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When the news first broke about Matthew Perry dying at his home on Saturday, the buzz was largely devoted to his acting. He played Chandler Bing on the show “Friends” from 1994 to 2004. This show was extremely popular while it was on the air. Even in the years after, younger people found the show and became devoted to the series many years later. It had a distinct appeal for young adults dreaming of living on their own for the first time, hopefully with their group of friends. The strong bonds of these friends spoke to each person watching. The silly mistakes of young adulthood and the zany character moments remained a success through today.
Matthew Perry’s story with substance use
Addicted to pain killers, Matthew Perry spoke openly about how his friends on the show did rally around him and help him cope. He spoke about this in his memoir Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing (2022), “In nature, when a penguin is injured, the other penguins group around it and prop it up until it is better. This is what my costars on “Friends” did for me.”
In the same book, he discusses the savage road to healing, “65 detox sessions” and “15 rehab stays.” He also speaks repeatedly about the inability to go this alone. There was always the Big Terrible Thing in his peripheral vision. It was driving him toward more drugs and scaring him into thinking that only death would save him from it. He wrote the book to reveal an honest look into addiction, perhaps it might help others who were as hooked as he was.
In talk shows about the book, he frequently brought up the fact that he did not want to be remembered as Chandler Bing, but as someone who tried to help other addicts.
“The best thing about me, bar none, is if somebody comes up to me and says, ‘I can’t stop drinking, can you help me?’ I can say yes and follow up and do it,” he shared during a “Q with Tom Power” interview in November 2022. “It’s the best thing.”
Matthew Perry opened up a single living sober house to help as many people as he could. He openly discussed his disease as brutally honestly as he could. He seemed to be ready to fight this every day, And he always brought up the fact that no one can fight this alone.
Honor his memory
In my family, my brother had a bone so broken it stuck out of his leg. Hijinks and racing a car at the age of seventeen, he wound up in the emergency room screaming. He got strong pain killers for a long time, and he soon slipped into addiction. In our house, the Big Terrible Thing loomed at every dinner table get together. However, it often remained hidden as his family and his quiet ways belied the power of addiction. A devastating smile, a strong sense of independence, and a loving family was just no match for this thing. We were all devastated by it.
In honor of this fight, and for all of us who share our lives with someone in addiction, it is important to know how to help someone. To be there and prop them up is, of course, key, as Matthew Perry frequently points out. Treatment, therapy, and rehab are necessary, sometimes over and over again. It is exhausting, but not nearly as difficult as it is for the addict. That Big Terrible Thing that is a plague in our country can only be faced and fought with the support of friends and family, doctors and professionals.