A family is a system. When one part of the system is in trouble, the rest of the system feels the pain. Therefore, alcoholism impacts every person in the family. The good news is that changing one part of the system can change the whole system.
Ideally, the person with the drinking problem will seek help. However, change can start with any member of the family. You can take steps to start changing the family dynamic today.
Roles of Family Members in Alcoholism
Although addiction can look different in each family, there are some common roles that people often play.
This is the alcoholic. Therefore, the family may consider this person to be the problem.
The alcoholic is usually the identified patient. However, there is often a redirection of family anger onto another family member. For example, this may be a child that gets in trouble a lot at school.
This person does things that help the alcoholic continue drinking. For example, the enabler might pay the bills. In turn, the alcoholic can spend their money on drinking. The enabler is often the spouse, but it can also be a child or parent. A family often has more than one enabler. Sometimes we can identify a Primary Enabler or Chief Enabler.
The Responsible One
This person may overlap with the Chief Enabler. They may handle bills and chores. They are also most likely to play Peace Keeper in the family system. The Responsible One is often the eldest child. This person may excel at school or sports. The goal is to make the family seem “all right” in the eyes of others.
The Quiet One
The family overlooks this person. This person, usually a child, stays quiet. They don’t draw attention to themselves. As a result, they may develop serious emotional issues before anyone realizes that something is wrong. This one may also be called “The Lost One”.
The Family Clown
This family member, again usually a child, will draw attention away from the alcoholism. This person is usually funny and likable. However, they may keep their relationships superficial. They don’t want to acknowledge any family problems.
Each Family Member Can Make a Change
There is a point to knowing about the different family roles. It isn’t to blame anyone. It is so that each person can take responsibility for changing their own behavior. Once you know that you’re an enabler, then you can take actions not to enable. Likewise, the family can stop blaming the scapegoat. Instead, they can co-create solutions to any acting out.
Drinking Doesn’t Define Alcoholic Family Systems
Alcoholism can impact individuals even long after the drinking has stopped. For example, you might be the child of an alcoholic. Even if your parent has passed away, you may still feel pain. People can carry these roles into their own families.
Therapy for Alcoholism in Family Systems
Individual therapy can help people through alcoholism. Family therapy is also important. Some of the things that you will learn in therapy include:
People from alcoholic family systems often struggle with self-compassion. I consider it my best gift as a therapist that I can offer this to my clients. Contact me today for an appointment.