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Charlie Sheen, the Art of Winning, and Recovery

March 1, 2011
by Dan Griffin
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Watching the recent interviews with Charlie Sheen have left me with many conflicted emotions. More than anything: But for the Grace of God there go I. I also feel sadness, disgust, and pity. I feel as though I am part of the problem – watching the interviews and ogling over the incredibly devastating car wreck unfolding before us. He doesn’t need people taking pictures of him in the car in flames, he needs help and few of the media exploits in the past week have been focused on that. Because our society sure loves it car wrecks! His struggles with drug addiction, gambling, and other unhealthy behaviors are legendary. We have been watching an addict kill himself slowly for two decades. And the media and his employers (aka CBS and Warner Bros.) have been great enablers for years.

What has struck me the most about the recent events is the word Mr. Sheen has used throughout his interviews: over and over again he talks about “winning.” In his mind, Mr. Sheen is “winning” and is a “winner.” Why does he say that? Because, in his own words: he is a genius actor who has singlehandedly kept CBS and Warner Brothers solvent, has the two ‘goddesses’ (one a “former” porn star and the other a model/marijuana advocate) living in his “Sober Valley Lodge,” the car he drives, and the money he makes. Sound familiar? Look back over the past century and you will see that this resume is not new for any man who has ever tried out for the job of Superman.

The evidence Sheen uses to make his case for why he is a “winner” with “tiger blood” and “Adonis DNA” are all the trappings that we have been told for decades will make us happy as men. We are told from very early we should fantasize about sex with two women, big fancy cars and homes, and, of course, fame and power. Mr. Sheen has all of this. I cannot say whether or not Mr. Sheen is happy; I can introduce him to hundreds of men who have tried that approach and not only found it empty and unfulfilling but many of them have almost died at the hands of that very seductive lover.

Is Sheen using? It is not clear. He passed a drug test for his interview with Radar online. Or perhaps, as many experts think, he is having an extremely manic episode. Irrespective, he does seem to be exhibiting the behaviors of someone who is having some sort of mental health breakdown. What is clear is that Mr. Sheen is speaking in a way that is beyond grandiose and I can only imagine the impact it is having on those who care about him the most, particularly his father.




Just want to be accurate, Mark Wahlberg admits to smoking pot daily, he only stopped doing it in front of his kids when his daughter told him he smells bad.

Mr. Sheen appears to be having a manic episode. What I saw on the interviews was not just a dependency issue. I wouldn't doubt for a moment if he were suffering from bipolar mania, untreated of course. At this point is is grandiose, over the top. The only way he will get help at this point is if he were to be committed for danger to self/ others, or gravely disabled as a result of a mental illness.

I feel sad for his children and yes, sad for him. I can only hope for a miracle.

Just to clarify further, Mark Wahlberg was reported to have said at a film festival in January that he has stopped using marijuana altogether, resulting in part from the comments of his daughter.

I am not surprised at Mr Sheen.s behavior, I am terribly angered at the media grubbing to make money from a sick and troubled man. I am a Drug/Alcohol Counselor with many years of working with struggling addicts, I am approaching my 21 year sobriety birthday and as a person from an affluent family know the difficulties that face addits who have access to money and do not need to resort to illegal means to get thier drugs, including alcohol.
A primary point of the AA recovery program is "rigorous honesty" and here I see main stumbling block, amongst many, for Mr Sheen also seems to face the problem of have the AA progrm work for him trather than working for his recovery.
The dual diagnosis issue is merely guess work and I avoid making guesses in this area due to possibe damage to Mr. Sheen and my ethics. I have worked with individuals such as Mr. Sheen, actors, people enabled by those who make money from their talents and am quite worried for Mr. Sheen's safety. I wish him well and an awakening he desperately needs.

Great piece Dan. Yes great minds.

It upsets me greatly that we as a culture have adopted this guy as our national obsession. It's a sad story, but one not unlike any number of drunks and cokeheads before him. I have worked with many men who are trying to get and stay sober. The stuff Charlie has done is nothing out of the ordinary. He's a garden-variety addict with a big-ass wallet, to make matters a lot worse.

All addicts lie. They will sell their mother for a hit. They will do enormously stupid things to cover their lies. And in regard to sex, personal property, and willingness to engage in criminal behavior, whatever morality they might have when sober goes out the window when intoxicated.

What upsets me so much about waking up to watch Charlie rant and rave? The man is in desperate need of help, and we as a country are getting off on watching him flounder. I have a sneaking suspicion that it has to do with how Charlie fits into the long line of male celebrities and politicians gone bad (Tiger, Spitzer, Edwards ... do I need to go on?).

Yes, we love to follow the ins and outs of insane female celebrities as they ruin their lives, too. But it goes from the cover of the tabloids to the (supposedly) serious news networks when a guy screws up. We eat it up.
My question is, why? Do we all want to believe that guys are that bad? Is our view of masculinity so skewed that we would prefer to talk about Charlie Sheen than Colin Firth, Mark Wahlberg, or Christian Bale? Are the good guys "boring" while the bad boys dial up the ratings, feeding the beast of popular culture?

I learned a long time ago that with addiction, the first step is to realize that the urge to do something is not the same as doing it. And so I kindly ask of men and women alike: change the channel. Read a book. Find out about guys volunteering. (Or if nothing else works, read this site.) Not all men are Charlie Sheen, as much as we seem to think they are.

@tmatlack (you can read the rest of what I think about this here:


Dan Griffin

Dan Griffin

Dan Griffin, MA, is an internationally recognized author and thought leader on...

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