addiction substance abuse treatment recovery childhood trauma trauma family roles

Substance Abuse and Family Roles: Rediscovering Yourself

By Acqua Recovery on October, 23 2020


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People often ask, “What causes addiction?” It’s not that simple. There are numerous factors that play into an individual developing an addiction. One of the most substantial factors can be childhood events and past traumas. During childhood, we are in a delicate state. Our role in the family system and the coping mechanisms we develop shape who we become later in life: from what we like, what we dislike, our fears and anxieties, our perspectives and our “role” in the world. As we grow up, our coping mechanisms for unresolved trauma and difficult emotions can transition into addiction. Rediscovering yourself through recovery means understanding the link between substance abuse and family roles.

In a dysfunctional family, there are generalized roles that each member of the family takes on in relation to the dysfunction that surrounds them. These generalized roles and traits are not fully inclusive of an individual. There may be parts of multiple roles that you connect with, but it’s not about “diagnosing” yourself as one or the other. Ultimately, these roles are simply a tool used to help us understand why we act the way we act, how our pasts relate to our addictions, and how we can redefine our roles to live a better life in recovery. 

No matter what role you grew up playing, your family placed a structure around you that affects your everyday life. For some, that may mean dysfunctional coping mechanisms, such as substance abuse. At Acqua Recovery, our trauma-informed approach to addiction treatment is used to help you analyze, understand, and overcome mental health issues that can stem from dysfunctional family roles.

The most common dysfunctional family roles include:

The Addict

This member of the family is often labeled as the “dysfunctional” one. Traits of this role are being withdrawn, selfish, or out of control. The Addict lives in a constant state of chaos, often looking for substances or obsessions to distract themselves from a painful reality.

Growing up in this dysfunctional state of chaos, however, makes chaos seem normal. As adults, these individuals feel a sense of comfort in chaos and often actively seek it out subconsciously. 

The Addict, however, is not the only person in the family that can use substance abuse as a means to deal with their issues. If you do associate with this role, Acqua Recovery’s masters-level clinicians will work with you to create a life free of chaos, and full of peace — a new life through recovery.

The Enabler

This member of the family often will deny their own problems while putting the focus on another member of the family. They often want to “rescue” another person by controlling them. That can involve enabling behavior.

This reliance on another person for a sense of identity is called codependency. Focusing obsessively on others means that the enabler doesn’t know how to deal with their own problems, potentially leading to the use of addiction as a coping mechanism for them as well. At Acqua Recovery, our therapists can help you reconnect with your true self and rediscover self love through recovery.

The Hero

The hero’s role is just what it sounds like. This person tries to mask the dysfunction in their lives through achievements. For example, “If I’m valedictorian, my family must not be that messed up!” 

This individual often seems very successful from the outside, as if “they have it all,” but the constant pressure to be perfect causes immense amounts of stress. That never-ending pressure — along with a crushing fear of failure and mistakes — can lead to extreme judgment, anxiety, and addictions. These individuals are very hard on themselves and may struggle with self-love. For some, blowing off life’s responsibilities to get drunk or high seems like the first self-care they’ve ever really done. Obviously, that’s not the answer.

At Acqua Recovery, we can give you the tools you need to take care of and work on loving yourself. Self-care is not just a bubble bath and a quiet night in; it’s time you set aside to reconnect with yourself and do something enjoyable, just for you — because you deserve it.  We use experiential activities as well as other personalized therapies to help you find ways to reconnect with your personal joys in life — whether that’s kayaking, equine therapy, or art. For more information on experiential activities, click here.

The Scapegoat

From a young age, the scapegoat’s role is to take the blame for all problems in the family. They often voice the dysfunction of the family by acting out or externally displaying their problems and emotions. 

Constantly taking blame for everyone else’s faults weighs heavily on their psyche, and they often feel like they are “carrying the weight of the world,” or at least, their family. This emotional build up can lead to unresolved trauma, pessimism, and extreme anxiety or anger problems. 

No matter what mental health issues derive from childhood trauma, we understand that every person has their own path to addiction recovery. At Acqua Recovery, your therapist will individualize your treatment program and will work with you to find the best path to a better life. We’ll also provide resources for you to find an addiction support group outside of residential treatment.

The Lost Child

This member of the family is usually the quiet, introverted one. They are typically withdrawn and overlooked by the family, causing a build up of frustration and resentment. This individual typically avoids chaos at all costs. 

A habit of denying problems and suppressing opinions leaves emotions boiling up inside. At some point, the lost child will explode, hurting themselves and others in the process. 

At Acqua Recovery, we can guide you through trauma therapy and boundary setting to not only rediscover your voice, but to help you heal. 

The Mascot

The mascot is a role often taken on by the youngest member of the family due to familial issues arising early on in their childhood. The fragility of their emotions is masked by humor. Using comedic relief during uncomfortable situations, they can form a habit of dismissing their emotions. 

The mascot often grows up using substances to “ease” emotions in addition to masking them through humor. It is important for these individuals to process underlying emotions and cultivate resilience through mindset, rather than substance misuse. Our staff will help teach you how to use a “growth mindset” to work through life struggles, so you can find resilience in healthy ways.

Redefining Your Role:

No matter what family role you grew up knowing, we all have coping mechanisms we use to deal with childhood trauma. When substances are used as a significant coping mechanism, addiction becomes an all-consuming force in an individual’s life.

At Acqua Recovery, we approach addiction from a trauma-informed perspective, repositioning the question of, “What’s wrong with this person?” to, “What happened to this person?” We believe dual diagnosis treatment is imperative in any course of addiction treatment. That means that we don’t simply focus on your addiction; but also, we work to treat underlying mental health issues your addiction may stem from. 

Acqua Recovery will help you work through your past traumas and rediscover yourself. Our masters-level clinicians can help you find new, healthy coping mechanisms. You can redefine your entire life and identity through recovery. 

Maybe your substance abuse makes you feel powerless in your life. At Acqua Recovery, we will give you back what addiction has stolen from you. Treating substance abuse and reconnecting with life again is possible — and we’re here to take those steps right along with you. So reach out to us today, because there is still hope to have the life you’ve always wanted.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Our caring staff is here to help in any way we can. Call or chat us today!

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The Complete Guide to Paying for Addiction Treatment-1

The Complete Guide to Paying for Addiction Treatment

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