Matthew Perry became a superstar with the series “Friends” and has now died at the age of 54. He described the fact that fame also has its downsides in his autobiography, in which Perry speaks in detail and frighteningly about his alcohol and drug addiction.
Editor’s note: This text first appeared when the autobiography was published on November 1, 2022
The sitcom “Friends” has been giving its fans a cozy feeling for decades. You turn it on to switch off. To feel comfortable and secure. And to laugh. Matthew Perry, who played Chandler Bing in the series, knows the magic of “Friends”. The filming period was also a lifeline for him personally.
Matthew Perry describes his addiction to fame
In his autobiography “Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing,” which was published a year ago, Perry speaks in detail for the first time about his years of alcohol and drug addiction. He manages to walk a tightrope. On the one hand, the traits he describes aren’t really likeable. The addiction to fame, for example, which he recognized within himself. “God, you can do whatever you want with me. But please make me famous,” he pleaded before landing the role in “Friends.” But at the same time, Perry reveals the reasons why he spent his life craving recognition. And you begin to understand that there was much more to the superficial search for fame.
As the child of very young parents – a musician and actor and a beauty queen – he learned early on what it meant to play second fiddle. His father left his mother when he was still a toddler. In order to keep the family afloat, she had to work hard. Perry describes using his humor to get his mother’s attention. Making people laugh became his main job.
Perry drank alcohol for the first time when he was 14 years old. “Something happened that made me physically and mentally different from my friends,” is how he describes the situation. While his friends were vomiting next to him, the alcohol effect on him was different. “Surrounded by fresh Murray vomit, I lay in the grass, looked at the moon and realized that for the first time in my life nothing was bothering me. The world made sense, I wasn’t stooped and crazy,” Perry writes.
“Friends”: He succumbed to his addiction in almost every season
But from then on, Perry continued to drink, irregularly at first and later every evening after moving to Los Angeles. By the time he got the role of Chandler Bing, he was already an alcoholic. At the time, he tried to keep his addiction a secret. “Based on my weight, you can understand the progression of my addiction over the seasons – if I’m fat, it’s the alcohol, if I’m thin, it’s pills. If I have a beard, it’s a lot of pills,” he explains in his autobiography. At times he took 55 Vicodin tablets (a strong painkiller) a day.
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And yet he never played drunk. He did everything in his power not to jeopardize the sitcom. Despite his best efforts, his co-stars noticed that Perry wasn’t feeling well. Jennifer Aniston in particular took loving care of him. Sometimes he was driven from rehab to filming. Chandler and Monica’s wedding was one of those episodes. The only season in which he was sober the entire time was the ninth, Perry reveals.
Coma and near death
Perry reached rock bottom in 2018 when he was rushed to hospital after seven days of severe pain and fell into a coma. “As soon as I was in a coma, I vomited into my ventilator, which is why the shit from the last ten days went straight into my lungs. My lungs didn’t particularly like it – the result: pneumonia – and then my colon burst. I repeat once again for everyone in the back rows: “My colon burst,” says Perry, describing the situation himself.
After a long and difficult operation, he was connected to an ECMO machine. “ECMO stands for extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, it is often a last ditch effort. That week, for example, four patients in the UCLA clinics were connected to ECMO and all of them died,” says the actor himself. One of the reasons why Perry says he should have been dead long ago. He then spent five months in the hospital.
A roller coaster ride of emotions
Perry’s book is so raw and honest that it hurts to read at times. A roller coaster ride of emotions. You feel pity for this man who played his way into so many hearts as Chandler and who had the world at his feet. At times he earned a million dollars a week. He had the opportunity to fly private jets to his rehabs and was able to afford the best medical support. It’s the story of a very privileged man. But his privileges ultimately don’t play such an important role. Because at every point in his career, Perry had an enemy that wanted to kill him: addiction.
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At the same time, Perry once again does what he is known for: even as he describes the most sensitive topics and the worst moments of his life, he makes his readers and fans laugh. “Friends” fans will find it particularly touching to read his memories of the sitcom. It’s not uncommon for famous people to badmouth the very product (be it a song, a film or a book) that brought them fame. Things are different with Perry.
He describes “Friends” as lovingly and appreciatively as the most passionate hardcore fans (including the author of these lines) would. Reading his book, it’s clear that Perry isn’t out to drag other celebrities through the mud (except maybe Keanu Reeves, who he makes several jabs at for some reason). His book is not gossip, not a tell-all – fortunately.
The 54-year-old wanted to help others and get his suffering off his chest. He himself stated several times: “Alcohol wants you alone.” The reason why it was so important to him to finally write honestly and bluntly about his experiences. Perry was aware of his reach. When Chandler Bing said something, he was sure to have an audience.
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