By now, many people know that Friends actor Matthew Perry has gone through a tough battle with alcohol and opiates. Now, Perry is being awarded for his efforts in improving addiction treatment centers. The star was given the Phoenix Rising Award by his costar Lisa Kudrow at a gala in Beverly Hills. Prior to being presented with the award, Perry was called a hero by those on the red carpet and a role model for people looking to get sober. Yet Perry was bashful about his success. “It’s very gratifying, but I’m not a hero, I’m just a guy who got sober, and I’m passing along the message the best I can, and I think that maybe because I was on a TV show more people listen,” he told the Irish Examiner.
A long-term issue
Perry has admitted that his addiction first began at age 13 with drinking, when he was a nationally-ranked tennis player in Canada. His mother moved him to Los Angeles to test out his tennis talent in the U.S., but he was not very successful. Yet the star’s alcohol addiction did not fully develop until Friends aired when he was 24 and he started drinking heavily. His addiction got worse in 1997 when he was prescribed Vicodin after a jet ski accident. The witty star has told many publications that he was never high on the set, but he was hungover and lonely. Despite trying to cover up his addiction, over the years it became apparent to his costars and others that Perry had an issue with substance abuse. He was also heavily scrutinized by tabloids, as the cast was constantly in the limelight during their time on the show. Perry stated that he could not walk into a bar without people discouraging him from drinking. He recalled people saying they had read the tabloids and would approach him saying, “You can’t do that.” During his time on Friends, he went through several stints in rehab. His time in and out of addiction treatment centers can be seen through his obvious weight fluctuations on the show. Now Perry noted it is hard for him to look at pictures of himself from that time. “I honestly recoil. It’s scary to look at that. I was a sick guy,” he said during a revealing interview with ABC News in 2013.
I honestly recoil. It’s scary to look at that. I was a sick guy.
Turning over a new leaf Luckily, Perry finally defeated his demons and was able to come out on top. While he has not been very successful in the world of show business as he has had difficulty launching many projects, he has experienced great triumphs in helping others with addiction. “I was a hopelessly narcissistic guy, and I only thought about myself, and then that just shifted, and when that happened, I got some true happiness and comfort in my life,” he told People magazine. In 2013, the star transformed his house in Malibu into “the Perry House,” an addiction treatment center for men. He also has not been afraid to speak up and defend others dealing with addiction. Perry regularly stands as an advocate in drug courts where he asks that nonviolent offenders with substance abuse issues get sent to rehab instead of jail. In addition, he has stood in front of Congress and discussed the benefits of sending people to rehab in drug courts, and lobbied politicians to provide $45 million for addiction treatment centers. His actions were so powerful, he earned himself an award from the White House in 2012. He also defended the concept of addiction as a disease against a notable British journalist during a debate in 2013 and shut the opponent’s ideas down. Years later, Perry’s work is far from over as he continuously visits addiction treatment centers in hopes of inspiring others to get clean.