Lifetools training and resources are not intended to replace counseling and other professional treatment. They are for educational purposes only.

Family Roles in Addiction

Uncategorized Oct 08, 2022

Family Support plays a critical role in the treatment of someone recovering from substance abuse.  Research shows that when an individual has support from family and friends, he/she is likely to recover much faster than someone who does not have that support.  Many family members unintentionally feed the addiction by their lack of training on how to help their loved one.  Family members take on many different roles including:


The dependent is the individual who is battling the substance abuse or addiction.  He/she is trying to get their life back on track.  This individual uses their "drug of choice" to medicate a wound or to satisfy a prolonged, unmet need.  The substance abuse is one prong in a series of unhealthy coping behaviors that takes over that individual's life and robs them of true freedom.


The enabler is the family member who struggles with confrontation and uses whatever means necessary to bring "peace" to the home.  This family member loves the individual who is struggling with addiction but is often in denial with that individual's true condition.  They will often make excuses and try to cover up for the individual's addiction.  The enabler shields the dependent from experiencing their consequences, often preventing them from "waking up" and seeing the true effects of their addiction.

The enable puts out the fires by paying for the dependent's financial troubles, covering up for missing work or other responsibilities, and often providing a home or place to continue using.


The family hero, usually the eldest child, is the individual who steps in and is going to fix all of the family problems.  He/she is usually hard working, an over-achiever, and appears to have everything together.  This individual takes on the stress of the family and feels personally responsible for figuring out how to "fix this mess".  They take on the added work/responsibility neglected by the dependent.  This in turn catches up to the family hero over time, causing them to be stressed out, anxious, and disappointed.


The scapegoat is the individual who the family blames for the dependent's condition.  This usually is an employer or current/former lover.  The scapegoat is usually blamed for things they have no control over.  They sometimes start to believe they are the source of the problem and in turn develop low self-esteem and trust issues.


The mascot (usually the youngest child) tries to use humor to gloss over the pain caused by the dependent.  They enjoy making the family laugh and smile; however, they often use humor in inappropriate times/situations.  Laughter/humor shields the mascot of sharing their true feelings about how the addiction is affecting them.


The lost child is the individual who feels left out or neglected by the family.  He/she feels that the family is spending all of their attention on the dependent and none on them.  They often are withdrawn and stay out of the way.  Sometimes they experience feelings of anger and resentment towards the dependent for consuming all of the family's time and attention.  


 Lifetools provides training and resources designed to help families understand the addiction and how they can play healthy roles in the dependent's life.  For more information go to



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