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Martin Sheen Opens Up About Son Charlie Sheen’s Struggles: ‘You Can’t Control Anything’ (Exclusive)

Martin Sheen and Charlie Sheen, presenters
Martin Sheen and Charlie Sheen, presentersJeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

Martin Sheen takes philanthropy personally — especially because his son Charlie Sheen has often relied on others for help.

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As he attended an LA Chefs for Human Rights event benefitting nonprofit The People Concern on Monday, September 24, the 78-year-old exclusively told Us Weekly how his advocacy for homeless populations relates to his 53-year-old son’s addiction struggles.

“The best way to heal is to help healing someone else, and it takes one to know one, so you can appreciate what someone’s going through if you’re gone there yourself,” he said, reflecting on how his family situation has made him more connected to public service. “One of the great energies of addiction is the ego. It gets in the way of everything. When you start serving others, then the ego is removed from the equation.”

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On the topic of Charlie, Martin acknowledged that parents can’t always help their children. “You also have to trust in the community,” he observed. “None of us are alone. We choose to be alone sometimes when it’s convenient, but we’re never really alone. There’s always someone we can hook up with or call for help. No one is so isolated that somebody doesn’t know that you’re in trouble.”

The actor also addressed how proud he was when Charlie publicly revealed his HIV diagnosis in an interview on the Today show in November 2015. “I think all of us are striving to lead honest lives,” Martin told Us. “That’s a requirement of every human being. It’s most difficult when you are known. The bigger your celebrity, the more difficult it is to lead an honest life because your past is always present … I think today makes it that much harder for people because there’s so little privacy. I think that the idea of [anonymity] is very important to the program, and it has an energy all its own.”

And life in the public spotlight isn’t the only challenge for recovering celebrities like Charlie. “The ego, the cover, the availability of stuff. It’s bread for destruction, the celebrity’s life,” the West Wing alum explained. “So you have to find that thing — it’s like, when you come to that understanding that the only thing that you can ever possess is the thing that you cherish and you give away with love, including your precious time and talent. That’s why volunteering is so important, because that’s the only thing you can ever possess. That’s the only thing we can take with us when this job is over. Yeah, that’s it. The only things you can take with you are the things which you cherish and gave away with love.”

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In fact, Martin’s volunteer work with Los Angeles’ homeless population earned him the LA Chefs’ Human Rights Hero Award this year. “I was disarmed because I didn’t anticipate such an honor, honestly,” the Emmy winner remarked to Us. “I know about the LA Chefs for Human Rights for some time, and I’m familiar with The People Concern, because they do a lot of work underground … That’s the kind of work I really admire, is when people who do something and remain anonymous. They do stuff for themselves. They do it because they are more comfortable doing that without a fuss, because this is what they do.”

Aside from his altruism for others, Martin is still focused on helping his family. “You always hope that things will continue to improve, but you can’t control anything, and that’s the ego,” he told Us. “You just give thanks and praise every day for what is there, and you embrace it. It’s never, ever complete. It’s not the end of the journey. It’s a lot of work to be done. Life is a wonderful journey. I love every bit of it, even the difficult parts, because that’s what helps you become yourself.”

Martin and Janet Templeton, his wife of 56 years, have three other children: Emilio Estevez, Ramón Estevez and Renée Estevez.

With reporting by Antonia Blyth

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