After working with families and close friends of opiate addicts in the most difficult stage of addiction (4th stage), I’ve noticed one primary characteristic present: negative enabling. Consistent exposure to active addiction has the potential to make the most stable person somewhat neurotic. Often, I see family and friends desperately trying to “sober up” the active opiate addict. These efforts almost always meet with failure because the most effective way to deal with an active opiate addict is often “counter-intuitive.”
Love for the opiate addict usually blinds those close to him/her. Traditional forms of compassion, care and concern become liabilities. I see many cases where family continues to provide shelter, food and money to an active opiate addict. These behaviors enable an opiate addict to continue down a path of self-destruction.
Few opiate addicts get sober without consequences. If an opiate addict is provided with shelter, money and an occasional meal, there is little incentive to change. Often, family and friends tell me they provide loved ones with opiate addiction money and shelter because they fear for what might happen if the addict is homeless. They fear the opiate addict might face death or incarceration. Unfortunately, as soon as a person crosses the threshold into full-blown opiate addiction, these risks become real regardless of an opiate addict’s station in life.