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Celebrity Addictions: Is Charlie Sheen Beyond Help?

Posted by Levine Communications Office on March 1, 2011

Judy Belmont, MS and Lora Shor, MSW from The Swiss Cheese Theory of Life weigh  in on the  “Two and a Half Men” star:

Addiction is not a new trend in the world of celebrities; screen idols, famed musicians and talented athletes have all fallen victim to this disease. The only difference between them and your average addicted individual? The limelight. Oh, but what a difference it makes! The glamour, secrecy, and easy access vibe of Hollywood are all factors in what seems to be an overwhelming trend of celebrity addictions.

Today Charlie Sheen swallows up both tabloid and legitimate newspaper headlines alike, not for his long career, family life, or current hit show, but rather for his hotel room benders, police disturbances, trips to court, and recurring project cancellations due to his addiction problems.  And so we ask: What in the world is wrong with Charlie Sheen?

1.  Even the rich and famous need psychological help – No matter how handsome, rich and famous you are, it does not mean you are less likely to have a mental imbalance, or even mental illness.  With almost 300 mental disorders classified in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders produced by the APA (American Psychiatric Association), at one point in time most of us are bound to fit into some diagnostic category. In some there is a continuum of how severe or mild the emotional disturbance is, which in turn determines how your relationships, work and quality of your life in general is affected. Unfortunately, it took an intervention by his superiors at work to make him realize he needed help; the consequences were going to cost him his show if he did not straighten out.

2.  Charlie has an addiction problem – Whether it is cocaine like in his last 36 hour bender, or other recreational drugs and excessive alcohol abuse, nothing will play tricks with your mind and your life as much as substance abuse. Drug and alcohol addiction takes on a life of its own, and after a while it becomes unclear if it is the drug or the mental disturbance underlying the substance abuse that is the real problem.  Often it is a lethal combination.

“Celebrity status” can be a confusing state to be in.  In a world in which photographers watch your every move, millions scream your name, and bloggers make big bucks off of putting you down, it is no surprise that these young stars look for a way to escape.  Charlie comes from a family that has drug and alcohol problems; even his father Martin had problems with alcoholism, but now appears to be sober and attends AA meetings. However, Charlie has enough money, access to drugs, and a network of partying friends that enable the drug use – a perfect storm for continued addiction.

For similar familial examples, look no further than Kelly Osbourne, daughter of famous rocker and drug addict Ozzy Osbourne. Kelly has cited the pressure of Hollywood and critics’ harsh words for much of her spiral into addiction. Unfortunately, few others seem to realize the potential for addiction and the career ruining results of substance use.

3.  Drug abuse can often be considered self-medication – Many seek drug use to medicate themselves for an underlying emotional imbalance. As he told People Magazine during a recent interview, “I was sober for five years a long time ago and was just bored out of my tree,” he said. “It’s inauthentic; it’s not who I am (http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20461614,00.html).”

He regards boredom as the reason for why he has been so involved with drugs.  However, he does not seem to have the internal drive to stick with drug abstinence, as he is more of a “thrill seeker” and mediates his distaste from being bored with substances.

4.  Charlie displays characteristics found in those who suffer from underlying personality disorders. – It has been widely estimated that about 70% of drug and alcohol addicts have underlying personality disorders, which are actually, in one form or another, quite common in the general population (about 1 in 5 people). Personality disorders are underlying character issues in which there are certain hallmarks.  Some of these are strikingly evidenced in Charlie’s behavior:

1. Lack of impulse control
2. No sense of responsibility for one’s own behavior
3. Immature way of thinking
4. Low frustration tolerance
5. High degree of narcissism
6. No remorse for wrong doing
7. Shallowness of emotion
8. Tendency to blame others for making you act a certain way
9.  A lack of personal responsibility
10. Inability to learn from past mistakes

5.  He needs to want to change – not feel like he HAS to change! – With fame and fortune, he might be able to have few repercussions for his “bad boy” behavior, so if he is not motivated to change and get the help he needs to get mental health help, he will keep recurring to his “out of control’ behavior. His bosses staged an intervention and laid down the law this time. Perhaps he just fails to realize the seriousness of his addictions, or maybe he just can’t seem to separate himself from the community that has built him up only to destroy him time and time again. Either way, the solution must come from within. It will only have staying power if HE decides enough is enough, and not because of an outside threat.

6. Charlie has a bit of an EGO – Being constantly worshipped as the hottest and greatest builds up one’s ego to the point where they begin to feel invincible.  2010’s trend of sex-addicted celebrities is a perfect example of this egomania.  Tiger Woods, arguably the best American golfer of all time, has tarnished his name after his myriad of affairs was revealed to both his wife and the public in December 2009.

In Charlie’s case, he is quoted in a recent Us Magazine interview as bragging, “The shape I was showing up in was epic, […] I would show up not having slept much. Doing a network run-through and asking the director to move my mark a little bit so I could be next to a piece of furniture or a table so I wouldn’t fall over. That is an expert move by a seasoned professional; an amateur stays on his mark and then falls over during the run-through (http://www.usmagazine.com/healthylifestyle/news/charlie-sheen-ive-got-advice-for-lindsay-2011162).” He likes to see how far he can make it through a taping just to fall apart.

Describing this as “epic” shows how grandiose and narcissistic his thinking is, and how that mentality is not one for self-reflection. This grandiose and immature view of himself is one that will likely get Charlie into more trouble unless he gets some help with handling limits and consequences of his behavior, which unfortunately up to now has been dependent on the law and his superiors. His sense of self is a bit inflated, but perhaps he did not have limits set to keep him grounded while growing up in a famous and rich household.

7.  Charlie remains an accident waiting to happen without intensive in-patient treatment for substance abuse and ongoing work with a psychotherapist. – To sum up, Charlie needs to have intensive drug rehabilitation in which he learns about the mental illness of addiction and finally faces it, and this can only be done with both intensive in-patient and outpatient
treatment. He needs to be involved in an ongoing drug support group, and have a seasoned mental health professional who can help him learn more about addictions as well as how to control impulses and set his own internal limits rather than rely on anyone else to finally say “no.” It will be necessary just like any drug abuser, to finally face the music, as addiction is a disease of denial.
Working with his mental health professionals, he’ll finally get that he is not immune to the laws and limits of nature and follow the rules that the rest of us mere mortals need to abide by.

About the authors: Judy Belmont, MS and Lora Shor, MSW are psychotherapists, wellness trainers, and members of the National Speakers Association. Their upcoming book “The Swiss Cheese Theory of Life: How to Get Through Life’s Holes Without Getting Stuck in Them!” talks about how resiliency can bring balance to our stressful and often harried lives. http://www.theswisscheesetheoryoflife.com/




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