Matthew Perry Has Candidly Opened Up About His Past Trauma, and the Struggles That Left Him Feeling “Dead Inside”

Lauren Christina | Thu Nov 10 2022

For 10 years, Matthew Perry was one-sixth of the most famous television show to ever hit our screens. His time on Friends thrust him into the limelight and should have set him up for a lifetime of fame and fortune… but it didn’t. While co-stars Jennifer Aniston and Courteney Cox have maintained their place in Hollywood, Matthew Perry has been left behind. And his new bombshell memoir, Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing has explained why.

Images: PopSugar (left) and Cosmopolitan (right)

Although Matthew was the world’s favorite funnyman on our screens, his life behind the scenes was a completely different story. His early years were fraught with struggles, his Friends experience was scattered with rehab stays, and he’s since had 14 surgeries and reportedly spent a whopping $9 million on getting clean. But where did it all go wrong? This is everything we didn’t know about Matthew Perry and his troublesome life.

Matthew’s Father Abandoned Him, Causing the Young Boy To Act Out and Beat Up the Future Canadian Prime Minister

American-Canadian actor Matthew Perry was born in the United States, but his early months were far from normal. When he was just nine months old, his high-functioning alcoholic father abandoned him and his mother to chase his dreams of becoming an actor in Los Angeles. So, he and his mom moved to Canada, where she worked as the press aide to Canadian prime minister Pierre Trudeau. Matthew also went to school with Pierre’s son, Justin.

Image: The Mirror

However, Matthew longed to know what had happened to his father, and he felt he had a void in his life. As a result, he started to act out. He started smoking when he was just 10 years old, his grades began to suffer, and on one occasion, he even beat up a young Justin Trudeau – who is now the prime minister of Canada himself. But things were only going to get worse.

Although Matthew Had the Chance To Be a Professional Tennis Player, Alcohol Ultimately Got in the Way

In between detentions and smoking sessions, Matthew Perry discovered that he was an incredibly talented tennis player. And while he was nationally ranked in Canada by the time he was just 14 years old, Matthew’s chance to go pro was shattered when, on one fateful night, he took his first sip of alcohol. It was this moment that changed the trajectory of his life.

Images: Twitter / MLP Updates (left) and Facebook / Matthew Perry 45 (right)

As Matthew and his friends drank bottles of Andrès Baby Duck, those around him started to throw up and feel the full effects of the alcohol. But Matthew didn’t. He noted that “I was lying back in the grass and the mud, looking at the moon, surrounded by fresh puke, and… nothing bothered me.” And as his tennis dreams crumbled underneath him, Matthew started to focus on another one of his talents; acting.

Perry Followed in His Father’s Footsteps To Become an Actor at 15, and He Became an Alcoholic at the Same Time

By the time he was 15 years old, Matthew Perry writes that he was already a “broken human being.” However, he felt confident that acting was the right path for him, so he quit school and followed his father to Hollywood. In reconnecting with his dad, Perry caused an irreparable rift between himself and his mother. So, he used alcohol to drink away the pain.

Image: Instagram / Matthew Perry

During these early years in Hollywood, Perry lived with his father, and it didn’t take long for them to get into a routine of alcoholism. Every night after a day of auditions, Perry and his dad would drink six vodka tonics – and Matthew claims that this was the “best part of his day.” Life was perfect in his eyes, and the only thing left for him to do was land his first acting role.

Matthew Finally Landed His First Acting Role After “Charming a Bunch of Young Women” in a Diner

A few months into his Hollywood adventure, Matthew Perry was still a 15-year-old alcoholic searching for fame. And as a charming and funny Canadian in a city of Americans, Matthew had no trouble making friends and acquaintances to drink with. During one trip to the diner, a man spotted him “charming a bunch of young women” and dropped a note on his table asking him to be in his movie.

Images: Entertainment Weekly (both)

The man was William Richert, and he wanted Matthew to star alongside River Phoenix in A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon. River sadly passed away seven years later, and Matthew caused controversy in a 2022 interview when he said: “It always seems to be the really talented guys who go down. Why is it that the original thinkers like River Phoenix and Heath Ledger die, but Keanu Reeves still walks among us?”

