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Matthew Perry’s Addiction Cost Him 3 Seasons of Friends

Better known as the witty and sarcastic Chandler Bing from the legendary sitcom Friends, Matthew Perry is an American-Canadian of many talents – he is an actor, comedian, screenwriter, playwright, and executive producer. NBC’s star production, Friends, is widely regarded as one of the greatest shows of all time, and it’s no secret that its six leads, one of which was Perry, became international stars with the sitcom’s raging popularity. At the peak of its popularity, the show recorded over 30 million viewers. Even today, the show remains a hit among the younger generation. It grosses over US$ 1 billion every year in syndication revenue for Warner Bros, which translates to US$ 20 million annually for each of the six actors.

Friends’ ten seasons changed the cast’s lives – be it in terms of money, opportunity, or fame. By the ninth and tenth season, the six lead actors were grossing a whopping US$ 1 million per episode each. And as for fame, well, let’s say there are very few born after the 80s who wouldn’t recognize Joey, Chandler, Ross, Monica, Phoebe, and Rachel.

Considering Matthew Perry had it all, fans often wonder how the actor’s downward spiral of alcohol and drug abuse began. It is common knowledge he went through a major stretch of self-destruction after Friends’ success launched his career. In one of his interviews, Perry even acknowledged that he was so out of it, he barely remembers three years of the show. Let’s go over what we know about Mathew Perry’s addiction back then and how it impacted his life and career.

The Early Days

Mathew Perry was born in Williamstown, Massachusetts, and raised in Ottawa, Ontario. He was only 15 when fate had already led him to what would be his lifelong career, acting. The 15-year old Perry wanted to pursue acting and moved from Ottawa to Los Angeles. He enrolled in The Buckley School and studied improv at LA Comedy. Fun fact, Perry and comedy have a deep connection – his co-stars have often said the man is hilarious. Some of Chandler’s jokes and witty one-liners on Friends are actually Perry’s own!

But much disappointment was in store for Perry before he made it big. His earlier screen debuts in TV series’ Second Chance, Growing Pains, Sydney, and Home Free and the 1988 film A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon failed to make a mark. Perry was desperate for something to work. Years later, in a 2002 interview with the New York Times, Perry said he had wanted to be famous so bad, there was steam coming out of his ears. In another interview, he also said he needed the money desperately.

Perry’s wish obviously came true. He bagged the role of Chandler Bing in 1994, which also didn’t seem like it was going to work out initially. The actor wanted to audition for Friends, which was then titled as ‘Six of One,’ but Marta Kauffman and David Crane didn’t consider him because of his commitment to the pilot LAX 2194.

Chandler Bing

Perry was ecstatic to land the role of Chandler Bing. In a 1997 interview with Entertainment Daily, he says it feels like the part is for him. Once Friends worked out, Perry’s financial woes were a thing of the past. As of the first season, each of the six leads was drawing US$ 22,500 per episode, which grew to US$ 1 million per episode by the ninth and tenth seasons.

While Friends would go on to be the epitome of Perry’s career as an actor, it would also bring in the darkest time of his life. Only a few years into success, Perry struggled with substance abuse, and he was unable to get clean for a long time. The coming years brought several trips to hospitals and rehab facilities, as his life continued to spiral out of control. Continue watching to know how he managed to not only get clean but help others struggling with addiction.

Before we move onto when Perry’s substance abuse problem took root and his road to recovery, please take a moment to hit the like button and subscribe to our channel if you’re enjoying this video.

Substance Abuse

Friends’ popularity also brought in fame, or shall we say the very pinnacle of fame. Perry once said the six of them, referring to the show’s core cast, were ‘everywhere.’ But his joy was short-lived, as only a few years later, he was struggling with alcoholism. It’s kind of sad because while he was the cause of millions of people’s laughter, his personal life was falling apart off-screen. In a BBC interview, Perry accepted that the problem was so bad that he didn’t remember three years of the show, sometime between the third and sixth seasons.

Perry’s problems didn’t end at alcohol. The actor met with a jet ski accident in 1997 when he was prescribed Vicodin, and after that, he was just as dependent on pills as he was on alcohol. In a 2002 interview with People Magazine, Perry acknowledged that although he didn’t intentionally try to get high on pills, he liked how they made him feel from the very start.

