For a person recovering from a substance use disorder (SUD), it is better if their whole family is involved. That’s because even if only one member is struggling with addiction, every family member is affected. During treatment for SUD, families can learn how they can support their addicted family members.
One of the ways to do this is to learn about the different family roles in addiction that may appear. Each family member can then recognize the part they play so they can provide support, set boundaries, and correct their way of thinking. This will promote the best chance of recovery success for everyone. You can seek recovery from drug and alcohol addiction in our luxury rehab program in Los Angeles.
What Are the Roles in an Addicted Household?
Here are the six roles family members or friends may play in the life of a person with addiction:
1. The Role of the Addicted Individual
For family members to be involved in a household with a person struggling with addiction, there must be an individual with an addiction. The person with an addiction may display dependent behaviors as they persist in maintaining a life consumed by active addiction. As the consequences of addiction begin to manifest, family members may often exhibit negative behaviors toward each other, including lying, manipulation, blaming others, and displaying anger and avoidance behaviors.
2. The Enabler
The family enabler is the person who doesn’t create the necessary boundaries with the addict. The enabler may even deny that the addict is struggling with addiction completely. They may make excuses for the addict’s behavior because they don’t think of it as a big deal. Enablers might think this is a way to protect the family, but they are just hiding the bigger problem. Which then makes it more difficult to heal from addiction’s effects.
3. The Family Scapegoat
This person is often the one who gets blamed for many of the family’s problems. They are most likely to be the middle child or the second oldest. Many times, this person feels their function is to give the other family members an outlet for blame. So they adopt the parent’s and other siblings’ blame to try to protect them from feeling these emotions themselves. Usually, the scapegoat of the family will be unable to manage their anger after a while and act out in avoidance behaviors. Frequently, they will leave town and never return.
4. The Hero
The family hero is the member who is most controlling and often a perfectionist. When they keep up with their personal goals, they believe they can provide their family with the impression that everything will be alright. Generally, the hero is the first child since they are the most likely to have a type A personality and feel like the leader for the other children. Because they put themselves in this position, they may begin to feel extreme amounts of stress and become unable to control their anxiety.
5. The Mascot
The mascot of the family is the person who might use humor to try to lighten the tension during family clashes or drama. This could be because they need approval from the people around them because of their fragility. It’s common for the mascot of the family to be the youngest sibling. They use humor as a defense mechanism to not have to experience the negative emotions that may be brought up by the addiction issue in the family.
6. The Lost Child
The role of the lost child is the sibling who may not be as involved in the family relationships as the others. This is because they may not have shared as much family attention as the other children. They are typically the youngest or middle child. They will typically display behaviors like isolation and an inability to maintain lasting relationships as a consequence of addiction in the family.
Of course, every family is different. A struggling family might not include every type of family role in addiction. But in any case, it’s good to learn which family role you may be adopting. This way, you can learn healthy behaviors, skill sets, and thought patterns to help yourself heal from addiction. And, it will help you support the addict in your family as they are on their journey to a life of sobriety and better health.
Can Addiction be Inherited?
Professor of Psychiatry Danielle Dick, who leads the Rutgers Addiction Research Center, has spent many years looking for genes that contribute to alcohol and drug addiction. She found that more than half of the differences in how likely it is for people to develop SUDs stem from differences in DNA, although according to substance it varies a little bit. Research shows that alcohol addiction is about 50% inheritable but for other drugs as much as 70% inheritable addiction.
Most of the genes that affect SUDs are shared across many types of addiction. That means that people carrying risk genes are at risk for a range of substance use problems. It has recently been discovered that a large part of the genetic risk is associated with self-regulation. This reflects how differently wired brains process reward and risk. Some individuals have brains geared toward more impulsivity than others, which can put them at risk for a number of forms of addiction. Still, other genes are specific to the particular substances.
Can You Deduce Your Genetic Risk from Behavior?
Yes, you can to some degree. It is known that people who are more impulsive or risk-takers are at a higher risk for addiction. People who are prone to anxiety or depression also have a higher risk.
Those who drink alcohol to help themselves cope are at an elevated risk of developing problems when compared to those who only drink to socialize. However, those who drink to have fun are more likely to engage in binge drinking, which is associated with experiencing more alcohol-related accidents and consequences such as fights or unwanted sexual experiences.
Genetics v. Environment
While the best-known sign of genetic risk is having a parent with SUD, the transfer of risk from parent to child isn’t purely a result of genetics. It was found that children who live with parent(s) who have SUDs and related behavioral challenges will take part in similar behaviors. More so than the genetics of the child would predict alone.
Parents don’t only pass on their genes but also create a riskier environment for their children. In addition, kids with a higher genetic risk, who may be more demanding for parents, also had lower parent-child communication and closeness. This can elevate their risk even more. Studies are just beginning to unravel the ways that children’s and parents’ genes and environments combine to contribute to risk and resilience.
Typical Family Members’ Responses to Addiction
There are 4 phases of response to a family member’s substance abuse disorder.