The Young Actor Started Dating Tricia Fisher, but Then His Eyes Started To Wander and He Cheated on Her With Countless Women

A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon put Matthew Perry on the Hollywood map, but this wasn’t the only thing. When he was 18 years old, Matthew pushed even further onto our radar when he started dating Tricia Fisher – Carrie Fisher’s half-sister. Their relationship became the talk of the town, but behind closed doors, their relationship was marred by Perry’s impotence.

Image: Daily Mail

Although Perry now knows this affliction was caused by his drinking, he didn’t understand it at the time. Instead, he called it his “great ugly secret.” And while he did eventually lose his virginity to Tricia at 18, their relationship crumbled when Perry’s eyes started to wander. With newfound confidence and the ability to charm everyone, Matthew started “sleeping with almost every woman in southern California.”

Although Perry’s Acting Career Began To Pick Up, His Drinking Became Even More of a Problem

By the time he was 24 years old, Matthew Perry was a name many people knew in Hollywood. He’d landed a few roles in movies and television, and he knew he was on the right path. But this wasn’t enough for him. Perry was desperate to be famous, and he knew it would take just one role to change his life. He was still drinking, though…

Image: The Cut

During this time, Perry found friends in the form of other burgeoning actors looking to land their big break. He would spend his evenings drinking with the likes of Hank Azaria and Craig Bierko, who were more than willing to share audition stories over a few beers. But when these friends parted ways, Perry didn’t stop. He would drink alone, dreaming of that one big role that he knew was right around the corner. And it was.

Although He Knew He Was the Perfect Choice To Play Chandler, His Commitments Originally Stopped Him From Landing the Role

In 1993, Hollywood started to buzz with the news that a new television show was in the works. Created by David Crane and Marta Kaufman, this sitcom show was dubbed to be called Friends Like Us – although it was later changed to Friends. As Perry learned more about the upcoming show and the script, he was instantly gripped by the “world-weary yet witty view of life” that one character had.

Image: IMDb

Perry stated that “It wasn’t that I thought I could play Chandler. I was Chandler.” And while he knew this was the perfect role for him, there was a snag. At the time, Matthew had committed himself to another brand-new show called LAX 2194. This sci-fi comedy focused on baggage handlers working at LAX in the year 2194, and his commitments meant that he couldn’t even be considered for an audition for Friends.

When His Commitments Fell Through, Matthew Perry Was Finally Offered the Chance To Play Chandler

In the end, Matthew Perry’s drinking buddy Craig Bierko was offered the chance to play Chandler Bing in Friends. And while Matthew was “devastated” to learn that he couldn’t take on the role himself, he encouraged his friend to jump at the opportunity. However, Bierko wasn’t convinced by the script or the show’s premise. He turned the role down… just as LAX 2194 was canceled after its pilot run.

Images: IMDb (left) and Buzzfeed (right)

For Matthew Perry, the fates had aligned. His schedule had been pushed wide open, and Friends needed someone to fill its Chandler-shaped hole. Just one week after Perry lost one television show, he’d gained a reading for the big break he always knew he needed – and then he landed the part. And while this was a dream come true, Matthew’s personal life was in shambles.

Although He Found His Footing on the Set of Friends, Matthew Was Still Drinking Heavily Behind the Scenes

At the first table read for Friends, Matthew Perry could feel the excitement in the air. Although he was the youngest of the cast, he wasn’t the most inexperienced, so he felt confident. He also knew that the cast was perfect for each other. They were all young, attractive, talented, and extremely funny. But Perry couldn’t help but think that he was the funniest of the lot.

Image: Yahoo!

In fact, Perry pitched the showrunners around 10 jokes per day – and every day, two of his jokes were used to enhance the script and the comedy value of each of the other characters. He finally felt as though he had found his perfect role and his perfect place. And while he thought his drinking had been put on the back burner, it was still a huge part of his life. It even affected his subsequent relationship with Julia Roberts.

