We all know Matthew Perry as the witty, lively, and humorous Chandler Bing from the world-famous NBC sitcom Friends (1994-2004). Perry is regarded as one of the most noteworthy and iconic artists from the 90s era. His character Chandler Bing was probably the most liked and charming one on the show. People loved his comic one-liners and sarcastic comments. But nobody ever got the clue that the actor who charged $1 million per episode was battling with alcohol and opiate addiction.
Perry stated in a 2017 interview with ABC News that throughout his tenure on Friends he was struggling with alcoholism, prescription drug abuse, and depression. Even after the show ended in 2004, his obsession with alcohol and drug abuse went on. Now that he looks back to the darkest phase of his life, he realised that a “sick guy” he has been. He made many trips to the rehab only to fall prey to relapse after some time. But, he continued his struggle to reach sobriety.
“Mostly it was drinking, you know, and opiates. I think I was pretty good at hiding it but, you know, eventually people were aware,” Perry told ABC News in his interview.
Perry explained that he tasted alcohol for the first time at the age of 13 and the habitual drinking transformed into addiction by 1997. In 1997 he started abusing drugs too after he was prescribed opioids by his doctor to overcome the pain from the jet-ski accident that he suffered. Recalling that year now, Perry revealed that he went on to take the pills for longer than he was prescribed by the doctor because he felt better after taking them.
“I did and I felt better than I ever felt in my entire life. I had a big problem with pills and alcohol, and I couldn’t stop,” said Perry. But it was the same year when he realized that he needed help and therefore, he checked into rehab to overcome his addiction to opioids and other pain medications. It wasn’t easy to overcome the addiction and he has no qualms in admitting that he couldn’t be successful in his first attempt at rehab.
“You can’t have a drug problem for 30 years and then expect to have it solved in 28 days. Getting sober is a really hard thing to do.”
However, Perry was so far in control of alcoholism as he followed the rule of never to drink on the set. This rule he couldn’t follow for long though and by 2000 he started drinking backstage. Naturally, people felt the changes in him as he was often sweating and shaking after drinking. As time went by his condition and addiction worsened and it became a habit of Perry to go on the sets in “extreme cases of hangover.”
Perry couldn’t keep it a secret anymore and his co-stars started questioning him. Lisa Kudrow (Phoebe Buffay on the show Friends) was the first one to notice changes in Matthew Perry.
“When Matthew was sick, it was not fun. We were just hopelessly standing on the sidelines… hurting a lot. Matthew is one off the funniest people… he’s charming and hilarious. Most of our hard laughs came from Matthew,” said Kudrow.
The entire cast of the show requested Perry to seek help but at this stage, Perry just didn’t have the courage to leave alcohol and drugs. He was too consumed by the temptation of addiction and the relaxation that he felt after abusing alcohol and drugs. The problem worsened for Perry when his work life started getting affected. On the sets of Serving Sara in 2001, he used to arrive on the sets heavily drunk and had to leave the sets only after filming for two weeks. At that time he remembered that he experienced a moment of clarity after which he decided to give rehab another try and returned to L.A.
“This very lovely spiritual moment when everything’s clear for one split second and I realize, I’ve got to go save myself,” Perry recalled.
He finished shooting for Serving Sara and for the last season of friends after returning from rehab. He used to stay sober after his return from rehab and even the exec producer of Friends Marta Kauffman felt that he had changed for the better. She even approached Perry and told him that she was really happy that the old Perry was back.
Matthew Perry checking into rehab multiple times since 2001 as a preventive measure and has fully abandoned alcohol and opiates. He even became an anti-drug and anti-alcoholism advocate and donated his Malibu, California mansion to be used as a facility for addicts to get treatment and return to sobriety. The place is called the Perry House now.
The 43-year old actor has now made it his mission to help other addicts get back to life and become sober. He even has joined Earl Hightower, an addiction specialist, and his helping people become sober. Both Perry and Hightower received the Champion of Recovery award from the Office of National Drug Control Policy during President Obama’s tenure.
“We’re award-winning alcoholics,” Matthew Perry humorously stated.