Addiction and Family Roles: The Hero


There are six common roles in addiction and recovery in family and also in dysfunctional families.

These are behaviors and roles that individual in the family system adapt to cope with the addiction or dysfunction.

This is so especially if the addiction started when the family members are children and they have been forced to grow up really quick to cope with the situation.

There are several addictions and family roles and today, we will be discussing the Hero role family member.

What is the Hero Role:

This is the family members who understands what is going on and attempts to draw the attention from the dysfunction, whether its addiction or abuse.

This role is normally assumed by the oldest child.

The child performs in excellence everything they do. The goal is mainly in hope that their performance will draw the addict from using. They also use the performance that is hard-earned to cope with the emotional pain and disappointment.

As we have discussed in the addicted family, addiction is family affair. The recovery has to be a family affair too.

Most people don’t realize their assumed role and behaviors that impact their lives due to the effects of the addiction.

Whether the addicted person seek recovery, its important for the family system to identify their role and seek help to have a meaningful life

Addiction and Effects on family: The Hero Role Effects

This is normally driven, hardworking diligent in everything they do, whether its work, school or sports. They will normally over compensate in their work for what’s happening at home.

Hard work and drive ensures that the hero is normally seen as the better child and they will succeed in school and in most cases continue to do well in life.

It’s very hard to have fun because of their need to excel in their commitment, they have a hard time taking time off or relaxing as they have a constant need to do more.

Most of this is because it’s learned at an early age and probably rewarded hence has become a source of self-worth and emotional hideaway.

Growing up as a hero, you may have had to give up your childhood and “childish” friends. This not only makes it hard to relax and be playful, it also creates a lifelong painful sorrow over the loss.

If you are one of those that may have grown up playing the Hero in the family system, you may recognize the powerful position of this role in the family. There are many good things that comes with it.

In fact, people looking at you from the outside, they admire how well you have it together, how hard you work and also how successful you are.

The Other side of these is the tiring and painfully endevour to maintain the hard work and high standards.

This does not only want this for themselves but they tend to be judgmental towards others.

They have little patience on what they consider mediocrity and may come across as very harsh towards people that they consider imperfect or sloppy.

Because of the need to be constantly in control of the situation. As a child, you had to be in control and the same panic comes up as an adult if you are not in control.

This will obviously be difficult to those around you. In most cases, this may have you avoid situations you can’t control or even take risk of being in such a situation. This is one of the areas that creates a difficult issue of loneliness.

Family Recovery from Addiction: Hero Recovery Process

The biggest challenge for the Hero is to learn to let go and not need to be in control. This is hard to do but with conscious and if need be professional help it’s important.

This will help in bringing back the real life where failure is part of life.

Learn to let your guard down once in a while to relax and have some fun. Dress up for Halloween or themed parties, go bowling or dancing, this is worthwhile and will even help with work when you get back.

After being responsible for other family members all your life, you tend to feel responsible to other people. Let go.

You will need to accept that the only person you are responsible for is you. You can’t fix other people.

This of course is tied to the most important thing that this group of people need to learn, learning to say NO.

All this may sound difficult to do or apply on a daily basis, but the grown up Hero may be creating a difficult situation for those around you and may even take a toll on you and wear you out.

Just work hard in sometimes keeping what you know to yourself, people may only need to have you listen and might not appreciate you breathing down your knowledge on them.

Try to be selfish and stop over-volunteering at work or even social places. Instead, look for fun things to do, its well worth it.

Whether the addicted family member seeks recovery or not, find out what role you assumed to cope.

The family gets so caught up with the addicts recovery, they ignore their own needs or their own recovery.

It’s for your own good to get your life back on track and start to enjoy it and also give those around you, especially your family and friends to enjoy life with you.

If you are a family hero or have any questions or comments, please share below. Will love to hear your thoughts or experience.

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  1. What I have learned with time is that you can’t fully help someone. I had an uncle addicted to alcohol and violence. My dad tried everything to help him. But my dad never said Yes to everything my uncle wanted. He will help him halfway, and let him do the other half. Like he would take in charge one of my cousins but let my uncle still be fully in charge of the other kids. He did so until the kids were old enough to take care of themselves. 

    Remember helping others is great, especially your family but if they are not ready to participate in their own recovery, there is nothing you can do to make them. Help them without losing yourself.


    • Indeed. The only person you can control is yourself. You have to take care of yourself to be able to take care of others.

  2. Terrific article that almost everyone can relate to. 

    I have a brother who was an alcoholic. His second child died from sudden infant death syndrome at 4 months. By nature, he is a closed book and was a police officer in a 2 cop town. He didn’t really emotionally recover and though they had another baby a few years later, at some time alcohol got the better of him and he lost his job.Some how his wife stayed with him though the daughter who you would think should have become the hero went the other way and rebelled, using her dad’s alcoholism as the fuel and as the excuse for her errant ways. 

    His wife supported him the whole way and eventually he agreed to rehab. He hasn’t drunk alcohol now for 12 years. He smoked also but gave that up 10 years ago.

    Though the daughter’s attitude to this day remains poor, skipping the country for an internet relationship that started on candy crush and leaving a 5 month old baby behind, I feel his wife has been the HERO in this story. Married now 28 years, she stuck with him through thick and thin. If not for her, I am sure he would have died before he was 50.

    You put some context around it for me. 

    Thanks so much,


    • Hi Pete, thanks for sharing. I hope your Niece will find a way to get help also out of her current situation. All the best to your uncle and family.

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