Perry Was Tasked With Convincing Julia Roberts To Appear on Friends, and They Soon Started a Fax Flirtation

Throughout its decade-long run, Friends saw countless celebrity cameos, and one of them was Julia Roberts. But many fans don’t realize that Marta Kauffman actually asked Matthew Perry to convince the famous actress to appear on the show, as she was somewhat reluctant. So, Matthew reached out to Julia over fax – and before too long, they started a fax flirtation that sparked the beginning of their relationship.

Image: People

In an effort to woo her, Perry also sent Julia three dozen roses and a card that read “The only thing more exciting than the prospect of you doing the show is that I finally have an excuse to send you flowers.” In response, Roberts challenged Matthew to explain quantum physics to her. Eager to please, Perry sat down to write a “paper about wave-particle duality and the uncertainty principle and entanglement.” But despite this new relationship, Perry was still a broken man.

After Three Months, Matthew’s Anxiety and Poor Mental Health Pushed Him To End Things With Julia Roberts

During their fax flirtation and the beginning of their relationship, Matthew Perry was still heavily abusing alcohol – and this took a serious toll on his mental health. This, coupled with his newfound fame and fortune from Friends put him in a vulnerable position. The “it” couple were together for three months, but Matthew’s anxiety and poor mental health ultimately got the better of him.

Images: Page Six (left and right)

The actor wrote in his memoir that “dating Julia Roberts had been too much for me. I had been constantly certain that she was going to break up with me. Why would she not? I was not enough; I could never be enough; I was broken, bent, unlovable. So instead of facing the inevitable agony of losing her, I broke up with the beautiful and brilliant Julia Roberts.” Unfortunately for Perry, things were only going to get so much worse.

After Suffering a Jet Ski Accident in 1996, Matthew Perry Started Taking Vicodin for the Pain

In 1996, Matthew Perry was filming Friends and working on one of the biggest shows on television. But that wasn’t all. His appearance on the show had directors knocking at his door, and he was ultimately offered the chance to start alongside Salma Hayek – and his own father – in the 1997 movie Fools Rush In. While filming, however, Matthew suffered an accident while on a jet ski.

Image: People

Although he wasn’t seriously injured, Matthew was given Vicodin for the pain. And while you’re not allowed to drive under the influence of this pain medication, Matthew decided to pop this pill while driving home. He wrote in his memoir that “I shook hands with God that morning.” However, this near-death experience didn’t stop him from ordering another 40 Vicodin when he got home…

After Taking 55 Vicodin a Day and Drinking Excessively During Season Three of Friends, Matthew Decided To Go to Rehab

Soon enough, Matthew Perry became addicted to Vicodin. While filming the third season of Friends, he was either under the influence of alcohol, pain medication, or both – and he has confessed that it was a “full-time job” trying to procure the Vicodin. Due to this cocktail of substances, the actor spent most of his free time vomiting.

Image: The Sun

However, he kept the whole thing a secret: “No one knew – not my family, my friends, no one. I was impossibly sick all the time.” He knew that he was addicted, but “I didn’t know how to stop. If the police came over to my house and said, ‘If you drink tonight, we’re going to take you to jail,’ I’d start packing.” So, he decided to take himself off to rehab for the first time. But definitely not the last.

Although He Stopped Taking Vicodin, Matthew Continued To Drink and Eventually Added More Narcotics Into the Mix

Matthew Perry’s first stint at rehab was partially successful. Although he managed to kick his Vicodin habit, he couldn’t get his drinking under control. During seasons six and seven of Friends, he was drinking an excessive amount of alcohol – so much so that he was hospitalized with pancreatitis. And while Matthew was bagging himself $1 million per episode, he was consumed by the thought of his next drink.

Image: IMDb

After a short hospital stay and strict instructions to stop drinking, Matthew continued to drink alcohol – before adding even more narcotics into the mix. He not only started to take methadone but also cocaine and Xanax. But the further he spiraled, the less he could hide his indiscretions. And before too long, one of his cast members realized what was going on.

Jennifer Aniston Eventually Confronted Perry, and the Friends Cast Tried To Stage an Intervention for Him

As Matthew continued to drink and take his concoctions of drugs, he struggled to hide the effects from the cast and crew working on Friends. Jennifer Aniston even went to confront her co-star on one occasion, stating that “I know you’re drinking… We can smell it.” These narcotics even had an effect on his table reads.

