Walter Kirn takes a Wittgensteinian approach to Charlie Sheen:
At a time when few of us know firsthand exactly what Total Self-Gratification would constitute if our means and our access to party supplies were infinite, we are left to infer from Sheen's aftermath appearance -- from the graven lines around his mouth and the very small holes in the center of his pupils where the "twinkle" used to go -- what it's like to do everything you want to anyone you want to do it to in a safe and luxurious environment while you're the highest you can be. It's fun to imagine what Sheen felt, that is, and what it felt like (at one time) to be Sheen. It's a way to connect with our orgiastic selves. It's a way to not have to pretend that cocaine feels bad and that meaningless sex, by meaning whatever we want it to, isn't in fact the most meaningful sex of all.
Every time I find myself ready to write this whole thing off as yet another ratings and pageview stunt, or as an example of "drugs are bad, mkay," I'm struck by the honesty of the addict determined to resist intervention. The truly rich can do this - think of Michael Jackson's descent into pharmaceutical madness - without real sanctions. But Sheen has had sanctions. He has lost his lucrative career, while also damaging the lives and careers of his colleagues. And yet he still places pure pleasure over self-control.
Part of this is obviously a function of how some drugs shut down the super-ego and eventually the ego as well. But part is also a useful admission that these drugs make his life more fun in the short term. People do drugs for a reason. That reason is often intense pleasure to which they become addicted. Acknowledging that side of the equation seems to me to be the first step in fighting for moderation. Anti-drug campaigners who insist that recreational drugs make people miserable miss this. They can make them miserable in the long run, if they abuse them or have no control over them. But in the short run, wheeeee! I have to say it's refreshing in some respects to see someone who will publicly make this point, even as their self-destruction instantly undermines it.
Marty Beckerman gets it:
Yes, he’s a self-styled decadent rock star on par with Keith Richards, and it’s always fun to giggle at an addict. But something deeper is going on; he’s clearly an intelligent man with vivid self-awareness and greater discipline than most of us can muster. Sheen isn’t cool because he did a bunch of drugs over twenty years; he’s cool because he did a bunch of drugs over twenty years, stopped cold turkey to make money to prove a point and then refused to apologize, to define himself as a slave, to honor the typical recovery narrative. He blasted Alcoholics Anonymous as a “cult” for convincing its adherents of their own powerlessness; he proclaimed that his decades-long bender was “radical” and “magic.” In a world that wants men to apologize for simply existing, Charlie Sheen is a man with zero regrets.
Matt and Trey get it too, of course.
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