By: Marilyn L. Davis
Addiction: Who Are We Behind the Mask? _ __
Addiction forces us to wear a mask, or present a false image. We smile, when every fiber of our being is screaming in pain. We posture as friendly, when all we want to do is get our dope and leave. We pretend that we have it all together when we take our children to school or football. We show fake emotions because we are so embarrassed and frightened by our authentic ones.
Many of us were not just trapped in our addiction, but learned as children to adopt certain roles. We fostered a false façade to the outside world. Unfortunately, some of us did not outgrow our roles and carried it into our addiction. _
“Everyone wears masks. They come in all different shapes and sizes. The only problem with trying one on is, does it fit? How easily we fall into the trap that we don’t have to be who we really are. How easily we convince ourselves that we need to cover up what we were born to be. It’s a tragedy that fear keeps us from our destiny. It’s hell when the person you were created to be is covered up by some cheap impostor” ― Rachel Van Dyken, Toxic
Children Adopt Roles, Masks, and Fronts to Cope
Children take on roles or masks to survive in dysfunctional family systems. Unfortunately, in our addiction, we often keep up these roles because we have not recovered our authentic self. The six basic roles are:
1. Hero Child or the Good Child
This child makes good grades, participates in sports, gives the family a solid reputation within the community, receives praise for their performance, and is dedicated to making the family life function. They assume many of the responsibilities of the parents and often are the surrogate parent to their siblings.
In their addiction, they are the one labeled the control freak. Thinking if they control external aspects of their lives, they don’t have to acknowledge the inner turmoil.
2. Scapegoat Child or the Problem Child
This role bears the brunt or blame for the problems within the family or the family’s poor standing in the community. Oftentimes this child is an underachiever, prone to moodiness, angry outbursts, feelings of abandonment and low self-esteem.
Prompting some of their actions is often a feeling of less-than within the family and acted out as, “if you think I’m bad, I’ll show you bad.” Problem children often grow into problem adults. I do not think I have ever met an addict or alcoholic who would not qualify for the problem adult label. Yet, it’s too easy to overlook the wounded person beneath when we’re dealing with problem people.
These children are in charge of the emotional well-being of the household. They comfort siblings and parents after arguments, soothing feelings between other family members, and becoming increasingly isolated in their own feelings of sadness that no one addresses.
They feel responsible for the family reputation and can often continue wearing the mask of sweet, kind and caring into their addiction while harboring resentments.
4. The Clown
This role is the release on the pressure cooker family system. They are articulate, funny, willing to play the court jester to diffuse the tensions within the family.
In addiction, this role will do anything for a laugh, even when they are crying inside.
This role schemes, makes note of the other family member’s weaknesses and faults and uses this information to get what they want. They have learned to manipulate situations to their advantage.
This child has learned to steer clear by whatever means necessary of the chaos, tension, and inconsistencies within the family. This child has learned not to “make waves”, seems self-sufficient even from an early age, and is often the most neglected within the family structure.
When you can name which role you played, you can take steps to remove this false identity in your recovery.
Removing The Masks And Showing Our Authentic Self
Discovering the authentic self in recovery is initially about finding all the character defects and self-defeating behaviors within. When we find them, we change them, and in the process we begin finding our better selves. We remove the layers of old negative messages, limited beliefs, and not being afraid to acknowledge that certain aspects of our personalities need a make-over in our recovery.
“In a futile attempt to erase our past, we deprive the community of our healing gift. If we conceal our wounds out of fear and shame, our inner darkness can neither be illuminated nor become a light for others.” ― Brennan Manning, Abba’s Child: The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging
However, without this painstaking process, we will never get to our better self.
When I show you my dark side or reference my masks, it gives you permission to expose yours. We provide hope and strength to one another when we each examine our masks.
We are no longer trapped in our addiction and have to present a false front to others. In our recovery, we can allow our authentic self to emerge as it is no longer caught up in the web of addiction and deception.
Recovery gives us a new and fresh beginning; shouldn’t it also give us the go-ahead to show our true face to people? And what if, during the process of healing, we find that we are okay?
Writing, and recovery heals the heart
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