In a family, everyone plays a role. In the family of an alcoholic, these roles are different than those you might find in other households. The roles are just as set in stone and just as necessary if the family is going to live day after day.
Unfortunately, they are also destructive and disabling. People coming out of households such as these are never fully developed, healthy adults. That is why the cycle of addiction goes on generation after generation.
The roles that are played are essential to keeping the family secret, as well as the sanity of those involved. There are four basic roles played by the children of alcoholics. These are amazingly similar from family to family. They are the hero, the mascot, the scapegoat, and the lost child.
These are children who will be over-achievers. They will have exceptional grades in school, will excel in sports and other extra-curricular activities, and will generally be rule followers. There will be no blemish on their reputation. As adults, these heroes will never feel that they are doing anything good enough, even when they are achieving more than their peers can imagine doing in a lifetime. They will suffer from an immense load of inferiority and stress.
The mascot of the family is often the class clown, a real joker, always ready to make everyone laugh. He or she will be there to take the focus off the problems as they arise and draw the attention to themselves. They will seem to take life less than seriously but in reality, they are as hurting as the next. They may encounter much difficulty achieving in adulthood because they are too busy coming up with their next move in case of situational stress.
This child will get into endless trouble. The underlying reason is simple, there misbehaviour will succeed in getting the focus off of the misbehaviour of the alcoholic. Unfortunately, as they grow up, these misadventures may turn illegal. As adults, they may have legal problems for years or a lifetime.
The Lost Child
Perhaps the most heart-breaking to see is the lost child. They are easily identified by the vacant look they share. There eyes grow more lifeless every time they are ignored by the family. It is as if this child simply does not exist. They do not get into trouble, nor do excel. They only try to stay out of the line of fire. They will grow up with extremely low self-esteem and wonder why they even exist at all.
Every role in the alcoholic’s family will lead to pain. Whether it is low self-worth, stress to the point of burnout, prison life, or under achievement, it will be a difficult road for the adult children of the alcoholic. Professional help is usually necessary if there is to be any hope of breaking the cycle of addiction and going on to lead productive, happy lives.