In the last few weeks it has been almost impossible to escape the saga that is Charlie Sheen’s very public breakdown. He has become the jokey “and finally” story on the news, and through his bizarre interviews on American television and his rantings on Twitter he’s become not just a joke but some kind of icon for weirdness.
Celebrity breakdowns and misdemeanours are popular tabloid-fodder, and most people will have read and been entertained by someone’s misfortune at some point. Whether you like seeing once huge stars become reality-show has-beens, or perhaps enjoy the schadenfreude when a footballer with more money than sense crashes and writes-off his brand new Ferrari in broad daylight.
The situation with Charlie Sheen has been going on for a while, and he’s popped into the news from time to time with his divorces, stints in rehab and incredulous utterances. I’ve read the stories and had a bit of a laugh, I don’t mind admitting. I’d like to think that while we might find someone’s expiry as a big star somewhat entertaining, we wouldn’t wish them as human beings to experience real destruction.
When the latest episode occurred, with his tirade about Two and a Half Men creator Chuck Lorre, and his eventual firing from the show, I was at first entertained by the saga playing out as publicly as it did. But as the star moved on to Twitter, gaining over a million followers in barely 24 hours, I started to worry that he was never going to hit the rock bottom he will evidently need in order to sort himself out.
Having experienced at first hand what it is like to deal with someone suffering with addiction, and how hard it is to help them, the things I noticed in Sheen caused shivers down my spine.
Addicts are delusional. They live in their own world where only they are the ones making any sense. When the ones nearest to them try to help, it is seen only as an attack. It is made all the more difficult when someone who doesn’t realise the depth of their problem, or sees their ‘eccentric’ behaviour as merely entertaining rather than self-destructive, almost seems to encourage them to carry on as they like. As much as addicts ignore the people around them, they still manage to take any bit of support for the way they are acting for what they see as the ‘obvious’ truth. Everyone else is just a buzzkill.
So when 3.5 million people watch what Charlie Sheen does, and turn his delusional rantings into internet memes and jokes on television, then they’re just playing his game and he sees 3.5 million more reasons to keep destroying himself.
Sheen will only get help when he realises that that is what he needs, but in the meantime that is being delayed by all of us acting as enablers, while all I can think of is that if you were in the position of seeing someone close to you in that state, the last thing you’d want is a couple of people encouraging them, let alone a few million.