Matthew Perry’s death raises substance abuse awareness
Everyone knows it can be hard to voice to the public what you’ve been going through behind the scenes, especially when you have the entire world’s eyes on you. Matthew Perry put that fear behind him and realized how impactful his story could be and how much it could help other people.
Perry was a beloved American-Canadian actor. He is most famously known for his role in the hit TV show, Friends, where he played Chandler Bing. He died on October 18, 2023.
Perry said his ultimate dream was that “When I die, I don’t want ‘Friends’ to be the first thing that’s mentioned. I want helping others to be the first thing that mentioned. And I’m going to live the rest of my life proving that” (Perry Foundation). If you ever saw Perry on TV you would have seen him as a sarcastic, funny, and energized person but behind the camera, he grappled with some serious issues. The first time Perry dealt with substance abuse was with a prescription medicine he was given after a jet skit incident in 1996, at the age of twenty-seven. He went on the show, Friends, at 24 years old, and with the intense fame growth came along with the rapid escalation of his alcohol and drug abuse. Throughout the season of Friends, you can see his weight fluctuate.
He released a memoir in 2022 called ‘Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing.’ He portrays himself as someone who is selfish, lazy, and insecure. In his memoir, he also explains that he finds himself to be a narcissist. Even when Perry was holding on to the little life he had left in the hospital he still found a way to be ashamed. He says that he is humiliated that he has fame and could have done so much with it but did so little. He talks over and over again about his love and gratitude for his fans, close friends, and co-stars with all of his hopes that they might someday forgive him for everything he put them through in his life.
Jennifer Aniston one of his co-stars from the show Friends, who played Rachel. She and Perry stayed very close even after the show ended. An interview came out in 2004 with Diane Sawyer after Perry had been admitted to the hospital and almost lost his life. She spoke on how much she loved Perry and was grateful for the time they had.
“Not once have I ever felt him to be a burden in my life”. She states one of the memories from the set of Friends where the cast was scared for Perry.
“One day I just had to go up to him and ask Matthew, are you okay? We can smell it.” She wasn’t shaming him, just worried. Aniston wanted to help him. Perry had so many people who loved him but he just couldn’t see it through his pain. Many of us who are hurt get blinded by the pain and we can’t see through it to see the people who love us and are trying to help.
An anonymous Student from Minnehaha said, “My dad has struggled with addiction as well and I just wish he would’ve known that we [his family] were all here to help and support him. He didn’t have to go through it alone.”
Perry then did the unthinkable in 2011 and tried to turn his life around. He took a break from social media to not only become sober himself but to aid others, creating a living facility in his house in Malibu Florida.
“Seeing Matthew Perry take his struggles and use them to help other people and become better himself after several years gives me so much hope for my dad who suffers from the same things,” said Anonymous Student from Minnehaha Academy. We can look at people’s lives like Perry’s and take hope out of them for our own lives.
Another anonymous student from Minnehaha. “My father has been struggling with addiction my whole life and has been in and out of treatment. Seeing Matthew be able to not only become sober but find forgiveness for himself truly gives me a sense of hope,” said the 2nd anonymous student.
“I think having celebrities come out and share their hard life experiences is very important not only for people who deal with it but also for people who see people go through it” also said the 2nd anonymous student.
Minnehaha Academy counselor Christine Paton talked about how important it is for celebrities to share about the hardships they go through in their life.
“I think is really helpful is that when celebrities are vocal about certain topics and issues, it really can influence young people’s lives because they pay attention.” Teens tend to pay more attention to celebrities than anyone. Teens will listen to what a celebrity might say, but that same teenagers parent could say the same thing that a teenager wouldn’t really pay attention to or listen to.
“Celebrities hold a lot of power in terms of influencing young people,” Payton said. Sometimes people can think that if you’re a celebrity then you can’t go through things like substance abuse or mental health issues. A person with a bright future had everything and they still were struggling with mental health issues. It can teach a lot of lessons like fame and money and all of those things aren’t going to make your life perfect.
Unfortunately, Perry never got to his ultimate dream. But after his death, many people came up and claimed that Perry was the reason they were sober. An actor Hank Azaria wrote on Instagram that Perry helped him get sober.
He said “I’m a sober guy for 17 years, and I wanna say that the night I went into AA [Alcoholics Anonymous], Matthew brought me in. The whole first year I was sober, we went to meetings together. Matthew always thought of himself as someone who never did anything to help people but that was wrong he helped so many people,” said Azaria.
Also, Charles Perry started the Perry Foundation which was made after his death. “The Matthew Perry Foundation is the realization of Matthews’s enduring commitment to helping others struggling with the disease of addiction. It will honor his legacy and be guided by his own words and experiences and driven by his passion for making a difference in as many lives as possible,” reads The Mission of the Matthew Perry Foundation.