An Open Letter to Charlie Sheen

03/11/2011 01:31 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Dear Charlie,

I have read some articles about you and watched some of your interviews. You have every right to do what you want within the bounds of what is legal, moral and ethical. However, I want to present some ideas for your consideration. With your permission, I will explain a few ideas that may or may not figure into the choices you make moving forward.

The part of the brain in humans that thinks things through, moderates moods and remembers is in prefrontal cortex (the forehead area). It is the reason that while a person may see food at a neighboring table at a restaurant that looks good, he doesn't reach over and grab it off a stranger's plate, while a dog might. Dogs feel first, then act. Humans will feel, think about it, then act. Humans have a part of their brain that, when healthy and working well, controls impulsive behaviors. This is why drug and alcohol use is associated with decreased inhibition.

I relate brain health to bone health. If a person went skiing, broke their leg and needed a cast, they might want to ski again right way, but the leg might need five to six months to heal properly. If he went and skied on the injured leg after only three weeks, there is a good chance skiing on it might interfere with the leg's healing properly, re-injure the leg and starting a cycle.

Alcohol and drug usage impact many parts of the body, including the pre-frontal cortex. So, instead of thinking things through, a person may become impulsive. Instead of having a fairly even mood, a person may experience mood swings and getting upset easily. Instead of remembering the trouble that happens when drinking alcohol or using drugs, the person forgets. Here is the rub: In the moment, everything that person is doing seems okay to him, from the point of view of his injured pre-frontal cortex. It is only when he gets clean (substances out of the body) and sober (starts to feel some sense of inner peace and sense of honor) that he looks back and may say, "That wasn't me," or, "That is not who I want to be."

What I am asking you to consider is the possibility that your brain may have an injury that is hard to see right now. Mainstream thought is that it takes a minimum of nine to 12 months for the initial brain inflammation to settle down after drug and alcohol usage stops. Some other thoughts are that it takes three to five years for the brain to heal. A book you might enjoy on the subject is "The Brain That Changes Itself," by Norman Doidge, M.D.

The problem with healing the brain from alcohol and drug use is similar to a person trying to heal a broken leg when he walks on it every day. The leg never gets a chance to heal. The issue that so many people wanting to heal their brains face is that the part of the brain that makes their decisions -- thinks things through, keeps them from feeling moody and having ups and downs and remembers that they need to avoid drugs and alcohol -- is temporarily offline because it is injured. It needs to reboot. People experience impulsivity and mood swings and forget that they are working on sobriety. That is the reason so many people choose to go to places like AA every day to remind themselves so they don't forget. It is like going to the gym to remember to workout. AA, like all organizations and ideas, has its benefits and shortcomings. That is where the saying, "Take what you like and leave the rest" comes from. There are other ways to not forget and allow the brain time to heal. However, 12-step programs have met many people's needs. The brain is so adversely affected by drug and alcohol use that it even results in people being misdiagnosed with mental illnesses because the evaluation was done prematurely before the brain had had a chance to return to a better place of health.

Here is what I want you to consider, and I am not making any money from this: My suggestion is that you think about checking into the Betty Ford Center for 60 days minimum, preferably 90 days, and sticking it out until the end of the time committed to -- demonstrating follow-through, even when it is challenging. The reason I think Betty Ford is a good choice? Betty Ford is a non-profit, has a great staff, is on the cutting edge of healing and everyone is treated the same and follows the same rules.

While there are aspects of AA-influence, what Betty Ford treats is the whole person and their family. They also use biofeedback, acupuncture, fitness and meditation. Betty Ford was started when the former First Lady checked into a rehab center for alcohol abuse and was told she had to share a room with three other women -- no exceptions, even for her. She almost walked out, but didn't. They have a solid program for adults.

They also have a family program and a renowned children's program. They also do not turn away any child for lack of funds. Although you may not see it now, the choices you are making may have some negative life-long impacts on your five children. The sad part about parents who abuse drugs and alcohol is that it can increase the likelihood of a child turning to drugs and alcohol and negatively impact a child's emotional well-being, which is not something most parents want for their children.

I want to offer one last opinion for you to consider. You have been very successful in many areas. However, there may be areas where you want to become a better man, but have not yet conquered. There is a very good chance of achieving that. However, the brain needs to heal, and it needs healthy food to nourish it, fitness and fresh air. It needs to have the substances that irritate it removed. Give it 90 days, find a way to give your body and brain 12 months minimum to heal itself, and if you still think it makes no sense, you have every right to return to whatever lifestyle you think is best.


Laura Trice