I am a recovering addict. It’s no secret. I will have been sober for 4 years on April 8th of this year. I know Charlie Sheen hates the word “sober” because he associates it with 12-step. I however find it suitably descriptive so I will use it. I’ve gone through addictions to alcohol, coke, sleeping pills, steroids, and even Tylenol P.M. Throw in an eating disorder and I was once officially a certified Charlie Sheen mess minus the hookers and porn stars.
What turned me around? I had a blackout. My 1st and only one. I acted like a public and private idiot during the blackout. No one got physically hurt. No DWI. No car wreck. That was my low point. The next morning I looked in the mirror and decided that I was no longer having fun. I was doing damage to my body. I was doing damage to my relationships. Changes needed to be made. I did not have the “strength of will” that Charlie Sheen claims to have. I am not a warlock. With all deference to my dad and brothers, I don’t have “Adonis DNA”. I knew I needed a starting point even though at that point I did not know what the term “help” actually entailed. The next day I walked through the doors of….. I know I am not supposed to say it, AA otherwise know as Alcoholics Anonymous.
We are not supposed to talk about being in AA. That is why I almost always refer to it as 12-Step. It is called the principal of anonymity. The 11th Tradition. I however, already outed myself. I believe I have that right despite what the hard core AA fundamentalists preach. I am sure I will get hate mail and called narcissistic, arrogant and self-absorbed. Don’t care. It’s my life to talk about as I see fit. What I do not have is the right to do is out anyone else. That can ruin lives, careers, relationships. On that front, Charlie Sheen is a scumbag for outing Chuck Lorre for being in AA. I do understand why he did it. When we get angry on such a personal level, we often take personal shots we know will hurt the most at the expense of reason and compassion. Addicts are notorious for taking shots like that. When an addict’s self worth is completely stripped, ad-hominems are often the weapon of choice to make us feel better. I have seen it in myself. I have seen it in other addicts. Sheen is no different. Strip away the fame, money and bizarre statements and its an insecure guy with a a problem doing coke and using porn stars and rhetoric to pump himself up because he/she is afraid to face the reality of the situation. That’s what addicts do. Charlie may think he is unique but strip the last name away and the song and story is the same one told since addictions entered the human condition.
Breaking down Charlie’s rant with regards to AA, he has not said anything that has not been said before by other disgruntled addicts. I agree with some of it.
Charlie says AA is a cult. AA certainly has some cult-like qualities. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. Group-think is fundamental to the AA recovery process. Many people need to embrace the group-think mentality to get sober and stay sober. That works for them. More power to them. Some don’t need it or want it. We are simply not wired for group-think and push back against it on all levels. This is where I break. I do not think getting over addiction is a cookie cutter, one Big Book fits all scenario. Individuality is ok. It is when other members try to force group-think on people who may need a different road, those people start screaming cult. I have rejected much of 12-step group-think philosophy. I took the aspects that I felt worked for me and embraced those. I made the program mine. I feel that has worked for me. Of course there are those in AA who are threatened by anyone who does it differently. They dismiss us as as “dry drunks” and doomed to failure. That drives people away. That’s a cult.
Charlie infers that addicts can cure themselves through strength of will. I absolutely agree that it is possible to look in the mirror, say “enough is enough” and never look back. I know some of those people. I would also say that it’s the acute minority that can do that. Most need support. Support from people similarly situated is a great thing. I love that about AA. Those people are my friends. Many are my confidants outside of the setting with regards to my struggles.
There are those that argue that if you can quit without AA you must not be an addict. I view that as again, AA standardized “Catch 22″ circular logic semantics. They tell you that if you follow the steps odds are good you will stay sober but if you relapse you must not have followed the 12-Steps. When I hear that I always feel a little like Capt. John Yosaarian.
That is not to say that Charlie can’t beat it with will like he says he has. He could be that rare guy. I would say however that the facts of his past speak for themselves. Despite whatever semantic label he wants to put on it to make himself feel better, his history demonstrates that he does NOT have “Adnonis DNA”. It demonstrates that he is not one of the chosen few that can cure themselves with mind over coke. Why? He has tried and failed before. Because he now chooses to semantically call it something else to justify his actions does not change the fundamental nature of those actions.
Finally, Charlie says he is having fun. Money and fame can buy a lot of fun in the moment. I did not have the money and fame but I would be lying if I said that there were not fun moments. The problem was that eventually the bad moments substantially overshadowed the fun moments which came less and less frequently. It is a complex formula that is different for every addict eventually totaling out at our low point. Charlie has not hit his low yet. It is different for everyone. He also has a high, “low threshold.” I had a low “low-threshold” relatively speaking to many others. It did not take much for me. The problem with a high “low-threshold” is that those more often than not, they do not end well and often end tragically. You do not have to simply deal with and evaluate the low like I did. You have to survive them. With each new low, Charlies chances of surviving his new low change dramatically for the worse. That is not about Charlie. This has been proven time and time again in addicts around the world. Charlie is not exempt from the laws of physics as they apply to addiction. The other high probabilities are prison or permanent physical incapacity. I am not a doctor but the notion that Sheen has not shortened his life dramatically regardless seems preposterous to me.
This was another reason I found the strength to not look back. My family does have “Adonis DNA” when it comes to living long, healthy lives. Why fuck with that. Too many other random chance events that can take that away in a heartbeat. Too much fun to have once I learned that fun did not have to involve altering my mental state and shorting my life. Hope Charlie learns the same and lives though the learning process. Too much to live for.