Eye of the Storm

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Charlie and the Psychic Time Bomb Part II: What Charlie Sheen can teach us about Love

Why learning from previous relationships is crucial

          

In my previous post, Charlie and the Psychic Time Bomb, I suggested that two divorces and parenthood to four children have shredded any remaining threads of Charlie Sheen's sanity (in addition to his life-long battle with drug addiction and possibly a bipolar disorder).  I also promised to examine his relationship with Denise Richards more closely to illustrate my point. Since then, I have thought of another reason why this is worth doing: Sheen's approach to their relationship is a lesson plan in what NOT to do starting with their first date.

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Let me explain.

           In 1998, Sheen finally hit rock bottom—he nearly died. After a decade of watching his budding career falter due to questionable life choices such as using cocaine, hiring prostitutes, facing serious assault charges from an ex-girlfriend, "accidentally" shooting a fiancée, things came to a head when he nearly overdosed from shooting up cocaine. In response, his father Martin Sheen (himself a longtime recovering alcoholic) publicly alerted the authorities that his son had violated his probation. The bold move worked and presented Charlie with two options: jail or rehab. Sheen chose rehab, sobered up and started participating in AA.

Newly sober, he revived his career by replacing Michael J. Fox on Spin City. I know hindsight is 20/20, but this was the perfect time for Sheen to leverage his newfound stability into more significant changes. Intensive therapy is no picnic, but delving deeper into the causes for his life-long drug addiction and relationship "troubles," could have immunized Sheen against repeating old mistakes.

Instead, Sheen started dating again. And shortly after, he married Denise Richards. While on their honeymoon, his new bride noticed that he was taking Xanax and Ativan (both prescription medications for anxiety). While we don't know when he started taking these medications, let me say this: If I was newly sober, had Sheen's relationship history and got married again, I'd be really anxious too!

Of course, one can argue that Sheen was simply self-medicating symptoms of an untreated bipolar disorder and/or that his sobriety caused the anxiety. Both explanations have much merit, but they don't take into account that by diving into a committed relationship, Sheen went on a collision course with his biggest incompetence—relationships! Reviving a career is child's play compared to the demands of everlasting love. The simple act of getting married destabilized Sheen.

According to Denise Richards, Sheen begged her not to tell his AA sponsor about the pills, because taking them without supervision would be considered "falling off the wagon." Yet, there was a simple remedy: talk to a physician about the anxiety, get a prescription, follow your doctor's dosage recommendations and reveal ALL of it to your sponsor. My point is that Sheen could have gotten help with his anxiety while staying true to the AA program.

We all have witnessed Sheen's inability to admit any fault or weakness. Maybe that is why he chose to handle his anxiety in secret instead of seeking help.  
The marriage unraveled within months as other habits of Sheen reared their ugly heads. He gambled constantly and started hiring prostitutes again. In addition, he became increasingly abusive toward Denise Richards which escalated quickly from verbal insults to threats to physical attacks.

This would have been a great time for Richards to leave her husband. But instead, she got pregnant! Upon learning about his wife's pregnancy, Sheen insisted that he did not want to be a father again (he has an adult daughter). Here, his instincts were spot on. It's hard to picture the current Charlie Sheen having any such grasp on his own limitations!

Most of us know what happened next: Richards gave birth to a daughter, they fought, broke up, got back together, had ANOTHER baby and embarked on one of the nastiest public divorces ever.

And, at some point, Sheen completely fell off the wagon and stopped participating in AA. Very quickly, he married Brooke Mueller, had TWO MORE kids and the rest, as they say, is history. Sheen put his psyche under relentless stress. Looking at his recent meltdown from that perspective, I'm surprised it didn't happen sooner.

Charlie Sheen's parents have been happily married for more than 50 years. I wonder if this makes finding love especially enticing to him. After his disastrous divorce from Richards, he just kept going. Creating a happy marriage and family is NOT like learning to play the piano: it takes more than  practice, practice, practice. In fact, most people's second marriages (or third or fourth) end quicker than their first.

But why should we care that some over-indulged movie star decides to make a mess of his life? After all, children are starving in Africa. First of all, I feel for the four young kids caught up in the middle of this. And, I don't agree that watching this public breakdown makes for great entertainment. It's mostly sad and cringe worthy.

We should care because Sheen's approach to love can teach us how to better handle our own bad relationships and break-ups: we must investigate our own role in them. How else can we prevent making the same mistakes? I believe that everlasting love is out there for all of us, if we want it. But to find it, we have to be in the right place. 


 "Copyright Nadja Geipert 2011."

To visit my website, please go to: www.lafamilytherapy.com

To read part I of this post, go to:  http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/eye-the-storm/201103/charlie-...

 Sources:

An interesting take on Sheen and relationships put in a larger context by Fred Jacobs: http://jacobsmedia.typepad.com/jacobs/2011/03/charlie-sheen-relat...

http://www.thesmokinggun.com/documents/celebrity/charlie-sheen-di...
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlie_Sheen
http://www.gq.com/entertainment/celebrities/201103/charlie-sheen-...
http://www.gq.com/entertainment/celebrities/201103/charlie-sheen-...
http://www.amy-wallace.com/2011/02/28/april-gq-charlie-sheen-prof...

http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20333226,00.html
http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20475110,00.html

 

http://www.ew.com/ew/allabout/0,,20000178,00.html

http://tv.yahoo.com/blog/charlie-sheens-tour-is-not-selling-out-a...

http://jezebel.com/#!5774374/charlie-sheens-history-of-violence-toward-women

 

 

 

 

Nadja Geipert, M.A. Psychology, is the founder of LA Family Therapy in Los Angeles and a science writer.

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