- Not aware of the problem
- Confusion about occasional strange behaviors
- Concerned about occasionally neglecting responsibilities
- Have become aware of the problem
- Try to solve the problem
- Take on all responsibilities themselves
- Avoiding the problem
- Blaming the addicted family member
- Blaming themselves
- Shame and guilt
- Separation from addict
- Experiencing bad feelings about themselves
- Hopelessness and giving up
- Establishing unhealthy family roles
What are the Benefits of Family Involvement in Addiction Treatment?
Family therapy in Los Angeles for addictionis a type of psychotherapy that involves family members attending therapy with a member who’s in recovery. Family therapy focuses on the relationships between the family members and tries to understand and validate all their experiences. The benefits of family involvement in addiction treatment include:
1. Improved Communication
Conflicts can be resolved and perspectives can be shared through better family communication. In therapy, family members are taught how to express their feelings and thoughts in a healthy way. Lack of communication or poor communication can lead to conflict in families struggling with SUD, which makes addiction worse.
2. Increased Support
Because addiction recovery can be a long journey, family therapy can help increase support from family members. They will learn how to support the recovering member better and be able to offer emotional and realistic support. The increased support helps the person achieve their treatment goals.
3. Healing Past Conflicts
If there is a history of conflict or trauma in the family, therapy can help heal that past distress. This is accomplished by teaching the addict how to communicate effectively, understand other perspectives, and resolve conflicts. It’s easier to move forward in recovery if you heal the past.
4. Improved Mental Health
Having healthy family relationships can reduce stress and anxiety. This leads to better mental health and overall feeling of well-being. The increased understanding can help remove the stigma about addiction and help the whole family accept the condition. Westwind Recovery® also offers mental health treatment programs in Los Angeles that address co-occurring mental illnesses or substance use issues.
5. Lower Risk of Relapse
When there is a reliable support system, it helps avoid relapse. There are people to turn to when you’re struggling who can help support abstinence.
Stages and Goals of Recovery
During the recovery process, the person in recovery and their family will go through several stages:
During the withdrawal stage, the recovering person may experience intense cravings for the substance, along with feelings of depression and low energy. Sleep problems and difficulty concentrating are common challenges faced during this phase. The primary goals at this stage are to stop substance use, learn strategies to avoid relapse and gain knowledge about addiction. For families, it is crucial to decide to be actively involved in the recovery process and recognize that addiction is a medical issue that requires understanding and support.
The honeymoon stage is marked by an increase in energy and enthusiasm as the individual may feel like they are “cured” of their addiction. The goals during this phase include working on physical health, identifying personal triggers for relapse, and practicing techniques to maintain sobriety. For families, the focus is on providing support and helping the individual avoid triggering interactions.
The wall stage is considered the most challenging phase of recovery. The recovering person may experience depression, irritability, difficulty concentrating, and a loss of enthusiasm. The risk of relapse is high during this time. Goals include achieving stable abstinence from all substances, repairing important relationships, building a strong support system outside of treatment, and learning to cope with dangerous emotions. For families, it involves deciding whether to rebuild the relationship, enhancing their own lives, and practicing healthy communication skills.
In the readjustment stage, the recovering person and their family return to a more normal way of life. They work on addressing marital, emotional, and psychological issues to strengthen the family unit. Goals include observing the elements of successful recovery, recognizing signs of potential relapse, defining new roles in healthy relationships, and setting goals for the new lifestyle after treatment. Families are encouraged to accept the limitations of a person in recovery, develop their own healthy lifestyle, and be patient with the recovery process as a whole.
Each stage of recovery comes with its unique challenges and goals for both the individual and their family. By understanding and addressing these stages, individuals can navigate their recovery journey more effectively, while families provide essential support and encouragement along the way.
Westwind Recovery® Can Assist with Family Therapy
As you reviewed the family roles in addiction above, did you recognize your family? If you did, there is no time to waste. If you have a family member suffering from substance use disorder, Westwind Recovery® in Los Angeles can provide family therapy as part of their treatment programs.
Our licensed therapists are experienced in many forms of therapy, including behavioral therapies which are evidence-based and considered the gold standard for addiction treatment. We can offer experiential therapies, such as music, art, or adventure therapy. With this versatility, a complete, comprehensive treatment program can be designed specifically for your family member.
We also have several levels of outpatient treatment programs such as:
If you’re looking for addiction treatment for yourself or a family member, Westwind Recovery® in Los Angeles, California, is an outpatient rehab providing high-quality treatment and offering strong community support. Contact us today to learn how we can help your family and members affected by addiction.
Dr. Deena is the Chief Clinical Officer of Westwind Recovery®, an award-winning outpatient treatment center in Los Angeles where she oversees the clinical and administrative program and treatment methods. Dr. Deena is a doctor of psychology and licensed clinical social worker since 1993. LCSW #20628. Originally from the East Coast, Dr. Deena has worked running treatment centers, worked as a therapist in psychiatric hospitals as well as school settings and currently has a thriving private practice in the LA area. Dr. Deena has appeared regularly on the Dr. Phil Show as an expert since 2003. She has also been featured on many other TV shows, podcasts and has contributed to written publications as well as podcasts.