So, the self-immolation of Charlie Sheen.
From the 20-20 interview:
Q: When was the last time you used?
A: I don’t know.
Bullshit. Every addict knows when he last used.
Then, in a burst of recollection, he remembers WHAT he used (though not precisely when).
Q: What are we talking about? How much?
A: I dunno, man, I was banging 7-gram rocks and finishing them, because that’s how I roll. I have one speed, I have one gear: GO.
Q: How DO you survive that?
A: Because I’m me. I’m different. I have a different brain, a different constitution, I have a different heart, I have a different—you know, I got Tiger Blood, man.
They film his workout (bad curls, crappy form, flinging barbells around, not real lifting), flash a closeup of his skinny-ass abs, creep through his house, photograph his cigars, and look for drugs but can’t find any, though they do turn up a porn star and a model. He submits to a urine drop and apparently comes out clean (more bullshit).
He says his brain fires like “something not of this terrestrial realm.” “Judgment” is a word he uses a lot. “I don’t have time for their judgment,” he says of CBS execs who shut down his show, “Two-and-a-Half Men.”
Charlie Sheen joined Twitter two days ago and already has nearly 1 million followers. Not “friends,” followers. Watchers. Oglers. People just waiting to get notice in their feeds that he’s fucked the next thing up. So they can feel better about their own lives? Entertainment?
Meanwhile to the active addict this feels like adulation. He logs in and 48 hours later, instant audience! Viral! Power! “Winning!”
I tried to find an image of Charlie Sheen from ages ago in which he looks healthy, but I couldn’t dig one up. There are photos of him looking younger, certainly, but he always looks pale, and his eyes are defended. (In contrast to Robert Downey Jr.’s eyes, which always looked sad and empty when he was younger—as if he were staring into blank space, an abyss.) Even when smiling, Charlie Sheen’s face always seems to bark: Get The Fuck Back Or I’ll Rip Your Fuckin Head Off. The Today Show’s Jeff Rossen remarks in yesterday’s interview, “You’re angry!”
Q: You say you’ve cured yourself of addiction. How have you done that?
A: I closed my eyes and made it so. With the power of my mind.
Jesus wept. His advice to other addicts? Fix yourself, close your eyes, change your brain, quit believing all this ancient, plagiarized nonsense.
A friend of mine with some sober years calls this not just ordinary bullshit, but Transcendental Bullshit.
And then there’s this gem: He reads from page 417 of AA’s Big Book. The famous Page Four-Seventeen. The passage on Acceptance Is The Answer To All My Problems Today. You just KNOW what’s coming.
He stares into the camera and tells his boss (his EX-boss):
You gotta accept me.
Lots of people watching all this and saying, “What a fuckin asshole.” From one perspective, they’re right. Addiction, persistently and willfully untreated, makes us into assholes. Plus the experts are right: he probably has some kind of mental illness. In any case, he’s a sick man.
Embarrassingly sad. I feel for him. I feel for his family, especially his kids. I can’t imagine how it is these days to be Martin Sheen. I mean yes I can: I’ve lived with addicted people who refuse to quit or get help; I’ve read blogs of friends who write about how to relate to their family members who are still active or in very early recovery after terrifying histories. But none of these people are watching their kid blow himself up in public.
The masses love to watch a guy set fire to himself, or piss his pants. It can turn us into voyeurs, into nasty seventh-graders whose expertise is finger-pointing and heckling. “Yesterday and very early this morning,” TIME Magazine wrote, “Charlie Sheen continued not going away.” As though they really expected him to. Or even wanted him to.
Why are we so interested in fucked-up celebrities? Is it fair to look at celebrity stories as allegories for our collective experience? … I reckon yeah, with limits. Charlie Sheen is not interesting because he’s an asshole. He’s interesting because he’s got addiction and probably other problems and is refusing to get help. Like many others of us have, and still are. And he has so many resources, including wealth and a concerned parent—unlike many of us.
Celebrities choose to live outside, on the Common, in the public square, instead of behind closed walls like everybody else. The magnifying glass trained on them shows up strengths and weaknesses shared by all of humanity.
“What is called for here is prayer—and plenty of it,” a friend of mine said. “For ourselves as well as Charlie.” I mean I’m not sure I’ve ever known how to pray, exactly, but setting some kind of intention other than being a Gawker helps me put the magnifying glass down. Those damn things can burn.