How Matthew Perry's Honesty About His Addiction Changed Lives
Hi, my name is Matthew, though you might know me by a different name... My friends call me Matty. And I should be dead."
This is the opening line of Matthew Perry's book, "Friends, Lovers, and Lots of Other Stuff," his unwavering memoir released in 2022, detailing his lifelong struggle with addiction.
He passed away on a Saturday at the age of 54, just days before the anniversary of the book's release.
Perry knew he would primarily be remembered for his role as the sarcastic and lovable Chandler in the TV series "Friends" - could he have been any more iconic? - but he hoped that after his death, he would also be celebrated for what he did to help other people, particularly those battling addiction, like he did.
"In my life, there have been many ups and downs. Personally, I'm still going through it, but the best thing about me is that if an alcoholic or an addict comes up to me and says, 'Will you help me?' I will always say, 'Yes, I know how to do that for you,'" he wrote.
"So, I do it when I can. In groups or one-on-one."
Archive photo of the cast of the popular TV series "Friends" sitting on the red couch. Matthew Perry landed the role of Chandler Bing when he was 24 years old, the youngest in the cast. (Credit: WarnerMedia) And while the news is filled with heartfelt accounts of Chandler's best moments and how much the show meant to many, it's clear that his candid discussions and revelations about addiction and mental health have also had a tremendous impact.
Megan Lee, Senior Research Fellow in Psychology at Bond University, says what he described is known as peer mentoring or peer support in the context of addiction recovery, which includes programs like Alcoholics Anonymous.
If you or someone you know needs help: Lifeline: 13 11 14 Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636 MensLine Australia: 1300 789 978 Suicide Callback Service: 1300 659 467 Kids Helpline: 1800 551 800 1800RESPECT QLife: 1800 184 527 ReachOut Australia These are people with similar conditions or circumstances who provide non-professional help to those struggling with addiction or other drug-related issues.
"Peer support and educational work in the process of addiction recovery can be highly effective and are considered an important component of many recovery programs," Dr. Lee said.
"While there is no one-size-fits-all answer to how important and effective this is, actual data and research generally support the idea that peer support in addiction recovery can have significant benefits."
Unwavering Honesty "Hell exists," Perry wrote in his memoir.
"Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. I've been there; it exists; end of discussion."
Perry said he first started drinking at the age of 14 and immediately became enthralled. He detailed how he followed in the footsteps of his father, actor John Bennett Perry, into alcoholism. He said the "best part of his day" was having six vodka tonics every evening.
Cover of the book "Friends, Lovers, and Lots of Other Stuff" featuring a half-smiling portrait of Matthew Perry on the cover. Matthew Perry found it difficult to publish stories about his addiction, but he wanted to help people. (Credit: Macmillan) Then, during the filming of the movie "Fools Rush In" with Salma Hayek in 1997, he had a water scooter accident and was given Vicodin for pain.
According to him, for 18 months after that, he was taking 55 pills a day, devising complex schemes to obtain the medications he needed.
Throughout this time, he was working on one of the world's biggest shows.
"You can chart the course of my addiction by measuring my weight from season to season," he wrote.
"When I gain weight, it's alcohol; when I'm skinny, it's pills; when I have a beard, it's a lot of pills."
Perry said the pressure of the show and the fame only exacerbated the situation.
"I had a secret, and no one could know," he said.
"I felt like I was going to die if the live audience didn't laugh, and that's definitely not good for your health. But sometimes, I could say a line, and the audience wouldn't laugh, and I'd be sweating, and sometimes I'd have seizures."
With a Little Help from His Friends Perhaps one of the most memorable episodes of "Friends" was the seventh-season finale, "The One with Monica and Chandler's Wedding," which aired in May 2001.
It was a momentous moment in Chandler Bing's life, but not so much for the man who portrayed him.
Perry revealed in his memoir that during the filming, he was living in a rehabilitation center.
Jennifer Aniston takes a selfie with Lisa Kudrow, Courteney Cox, Matt LeBlanc, David Schwimmer, and Matthew Perry. Jennifer Aniston nearly broke Instagram when she posted this photo, showing the cast of "Friends" together again. (Instagram: Jennifer Aniston) "I got married to Monica, and they drove me back to the rehab center—at the height of my 'Friends,' the peak of my career, a iconic moment of a cult show—I got driven to rehab by the sober driver," he wrote.
He had previously confronted Jennifer Aniston about the smell of alcohol and said that one table read was canceled because drugs and alcohol had made him incoherent. This pushed him to seek help.
"In nature, when a penguin is injured, other penguins gather around it and support it until it gets better," he wrote.
"That's what my 'Friends' castmates did for me."
Long-Term Health Consequences In July 2019, Perry woke up from a two-week coma. Years of opioid abuse had led to a ruptured colon. His family was told he had a "two percent" chance of survival. He spent five months in the hospital and had to use a colostomy bag for nine months.
"My therapist said, 'The next time you think about taking oxycontin, just think about having a colostomy bag for the rest of your life,'" Perry wrote.
"And a little window opened, and I crawled through it, and I don't want oxycontin anymore."
Perry faced lifelong health consequences due to what his body went through.