The Addict, Family System and Roles We Play

The Addict and Family

The addict is the major focus of the family. So family members spend much of their time and energy dealing with the addict unconsciously. This includes helping, enabling, or covering up their behavior to preserve the norm. The addict will continue a descent into substance abuse. Family members will have to act. Thus, they take up multiple roles in the family without recognizing it.

The Caretaker

The Caretaker is known as the enabler. This person takes full responsibility for the addict’s problems. Hence, he/she manages their duties to keep the rest of the family happy. The caretaker is seen as the “martyr of the family” not because of the support he/she gives. But because the person protects the addict from consequences. And these are consequences of the addicts own actions.

The Hero

Similar to the caretaker, the hero devotes his time and attention to the family. Therefore, they ensures the family’s “normal” lifestyle is sustained. They everything in their power to rebuild the irregular home life. All these are done behind closed doors. This individual is seen as the most responsible, self-sufficient, or the perfect relative. However, by being the “golden child/parent,” the hero struggles with living up to his role. This includes bearing witness to the addict’s suffering in an unpleasant way.

The Scapegoat

The scapegoat is the problem child, the opposite of the hero. They play the role by being stubborn. This bad behavior is projected toward other family members. Consequently, the scapegoat consistently attract negative attention. This distracts the family from the addict’s behavior. Now the family’s attention will be diverted from where it should be. The goal is achieved for the scapegoat.

The Mascot

The mascot is recognized as the comedian of the group, they reduce stressful situations. They do this with different kinds of humor and play, because they feel powerless during crisis situations. So, they distract the family from these unpleasant circumstances using antics or comedy. However, the mascot is always in constant motion and will become anxious or depressed soon. This moody feeling sets in when it’s time to slow down. Hence, they are forced to confront the situations they are escaping. They won’t be happy.

The Lost Child

The lost child is the quiet individual who stays out of sight. Thus, they allow other family members to play their own new roles in dealing with the addict. Therefore, the lost child stays out of the way. They avoid all interactions, and disappears. This behavior is an attempt to distance themselves from the situation at hand.


About Adam Banks

Adam Banks is a certified interventionist and the owner of Adam Banks Recovery. After receiving an MBA from the University of Chicago, Adam built a company that was later acquired by United Health Care. His discipline and attention to detail comes from his former career as an airline pilot, holding an ATP, the FAA’s highest license.

Today, Adam is dedicated to helping others achieve long-term sobriety. His work has guided executives, pilots, and physicians on paths to recovery. Adam brings families together through a loving and inclusive approach.

Adam has authored four books on addiction. His recent work, Navigating Recovery Ground School: 12 Lessons to Help Families Navigate Recovery, educates families on the entire intervention process. He also offers a free video course for families considering an intervention for a loved one. 

Adam is available for alcohol and drug intervention services in New York, Long Island, the Hamptons as well as nationally and internationally. 

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