Family Roles and How They Can Impact Us

Part of our recovery work entails looking at our childhoods, our families and our home environments to explore some of the hidden factors in our mental and emotional health issues. Our addictions are sometimes rooted in the family roles we experienced and witnessed when growing up. We might have had parents or caretakers who were addicts themselves and who couldn’t care for themselves or for us. We might have watched as siblings turned to addiction, or left the family, leaving us to try to take responsibility for them or to compensate for their absence. We might have experienced trauma as a family that interrupted, destabilized and corrupted the roles and dynamics of the family unit as a whole. As we work to heal, we see just how much we’ve been impacted by the different roles in our families and whether or not each person was able to uphold their role in the family unit.

 When a parent is an addict, we often have to assume the role of caregiver, both for ourselves and for our siblings, and often for our parents as well. We’re tasked with the demands, obligations, responsibilities and duties of caring for the family. Even at a young age we might be responsible for feeding everyone, making sure everything is taken care of and raising our younger siblings. In these kinds of family situations, our parents aren’t living up to their roles as providers and nurturers. They often don’t have the emotional intelligence or the fortitude to realize they are hurting their children and to reach out for help. As the children in the family, we’re not being given the support or the stability we need for good mental and emotional health. Our chances of having a happy childhood and of developing into self-assured, well-adjusted adults can be impacted. We might find that our mental health issues and addictions develop as a result of our inability to heal from the pain we’ve experienced in our families.

Our experiences with the different family roles and dynamics when living with addiction help form who we are. They build our strength, courage and resilience. Our difficulties and our challenges contribute to the development of our identity and our character. Although we can be negatively impacted by these family roles, they are a part of our story, a part of the unique personal experience that helps us become who we are meant to be. As we work to know more about our family roles, we gain the clarity and understanding we need to heal ourselves and fuel our recovery.

Riverside Recovery is committed to helping you uncover the issues fueling your addictions. Our treatment programs include multiple forms of therapy, family workshops and mindfulness-based relapse prevention education. Call (800) 871-5440 for more information.