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Thanks, Charlie

Oklahoman Published: February 19, 2011

On his way to the bottom, Charlie Sheen sure has done a lot to raise awareness about addiction and how to recover from it. Or not.

Ad nauseam, we all know of Sheen's struggles. This past week, it got so bad that in a public parking garage in downtown Portland, Ore., I overheard three homeless guys arguing about how much longer he'll survive as they shared a quart of malt liquor. No kidding.

Sheen's interview on ESPN Radio the other day only stoked the national conversation. He called sobriety "boring." He said that in his experience, some crack users can "manage it socially" and that he's now done with treatment, less than two weeks after announcing with great fanfare that he was taking leave from his hit television comedy to get help — at home. Such are the rants, raves and wisdom of a man who clearly is spiraling downward.

His misfortune is our gain. By "our" I mean people whose lives have been ravaged by alcoholism or drug dependence, as well as the professionals who work to help them. Because in Sheen's sad story, there is a lot to learn for others who need help.

I don't mean that Sheen is a role model of "how it works." To the contrary, his way is not the way out of the maze of what confounds him and eventually will kill him if he doesn't stop and get out soon. But his public implosion, like his enormous popularity and disarming (if not alarming) "one-of-the-guys" persona, holds us rapt in a way his female Hollywood counterpart, Lindsay Lohan, can't because we're worn-out by her tired antics. Unlike Lohan, Sheen isn't in denial, even though he's very sick.

"It's never been about 'Everyone else is drinking. I should, too.' It's about wanting to make things better, whether it's real or imagined," Sheen said.

Bingo, score one for Sheen. He's right. Addicts and alcoholics pursue oblivion usually because they yearn for life to improve. And for a while, it may. It's only the loss of control — a classic marker of addiction — that hijacks the goal, and then life always gets worse.

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