This came up the other day with my wife — not that we’re huge voices, and not that we command the attention of thousands, but every little bit helps. 

Part of what helps motivate me in sobriety is success stories. I try to flatter myself that I’m not a starwatcher, and that I’m immune to the charm of celebrity. That’s probably not entirely true, though. I notice. 

So when somebody is sober, especially a widely known public figure, that’s good. It models a good lifestyle for people. It could inspire other people to make better choices. 

The inclination is to talk about it and celebrate it and signal-boost these choices. 

But what if the person’s an asshole? 

I started writing this a couple of days ago, prompted by something in my feed about Ben Affleck (in the wake of the #MeToo movement, pretty undeniably a creep, and also, tangentially, not a great Batman). The next day, Charlie Sheen, who is just awful, crept into Jay Leno and talked about being sober for 18 months. And now, today, Brad Pitt, who I gotta admit I don’t really have a problem with. But some people might! 

The heart of the question is “is sobriety worth celebrating when you don’t want to celebrate the person who is sober.” It’s an interesting question and goes pretty directly to another question that you have to grapple with head-on when it comes to sobriety: what percentage of behaviour do you attribute to person, and what percentage do you attribute to substance? Is Sober Charlie Sheen a non-monster and Booze-Drugs Charlie Sheen a different entity? Do I give Sober Charlie a pass on what Drunk Drugged Out Charlie did? 

That latter path is huge and worth discussing but not in this space. 

Talking about it with Ms. Mighty, her take was immediate: yes. It’s worth celebrating. Even when the sober person is objectively horrible, it’s still a demonstration of willpower and self-worth to take that big step, and maintain it. 

She has a better moral compass than I do, I think. And, as stated above, if Charlie Sheen is a role model for somebody then God have mercy on them, but at least he’s doing one positive thing that might make a positive impact on a whole lot of people who — if they’re looking to Charlie Sheen for guidance — could be faced with a huge deficit of positive influence in their lives. 

Great, now I think dubious people who make sobriety decisions should get more attention. The people they sway probably need those positive influences more. Somebody who admires Kid Rock could probably use more lessons in self-control than somebody with a Ghandi poster, after all. 

So that’s a 360. Let’s lean into the horrible people making good decisions, because the horrible people probably need that support most of all.