Matthew Perry once prayed to God for fame. Now his dream is to help others struggling with addiction.

Click the play button above to listen to Matthew Perry’s full conversation with Tom Power.

When Matthew Perry set out to write his new memoirs, Friends, lovers and the big terrible thingI hoped he would reveal a truth he learned the hard way: Seeing your dreams come true doesn’t solve your problems.

From 1994 to 2004, the Ottawa-raised actor played Chandler Bing in Friends, one of the biggest sitcoms in television history. But she soon discovered that success couldn’t remedy her catastrophic addiction to alcohol and opiates.

“Not a lot of books have come out of the addict’s side…certainly not someone who’s been on one of their favorite shows or whatever,” Perry said in a live interview with what‘s Tom Power at the Hot Docs Ted Rogers movie theater in Toronto. “That message is very powerful because I thought [fame] I would fix everything. And you know, it wasn’t like that, she still wanted to drink every day.

CLOCK | Full Matthew Perry interview with Tom Power:

In the book, Perry details his long journey with addiction, fame, and recovery. Her involvement with drugs began when she was just 30 days old and she was prescribed a barbiturate for colic, which she believes had a lasting effect on her sleep. She first tried alcohol at age 14 and started drinking every night when she was around 18.

“I finally felt at home, for the first time, as soon as I drank alcohol,” Perry recalled. “And I had a very different reaction than normal people have. Normal people take a drink and feel a little dizzy… I take a drink and for the first time in three weeks, life seems to make sense.”

In 2018, Perry’s substance abuse problems became so severe that he was hospitalized and given a two percent chance of survival after his colon burst from opioid overuse. They put him on life support, extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), which does the job of the heart and lungs so they can rest, and his parents were prepared for the worst. “Five people had an ECMO machine that night and the other four died,” he said. “And I survived.”

For Perry, writing the book was easy, but upon reading it she realized that she had lived “the most torturous life”. Despite that, she said that sharing her story has been the best thing she could do to help others going through the same struggle against alcoholism and addiction.

“Wonderful things happened in my life, I’m incredibly grateful for all of them,” he said. “But that’s the ticket for me, it’s helping people on a large scale or helping, you know, one guy and watch the light go on.”

Matthew Perry chatting with Q’s Tom Power at the Hot Docs Ted Rogers theater in Toronto. (Gabriel Li)

Friends, fame and fortune were not enough to cure him.

The first time Perry prayed was after reading an article that led him to the conclusion that fame was the answer to everything.

“That prayer was, ‘Please, God, make me famous. You can do whatever you want to me; just make me famous,'” the actor told Power. “Three weeks later, I received Friends — and God didn’t forget the second part.”

Landing the paper on Friends He helped Perry achieve his dreams, but he said it only took him six months to realize that fame and fortune couldn’t solve his biggest problem.

“Alcoholism didn’t care that I was in Friends-said-. Alcoholism wants you alone; he wants you sick; and then he wants to kill you.”

When I die, I don’t want Friends to be the first thing mentioned.-Matthew Perry

Out of respect for your Friends fellow cast members, Perry had a personal rule never to drink or do drugs while on set, though he often worked with an extreme hangover. At one point, he was taking 55 Vicodin a day and weighed 128 pounds. He said he doesn’t watch the show because his changing appearance is a painful reminder of his addiction.

“I was in Friendsbeing watched by 30 million people, and that’s why I can’t watch the show,” he said. “I was like brutally skinny and the disease was hitting me a lot.”

Now sober, the actor told Power he could finally start looking Friends because he is aware of the massive impact the program has had on millions of people. “It has become something important and significant,” she said. “I’ve been too worried about this and I, you know, want to see Friends also.”

Still, the actor said he doesn’t want to be remembered just for Friends. Her dream now is to help people.

“The best thing about me, without exception, is having someone come up to me and say, ‘I can’t stop drinking. Can you help me?’ I can say yes, follow up and do it,” Perry said. “And I’ve said it for a long time: when I die, I don’t want to Friends be the first to be mentioned: I want that be the first thing mentioned. And I’m going to live the rest of my life proving it.”


Written by Vivian Rashotte. Interview produced by Catherine Stockhausen.

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