Mon. Jul 4th, 2022

Addiction and The FAMILY: The Family roles.


The Merry-Go-Round of DENIAL



Addiction is a tragic three act play in which there is at least two characters, the addict and their family; friends; co-workers and even healthcare workers may have a part in keeping the Merry-Go-Round turning.





The play opens with the addict stating that no one can tell them what to do. This makes it very difficult for the family to talk about drinking/drugging and its results. Even when the drinking/drugging is obviously causing serious problems, they simply will not discuss it. Talking is like a one-way street.


The key word in addiction is Denial, for again and again people do what they say they will not or deny what they have done.


As the addict acts out more and more, the helpers deny the problem and increase the addicts’ dependency.


In act one, the addict kills all their pain and woes by getting drunk or getting high.






In act two, the addict does nothing but wait for and expect others to do for them. Distinct characters begin to evolve from their helpers. A person can play more than one character and usually does.



The Enabler



The Enabler is a helpful type, trying to rescue their friend or family member from their predicament. The Enabler wants to save the addict from the immediate crisis and relieve them of the unbearable tension created by the situation.





In reality, this person is meeting a need of their own, rather than that of the addict, although the Enabler does not realize this themselves.


The Enabler denies the addict the process of learning by correcting and taking responsibility for their own mistakes.


The Enabler may eventually insist they will never again rescue the addict. They always have and the addict believes they always will.


The Victim


This may be the boss, the employer, the foreman or supervisor. The Victim is the person who is responsible for getting the work done, if the addict is absent due to drinking or drugging or is half on and half off the job due to a hangover.


The addict becomes completely dependent on this repeated protection and cover-up by the Victim; otherwise they could not continue acting out in this fashion. If the Victim stops helping, the addict will be compelled to give up drinking/drugs or give up the job.


It is the Victim who enables the addict to continue their irresponsible addictive behaviour without losing their job.


The Provoker


This is often the wife or mother and is a key person in the play. They are a veteran at this role and has played it much longer than others. They are the Provoker. They are hurt and upset by repeated acting out episodes; but they hold the family together despite all the trouble caused by the addiction/s.


In turn, they feed back in the relationship their bitterness, resentment, fear and hurt, and so becomes the source of provocation. They control, and try to force the changes they want; they sacrifice, adjust, never give up, never gives in, but never forgets.


The attitude of the addict is that their failure should be acceptable, but others must never fail the addict! They act with complete independence and insists they will do as they please.


This character might also be called the Adjuster. They are constantly adjusting to the crisis and trouble caused by the addiction/s.


Act two is now played out in full. Everything is done for the addict and not by them. The results, effects and problems caused by addiction, have been removed by others. The painful results of the addictive behavior were suffered by persons other than the addict. This permits them to continue in their addiction as a way to solve their problems.




Act three begins much like act one. The need to deny dependence is now greater for the addict and must be expressed almost at once, and even more emphatically. The alcoholic/drug addict denies they have a problem, denies they are an alcoholic or drug addict, denies that alcohol/drugs is causing their trouble. The addict refuses to acknowledge that anyone helped them – more denial. They deny that they may lose their job and insists that they are the best or most skilled person at their job. Above all, the addict denies they have caused their family any trouble. In fact, the addict blames the family, especially the spouse/parent, for all the fuss, nagging and problems.


Some addicts achieve the same denial by a stony silence, refusing to discuss anything related to their addiction. The memory is too painful.


The real problem is that the alcoholic/drug addict is well aware of the truth which they so strongly deny. The are aware of the drunkenness and chaos and the failure. Their guilt and remorse have become unbearable and the addict cannot tolerate criticism or advice from others.



Above all, the memory of their utter helplessness and failure is more than embarrassing; it is far too painful for a person who thinks and acts as if they were a little god in their own world.

The wheel goes round and round.



The curtain never closes after act three, but instead the acts run over and over again. As years go by the actors get older, but there is little change in the words or the action of the play.


It is not true that an alcoholic/drug addict cannot be helped until they want help. It is true that there is almost no chance that the addict will stop drinking or drugging as long as other people remove all the painful consequences for them. The other actors find it difficult to change. It is much easier and far less painful for them to say that the addict cannot be helped, than to go through the agony of learning to play a new role.

Self-creating crisis


If the addictive behavior continues long enough, the addict creates a crisis, gets into trouble, and ends up in a mess. This can happen in many ways, but the pattern is always the same: they are a dependent who behaves as if they were independent, and drinking or drugging makes it easy to convince themselves this is true. Yet the results of their acting out make them ever more dependent upon others.


When their self-created crisis strikes, they wait for something to happen, ignore it, walks away from it, or cries for someone to get them out of it. Alcohol or drugs, which at first gave them a sense of success and independence, has now stripped them of their mask and reveals a helpless, dependent child.


The crisis is a way of reassuring the addict that they have control over the other players in the play.






The Little God


No one has a right to play God and demand that the addict stop. The reverse is also true. The addict can only continue to act like a little god, telling everyone what to do, while doing as they please, if a supporting cast continues to play their roles. Every player has every right and responsibility to refuse to act as if the addict in their lives were God whose every wish and commandment be obeyed.


Ending the play


There is no easy way to stop the merry-go-round, for it can be more painful to stop it than to keep it going. It is impossible to spell out definite rules which apply to all members of the play. Each case is different, but the framework of the play remains the same.




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