Charlie Sheen: 'Spiraling out of control'

Actor telling everyone he's in charge

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Your life is looking pretty sorry, Charlie.

What began as promotion for tonight's "exclusive" interview with the ABC news show "20/20" took on a bizarre, rambling life of its own Monday. Television star Charlie Sheen decided to air his side of a highly publicized feud with CBS and the producers of his top-ranked comedy, "Two and a Half Men."

And then he could not stop talking. He was on ABC's "Good Morning America" right about the time NBC's "The Today Show" ran its own version of Mr. Sheen ranting he wasn't the one with a problem -- his well-documented series of incidents involving drugs, violence and porn stars, he said, had nothing to do with addiction.

A later, similarly rambling interview on celebrity website TMZ.com confirmed Mr. Sheen's view that rehab is for losers.

Like Dorothy in "The Wizard of Oz," all he needs to do is "close my eyes and I made it so, with the power of my mind," Mr. Sheen, 45, told NBC's Jeff Rossen.

Last week, in a radio interview, Mr. Sheen ripped producer, creator and showrunner Chuck Lorre as well as CBS. The network has shut down production of the sitcom with eight episodes left to shoot due to reports of Mr. Sheen's recent bad behavior, as well as derogatory statements made concerning Mr. Lorre.

Warner Bros. Television agreed Monday to pay the crew of "Two and a Half Men" for half of the eight episodes of TV's top-rated comedy that were canceled. The troubled star called the agreement a "start" in his escalating battle against the show's producers. "Clearly my efforts are paying off," he said in a phone interview with The Associated Press. "I won't sleep until I get all eight."

Sure, Mr. Sheen said he has had problems, but he has gotten clean simply by mind over matter: "I cured it with my mind."

This, say mental health and addiction experts, is an unusual and extremely dangerous approach. Mr. Sheen, who styles himself a "warlock" with "tiger blood," openly boasted in Monday's interviews about his extraordinary tolerance for drugs and alcohol: "I was banging 7-gram rocks [of cocaine] and finishing them."

"That is an incredible amount; that's like chugging a fifth of vodka at once," said Neil Capretto, medical director for the Gateway Rehabilitation Center. "He may have developed a tolerance, but he is playing Russian roulette with amounts like that."

Pulling out an Alcoholics Anonymous handbook on the "Today Show," he mocked 12-step rehab programs and said no thanks: "I'm fine. I just won't do it. People who don't [have the willpower] don't have tiger blood and Adonis [the Greek god] DNA."

Calling AA "a silly book, written by a broken-down fool, who was a plagiarist," Mr. Sheen added, "I think it's a one-size-fits-all and it didn't fit for me."

Rehabilitation, Dr. Capretto said, is just the beginning of a life-long process. And it isn't easy: "It's not a vacation, it's real work."

But he stressed that the message is one of hope.

"There are just so many people who go to rehab who do have wonderful success."

"The meta message that comes across is: Those of us who have problems, we don't really need treatment or evaluation. We can do it on our own," said David Kupfer, a UPMC psychiatrist associated with the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic.

Dr. Kupfer, as well as Dr. Capretto, said it would be unethical to assess the mental health of anyone based on televised interviews, but they did speak generally to the disturbing nature of a celebrity touting the virtues of do-it-yourself-rehab.

"If they represent a complete or at least partial role model for the rationalization of their own behavior, what kind of role model is he setting?" Dr. Kupfer said.

"It's always the 'vulnerable' individuals who don't have the best safety net, who don't have the most supportive family, they end up, in a sense, just being pushed along."

Mr. Sheen's father, actor Martin Sheen, told British television "Sky News" that he likened Charlie's condition to a cancer that had to be treated. "You have to have an equal measure of concern and love and lift him up," Martin Sheen said.

Charlie Sheen, who has said "I'm tired of pretending I'm not special," apparently has a special view of himself.

"I'm on a drug called Charlie Sheen. It's not available, 'cause if you try it once, you will die. Your face will melt off and your children will wake up over your exploded body."

"We are all humans, including Charlie Sheen, and no human is immortal," Dr. Capretto said. "All of us bleed if we are cut with a knife, whether you're Charlie Sheen or a street cleaner in Vandergrift, the same rules of health apply to you."

Mr. Sheen would appear to have yet another addiction, to attention. Not only are all the celebrity websites and gossip blogs ready to feed into the latest frenzy, the involvement of the three major networks is lending a whiff of credibility.

ABC execs were reportedly upset when they discovered Mr. Sheen's "exclusive" interview was just one of many.

"Look what you're dealing with here, you're going to bank on his reliability? They only have themselves to blame for that," said Joe Sora, who teaches media studies at Duquesne University.

Watching "a sick man" ramble on about himself, said Mr. Sora, is "sad, but it's pretty consistent with our culture. So much of the weight-loss shows and celebrity rehab shows are popular."

And when, as Dr. Capretto said "the other shoe drops" and the celebrity in question dies, as in the case of Anna Nicole Smith, there's always a Lindsay Lohan in the wings.

"To some degree, the media are enablers," Dr. Capretto said. "You don't need to be a psychiatrist to know this is a sick man whose life is spiraling out of control.

"But if you are driving down the road and there is a beautiful rainbow on one side or the road and a train wreck on the other, you know people are going to look at the train wreck. So that's what you see [on television]."

The blogs were alive with viewer comment. A scant few supported Mr. Sheen, but one from TMZ.com stated the consensus: "You've killed your career don't kill your family and those that care about you as well."


Maria Sciullo: msciullo@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1478. The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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