Like many of you, for the past few weeks I’ve been watching the media circus surrounding actor Charlie Sheen’s gradual implosion from drugs and alcohol. The thing that has struck me most strongly hasn’t been Charlie’s rambling diatribes, his penchant for twenty-something porn stars, or his “tiger blood”; it’s been the silence of those closest to him.
His father, actor Martin Sheen and brother, actor/director Emilio Estevez, have issued only two brief statements: one in which they compare addiction to a cancer and one in which they asked the public to “pray for him”. The media has since blasted them for “not taking action” and “deserting Charlie in his darkest hour”. What the media fails to acknowledge is the fact that Charlie’s family has been on this roller coaster ride with him for the past 25 years. In that time, Martin Sheen, who is himself a recovering alcoholic, has turned Charlie in for drug related probation violations, held an intervention, ushered Charlie into numerous rehab programs, even cared for his infant grandchildren when Charlie’s home was too volatile a place for them. The media makes only passing, if any, reference to these facts.
I get it. I’m guessing those of you who share your world with an addict do too. Like Martin and Emilio, I’ve been on that roller coaster ride that seems to have no end. Those of us who have stayed on the journey with our addicts can relate to the silence. What is there to say, really? It’s all been said-most often numerous times.
Silence becomes our refuge and the need for refuge is great. When you stay in the trenches and fight the good fight in the battle to save the life of someone you love, you have to allow yourself a place to rest and recharge. As I’ve said in the past, making the decision to stay in the life of an addict is not for the meek or faint-hearted. Keeping the strength to love an addict through their struggles requires self-love and self-preservation. If you don’t take care of yourself, you have nothing to give them. Love yourself enough to choose silence. Not always, not forever; but when you feel you have come to that place of inner exhaustion, find solace in the silence. For it is in that silent place inside yourself that you connect to your own inner flame—that pilot light within you that fuels your strength. Allowing yourself to go that place of peace within doesn’t mean you are turning your back. It means you’re refueling to have the strength to get up and go another round in the fight.
It would be very easy for Martin & Emilio to jump on the media soap-box and cast aspersions against Charlie or issue pleas that he will, while immersed in his disease, ignore. Remaining silent, while supporting Charlie behind the scenes, is the much more difficult choice. They have my applause.