This is the part we generally don’t understand. Its difficult to name or assess and especially generalize about our reference points as “normal” peoples (normal as in non-addict), but for an addict their reference point is clear: get high. I read a description I didn’t understand at first and still might now fully understand but I have come to feel it is very useful. Some describe an addicts priorities as 1) survive 2) get high 3) kill Something like this (I will find it). This is a type of rationalization that we are not at all used to and not able to easily come to terms with. For many of us its application (watching a fallen loved one in action) is confusing and angers us.
Acknowledging an addict that has changed and not rational reference points is about understanding what makes them tick, not about encouraging or validating their behavior.
In special regards to these reference points, you cannot (or rather should not expect to) DIRECTLY change a persons reference point nor can they, or rather they change as an indirect result of logical conclusion and reflective introspection (time!). They are important to acknowledge for present results as well as future implications.