Image: TODAY

During one particular table read, his concoction of medications became so entangled that they started to affect his speech, and he started to slur. In response, the Friends cast tried to stage an intervention for him, with Perry stating that “In nature, when a penguin is injured, the other penguins group around it and prop it up until it’s better. This is what my co-stars on Friends did for me.” Sadly, it didn’t work.

Perry’s Drunk Actions Ultimately Caused a Movie To Shut Down, and He Had To Pay For It

In 2001, Perry was still drinking heavily and taking his narcotics when he was offered the chance to star alongside Elizabeth Hurley in the movie Serving Sara. He moved to Dallas to film the movie, and while his friends hoped that this move would take him away from his vices, he continued to drink and take drugs while filming. He stated that “Every day I would show up to set, pass out in my chair, wake up to do a scene, stumble to set, then just basically scream into a camera for two minutes.”

Images: Daily Mail (left) and US Weekly (right)

Perry knew that he needed to go back to rehab, but in doing this he caused the movie to shut down temporarily and he had to pay $650,000 of his own money as a result. However, he stated that this was a “small price to save my life.” When he came out of rehab, he confessed that “I needed to make real amends … so I recorded my slurred parts for the entire movie, which meant I looped the entire movie.” But trying to get sober wasn’t an easy process.

During Monica and Chandler’s Wedding Episode, Chandler Was Living in a Treatment Center and Had a Sober Companion On Set

Amazingly, Matthew managed to stay sober for a while after his second stint in rehab – and he seemed serious about his recovery. But staying away from his addictive companions was hard, and he knew he needed extra help. That’s why he chose to live in a treatment center in Malibu for most of 2001. This was also the case during one of Chandler’s most iconic scenes; when he marries Monica.

Image: IMDb

Perry wrote in his memoir that “I married Monica and got driven back to the treatment center – at the height of my highest point in Friends, the highest point in my career, the iconic moment on the iconic show – in a pickup truck helmed by a sober technician.” This was one of the first and only times that Matthew was sober on set.

Season Nine of Friends Was Matthew’s Only Sober Season, and He Says You Tell a Lot About His Addiction Journey by His Weight Fluctuation

Matthew confessed in his memoir that he was only fully sober during season nine of Friends. He was under the influence during every other season, making his Emmy nomination for season nine even more telling. And while he kept his personal struggles away from the public eye during his years of addiction, he says that fans should be able to see just by looking at him whether he was sober or not during a specific season.

Image: Rotten Tomatoes

He wrote that “You can track the trajectory for my addiction if you gauge my weight from season to season. When I’m carrying weight, it’s alcohol; when I’m skinny, it’s pills. When I have a goatee, it’s lots of pills.” And while Matthew hoped to maintain his sober living after the success of season nine, season 10 came with some unwelcome challenges.

While His Co-Stars Cried During the Final Friends Episode, Matthew Felt “Numb” Due to His Detox Meds

Although Matthew was technically sober during season 10 of Friends, he was still on medication. To be exact, he had been taking buprenorphine – a detox medication that is designed to help addicts stay away from stronger opiates. However, by the time he filmed the show’s final episode, he had been on the medication for eight months… much longer than recommended.

Image: 7 News

So, while the rest of the cast members sobbed uncontrollably as Monica, Rachel, Ross, Joey, Phoebe, and Chandler said their goodbyes, Matthew Perry didn’t even shed a tear. He confessed that “I couldn’t tell if that was because of the opioid I was taking, or if I was just generally dead inside.” If anything, this moment pushed him to re-assess his life and his sobriety. But what happened next?

Matthew Struggled Without Friends in His Life, but He Made It His Mission To Stay Sober for As Long as Possible

In his tell-all memoir, Matthew Perry remembers the morning after the final of Friends. He found himself at a crossroads in his life, and he struggled to come to terms with this new life: “With no ridiculously high paying, dream-come-true kind of job to go to, and no special someone in my life, things slipped fast. In fact, it was like falling off a cliff.”

