At the height of his career, Matthew Perry was in the struggle for his life: battling a serious addiction to alcohol and painkillers. Perry was in his early 30’s around that time and was earning a multi-million dollar salary on the hit television show ‘Friends’ and had numerous other offers for feature films and endorsements. On the outside, it appeared that Matthew Perry was living the “ideal” life many of us find an “ideal” life.
Matthew Perry’s ideal life came at a high price, though; for him it resulted in an addiction to alcohol and the narcotic painkiller, Vicodin. In 2002, Matthew Perry told People magazine that at the height of his opiate and alcohol addiction, he was taking 20 to 30 Vicodin pills and drinking about a quart of vodka a day. Perry’s addiction took off when he was prescribed Vicodin for a wisdom tooth extraction. Eventually the drug abuse began to take its toll on his body. The rumors ran rampant at this point that Perry had an eating disorder due to the obvious weight fluctuations. In fact, this was being caused by pancreatitis, brought on by his heavy drinking. Perry then returned to rehab for an “undisclosed illness” in 2001, (after a previous trip in 1997). There was constant media coverage of his addiction throughout the entire ordeal.
In front of a packed audience at Irvine Auditorium two nights ago, actor and comedian Matthew Perry appeared completely in his element onstage despite the very personal subject of his appearance – his battle with drug and alcohol addiction.
“Hello, my name is Matthew, and I’m an alcoholic.”
Perry — who gave this talk as part of this semester’s Social Planning and Events Committee Connaissance speaker series — drew an enthusiastic, loyal crowd.
He now travels to colleges across the country to share his testimony on his recovery from addiction and sponsoring others who struggle with alcoholism. In recognition for his work, The White House awarded Perry with the Champion of Recovery Award. Perry handled this with his typical grace and comedy: “I’m an award-winning alcoholic.”
Perry spoke into the goal of his work and the motivating force behind his appearances to make such a speech. “[Addiction’s] not shameful,” he said. “That’s a point I really want to drive home.”
During the Q and A session, college junior and SPEC Connaissance co-director Jason Fernandes said “We think addiction on college campuses is a very serious issue that’s not talked about much. A lot of addictions students have are dismissed as a part of college life.”
Perry spoke about finding his sponsor, Earl, who taught him the importance of selflessness. Perry says that, despite his career accomplishments, what he acknowledges as being the most important is his ability to give back.
Speaking into the importance of what the fellowship programs emphasize in the 12th Step, he said “The best thing I can say about me is that people who can’t stop drinking come up to me and say, Can you help me? And I can say, Yes.”
If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135
Whitney Houston, Cory Monteith, Amy Winehouse, Jimi Hendrix, River Pheonix, Chris Farley, Janis Joplin, Judy Garland, Billie Holiday; that doesn’t even make a dent in the list of celebrities we tragically lost all too soon to drug and alcohol addiction. And then there are those celebrities who are still here with us and who have struggled or are currently struggling with addiction: Robert Downey Jr, Lindsay Lohan, Matthew Perry, Kristen Stewart, Drew Barrymore; again, the list could go on and on.
So, are celebrities more prone to addiction than non-celebrities?
It might seem as though celebrities are more prone to addiction by the sheer number of famous people whose struggles with drugs and alcohol have come to light in the very public domain of stardom. But is there something about being a celebrity that makes someone more likely to turn into an addict? I think there are several things to consider when answering the question of whether celebrities are more prone to addiction.
People, Places, Things
As many of us in recovery know, we must be wary of people, places, and things. I think Hollywood and the other haunts of the rich and famous are perfect cesspools for drug use. By being around people who use, in the places they use, and around things associated with using, the non-addicted celebrity is exposed, perhaps for the first time in their life, to the glamorous-yet-seedy lifestyle of fame, fortune, and drugs. This might sound strange but, it’s kind of like prison: when a non-violent offender, say someone charged with possession of a controlled substance – which carries a hefty penalty – is thrown in the jail or prison system with violent and hardened criminals, many times, the newbie becomes indoctrinated with a new sense (or lack thereof) of morality – the prison code. So, this relatively harmless offender comes out of the system as a much more dangerous threat to society, having learned the “tools of the trade” to lead a criminal lifestyle. This is all too often the case. Again, perhaps a strange analogy but, quite fitting in my opinion. In the case of celebrities, you have this wide-eyed kid who’s new on the scene and hoping for their big break at stardom. They are all-too willing to please and partake in activities if it’s with the “right” people – the big-shots or those who are closely connected to the big shots.
