Stop busting on the poor guy and read this
There are two sides to the Charlie Sheen subject.
One, we watch in semi-awe a man-child who clearly has issues with maintaining a credible balance between—well, okay, out with it—he gets shitfaced, does a lot of drugs and hot women, trashes public property, has cars and watches stolen in the process, and then, as Men’s Health’s own emergency medicine advisor Travis Stork, M.D., puts it, “metabolizes to freedom.” (That’s medical slang meaning his body finally processes the chemicals in it to the point where he’s coherent; this moment usually happens in an E.R. bed.) He does all this as a high-functioning addict, showing up for work, playing himself, and in general getting the job done.
In other words: Living the dream.
And then there’s side two. Much of the world sits in judgment like a bunch of snide lobbyists who expect lawmakers to come to them: Why doesn’t Charlie ever seem to take a hit from all this!?! Why can’t public opinion turn on him like he deserves!?! Why can’t he just flush already!?! And that’s all these people know how to do, dump on the easy target, whap the low-hanging fruit like he’s a scrotum-shaped piñata. He’s another wasted Hollywood addict who will never live up to his potential—at age 45—and yet continues to produce. These folks forget that he’s established a Walk-of-Fame-worthy body of work between paid-for blowjobs and signing for crates of Astroglide.
Know what? Forget both of those points of view. Here’s some reality for guys like us.
I don’t know Charlie. Never met him. But every man, especially you, knows a little bit about what he’s going through.
Oh, yes you do.
If there is anything men do constantly, and do well, it’s chase what feels good. We love us some of that dopamine. Does that make all men addicts? Not technically. But we definitely gravitate toward addictive personality because pleasure, however we achieve it, is the road of least resistance.
Moderation? Moderation pains us.
Line up the activities: Sex (solo and partnered), smoking, drinking, flirting, playing Xbox, exercising, working, gambling, gambling and calling it investing, Internet surfing, Tweeting, texting, making your bed just so, not making it at all, dumping on the other political party, and how about the time-tested pleasure-giver known as schadenfreude? Checking out that old girlfriend on Facebook because she dumped you for an abusive asshole who you knew would treat her like a tray of raw veal?
Men, men, men, men, manly men, oo-hoo-hoo oo-hoo-hoo oo-hoo-hoo . . .
How about some more basics: Controlling your romantic partner. Letting your partner control you. Looking down on those who don’t share the same beliefs you do. Keeping that obsessive food diary because it makes you feel good about how you eat. Seeing your mom more times a week than is necessary because it makes you feel less guilty. Maybe over-coaching the kids in soccer? Making the entire stinking league better in soccer even if the fun stops? How about eating something (or not) based on beliefs? Expressing good ol’ moral outrage. Or perhaps a twice-daily dose of really good pot even though your wife wouldn’t approve. And the occasional over-indulgence in all things that make you feel like a good, established, bona-fide adult with unimpeachable credentials.
These activities all have one thing in common: They light up your pleasure centers. You do them over and over and you will never stop. Why? Because they make you feel good and they don’t hurt anyone else (so you think). If you consciously seek out that physiologic light show, you are the same as Charlie Sheen.
What makes an addict different? Very little. A non-addict sometimes stops. An addict’s brain tells them to keep going. Farther. Faster. More. No, you wimpy douche, gladly have your hamburger today, not Tuesday, can’t you see there’s more?
I think Charlie Sheen is important to all men, not for what he does (or who), but for how he illustrates the internal male dynamic in widescreen and an unrated director’s cut. He shows us what could happen to all of us if we just . . . let . . . go . . . even for one bad night.
Oh, I’ve had those nights. I’ve been a drunk. In 25 years of dedicated functional alcoholism I’ve offended many authority figures and disappointed many women. I’ve had 16-hour drinking sessions and Bloodys for breakfast. I’ve done math with fellow drunks and realized, damn, there were more than 20 beers involved for each of us. With tequila chasers. High five.
If you look down on that, or judge that, I wonder what stimulates your dopamine? What do you do more than you should (besides judging)? What do you do that makes all those around you say, behind your back, he’s doing it again.
See, men do it again. And again. And again. Men, men, men, men, manly men, men, men . . .
Pass the tequila. Floor it.
Addiction is a chase. You’re chasing catharsis. What is catharsis? Well, that’s your deal. It doesn’t necessarily mean orgasm or “Piano Man” or even puking. It’s whatever completes the evening for you and allows you to stop. Rest. Breathe. Wake up the next day and smile. And chase it all again when the hangover clears.
Last we heard, Charlie Sheen hosted a 36-hour chase for catharsis at his home. He ended up in the hospital with no less than a porn star essentially saying, “Damn, that was extreme. Get well, dude.”
Impressive by any standard of shameless male behavior.
You aren’t that far off. Literally in the hospital? No. But figuratively rubbing a feel-good lamp every day until the steam-whistle goes off? Hell, yes, especially if you brag about being a “pro” at anything, or somesuch other bullshit, when you get off on stomping someone at work or ask the bouncer for three hundred in singles. You are Charlie. We all are. Pleasure drives us, yet we hide it. He doesn’t.
The mistake many of us make here is condemning Sheen for what he is. I’ve dealt first-hand with addicts, have people close to me in prison for life because of it, and have seen an overdose. Guys can O.D. on a lot of things, even positive things. Charlie simply goes with the classics.
Gregg Allman, an addict, puts it well: “The blues ain’t nothin’ but a good man feelin’ bad.” Being an addict—or even just acting like one for one night—isn’t a comment on character. Good men screw up, screw themselves up.
I’ve woken up in my own vomit. I’ve been told about actions, both innately intelligent and wildly stupid, that I don’t remember. I’ve been told I’m excellent. And vile. All while drunk. I get Charlie. I know what he is, and more importantly, where his brain tries to take him every night.
It’s a journey. You’re seeking oblivion. It’s a succulent place when you find it. It’s indescribable. You sacrifice short-term memory for long-term ones. You remember when you did that? No? Me neither. But it was fucking awesome!
Guys, Charlie Sheen’s behavior isn’t far removed from what each of us has either done or seen. Why do we use him as masturbatory schadenfruede material? Because a lot of us depend on the screw-ups of others, even famous people, to mask the fraudulent lives we all lead. What would happen, I wonder, if everyone you knew suddenly started telling the truth about you?
I remember horrible mornings. All you can taste is last night’s booze, especially bad if it was Kamikazes and bourbon. The shower soap smells especially pungent, yet makes no other smell go away. Toothpaste is a sad, minty joke. You know what’s worse? Even if you stay sober for days, weeks, even months, every once in a while your mouth is flooded with the taste of alcohol, a pale ale or mojito you didn’t have.
I wonder what Charlie Sheen can taste this morning? Hopefully ain’t nothin’ but rehab coffee and an egg-white omelet with jalapenos.
Rooting for you, dude. I get it. We all do.