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What Can We Learn From Charlie Sheen?

Ours is a voyeuristic society. So it’s no surprise we’re fascinated by Charlie Sheen’s psychotic break from reality. The challenge to us is to rise above the “entertainment value” to see Sheen’s drug addiction in a wiser, brighter light — an opportunity for us to witness a side of addiction that most of us would otherwise never see.

As someone who runs a rehabilitation center for drug addiction, I’ve seen a number of people in Charlie Sheen’s position, including celebrities. The difference is Sheen’s insistence on taking his addiction painfully public.

Though he claims to have cured himself with his mind, clearly he is delusional. I’ve been doing this long enough to see he’s high in these interviews. And though I have know way of knowing with any certainty what drugs he’s using, Sheen’s thought patterns remind me of a meth addict’s brain.

Whatever drug or drugs he is using, Charlie Sheen is showing us a perfect demonstration of addiction as a ticking time bomb. You can function for a while, a long while as Sheen has probably done for years. But there’s always a breaking point and, for him, I think there are several more breaking points to come.

I see bitterness. I see rage. There is something imploding inside of him, buried in pride and an exaggerated sense of self-importance.

Bottom line: Addiction always takes you further than you want to go. It always destroys. And in most cases, the only way to save an addict’s life is to intervene. What Charlie Sheen and all addicts need is a new environment and a new approach — what I call a whole-person approach that not only addresses physical aspects of a person’s well-being, but the relational, emotional and psychological aspects as well.

It’s easy to judge an addict’s choices and behavior. What’s tougher is opening our hearts and minds to someone resistant to help, but who clearly needs it.

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