Image: Page Six

Despite the fact that Matthew felt himself hitting rock bottom, he tried to stay on track with his sobriety. While he dipped in and out of drinking alcohol, he could stay sober for a few years at a time, and he even managed to hold down a six-year relationship with fellow actress Lizzy Caplan. Unfortunately, the damage to his body had already been done, and Matthew started experiencing painful medical episodes.

The Actor’s Use of Opiates Caught Up With Him in 2019 When Matthew Fell Into a Two-Week Coma

In 2019, Perry found himself dealing with a severe medical emergency. After decades of alcohol and opiate abuse, his colon exploded, and he fell into a coma. Doctors told his family that he had just a 2% chance of surviving the ordeal. Amazingly, he awoke after two weeks – but his plight was far from over.

Images: (left) and Page Six (right)

As a result of this medical emergency, Matthew Perry needed to carry a colostomy bag for nine months – and this put his past drug abuse into perspective for the actor. His therapist even told him that “The next time you think about OxyCotin, I want you to think about living out the rest of your days with a colostomy bag.” However, his therapist and doctors had even starker warnings for him.

Doctors Tried To Get Matthew To Stop Smoking, but He Used Them To Cope With the Pain When His Teeth Fell Out

As well as drinking and taking drugs throughout much of his life, Matthew Perry is also a smoker. But after spending two weeks in a coma and suffering the full effects of past addiction, his doctor encouraged him to go cold turkey. In fact, Matthew was told that he would be dead by the time he turned 60 years old if he didn’t stop completely.

Image: The Sun

In an effort to stop, Matthew started seeing a hypnotherapist – and he eventually managed to quit smoking for 15 days. However, things took a major step back when Matthew’s front teeth fell out while he was eating peanut butter on toast. To cope with the pain, and to avoid going back to pain medication, Perry found his way back to smoking. But that’s not all.

Matthew Had To Pull Out of Appearing in Don’t Look Up Because His Heart Stopped for Five Minutes

In 2020, things for Matthew Perry started to look up. He was cast in the blockbuster movie Don’t Look Up, and he hoped that it would bring him back to the forefront of people’s attention. During this time, he was staying in a rehab treatment center in Switzerland – but he started to complain about a slight pain in his stomach. He told his doctors that he needed medication, but “In fact, I was OK.”

Image: Page Six

In an effort to find a source of his pain, doctors decided to do some exploratory surgery. Before this, they prescribed him hydrocodone and propofol to treat the pain – but this resulted in his heart stopping for a full five minutes. He confessed that “It wasn’t a heart attack – I didn’t flatline – but nothing had been beating.” Although he survived the ordeal, he had to pull out of the movie as a result.

To This Day, Matthew Has Had To Have 14 Surgeries To Treat the Effects of His Opiate Abuse

Unfortunately for Matthew, his past abuse of drugs and alcohol seems to have caught up with him. While taking these illicit substances back in the day, the actor felt numb – but now he’s feeling the full effects and his health has taken the brunt of it. At the time of writing, the actor has had to undergo 14 surgeries to treat the effects of his opiate abuse.

Image: The Sun

Now, Matthew understands how these substances ruined his life. In his book, he confessed that he’s never slept for more than four hours at a time and that he regrets almost every relationship he’s ever been in. In his words, “This is the life of someone who’s been blessed with the big terrible thing.”

Despite His Struggles, Matthew Now Feels Incredibly Lucky To Be Alive and To Have Survived His Ordeal

Matthew Perry has since turned a corner in his life and is trying to stay sober for the sake of his health and those around him. But it was a religious experience that truly forced him to see the light. While standing in his kitchen, he saw “this bright yellow object that became all-encompassing. I couldn’t see the kitchen anymore. It was just this light, and I felt loved and understood, and in the company of God or whatever.”

Image: Instagram / Matthew Perry

He continued that “My dad was right next to me and we were holding hands and I was praying when it started, which is something I rarely did. It was like God showed me what’s possible. And then said, ‘Okay. Now you go learn this.'” He’s also stated that “at this point in my life, the words of gratitude pour out of me because I should be dead, and yet somehow I am not.”