Updated November 1, 2023
[Disclaimer: This article was originally written before Matthew Perry’s death on October 28, 2023, and has since been updated.]
Best known for playing Chandler Bing on the popular TV show Friends, Matthew Perry was an award-winning American-Canadian actor. With a career spanning decades, the comedian appeared in numerous television shows and movies, including The Odd Couple, The Whole Nine Yards and Almost.
During this time, the actor also battled drug and alcohol addiction. The Matthew Perry People interview, along with the best-selling memoir he released in October of 2022, shed some light on the struggles the comedian has faced while battling addiction and how he overcame those challenges.
Words and Acts of Service to Be Remembered By
Perry was candid about how he nearly lost his life to addiction. In a wide-ranging interview in 2022, he shared the incredible story of how he survived and how that experience inspired him to ask the question, “Why am I alive?”
Ultimately, the answer to that question was to help others who struggle with addiction and alcoholism, as Perry shared in the same interview:
The best thing about me is that I can help people if they ask me to. Wonderful things happened in my life. I’m incredibly grateful for all of them. But that’s the ticket for me, is helping people on a large scale or helping one guy and seeing the light turn on and him understanding what is happening, because that’s the problem.
Perry created the Perry House in Malibu, a sober-living facility for men. He also wrote the play “The End of Longing,” which was an effort to share his personal experience with alcoholism with others who might struggle with it.
In an earlier 2015 interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Perry said:
I’ve had a lot of ups and downs in my life. I’m still working through it personally, but the best thing about me is that if an alcoholic or drug addict comes up to me and says, “Will you help me?” I will always say, “Yes, I know how to do that. I will do that for you, even if I can’t always do it for myself!” So I do that, whenever I can. In groups, or one on one.
The following quote has been attributed to Perry and offers a poignant summation of how he might want to be remembered:
When I die, I know people will talk about Friends, Friends, Friends. And I’m glad of that, happy l’ve done some solid work as an actor, as well as given people multiple chances to make fun of my struggles on the world wide web … but when I die, as far as my so-called accomplishments go, it would be nice if Friends were listed far behind the things I did to try to help other people.
I know it won’t happen, but it would be nice.
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The Matthew Perry People Interview Offers a Candid Look at Long-Term Addiction Struggles
Mathew Perry’s drug addiction started with opioids the same way it did for millions of Americans: following an accident In 1997, he was prescribed painkillers and became addicted to them. He explains at one point, his addiction got so bad that he was taking 55 pills per day while filming his hit show Friends. “I didn’t know how to stop,” he explained.
The actor started his memoir, Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing, by describing the time he nearly lost his life shortly before his 50th birthday. He recalls being admitted to the hospital with a perforated stomach and doctors giving him minimal chances of survival. “I was put on a thing called an ECMO machine, which does all the breathing for your heart and your lungs. And that’s called a Hail Mary. No one survives that. […] There were five people put on an ECMO machine that night and the other four died and I survived,” he explained.
However, that one event wasn’t the first nor the last for Matthew Perry. Drug addiction is a hard disease to beat. The actor explained that he’d been in rehab 15 times and had undergone no less than 14 surgeries to try and mitigate the damage he did to his stomach lining over the years with alcohol and opioid abuse.
In the Matthew Perry People interview, we also learn more about how fellow Friends cast members tried to support him throughout the years. He described them as “understanding […] and patient.” Honest about his relapses, the actor admited to having done his best work while in recovery: “Season 9 was the year that I was sober the whole way through. And guess which season I got nominated for best actor? I was like, ‘That should tell me something.'”
Despite the challenges he faced, the star decided to share his journey, however harrowing, with the public in the hopes that it would help other people dealing with the same. “I say in the book that if I did die, it would shock people, but it wouldn’t surprise anybody,” he admitted. “And that’s a very scary thing to be living with. So my hope is that people will relate to it, and know that this disease attacks everybody. It doesn’t matter if you’re successful or not successful, the disease doesn’t care.”
Matthew Perry’s Thoughts on Sobriety
For Matthew Perry, ill health in his past was an incentive to stay sober, particularly the scars from the numerous surgeries he had to go through. “That’s a lot of reminders to stay sober,” he explained.
Was Matthew Perry sick with the disease of alcoholism and addiction? And had he fully left that illness behind him? While he declined to tell the interviewers how long he’d been sober, the actor acknowledged how important the lessons he learned over the years were. According to him, “everything starts with sobriety. Because if you don’t have sobriety, you’re going to lose everything that you put in front of it, so my sobriety is right up there.”
As someone who had many relapses and had to restart his sobriety journey, the actor emphasized how important the lessons he learned over the years were. “Your sober date changes, but that’s all that changes. You know everything you knew before, [and] as long as you were able to fight your way back without dying, you learn a lot.”
The Relationship Between Fame and Substance Abuse
Matthew Perry is not the only celebrity who has been plagued by substance abuse. The pressure of fame combined with access to large sums of money makes it all too easy for famous people to fall into the pitfalls of addiction and substance abuse.
Perry was painfully aware of how lucky he was to come out on the other side after his grueling battle with addiction, when many of his peers succumbed to theirs. “I’m an extremely grateful guy,” he said. “I’m grateful to be alive, that’s for sure. And that gives me the possibility to do anything.”
What Can We Learn From Matthew Perry’s Drug Use Story?
One of the main takeaways from Matthew Perry’s story is how substance abuse problems can affect anyone, regardless of social or financial status. At first, the actor was prescribed opioid painkillers after an accident, which led to him developing an addiction and, further down the line, alcoholism. He spent decades fighting for his life while trying to keep his career afloat, something most people who struggle with addiction can relate to. While Matthew Perry had fame and success, it didn’t stop him from nearly losing his life on more than one occasion.
However, the actor’s story is also one of hope in the face of adversity. Despite multiple relapses, surgeries and near-death experiences, Perry never gave up on his recovery. He survived and wrote honestly about his experience, hoping to help other people facing the same issues.
Addiction can affect you regardless of whether you have celebrity status. If you can relate to Matthew Perry or worry about your problematic substance use, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Our team of compassionate counselors is ready to listen and help you on your path to recovery. Contact us now and take your first steps toward a life without addiction.