With big paychecks comes the ability to support big habits. That’s just common sense. But feeding a drug habit is a very expensive undertaking and even some of the highest paid celebrities can become bankrupt in the face of a nasty drug habit. When in my active addiction, there were so many times I’d think to myself or tell my “using buddies” that I wished I was famous but not for the fame; for the money. My biggest dream at that time was somehow having tons of money, so much that I wouldn’t know what to do with it. Well, I knew and it wasn’t anything good – I would indulge my addicted ways with a steady supply of drugs until my own untimely death from an overdose. That’s actually how I planned it. Sick, yes. But not all that uncommon among junkies.
Fame and Fortune Cause Addiction: The Bottom Line
Could these things actually be the cause of addiction? In reality, I don’t think so. They definitely help to feed an addiction in someone who may already be predisposed to substance abuse but, I don’t think being a celebrity, alone, can cause addiction. Science has found actual genetic evidence of brain differences in people with addiction – and not just while they are actively using. There is some pretty compelling evidence from studies of identical twins that shows that addiction may very well be hereditary. Further bolstering these finds are the results of many studies, which show that the majority of people who have tried hard drugs did not then become addicted to using them. Also, consider all of the folks who are able to drink responsibly and then there are true alcoholics, who can’t simply stop after one or two drinks. This alone goes to show that addiction doesn’t have really all that much to do with the substance, itself, rather the individual.
If you or your loved one is in need of alcohol or drug addiction treatment, please give us a call at 800-951-6135.
Matthew Perry is probably better known as the comedic character on the show ‘Friends,’ Chandler Bing. As we all sat and watched the lighthearted show about friends and love that we related to so much; little did we know what was going on the behind scenes. Matthew Perry was battling and suffering with a serious addiction to alcohol and painkillers. Matthew Perry was in his early 30’s around that time and was at the height of his career. He had a multimillion dollar salary on the hit television show ‘Friends’ and had numerous offers for feature films and endorsements. It really goes to show that addiction can happen to anyone even if they have what many of us find an “ideal” life. Matthew Perry’s ideal life came at a high price; for him it resulted in an addiction to alcohol and the narcotic painkiller, so many of us have heard of before, Vicodin.
In 2002, Matthew Perry told People magazine that at the lowest points of his addiction to painkillers and alcohol he would take 20 to 30 Vicodin pills and drink about a “quart of vodka a day.” Matthew Perry’s addiction started when he was prescribed Vicodin for a wisdom tooth extraction. Eventually the drug abuse began to take its toll on his body. The rumors ran rampant at this point that Matthew Perry had an eating disorder due to the weight fluctuations he was having. The weight fluctuations were actually caused by pancreatitis which is an effect of heavy drinking. Perry than returned to rehab for an “undisclosed illness” in 2001, following a trip in 1997. There was constant media coverage of his addiction throughout the entire ordeal
And even though Perry admits the constant media coverage was overwhelming at times, it actually played a huge role in helping him to get sober and stay sober, believe it or not. He’s said this is because fans were more than willing to help the actor get clean and kept him in line while he was out on the town.
He told ABC News, “It (the coverage) actually ultimately helped me because I couldn’t just walk into a bar (and ask for a drink). Everybody in the bar would go, ‘You can’t do that! I just read that you can’t do that! I can’t (give you a drink), you can’t (drink).”
Perry is now on the road to recovery, and works with addiction specialists and government officials to reform America’s drug laws, even offering up his posh Malibu, California home as a sober living facility to fellow addicts. “The thing that I’m most proud of in my life is that if a stranger came up to me and said, ‘I can’t stop drinking. I can’t stop drinking. Can you help me?’ I can say, ‘Yes, I can help you.'”
Recently, the White House awarded Perry with the Champion of Recovery Award.
And while Mathew Perry has been mostly focused on helping other addicts achieve sobriety, the recent rumors of a ‘Friends’ reunion have not gone unnoticed. So will we get to see the return of Chandler Bing? “I don’t think so,” he said. “It would be terrible to do something and have it not be good. If we did a movie and it sucked, then it would, you know, blemish it.”
If you or someone you love is in need of drug addiction treatment, please give us a call at 800-951-6135.