Charlie Sheen — Misunderstandings about Addiction and Crisis

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    The former inevitably leads to the latter

    One of the most common causes of crises (business and personal!) is making poor choices, a problem that can usually be corrected by training and communication. Sometimes, though, underlying conditions make standard addiction and crisis management nearly impossible. One issue that often surfaces in the world of big business and celebrity is addiction, a disease that leads quickly to irrational behavior and repeated public downfalls. Charlie Sheen is a perfect example, but rather than that being the topic of discussion, reporters and bloggers like BNET’s Erik Sherman have focused on the ego as the cause of his troubles. Below is my response to a post by Sherman on his blog:

    Holy missing the point, Erik. Charlie Sheen is an addict, which means by definition he is an egomaniac with an inferiority complex. Treatment professionals say that “delusion and denial are the defining characteristics of addiction.” You write as if his ego was the problem while, in fact, this is a sick man, a man with a disease. That’s not an excuse for his behavior, it’s simply an AMA-recognized fact. If a tumor on the brain caused him to behave this way, would you criticize him the same way? Of course not. There is no difference.

    Sheen is literally incapable of going through the crisis management process until he deals with addiction. The people around him know this, evidenced by the departure of longtime friends and associates like publicist Stan Rosenfield, but unless Sheen himself recognizes that he needs help, there is little that can be done other than for his business and personal associates to “detach with love” and pray for his recovery.

    For more resources, see the Free Management Library topic: Crisis Management

    [Jonathan Bernstein is president of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc. , an international crisis management consultancy, and author of Keeping the Wolves at Bay – Media Training.]