From substance abuse to a jet-ski accident to pancreatitis, Perry's life seemed like a never-ending battle with his demons, until he decided to clean up.
Between the '90s and the early 2000s, everybody seemed to know who Matthew Perry was. The funny and sarcastic Chandler Bing from Friends entertained an entire generation that is now able to just quote him from memory. He reached a level of success that had him taking home $1 million per episode. On-screen, everything was fun and games as he starred on a show that skyrocketed his and his five co-stars' careers.
Even though it seemed like he was having the time of his life because of his work, the reality was far from that. Behind-the-scenes, the man that tried so hard to make everyone laugh was struggling. "I had a big problem with alcohol and pills and I couldn’t stop," he told People magazine. "Eventually things got so bad that I couldn’t hide it, and then everybody knew."
Perry, who had been struggling with alcohol addiction, went deeper down the rabbit hole in 1997 after a jet ski accident. He reportedly became addicted to Vicodin, which had been prescribed to him for his pain. A doctor said, "'Here, take this.' I did, and I felt better than I ever felt in my entire life," the Fools Rush In actor told People. Eventually, his addiction spiraled and he did two stints at a rehab facility, but by then the substance abuse had left long-lasting effects on his body.
The kind of success he had thanks to the sitcom he starred in made things even more complicated. "I was on Friends from age 24 to 34," the Whole Nine Yards actor told the magazine. "I was in the white-hot flame of fame. The six of us were just everywhere all the time. From an outsider's perspective, it would seem like I had it all. It was actually a very lonely time for me because I was suffering from alcoholism. It was going on before Friends, but it's a progressive disease. I wasn't a massive party guy. I wasn't a bull-in-a-china-shop kind of drinker."
He went to rehab in 1997 and came out stronger. "I don't think there's anything in the world that I can't face, having faced that," he told People magazine in another interview. "That was the scariest thing that's ever happened to me. You get a whole new respect for yourself and life when you go through something that difficult."
Three years later, however, he had to return to rehab and, according to ABC, his representatives announced, "Matthew has every intention of completing his treatment so that he can continue his dream of entertaining people and making them laugh. He appreciates everyone's concern and thanks them for respecting his privacy."
Apart from the addiction, he also suffered from pancreatitis, which can arise due to alcohol and prescription drug abuse. He lost 20 pounds and was in the hospital for two weeks, according to Nicki Swift. "In my case, it was hard living and drinking hard and eating poorly," the Odd Couple actor told E! News. "You play, you pay. But there were no pills involved. I learned my lesson [at rehab facility]."
At the age of 43 is when he found sobriety and went on to champion the cause, helping other people stay sober by turning his house into a facility for newly-sober people to recuperate before they stepped back into the real world. "I’m in a really good place. I’m really comfortable,” he told People magazine.
He became an advocate for drug courts, where nonviolent substance abusers can receive treatment instead of incarceration for their offenses. In October 2012, he spoke before Congress and helped get funding in millions for the cause. "The interesting reason that I can be so helpful now is that I screwed up so often. It’s nice for people to see that somebody who once struggled in their life is not struggling anymore," the actor had told People.
The actor continues to keep a low profile and stay out of the public eye. In 2018, the then 49-year-old spent three months in the hospital to repair a gastrointestinal perforation, according to Newsday. In February 2019, he also revealed that not only was he going to therapy but that he had been "kicked out" of it for one day.
He was last seen working in 2017 and has not picked up any new projects since then. Recently, he showed up on Jennifer Aniston's Instagram account, where she posted a reunion photo of the Friends cast. More recently, he joined Instagram after staying away from it for years and became the last of the Friends cast to join the photo-sharing platform.
Much power to you, Matthew Perry! May you find the strength to stay on this path forever.