Matthew Perry is sharing how people will know he needs help. In the 53-year-old actor’s interview with Diane Sawyer on ABC News, which came ahead of the release of his highly-anticipated memoir, Perry discussed his struggles with addiction and how fans, friends and family will know if he’s in trouble again.
“If I say, ‘I’m just going to chill at home alone tonight’… If I ever say, ‘I’m cured,’” Perry said of the signs to look out for.
Throughout the interview, Perry got candid about his decades-long struggle, admitting that it’s “definitely true” that he should be dead. Especially, he said, given the fact that he’s spent half of his life in treatment or in sober living houses, and has been in detox 65 times over the years.
Perry’s struggles with alcohol began when he was just 14, when he drank an entire bottle of wine in one sitting.
“I laid in the grass and was in Heaven. I thought to myself, ‘This must be the way normal people feel all the time,’” he recalled. “… By the time I was 18 I was drinking every day.”
When he was 24, Perry landed the role of Chandler Bing on “Friends”. The show was a quick hit, but it was Perry’s co-star, David Schwimmer, who rocketed to fame the fastest.
“David Schwimmer was the hot guy in the first year… And he came into my dressing room when we were about to renegotiate and he said, ‘I think we should negotiate together,’” Perry remembered. “And I said, ‘Great, idiot. That sounds great.’”
Eventually, during the last two seasons of the show, each member of the cast — which also included Jennifer Aniston, Matt LeBlanc, Courteney Cox and Lisa Kudrow — was earning $1 million per episode. Still, Perry struggled.
“That was a dark day for me when I realized that [fame]… did not fix what I knew was broken,” he said, before revealing how he managed to film the series amid difficulties with alcohol and drugs.
“I made a rule that I would never drink or take anything at work… I would show up blindly hungover,” he said. “… I loved Chandler. I loved the show. I also knew, ‘Remember this, because it’s going to be the best time of your life’… I knew I would never forgive myself if I messed this up.”
All the while, cast and crew tried to broach the issue of his addiction with him, no one more so than Aniston. Still, though, even when Perry had the number one TV show and movie in the world — “Friends” and “The Whole Nine Yards” — his addiction raged on.
“It’s the time I should’ve been the toast in the town,” he said. “… I was in a dark room, meeting with nothing but drug dealers and completely alone for months”
Eventually, he was taking 55 Vicodin a day, which he procured in a number of ways.
“I had to wake up and realize I needed to get 55 of them or I was going to be really sick. A bunch of doctors, fake migraines,” he said. “… I guess the weirdest thing I did was on Sundays I would go to open houses… and see what pills they had in there and steal them.”
Perry advised fans that they can follow along with the status of his addiction by watching Friends, explaining, “When I’m carrying weight, it’s alcohol. When I’m skinny, it’s pills.”
During the interview, Sawyer played a “Friends” scene that showed Perry quite skinny.
“That’s very hard to watch. Because in this weird way I feel sorry for that guy. That’s a guy that’s out of control,” Perry said of seeing himself in that state. “I didn’t know what was going on with me. I weighed 155, on my way to 128 pounds. I feel sorry for that guy. He’s going through too much. And it’s me. And I remember that. I didn’t understand when that was going on. I’m so grateful to not be that anymore.”
One scene he was healthy for, though, was the season 7 finale of “Friends”, where his character married Cox’s Monica Geller. He was driven to shoot that scene, Perry revealed, from a treatment centre.
“That was pretty good. I’ll watch that scene over and over,” Perry said after watching Chandler and Monica exchange vows. “I looked good. Sober. That was fun to watch. I mean right there you see Chandler overtaking where I was in my life. Marriage and then kids and I’m not doing any of that stuff.”
When “Friends” came to an end, Perry said he “stayed sober for a long time” before he fell off the wagon.
“I started to think, ‘I’ve got this. I don’t need to learn anymore. I don’t need to go to meetings,’” he said. “… I was able to stay sober unless anything happened, good or bad.”
In 2018, he was hospitalized for five months amid complications from his addiction. Over the years, Perry said, he’s undergone 14 surgeries, including a dental procedure just before he filmed the “Friends” reunion in 2021.
“A couple of days before that I had an emergency dental surgery… It just made my mouth feel like fire,” Perry said. “I couldn’t not show up, so what I chose to do was go and just do the best that I could.”
Today, Perry said, he’s working on screenplay, going on a book tour, and hoping to help other people who are struggling with addiction.
“My health is good. I’m doing really well now. It’s not that hard. I have a lot of experience now,” he said. “… I’ve got to help as many people as a can… It’s no fun to talk about this stuff. I don’t like talking about it, but I know it’s going to help people to talk about it.”
Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing is due out Nov. 1.
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