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Family Roles within the Addiction Net

roles, addictiive, family, lost child, caretaker, mascot, high achiever, scapegoat

Family Roles within the Addiction Net

Addictions in one form or another appear to be at an all time high, ranging from chemicals (drugs alcohol cigarettes prescription medication) to anything from food, sex, television, gambling and even the internet. But, what really is an addiction?

To me, and I am sure many others an addiction is the dependence on a particular substance(s) or experience(s) to change (deny or avoid) one’s feelings – emotions – thoughts; particularly to reduce (eliminate, avoid and/or deny) pain or try to attain euphoria – bliss.

Now many others from all school of thoughts – professional, academic and personal have varying definitions and you will hear many espouse them … this is simply what sits with me…

Much of what I have studied has either touched briefly or relied completely (I did not say all) on a premise that suggests the ‘addictive’ person traditionally fits into ONE of 5 roles; the lost child, the scapegoat, the mascot, the high achiever or the caretaker.

I personally would like to challenge this belief system. For myself, and certainly many I have known in 12 step programmes and through private counseling as clients, it is not that simple; this is that – black or white.

I often vacillated between all five roles and as frequently, more than one at a given time; depending on the circumstances.

Lost child and me
Due to the dynamics of my own family of origin, I often felt like the lost child – the sensitive one. The middle child caught somewhere invisible between the eldest and the youngest. Some hold that the lost child does not always reach her full potential. I see this played out often; self-sabotage, subconsciously believing one is unworthy of success. Not having the confidence to stand out and make oneself known - Scared of being ignored, overlooked, or teased, belittled or negated.

Mascot and me
Close by we have the mascot – or court jester – the life of the party. This persona is often developed as a means of directing attention away from a volatile or toxic situation. What many don’t realize is that this is often the most fragile role. ‘Mascot’ often fears for her sanity and suicide is a real possibility. Trust becomes very important.

And, here lies the paradox… between lost child and mascot…
The lost child (introvert) - unhealed person in active addiction (sober) –
The mascot (extrovert) – unhealed person in active addiction (drunk stoned)
~The same person behaving differently depending on whether they are under the influence of their addition or not… this is of course pre-recovery.

Scapegoat and me
As a sibling who survived the death of her closest chronological sister, I always (usually without exception) felt(*) scapegoated never good enough – couldn’t measure up or take the place of….. Characteristic of the scapegoat I gave in and allowed myself to feel martyred.

Upon healing the scapegoat is believed to seek out the ‘caring ‘profession. Touche

*felt (I can only say how it felt for me and feelings cannot be negated… they may come from a place of misinformation or perception, but the dynamic of a feeling is real.

Hero and me
Add to this mix the hero / high achiever. The one who will right the wrongs of the world – take a personal platform – sprout self-righteous indignation because

1. she may finally feel ‘good’ – worthy
2. she may be seeking approval and validation
3. she really wants to believe in all things ‘good’
4. she may feel she can make a difference
5. she feels a need to take some control in life
These are a few possibilities, there are more.

*also often enters a caring profession

Caretaker and me
The caretaker aka enabler, oddly enough has been known to initially fly the coop at an early age. She gets out quick and puts distance between herself and the dysfunctional family, (I, myself left a small bush town and headed for the city at sixteen), but in time will allow them back in – often to her own detriment. These are the ones who open up their house, say there isn’t a problem and soldiers on time after time.

At this point, I would encourage you to examine what aspects resonate with you… your family… your loved one…. Can you see yourself as one of these… or several interlocking components?

There are many books on addictions and family roles, and I always suggest that people read widely…. In addition, I support the concept of free thinking… I ask this, for your continued recovery and long-term healing; keep an open mind – remember the gray areas.
Published: 2006-07-14
Author: Shauna Norman

About the author or the publisher
Shauna has a Bachelors degree in Social Work and MA Social Science - major in Creative Writing. She is currently researching Indigenous Australia and her own heritage, as well as working on several professional projects.Shauna lives in the state of New South Wales in Australia with her 16 year old daughter, Kath.

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