In his new autobiography, Matthew Perry details his alcohol and drug addiction for the first time. And he describes the details so honestly that they are sometimes frightening.
The sitcom “Friends” has been giving its fans a good feeling for decades. You turn them on to switch off. To feel good and safe. And to laugh. Matthew Perry, who plays Chandler Bing on the show, knows the magic of Friends. Because for him personally, the time of filming was a lifeline.
Matthew Perry describes his addiction to fame
In his new autobiography, Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing, Perry opens up about his years of alcohol and drug addiction for the first time. He manages to do a tightrope walk. On the one hand, character traits that he describes are not really likeable. The addiction to fame, for example, which he has recognized in 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 thirsting for recognition. And you begin to understand that there was so much more to the superficial quest for fame.
Born to very young parents – a musician and actor and a beauty queen – he learned early on what it means to play second fiddle. His father left his mother when he was a toddler. She had to work hard to keep the family afloat. Perry describes using his humor to get his mother’s attention. Making people laugh became his main task.
At the age of 14, Perry drank alcohol for the first time. “It happened what differentiates me physically and mentally from my friends,” he describes the situation. While his friends were throwing up next to him, the alcohol effect on him was different. “Lying in the grass surrounded by fresh Murray puke, I looked at the moon and realized that for the first time in my life nothing bothered me. The world made sense, I wasn’t bent and crazy,” Perry writes.
“Friends”: Almost every season he was addicted
From then on, Perry continued to drink, infrequently at first, and later every night after moving to Los Angeles. By the time he landed 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 course of my addiction over the seasons – if I’m fat, it’s alcohol, if I’m thin, it’s pills. If I wear a beard, it’s a lot of pills,” he explains in his autobiography. He sometimes took 55 Vicodin tablets (a strong painkiller) a day.
And yet he never played stoned. He did everything in his power not to jeopardize the sitcom. Despite his best efforts, his co-stars noted that Perry wasn’t doing well. Jennifer Aniston in particular took loving care of him. Sometimes he was driven from rehab to shooting. Chandler and Monica’s wedding was one of those episodes. The only season he was sober the entire time was Season 9, Perry reveals.
Coma and Near Death
Perry hit rock bottom in 2018 when, after seven days of excruciating pain, he was rushed to the hospital and slipped into a coma. “As soon as I was in the 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 like it very much – the result: pneumonia – and then my colon burst. I repeat again for everyone in the back rows: My colon burst,” Perry describes the situation himself.
After a long and difficult operation, he was connected to an ECMO machine. “ECMO stands for Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation, it’s often a last-ditch effort. That week, for example, four patients in UCLA’s clinics had been hooked up to ECMO, and all had 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 at times it hurts to read. A roller coaster ride of emotions. One feels pity for this man who played himself into so many hearts as Chandler and had the world at his feet. He earned a million dollars at times – a week. He was able to fly to his rehabs on private jets and could afford the best medical support. It’s the story of a very privileged man. But ultimately, his privileges don’t play such an important role. Because at every point in his career, Perry had an enemy who wanted to kill him: addiction.
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. For “Friends” fans, it should be particularly touching to read his memories of the sitcom. It’s not uncommon for famous people to badmouth the very product (whether it’s a song, a movie, or a book) that brought them fame. It’s different with Perry.
He describes “Friends” as lovingly and appreciatively as the most ardent hardcore fans would (including the author of these lines). Reading his book, it’s clear that Perry isn’t looking to drag other celebrities through the mud (except maybe Keanu Reeves, whom he taunts on numerous occasions for some reason). His book isn’t gossip, it’s not a sweeping hit – fortunately.
The 53-year-old is concerned with helping others and getting his suffering off his chest. He himself explains several times: “Alcohol wants you alone.” The reason why it is so important to him to finally write honestly and bluntly about his experiences. Perry is aware of his reach. When Chandler Bing says something, he’s guaranteed an audience.
Matthew Perry’s autobiography “Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing” (Bastei Lübbe Verlag) will be available in stores from November 1st.
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