By: Marilyn L. Davis
Addiction: Hiding Behind The Masks and False Images
“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
In our addiction, our masks help us manipulate and fool people. They hide our vulnerabilities, but underneath them, most of us are:
- Smiling, when every fiber of our being is screaming in pain.
- Friendly, when all we want to do is get our dope and leave.
- Pretending that we have it all together when we take our children to school or football.
- Showing fake emotions because we are so embarrassed and frightened by our authentic ones.
Children Adopt Masks to Cope
Many of us learned as children to adopt specific roles. We fostered a false facade to the outside world and wore our mask. Unfortunately, some of us did not outgrow our roles and carried it into our addiction.
The Six Primary Roles from Childhood
1. Hero or the Good Child
The Hero child makes good grades, participates in healthy social and sports activities, and makes friends. They also give the family a solid reputation. More than anything, this child dedicates their actions to make it seem like the family functions well.
Hero children assume many of the responsibilities of the parents and often take care of younger children.
In their addiction, they are the ones labeled the control freak. Sadly, they think that if they can control the external aspects of their lives, they don’t have to acknowledge the inner turmoil.
2. Scapegoat or the Problem Child
This role bears the brunt of the blame for the problems within the family. Sometimes, they are responsible for the family’s standing within the community. Frequently 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.
3. The Caretaker
These children are in charge of the emotional well-being of the household. They comfort siblings and parents after arguments, soothe feelings between other family members, and often become isolated in their feelings of sadness that no one addresses.
Feeling the burden of the family’s emotional health, they often continue wearing the mask of sweet, kind, and caring into their addictions while harboring resentments.
4. The Clown
This role is the release of the pressure cooker family system. They are articulate, funny, and willing to play the court jester to diffuse the tensions within the family.
Realizing that if people are laughing, they may forget the drama and chaos within the family system, these children create humor, often at their expense.
In addiction, this role will do anything for a laugh, even when they are crying inside.
5. The Mastermind
Scheming, making notes on the vulnerabilities of other family members, they hold any information to use at a later time. This role will manipulate any situation or person to their advantage.
In addiction, they continue to manipulate the feelings and vulnerabilities of others. They take advantage of people for their pleasure and gain.
6. The Lost Child
By staying quiet, never needy, these children stayed clear of the chaos. They don’t make waves, seem self-sufficient even at an early age, and are often the most neglected member of the family.
In their addiction, they do not trust that anyone has a solution for them and will often reject caring attempts to get them help. After all, if their family didn’t care enough to notice them, why would a stranger?
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 seeing our better selves.
We remove the layers of old negative messages, limiting beliefs, and not being afraid to acknowledge that certain aspects of our personalities need a makeover in our recovery.
Recovery: We Begin with a Blank Slate
Without this painstaking process, we will never get to our best self. When I show you my dark side or reference my masks, it permits you to expose yours. We give hope and strength to one another when we each look at our masks and make an effort to remove them.
We are no longer trapped in our addiction or have to present a false front to others. It’s rather like starting over, we can show our true emotions, regardless of what they are.
“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 eliminated nor become a light for others.” ― Brennan Manning, Abba’s Child: The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging
Recovery gives us a new and fresh beginning; shouldn’t it also give us the go-ahead to show our real face to people? Whatever emotion we’re feeling, being authentic is what recovery is. And what if, during the process of healing, we find that we are okay?
Writing, and recovery heals the heart.
When you are ready to share your experience and help those still struggling with their addictions, consider a guest post.