The Charlie Sheen meltdown
Late night comedians and a number of news agencies have had a field day with the public self-destruction of actor Charlie Sheen. Millions of people have watched Sheen’s explanations, rantings, and antics on TV and on the Internet with unbridled amusement. The problem is this: It’s not funny.
Several years ago, Sheen’s father, Martin Sheen, endured public anguish and humiliation as he announced that his son had a drug problem. It was obvious that the elder Sheen was in tremendous pain watching his talented son destroy himself and crush those who loved him most.
More recently, Charlie Sheen was paid almost $2 million an episode for his starring role on “Two and a Half Men,” a program which has been pulled due to Sheen’s continuing problems. Sheen says he doesn’t have a problem, that he has overcome by the power of his mind. Others, hearing this, just sadly shake their heads.
Sheen is not alone, of course. There are literally millions of men and women who are destroying themselves and their families with drugs and/or alcohol.
A few days ago, I chanced to meet a man in a motorcycle store in Florida and we struck up a conversation. We both served in the military, he, a Navy Corpsman (medic) stationed with Marines in Vietnam where he was wounded in action; I, a Marine who, fortunately, never needed the ministrations of a combat corpsman.
I judged him to be about 65 or so. During the conversation, he shared that he had been sober for the last 17 years, having attended his first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting in jail.
Drugs, alcohol, and crimes brought on by his addiction led to a wasted life for much of his existence. He had experienced six divorces (and lost four homes). There was nothing funny about his story either.
He shared about the pain he had inflicted on his children, his spouses, his parents, and most of his friends. There was sadness and regret in his eyes and voice when he talked about the past.
“Then one night,” he shared, “in my cell, I hit my knees, asked for help, and began to attend A.A.” He is married once again but his wife “has never seen me any way but sober. She doesn’t know the man I was back then.”
Some would argue that alcoholism or drug addiction is not a disease, saying that it is a choice to drink or take drugs. That’s true enough and perhaps it is more accurate to term it a “self-inflicted disease.”
But then, by that reasoning, so is lung cancer brought on by smoking or heart disease caused by eating in an unhealthy manner. The undeniable fact is that alcoholics and addicts are horribly, painfully, gruesomely sick.
The families who have watched a loved one sink into the abyss of addiction cannot look at Charlie Sheen and find the humor. Their pain is too great to take pleasure in someone’s self-destruction. They see a lost man who doesn’t yet know the depth of his lostness — even though everyone around him has been brutalized by the secondary effects of his disease.
The man I met in Florida? He is now an A.A. sponsor and has five men that he is helping to stay sober. “One man has been clean for nine years and the newest one has been sober now for two years. The others are somewhere in between.”
It was obvious that this man who found hope, faith, and sobriety later in life took great satisfaction in helping others come out of their own personal, long, dark night.
There is hope for Sheen and for all those who are shackled to their pitiless taskmasters. There is hope for the parents, spouses, and children of alcoholics and addicts. It starts, as it did in the jail cell of my new friend, by hitting our knees and asking for help.
[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, 4881 Hwy. 34 E., Sharpsburg, GA 30277. Services are held Sundays at 8:30 and 10 a.m. (www.ctkcec,org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.]