"Friends" Star Matthew Perry Opens Up About Decades-Long Struggle With Addiction

Jess Keefe
Matthew Perry memoir book

Matthew Perry’s new memoir, “Friends, Lovers, and The Big Terrible Thing,” doesn’t look away from the tough details of his addiction and recovery journey. And he’s hoping that his raw honesty can help others who struggle with substance use.

Perry was one of the stars of the NBC sitcom "Friends," which aired for ten seasons from the mid-nineties through the early aughts. 

Its quippy humor and sunny portrayal of young people trying to hack it in the big city came to define a generation of fans, as well as the show’s six stars. All of them became A-listers quickly, earning millions for their work on the show and going on to more high-profile projects in film and television.

For Perry, that success didn't resolve his lifelong addiction struggles. 

In the book, Perry recalls his addiction beginning to unfold at just 14 years old. His substance misuse started with alcohol and then prescription pills like Vicodin, Xanax, and OxyContin.

In a new interview with The New York Times, Perry said his drug use wasn’t about euphoria or partying. The opposite was true, in fact. “It’s exhausting but you have to do it or you get very, very sick,” he told reporter Elisabeth Egan. “I wasn’t doing it to feel high or to feel good. I certainly wasn’t a partier; I just wanted to sit on my couch, take five Vicodin and watch a movie. That was heaven for me. It no longer is.”

Perry's enrollment in treatment centers and sober living facilities became frequent tabloid fodder during the height of his "Friends" fame. 

Going through addiction is hard enough. Having to do it under the scrutiny of the public eye is even harder. For the actor, “his bleakest moments have been photographed, chronicled, and occasionally mocked,” Egan reflects.

Still, Perry believes there’s power in being open about addiction. Hiding it “suggests that there’s a stigma and that we have to hide.”

“Friends” continues to find new fans in the streaming age. A whole new generation of young people is relating to the experiences that Perry’s Chandler Bing and the rest of the gang encountered on the show. With his continued fame, Perry hopes his honesty about his experiences can help others who struggle with substance use disorders.

"The 'why' I'm still alive is definitely in the area of helping people," Perry said. 

Like many others with lived experience of addiction, Perry hopes that sharing his story openly can help those who need it most. 

If you’ve experienced addiction yourself or you love someone who has, you can have a positive impact by sharing your story, too. Become a Shatterproof Ambassador to help create change in your community, or visit the National Addiction Memorial to honor a lost loved one.