Why Healthy Family Involvement is Key to Recovery


When discussing addiction, it is often thought of as a personal experience that only the person struggling is impacted by. However, those closest to them, namely the family, will also be directly affected by the person’s addiction. In fact, addiction can affect families in a variety of ways, causing the various members to take on specific roles to get through the tumultuous time. By understanding the role of the family in addiction, more light can be shed on the importance of family involvement in recovery. This way, each family member can get the help they need to heal, which will, in turn, help the addicted family member find their footing in recovery.

Familial Roles in an Addicted Household

Households that are dealing with one of the members struggling with addiction often have the other family members taking on various roles. This is a direct result of the impact that the addiction has on the family. Depending on the different ages and family dynamics, the roles may be quickly apparent or gradually form over time. Understanding these roles is key to comprehending the impact of addiction on the family unit.

The Enabler

enabler is the person that lives in denial concerning their loved one’s addiction. They often make excuses for the person’s actions and continuously take on more responsibilities, so the person struggling does not become negatively impacted due to their behavior. The spouse most commonly takes on this role, but it can be taken on by a parent or child of the addicted person.

The Scapegoat

This person is the one that gets blamed for the problems that the family is going through. The scapegoat is the one that protects the person that is currently struggling with addiction. The second oldest child typically takes on this role. Later in life, they may deal with their emotional problems or addiction themselves.

The Hero

The hero is the person in the family that tries to save the day by bringing everyone together and creating a facade of normalcy. This person usually takes on massive amounts of stress as they try to hold the family together, thus often causing them to develop anxiety later in life. The oldest child most often takes on this role.

The Mascot

The mascot is the person that tries to bring humor to the negative situation that the family is currently in. Humor is used as a coping mechanism for this person as they try to cope with their family’s turmoil. They are often the youngest child meaning they are more vulnerable. It is not uncommon for mascots to struggle with addiction later in life.

The Lost Child

Last but not least, the lost child’s role is often invisible to the rest of the family. They are more withdrawn and tend to be on their own as a way to cope. They have problems forming close relationships with others and making decisions. The youngest or middle child usually takes on this role.

Benefits of Family Therapy and Involvement

Addiction can significantly impact the family unit as a whole. For this reason, family therapy is crucial to helping not only the addicted person heal but the family as well. Family therapy will most likely involve education concerning the disease and tips on how family members can look after themselves and support their loved ones in recovery.

Some family members try to help the person struggling, but this often backfires due to a lack of understanding concerning addiction; this is where the importance of education comes in. While it may seem like a good idea to shield your loved one from addiction’s negative consequences, this enables the behaviors to continue. Education can help family members understand how to properly support their loved ones and provide a clearer picture of what the person is going through. Education can also help erase negative stigmas and stereotypes, giving a greater understanding of the situation as a whole.

Family therapy will also teach proper boundaries and communication between the various members. Communication often breaks down and becomes negative while addiction rules the household. Learning proper communication techniques through a family therapist can improve communication and, therefore, better the home environment. Setting boundaries is also essential, as family members may continuously cross boundaries in an attempt to help. Doing this can make the situation worse; thus, it is crucial to teach each member of the family how to set and uphold boundaries.

Over time, family therapy can bring healing not only to the family unit itself but to the person healing from addiction as well. Addiction is a family disease, and proper support is needed to help make a full recovery. It is recommended to attend family therapy even if you believe you don’t need it. The benefits are worth the work.

The family unit can take a hard hit when addiction is present in one of its members. Misunderstanding about the disease and stigmas can wreak further havoc down the road, causing the situation to worsen over time. This is why family education and therapy are essential to recovery. Addiction is a personal experience, but it also affects those around the person struggling. Taking care of yourself even if you are not the one with an addiction will help your mental health and the person that is healing. Lakehouse Recovery Center offers family therapy to help bring healing to the entire family unit. Through various counseling sessions, education, and more, we believe that each family member can find the healing they need to bring them peace as well as learn how to properly support their loved one in treatment. To learn more about our family therapy program, call us today at (877) 762-3707.