When a family member is addicted, the rest of the family members tend to slip into roles. These roles are "performed" for the safety of the family and to protect each individual from painful truths and actions. Family roles are often difficult to recognize and exceptionally difficult to break out of. Many people carry these roles all of their lives and live then out in school, work and in relationships. Do you see yourself in any of these descriptions?
THE ENABLER is the family member who steps in and protects the addict from consequences of his behavior. The motivation for this may not be just to protect the addict, but to prevent embarrassment, reduce anxiety, avoid conflict or maintain some control over a difficult situation. The enabler may try to clean up the messes caused by the addict, makes excuses for him, thus minimizing the consequences of addiction.
THE HERO is the family member who attempts to draw attention away from the addict by excelling or overachieving with the hope that his/her behavior will help the addict stop using. No matter how bad things get, the hero thinks that the family can look at them and always feel good.
THE SCAPEGOAT is the person in the family that gets blamed for everything bad that happens in the family. This person creates other problems in order to distract the family from the real issue and thereby allows the addict to continue using.
THE LOST CHILD is the family member, most often a child, disappears from the scene and ignores the problem completely. Often perceived as the "good child" because much time is spent alone. The lost child does not get involved in family arguments or family discussions.
THE MASCOT is the family member who attempts to use humor as a means to escape from the pain of the problems caused by addiction. He/she will is the "cute" one or funny one who clowns around, cracks jokes, or makes light of a serious situation and relieves stress or tension by distracting everyone.
As a family member dealing with addiction, you likely saw yourself in one or more of these descriptions. Although it may be painful, it's important to be aware of your family role and observe how family members try to pull you back into your role. Refuse to play your role! Involving yourself in recovery from co-dependency and enabling will help you define a new, healthier role to play in your family.