are fear, guilt and shame.
The Mascot: The Mascot’s role is that of the jester. They will often make inappropriate jokes about the those involved. Though they do bring humor to the family roles, it is often harmful humor, and they sometimes hinder addiction recovery. The underlying feelings are embarrassment, shame and anger. The Lost Child: The Lost Child is the silent, “out of the way” family member, and will never mention alcohol or recovery. They are quiet and reserved, careful to not make problems. The Lost Child gives up self needs and makes efforts to avoid any conversation regarding the underlying roles. The underlying feelings are guilt, loneliness, neglect and anger.
The Scapegoat: The Scapegoat often acts out in front of others. They will rebel, make noise, and divert attention from the person who is addicted and their need for help in addiction recovery. The Scapegoat covers or draws attention away from the real problem. The underlying feelings are shame, guilt and emptiness. The Caretaker: The Caretaker makes all the other roles possible. They try to keep everyone happy and the family in balance, void of the issue. They make excuses for all behaviors and actions, and never mention addiction recovery or getting help. The Caretaker presents a situation without problems to the public. The underlying feelings are inadequacy, fear and helplessness.