Unless you live under a rock somewhere, you are by now aware of the fact that actor Charlie Sheen is rapidly and very publicly going off the rails. Between his most recent overdose, his drug-fueled rages in swanky hotels and his deranged-sounding call-in radio rants in the past week, Sheen – who has a long history of substance abuse problems – is clearly in very, very serious trouble.
Watching Sheen fall apart has become a national pastime. We’re all watching because his behavior is garnering significant coverage in even ostensibly “serious” media outlets, as well as in the entertainment and tabloid press. Along with the nonstop media coverage has come the inevitable new wave of Charlie Sheen-themed humor. It’s everywhere – on late night TV, on Twitter, and around dinner tables and office watercoolers all over the country. I mean, his nutty antics just BEG to be joked about, right? Who wouldn’t find it all at least somewhat amusing, what with the porn stars and all?
Well, for starters, I don’t. And I can tell you right now that Charlie Sheen’s mother and father don’t. Plus, I am pretty certain that no other parents of teenage or adult drug addicts – whether their children are still alive or have already died of their disease – don’t find anything at all funny about watching another parent’s drug addicted child’s condition grow rapidly worse.
Charlie Sheen’s father, Martin Sheen, has been exceptionally brave over the years in speaking publicly about the painful and ongoing battle he and his wife have waged for a very long time, trying to prevent their beloved son’s disease from killing him. Just this week, he told reporters who questioned him that his child suffers from a terrible illness, and he asked fans to pray for Charlie, saying, “If he had cancer, how would we treat him?This disease of addiction is a form of cancer. You have to have an equal measure of concern and love and lift them up and so that’s what we do for him.”
However, in saying that his son suffers from a disease, that doesn’t mean Martin Sheen is excusing the behavior that results from disease. In fact, a decade ago, Sheen did whatever it took to get his son arrested and forced against his will into rehab, explaining in an interview later, “You’re dealing with a life-and-death situation. And the critical part of the equation is: are you willing to risk your child’s wrath? They are not going to like you. Don’t even think about them loving you. They’re going to call you the most vicious, obscene names. You have to be prepared for that.” It was after that intervention that Charlie Sheen enjoyed a stint of sobriety lasting several years,and allowing him to begin acting again.
While many people continue to reject the fact that addiction is a biological pathology in the brain, the science behind drug addiction as a medical diagnosis keeps mounting. As with many other diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes, there are personal choices made by drug addicts that can make their disease better or worse. But this behavioral element doesn’t mean drug addiction isn’t a disease. Given this, Martin Sheen’s comparing his son’s illness to cancer is apt.
And that’s exactly why no compassionate parent – even if you have been lucky enough personally to have been spared the unmitigated horror of watching your own child grow sicker and sicker with a potentially fatal illness – should be cracking jokes about Charlie Sheen, or laughing when others do. Instead, we should be thinking about how it feels for Martin Sheen and his wife Janet Templeton – Charlie’s mother and father – every time they hear or read jokes or wisecracks about their son, whom they know very well is at extremely high risk of dying soon unless they manage to get him to agree to the medical and psychological treatment he urgently needs.
Basically, if you wouldn’t make a joke or laugh at a joke about some celebrity who happens to be suffering with late-stage cancer, you should think twice about Charlie Sheen as a source of humor. Because even celebrities have parents, real mothers and fathers who adore their kids just as much as you and I adore ours.
I can’t get Charlie Sheen’s parents off my mind today. I know they are terrified every minute of every day right now, and certainly every time the phone rings. There’s just nothing even remotely funny about that.
What do you think about the way the media is covering Charlie Sheen’s addiction-related unraveling? Have you been uncomfortable when you read, hear or see the growing number of Charlie Sheen jokes and wisecracks? Tell me in the comments below.
READ MORE OF KATIE’S BLOGGING