Psychotherapist Dr. Mike Dow is guest-blogging at Zap2it on a myriad of topics. (Think our resident Dr. Drew). Readers
may also be familiar with Dow from his regular contributions on Huffingtonpost. In this edition, Dr. Dow talks the latest Charlie Sheen debacle and the lax consequences for celebrities.
The hardest thing about dealing with someone you love battling addiction (or any mental illness…or any illness or less-than-ideal-life-situation for that matter) is sitting with the whole “consequences shape behavior” concept. Turning your own son in on probation violation -which Martin Sheen did when Charlie Sheen overdosed in 1998 – is not easy even if it’s rcommended by addiction professionals and Al-Anon.
Now for most people, getting fired from your job for getting drunk, high, and violence towards women would be the standard response…unless you’re a celebrity like Charlie Sheen. For celebrities, all publicity is good publicity. And for Sheen who’s one of the most highly paid actors on TV, he’s only become more successful through the years at least in terms of financial success (whether that’s luck or talent is not for me to judge).
Let’s take a brief stroll through Sheen’s history of alcohol, drugs, and violence. Pay particular attention to the presence (or lack thereof) in terms of consequences.
In 1990, Charlie Sheen accidently shoots Kelly Preston in the arm.
In 1997, Sheen pleads no contest to assault charges of his former girlfriend Brittany Ashland. He was sentenced to a one-year suspended prison term and two years probation, ordered to pay $2,800 in fines and restitution, perform community service and attend eight counseling sessions.
In 1998, Sheen overdoses on cocaine and is sent to rehab.
In 2005, Denise Richards sites drug use and violent threats against her while pregnant as grounds for divorce.
In 2010, Sheen strikes a plea deal in which prosecutors drop serious charges in connection to an allegation he threatened his wife, Brooke Mueller, with a knife and threatened to kill her in a rented Aspen home on Christmas morning. He is sentenced to 30 days in a rehabilitation center, 30 days of probation and 36 hours of anger management.
For 20 years Sheen has exhibited or been charged with domestic violence towards women (and mothers) and cocaine intoxication. Charlie needs more than a time out. And nixing his jail time for 30 days at the luxurious Promises Rehab in Malibu is like handing out gold stars when your child is setting people on fire.
And now that he has, once again, shown himself to be a menace to himself and others while intoxicated – and on parole – his parole is not even being revoked.
Lindsay Lohan has spent more time in the slammer than Sheen. Paris Hilton has spent more time behind bars than Sheen. Nicole Richie, with her 82 minutes, has seen more prison time than this multiple, repeat offender.
Of course, creating lasting change is not just about telling people what they’re doing wrong and highlighting consequences. I wouldn’t be very good at my job as a psychotherapist if this is all I had to dole out. After people hit rock bottom (whether that’s a D.U.I., early cirrhosis of the liver, or jail), then they will be more likely to put down rationalization and denial and finally answer some hard questions. What makes my life worth living? How are drugs, alcohol, food, or irresponsibility preventing me from manifesting the life I truly want to live? Being open to these questions is what makes the true difference.
Let’s look at the model of effective behaviorism and an example of its effectiveness. For Robert Downey Jr., the judicial system supported him taking responsibility for his actions. In this case, the judicial system was acting like the authoritative parent, the parenting style which has the best results: a middle-of-the-road blend of consequences with compassion. Yes, the court sentenced him to hard time, but then he spent considerable time in soul-searching and treatment-oriented rehab along with accountability in the form of drug monitoring. By all reliable accounts, Downey is now living a pretty balanced life with both a successful Hollywood career and loving family. But let’s not forget what helped him to get here: a little tough love, consequences, and accountability; which helped him to create this life he chose to live.
For the parents, judicial systems, and adults out there who need to keep themselves or others accountable, safe, and well: be compassionate, but do go too soft, either. It’s this blend that helps people really change their lives.
Dr. Mike Dow is a
member of the California Psychological Association and the California
Association of Marriage and Family Therapists UCLA Semel Institute for
Neuroscience and Human Behavior and from The Betty Ford Center’s
Professionals in Residence Program in the disease and treatment of
addiction. A licensed psychotherapist in private practice, he is also an
author, a frequent talk-show guest expert on topics related to
addiction. Dr. Mike currently resides in Los Angeles. For information on
Dr. Mike Dow, or on Facebook or follow him on Twitter/DoctorMikeDow .
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Photo credit: TLC