In the wake of the untimely passing of Matthew Perry, renowned for his iconic role in “Friends,” we remember him not only for his remarkable acting career but also for his unwavering dedication to combatting the stigma surrounding substance use disorder and aiding those on the path to recovery.
Matthew Perry’s influence extended far beyond the small screen. For many, he was a source of inspiration and hope in their battle against addiction. Shaun Hedden, a devoted “Friends” fan, found solace in Perry’s portrayal of Chandler Bing. Still, it was Perry’s candidness about his struggles with substance use that genuinely resonated with him. Matthew Perry’s unexpected passing at 54 left Hedden deeply saddened.
“I wanted the chance to go to a book signing and shake his hand and thank him because his book kept me sober,” Mr Hedden shared.
For over two decades, Matthew Perry openly discussed his experiences with substance use disorder and tirelessly worked to help others in their journey to recovery. Since his passing, a collection of quotes from Perry has circulated online, emphasizing his genuine desire to be remembered for his efforts to destigmatize addiction.
“I’ve had a lot of ups and downs in my life and many wonderful accolades,” Perry once remarked. “But the best thing about me is that if an alcoholic comes up to me and says, ‘Will you help me stop drinking?’ I will say, ‘Yes. I know how to do that.'”
“Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing,” Perry’s brutally honest biography, was released in 2022. It gave an accurate picture of his difficulties with recovery and relapses with drug misuse. Perry had an obvious goal: to help others facing comparable difficulties by sharing his story from a time when he was feeling strong.
Having abstained from alcohol since 2006, Mr. Hedden found inspiration in Perry’s autobiography at a trying time in his recovery.
He explained that reading Perry’s words motivated him to continue attending Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings and working on self-improvement.
Hedden’s experience is not unique. Many fans have shared stories of how Matthew Perry’s openness and honesty have played a crucial role in their journeys toward recovery. One young woman, who chose to remain anonymous, revealed that Perry’s book helped her understand and accept her substance use disorder, particularly during her recovery following an overdose.
Matthew Perry’s candid discussions about relapse, a common aspect of recovery often deemed taboo, resonated deeply with those striving to overcome addiction. His story of repeatedly getting back on track offered reassurance and healing to many.
In 2013, Perry transformed a property he owned in Malibu into Perry House, a sober living facility for men. He also campaigned for people arrested for non-violent drug offenses to be offered treatment instead of incarceration.
Following Perry’s passing, William C. Moyers, the Vice President of Public Affairs and Community Relations for Hazelden Betty Ford, where Perry sought treatment in 1997, praised Perry’s role in offering an honest portrayal of addiction. Perry’s legacy, Moyers emphasized, lies in his recovery journey and his ability to inspire others never to give up.
Furthermore, Matthew Perry was given the Office of National Drug Control Policy’s Champion of Recovery award in 2013. He supported the use of drug courts as a treatment tool and argued that treatment for drug use disorders should be given to patients instead of incarceration.
Matthew Perry’s work did not go unnoticed. He received the Phoenix Rising Award from Phoenix House, a treatment center, for his efforts in helping young people with substance use disorders. Perry consistently deflected the recognition, stating that the award should belong to Phoenix House.
In the aftermath of Matthew Perry’s passing, the recovery community expressed its deep sense of loss. Perry’s advocacy and courage in sharing his recovery journey shone a light on the ongoing stigma surrounding drug addiction.
Matthew Perry’s impact is undeniable. He inspired countless individuals to persevere, and his memory continues to influence their journeys to recovery. Mr. Hedden eloquently expressed this feeling: “I wish I could thank Matt for helping me.”
Organizations such as Frank (UK) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in the US offer 24/7 confidential help and support to individuals who are struggling with drug addiction. Take the initial step towards your recovery by reaching out.
Matthew Perry’s legacy lives on through the countless lives he touched and the hope he instilled in those fighting against addiction.