Family Roles in Alcohol Addiction

According to the National Institute of Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse, families of alcoholics are heavily affected by alcohol use and abuse. Unfortunately, during the cycle of alcoholism a family will develop certain classic roles. These roles were mapped when alcoholism was first considered a disease. These family roles evolve slowly as the alcohol use or recovery evolves. It is important to understand the dynamics in play when seeking help for you and your family for alcoholism or alcoholic behavior.

Family Roles During the Addiction

Families display certain roles when they are living with an alcoholic. Although these roles do not always remain stable, generally one person is fulfilling them at any given time. You see this behavior repetitively throughout families that have an alcoholic or drug addict in them.

family roles in alcohol addiction

The enabler will purchase alcohol for the user, and protect them from other family members.

  • The user – this is the person that actually uses the alcohol or drugs. They also use the family in a variety of ways.
  • The distracter – often called the clown this person acts as a distraction from the user. This person acts cute or immature depending on the situation. They always trying to draw attention to themselves away from the alcoholic.
  • The indivisible one – this person just disappears. They do not deal with the alcoholism or rather they deal with it by staying as far away from it and the family as possible. They want nothing to do with it. This behavior often starts when the alcoholic does something to harm him or her.
  • The troublemaker – like the distracter this person takes the attention away from the user only by doing things that are bad rather than just distracting. They get into trouble by defying authority and committing crimes. Many times they may get involved in the alcohol or drug abuse themselves.
  • The savior – this person believes that if they are good enough, clean enough, and accomplish enough everything will be all right. They will go to extremes to follow rules and obey every command given in school, work, or in the home.
  • The enabler – this person purchases the alcohol or drugs and does not see that there is a problem. They protect the addict no matter what. Very often they assume duties in the household. They will also try to protect the family members from each other.

Each of these personalities might change as the addiction progresses. One type or more of the roles will swap depending on the family dynamic. Also in families with fewer members, a child or parent might take on more than one role. Each of the roles provide support and cover for the alcoholic.

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Family Roles in Recovery

Most of the time when the addict is in recovery these roles assume a more normal family appearance. In the case of relapse, they quickly revert to their former roles as someone to enable and cover. This is why family counseling and support is so crucial to addiction treatment.

For more information on how you can help break these roles call us at 1-800-695-1695. We can help you break the cycle of addiction and get your family back.

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