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