When Change Feels Bad 

When Change Feels Bad 

In mental health by Tree House Recovery

Naturally, we assume that those who begged us to go into rehab for our alcoholism will greet our return with at least some fanfare. After all, we stepped up to the plate and are working the steps to build on the sobriety we have. That’s the way it should be, right?

If only it were that simple. Family dynamics in the alcoholic can be very complicated, even when the abused substance is taken completely out of the picture. Part of the reason is that now that you are ready to begin a new role and new chapter in your life, the people around you might be ill at ease. If they spent their life enabling you, it might be difficult for them to stop micromanaging you. If they judged you, they may avoid you entirely to be reminded of how they treated you.

As the founding chair of Adult Children of Alcoholics, Sharon Wegscheider-Cruse1 helped develop a now well-worn diagnostic category-based criteria system that identifies the various personality types that tend to develop within families touched by alcoholism. It’s the classic lineup of roles in the alcoholic family. Do you recognize yourself or others in these descriptions?

The Enabler – The Enabler is a family member who steps in and protects the alcoholic/addict from the consequences of his or her behavior. The motivation for this may not be just to protect the alcoholic/addict but to prevent embarrassment, reduce anxiety, avoid conflict or maintain some control over a difficult situation. The Enabler may try to clean up the messes caused by the alcoholic/addict and make excuses for him or her, thus minimizing the consequences of addiction.

The Hero – The Hero is a family member who attempts to draw attention away from the alcoholic/addict by excelling, performing well and generally being “too good to be true.” The Hero has a hope that somehow his or her behavior will help the alcoholic/addict to stop using. 

The Scapegoat – The Scapegoat is a family member who creates other problems and concerns in order to deflect attention away from the real issue. This can be through misbehavior, bad grades or his/her own substance use. 

The Lost Child – The Lost Child is a family member who appears to be ignoring the problem completely. There could be a fight,  yelling and screaming, and the Lost Child will be absent or secluded from the situation. They are often perceived as the “good” child because much time is spent alone with books or involved in isolated activities. 

The Mascot – The Mascot attempts to use humor as a means to escape from the pain of the problems caused by addiction. He or she will often act out by “clowning around,” cracking jokes or making light of serious situations2


If you’re tired of playing the role of the addict, come to Tree House. At Tree House Recovery of Portland, Oregon we use cutting-edge techniques in individualized programs to help men achieve freedom from addiction and triggering behaviors. Taking a holistic, sustainable approach to the inner and outer effects of addiction ensures you or your loved one will emerge with the confidence and skills to manage your addiction independently. No one is beyond help; our Admissions Counselors are available 24/7 at (503) 850-2474