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The Role of Family in Addiction Recovery

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Clinically Reviewed by:
Lindsey Rae Ackerman, LMFT

Written by:
Alex Salman, MPH on March 6, 2024

Addiction is frequently referred to as a “family disease”, as it affects each and every member of a family unit. This is especially true when the addict/alcoholic lives at home with the family, as their substance use disorder becomes front and center. Understanding addiction and family recovery will help the family heal as a whole, which provides the necessary support for the addict to achieve meaningful long-term sobriety.

Family Dynamics of Addiction

As a result of the behaviors that the addict/alcoholic exhibits, each member of the family tends to fall into a role that makes them feel as comfortable as possible while they work to cope with the impacts of this disease. These roles are as follows:

The Hero

The hero of the family is the family member who is fully focused on perfectionism and success. This person strives to continually make strides at school, work, and home in an effort to distract from the addict/alcoholic and to give the family a member to be proud of. 

The Enabler

The enabler of the family is the individual who behaves in ways that enable the addict/alcohol to continue using. They may provide money, transportation, shelter, etc. to the addict/alcoholic in an effort to keep them safe, but these behaviors only make the situation worse.

The Mascot

Every family has a family member with a good sense of humor. Families with addicts/alcoholics are no different. However the mascot of the family uses humor to deflect their feelings regarding the addict/alcoholic and help distract others from focusing on the severity of the situation. Because of utilizing this improper coping skill, the mascot of the family is more likely than some others to also develop a substance abuse problem in the future.

The Lost Child

The lost child is the child in the family that gets lost in the mix. They may be socially withdrawn, not talk much, or even participate in hobbies or activities that they used to like. The chaos surrounding the addict/alcoholic overwhelms the lost child to the point where they feel forgotten in their family unit. Similar to the mascot, the lost child is also at greater risk for abusing drugs or alcohol in the future because of their role. 

The Scapegoat

The scapegoat is the family member that is always being blamed for the bad things that happen within the family. This person also creates unfavorable situations as a means of attention-seeking. 

The Addict/Alcoholic

The addict/alcoholic is the person in the family who is actively abusing drugs or alcohol. Their behaviors set off a chain reaction within the family unit that can impact each member significantly. The addict/alcoholic continues to use despite the repercussions to the family. 

Thankfully, it is not just the addict/alcoholic who can obtain professional help for their substance use disorder. Their family members can also participate in therapeutic treatment designed to help them heal together as a family unit. 

Addiction and Family Recovery

Family therapy is one of the best options for those family units with a recovering addict/alcoholic in them. That is because through family therapy, all members of the family can benefit. Some of the most important aspects of addiction and family recovery are taught during family therapy. They can include, but are not limited to, the following: 


When addiction is occurring within the four walls of a home, it becomes easy for all members of the family to stop communicating effectively. Family therapy helps families recognize healthy ways to communicate with one another so that everyone can feel heard and can say what they want without chaos ensuing.

Managing resentments

Everyone, including the addict/alcoholic, harbors resentments in the early stages of addiction and family recovery. Working with a therapist allows family members to identify those resentments, speak on them, and develop ways to properly heal them. This can include working directly with the family member who the individual has a resentment for. 


Addiction often causes families to function in survival mode. This makes it complicated for family members to be accountable for their actions, as they are just trying to survive it all. Accountability helps families build respect for one another and keeps everyone as honest as possible.


Trust tends to be the first thing broken when it comes to addiction, as well as the last thing to be repaired. Addiction causes everyone in the family to do, say, and behave in ways that break the trust of others. Family therapy allows the family to engage in trust-building exercises designed to help one another start earning that trust back. 

The family plays a significant role in addiction recovery, not only from a family standpoint, but also when it comes to the addict/alcoholic’s future. As the family works to heal, they can learn how to be supportive to their loved one in recovery so that the disease of addiction does not infiltrate their lives again.

Addiction and Family Recovery in Redondo Beach

If a member of your family is struggling with addiction, know that we understand the challenges that your entire family is facing. At Clear Behavioral Health in Redondo Beach, we work with you to help establish a healthy, sober family unit that works together and trusts each other. 

If you are ready to get the help you or your loved one needs, look no further. Contact us right now to learn more about how we can help.

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