A few weeks ago at the TCAs, Nina Tassler stood on stage and only agreed to answer one Charlie Sheen question from the group of journalists, bloggers, and critics who even back then were concerned with the fate of one of the eye network's highest rated programs. She gave a very generic, very politically correct blanket statement that Sheen is a consummate professional when he is on set and that whatever happens when he goes home at night, it does not affect his job performance. Something she thought was apparent by the weekly episodes. At the time I remember nodding in agreement with her but still waiting for her to add the "but of course" that should always come with such a statement.
"But of course so many in this industry are functioning addicts."
"But of course we acknowledge he has some issues he must work through."
"But of course we care about him as a person-- a father-- and we only want what is best for him."
How idealistic I somehow still managed to be! Of course, none of those statements followed. Tassler simply moved on to the next question, and Sheen stayed out of the tabloids for a few days, so it seemed like maybe things were going to chug along.
Then earlier today Sheen's publicist released a statement that he was rushed to Cedars-Sinai right here in Los Angeles with "severe abdominal pain." There was much buzz all throughout the day about what that amounted to: some outlets reported he had died or was on death's door, while others contacted some of the working girls he frequents to see if they were with him the night before or knew anyone who was. Sheen himself stated that he "laughed so hard" at something on TV that he ruptured a hernia. Jeebus, maybe I've snorted or choked on water with the strongest Modern Family or 30 Rock but his story just sounded absolutely insane and ridiculous.
What upset me was not Sheen's statement. He is an addict, and addicts lie just as quickly and easily as they breathe. They are shrouded in their disease, and lying is often the only way that keeps them in that disease. Sheen's denial was expected, and he can't be held accountable while he is immersed in his own muddy mind.
What upset me was the publicist constantly covering for him. What upset me was recalling Tassler's statement and realizing the ramifications. What upset me was the studio and the network putting their cash cow in front of a man in deep pain. What upset me was that some insurance company was still allowing Sheen to work. What upset me was that Sheen was in, no doubt, violation of his contract but was still being allowed to work. What upset me was that everyone was enabling; no one was telling Sheen no or forcing him to look at himself and his situation, if not for himself, if not for the longevity of his career, but for his kids.
Who would have ever guessed Denise Richards would be the more stable, sane one in that family?
None of this is new, nor should it be news. But what certainly will be news is if Sheen succumbs to his disease, either by overdosing or simply by dying young due to a hard partying lifestyle. That will most certainly have the studio and network publicists scrambling, especially if his show is still going strong. Sheen is not the only one who needs to understand (and care about) the road he is heading down.
I don't pretend to have all of the answers about addiction. I don't know what those in Sheen's life should do to "fix" him. I'm honestly not one hundred percent convinced he can be "fixed," either. But I do know that if even a teeny, tiny part of him wants help, all of these people covering for him and making excuses are not making it easy for him to look into getting that help. Excuses are so much easier to grasp than help, and if they are an option, an addict stuck in his or her disease will choose that option every time.
This should be a wake-up call for all of those in Sheen's life: YOU are the ones who have the greater responsibility here. Whether or not the "suitcase full of cocaine" rumor was true, it is no secret that Sheen is still surrounded by a bad crowd. And yes, I am including everyone on the Two and a Half Men family in that. Jon Cryer can go on Conan's talk show and make all the jokes he wants about checking TMZ every morning to see if he has to go into work that day, but it won't be funny the day he finds out he never has to go back in and the fingers begin being pointed. I'm pointing to them now so hopefully a tragedy can be avoided.
Michael Jackson's "doctor" is on trial for manslaughter for enabling his addict, but it doesn't have to end that way.
There was a time in Matthew Perry's life when he was up to his elbows in booze and pills and women, too. He was a huge star on the rise, on a hit network television show, from a famous family, with more money than he could spend in a lifetime. Sound familiar? I don't exactly know how or why Perry knew it was time to get clean; the moment of clarity happens for different times for different addicts. Some of them never reach that point. But he managed to save himself, so I believe Sheen can, too.
Sheen doesn't seem to acknowledge he has a problem the way Perry seemed to know he did. And while it's true that you can't truly get sober if you don't really, truly want to, it does not help to have no one holding you accountable. If Sheen worked a "regular" job, there is no doubt in my mind he would have been fired a long time ago. I'm not saying firing him now would be the slap in the face he needs; it actually could go the complete other way and send him off on a bender. It appears free time is something he just can't handle. But if someone doesn't step up and step in and prove the severity of his situation, it's only going to get worse.
The studio and the network may think they have a potential PR nightmare under control right now but they are putting a band aid on a bullet-wound.