For a while, Perry could sustain two lives simultaneously, one where he went on set and cracked jokes and the other where he came home and continuously struggled with substance abuse. But eventually, his body started showing signs – he lost 20 pounds. If you binge-watch Friends even today, you can tell Chandler’s appearance changes drastically from season to season, not only in terms of weight but his face as well.

The Result Of Alcohol Abuse to Perry

Perry went to rehab in the Hazelden Betty Ford facility in Minnesota for 28 days in 1997, but the trip didn’t keep him clean for too long. By 2000, he was hospitalized at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. The cause? Pancreatitis as a result of alcohol abuse. The condition is life-threatening, and yet, the close call didn’t snap Perry out of the circle of alcohol abuse.

In the interview with People Magazine, Perry called this a very dark time- two stints of rehab and one of hospitalization, and yet, he was downing pills and a quart of vodka every day. The day Perry was discharged from the hospital, he crashed his Porsche into a house, which was fortunately empty. He wasn’t high on any alcohol or drugs that day, which shows just how out of control he was.

Friends and Family

Almost everyone on set was worried about Perry’s downward spiral. Matt LeBlanc, who played Joey on Friends, said he tried to talk to Perry, but it was no good, adding that it was a ‘personal struggle.’ As in most cases with substance, Perry had to go through this on his own, and friends could only stand by and offer support. Lisa Kudrow, who played Phoebe Buffay, said it was extremely hard to watch Perry’s struggle.

When he was sick, everyone felt bad but could only watch from the sidelines. Marta Kauffman, the co-creator of Friends, also said it was ‘terrifying’ to watch someone you care about hurting. Perry admitted that he wasn’t ready to ‘hear it,’ and the drive to become sober needed to come from within; it’s not something others can guide you on.

Despite Perry’s major drinking problem, he had a code of sorts to never drink on set. While it was commendable of him to try to maintain some form of professionalism during such a dark time, it helped very little. The effects of his drinking definitely showed on set and on screen. Perry was hung over a majority of the time but managed to pull through the shoots.

Friends And Serving Sara

It got yet worse before it got better. When Perry was shooting for Friends and Serving Sara simultaneously, his body was on the verge of giving up. He was perennially sleepy and had the shakes at work. Finally, on February 23, 2001, with some form of realization finally striking home, Perry called his parents for help. In his own words, he didn’t get sober because he should, but because he felt he was going to die the next day.

Thirteen days of shoot were still left for Serving Sara when Perry left for Los Angeles. His parents enrolled him into a different rehab facility, and he reappeared almost two and a half months later. Once back, he finished shooting for Serving Sara and came back to Friends. Kauffman was happy to have him back clean and healthy when the last season’s shoot began. Perry accepts that he’s grateful it got so bad since that was what made him fight harder to get better.

The Road Ahead

Perry once said you can’t solve a 30-year drug problem in 28 days. Likewise, the actor was on his way to a meaningful life without alcohol and drugs, but it wasn’t going to be easy. One of the problems Perry faced is the constant scrutiny of his personal problem by the masses. He accepts that he’s a very private person, but all of that changes when you’re on a TV show with 30 million viewers. Everyone knew what he was going through. Even today, he is mocked or judged for his dishevelled appearance at times.

In 2011, Perry was back in rehab to make sure he didn’t stray from sobriety. Sometime later, he established Perry House, a 5,500-square-foot sober-living facility for men in Malibu. Although he sold the facility a couple of years later, he’s still committed to helping others who struggle with substance abuse. Perry won the 2015 Phoenix Rising Award for helping others beat addiction.

Matthew Perry’s Difficult’s Life

To date, he suffers from health problems as a result of his lifestyle from the years before. For instance, in 2018, he suffered from a three-month-long case of gastrointestinal perforation. In an interview with People Magazine, he accepted that he couldn’t recover entirely after living the life he lived for as long as he did. He further added that it’s a day to day process, but the worse days are behind him.

Mathew Perry has led a difficult life full of highs and lows. The fact that he has no memory of almost three years of his life shows how deep his substance abuse problem really was. Fortunately, he has managed to change his life for the better. Perry has been clean for a long time, which is extremely commendable, considering the path back wouldn’t have been easy.

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