Dysfunctional Families May Fuel Addiction: Here’s How to Cope

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Addiction is not an individual problem, it has origins in many places including genetics, personal history, and family of origin. Not only does addiction destroy the mind, body, and spirit, it can wreak havoc on an entire person’s life. The family unit is also affected as everyone struggles to support the loved one with addiction. Dysfunctional families can offer fuel for the fire of addiction without realizing the impact. Here’s some tips for how to cope with the challenges.


Active addiction destroys people individually but also ruins families. Family-focused treatment can help resolve some of the underlying issues which may have led to addiction but it leads to chaos in the interim while trying to cope. Every person in the family has a personality and behavioral role in the loved one’s addictive processes. Maladaptation works to keep the person with addiction sick and invested more in the addiction than healing. Dysfunctional families need full support as a whole to help progress forward out of addiction.

Role Playing

Every person in a dysfunctional family struggling with addiction plays a role. Some of the following family roles may play out which keeps it going:


  • Dependence/Addiction: the loved one or family members with addiction.
  • Enabler: usually a spouse or significant other but may be a child who helps enable the negative behavior without consequences.
  • Hero: high-achievers try to be overly responsible to compensate for dysfunction. Provide positive distractions from dysfunction.
  • Mascot: class clown, make light of situations in an effort to deny painful experiences. Disguise the severity of dysfunction in the home.
  • Lost Child: rarely seen or heard, retreat to a bedroom to bury themselves in books, video games, or music. Feel like if they ‘disappear’ they aren’t part of the problem.
  • Scapegoat: the ‘problem child,’ who acts out, gets poor grades, may have legal trouble, is prone to outbursts and seeks to take heat off the loved one with addiction.


Seeking Help

In a family where dysfunction is rampant because a loved one has addiction, there are things people can do to begin the healing process. Mainly, the family needs to recognize the loved one needs help and get on the same page. When everyone agrees the loved one needs an intervention to seek help (or decides on their own), then the family can invest in therapeutic support with the loved one. Nobody heals or gets well on their own with addiction. The loved one with addiction may seem to need to do the bulk of the work, but it is also necessary for the other people in the family to ‘do their work’ and show up for family group sessions, seek out Al-Anon or other similar programs, and find ways of dealing with their role in the addiction. As a family, everyone can support the loved one while seeking to heal the past and present to cultivate hope for a future free from addiction.

Sound Recovery believes in the power of family to help hit reset on addictive behavior. It is not a cure all, but it helps to have social support from family when seeking treatment. If you are struggling and need help, call us. Sound Recovery provides treatment programs and services focused on your individual needs while supporting your desire to reconnect with family and loved ones. Call us to get started on the healing journey today: 561-277-3088

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