Mar 3, 2011

Why does Charlie Sheen keep getting high?

"I'm struck by the honesty of the addict determined to resist intervention. The truly rich can do this - think of Michael Jackson's descent into pharmaceutical madness - without real sanctions. But Sheen has had sanctions. He has lost his lucrative career, while also damaging the lives and careers of his colleagues. And yet he still places pure pleasure over self-control. Part of this is obviously a function of how some drugs shut down the super-ego and eventually the ego as well. But part is also a useful admission that these drugs make his life more fun in the short term. People do drugs for a reason. That reason is often intense pleasure to which they become addicted. Acknowledging that side of the equation seems to me to be the first step in fighting for moderation. Anti-drug campaigners who insist that recreational drugs make people miserable miss this. They can make them miserable in the long run, if they abuse them or have no control over them. But in the short run, wheeeee! I have to say it's refreshing in some respects to see someone who will publicly make this point, even as their self-destruction instantly undermines it." — Andrew Sullivan
Phooey. "The honesty of the addict" is not a phrase that anyone with any smarts should be proud to write. Quick lesson: Drug addicts are generally not very honest on the subject of addiction. Lesson over. Charlie Sheen may say he's still having fun and Andrew Sullivan may choose to believe him, but that should not be mistaken for an actual fact in the real world. Sullivan is right that anti-drug campaigning is a waste of everybody's time and money — the whole thing is folly — but mistaken if he thinks that acknowledging the "whee" factor would make the slightest dent in the effectiveneness of that advertising or recovery rates. It would most likely lessen the guilt of non-addicted drug users, which may be what Sullivan is most concerned with here, but if he thinks Sheen is experiencing anything like the "wheee" of a non-addicted user right now, he is also mistaken. Given Sheen's history, in all likelihood, the most he is experiencing right now is the barest twinge of a shadow of a spasm of an echo of a parody of the kind of pleasure he once got. As Walter Kirn puts it:
The problem, though, is that when you look at him, you get this distinct weird feeling that Charlie Sheen is the only person in the whole universe incapable of actually enjoying, actually getting off on in a deep way that really sticks to the neurons afterward, the myriad pleasures of Homo Malibu that were formerly open to Charlie Sheen.
Sheen's statements to the contrary are not to be trusted at all. They are not accurate representations of what he is feeling but statements designed to keep him using, and not because he is experiencing pleasure, but because he is an addict who is addicted. It's got nothing to do with pleasure. And if he ever gets sober it will be because of this fact. If people could still experience pleasure from the drugs they were addicted to, does Sullivan think that anyone would be in recovery?

8 comments:

  1. whoa! When I started reading I assumed it was your own opinion and I started thinking, "where is he going with this?" All you have to do to dispel any notion of honesty and Charlie Sheen having even a cursory relationship is to watch 20 seconds of any recent interview with Charlie Sheen to realize that foremost on his agenda is doing a 180° AWAY from the truth. I suppose what Andrew is mistaking is the brazen disregard for reality as a truthful admission in itself?

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  2. I've rarely seen anyone who seems like they're having LESS fun right now than Charlie Sheen, while trying SO desperately to appear the opposite. I can't even really bear to watch any of the interviews... it makes my face hurt. Sheen's pain must be enormous (which, by the way, doesn't excuse his words or actions), and I'd bet the ranch that it has been as such for years. Sullivan is a moron and/or has no experience in the field.

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  3. I don't know that splitting the difference isn't the right way to go here: one of the most entertaining things about an addict (I say this as a semi-former one)is exactly the honesty Andrew's talking about. He's not referring to the words actually said (I amazed that people here can seem to parse them), but to the radically deranged self-presentation - no longer concerned with public self-presentation, or the thing most people call 'dignity'. Of course, as you kinda point out in your post, this typical of addicts: like Sheen, it's at this point they lose their jobs. But that's exactly the point, no? There is some spectacularly honest about the moment the addict reveals the scale of their addiction. It diminishes the power of addiction to deny or minimize how public it is. And how that is a kind of honesty.

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  4. I still don't get how that constitutes "honesty" from the addict. It's an appearance rather than the thing itself. Its been "revealed" to us but not to him. He is still in a state of denial. My main problem was with Sullivan's use of "pleasure" and his determination to see Sheen's battle right now as one between "pleasure" and "self control." Maybe ten years ago, but not now.

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  5. George DelmericoMarch 4, 2011 at 7:04 PM

    Oh come on, Tom.
    Sullivan is merely pointing to the fact that the disastrous but profitable War on Drugs was founded an endless string of falsehoods, compounded after decades of denial about the human race's evident pleasure-seeking nature. That can be and often is self-destructive for some people. Not all. There are deeper reasons people seek such transcendence. America has had an anti-pleasure, guilt-ridden and viciously Puritan past, the consequences of which constantly re-surface to torment individuals, and any explanations for intoxicants and their use must begin there too. We torture those half-blind citizens who seek something more in life than corporate and consumer slavery. We still have not learned how to live safely with alcohol use, fer god's sake, after almost 80 years, but it will never be illegal again. I'm sick of the hypocrisy. These days every pleasure in life is profitably re-labeled an addiction, every "use" turned into "abuse." Sheen comes across as an arrogant prick, but we all find our own particular method of coping, until some asshole finds it "inappropriate."

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  6. I don't think we are in much disagreement, George, at least not as far as I can tell from the body of your post. The war on drugs is folly. The advertising is phony, America has a hypocritical attitude to drink and drugs. I agree with all of that. I just think it wise for those who wish to celebrate the non-conformist romance of drugs to do so without using the example of addicts like Sheen. They have a tendency to die — which is a kind of transcendence, but not the kind you have in mind, I don't think.

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  7. I can't say I have followed the Charlie Sheen story – in fact, I have deliberately tried to avoid it. I simply don't want to legitimise the media's amoral, slavering spirit by clicking on the links.

    But in what I have caught, I'm surprised nobody seems to have mentioned that there is some previous family form here – a genealogy of intoxication and public mid-life breakdown which probably speaks volumes about Charlie Sheen's likely inner state...
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sD1jkBL6NwA#t=1m0s

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  8. Oops. Damn Blogger. I meant to link to this

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