It should come as no surprise that actor Matthew Perry went to his death as a relatively young 54-year-old on October 28th.
A final autopsy is weeks away, but his body had faced demise before.
Drugs had taken their toll. Perry survived a coma in 2018 after nearly dying from a gastrointestinal perforation.
In an ABC News interview with Diane Sawyer, he admitted that he couldn’t tell his family about his condition. As he said,
“Secrets kill you. They kill people like me.”
So he told no one of his addiction to both pills and alcohol.
Yet he tried to break it. Some 6,000 AA meetings. Fifteen rehab experiences. In detox 65 times. Thirty years of the fight. Whether others knew or not, he knew.
Matthew Perry needed help badly.
He claimed to have spent 9 million dollars or more trying to get sober. How could Perry afford such treatment? When Friends had early ratings success, all cast members were paid $25,000 per episode. As it grew in popularity, that number rose to a million dollars each episode! Crazy.
Of his Friends television show companions, one is known to have reached out to help. The Christian Post reported that Jennifer Aniston confronted him about his addiction, saying that everyone could smell the alcohol on him. Perry’s problem escalated after using prescription painkillers following a jet skiing accident.
In his book Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing, Perry claims to have overcome his addiction in recent years thanks to the power of God. What he prayed, and how it changed him can be found here.
His “prayer life” started out quite differently. Perry recalled the first time he prayed to God he said that anything could be done to him so long as he became famous. His request was answered in a most troublesome way.
The desire for fame gripped him. In his words:
“I wanted to be famous so badly,” he told the New York Times in 2002.
“You want the attention, you want the bucks, and you want the best seat in the restaurant. I didn’t think what the repercussions would be.”
Such a contrast of life from the character he played on Friends. There he was, the witty and funny Chandler Bing. Inside the man, the pain reigned. Isn’t that the great contrast of drama as expressed in the famed Greek theater masks? The range of emotions presented by stage actors playing out comedy and tragedy.
But in real life, you can’t leave it all behind at the end of the shoot.
While Perry may have won his battle, addicts often don’t. Many end life before their time. Jon Belushi of the famed Blues Brothers is an example. And Heath Ledger.
And countless others. Hollywood is a haven for abuse. Of all kinds.
Recently at a dinner with a friend who is now in frequent contact with recording artists in the Christian community, I heard stories of similar battles in their personal lives. No names were shared. But hints at their popularity among an unknowing public. Their songs about the Higher Power at times have vacated their ability to handle the success.
And it’s not just Christian music. Ministry leaders can fight the addiction battle of one kind or another just as easily.
Success in business has driven many to the cellar of self control.
Matthew Perry reflected on his great success this way.
“When [stardom] happens, it’s kind of like Disneyland for a while. For me, it lasted about eight months, this feeling of, ‘I’ve made it, I’m thrilled, there’s no problem in the world.’ And then you realize that it doesn’t accomplish anything, it’s certainly not filling any holes in your life.”
Lessons learned by others don’t seem to provide adequate warning to us. King Solomon wrote plainly about vain pursuits. We read in Ecclesiastes 2:6-10 how he built houses, planted vineyards, gardens, and all kinds of trees. He had many slaves, herds and flocks, wives and concubines — even a haram. He amassed silver and gold and acquired an ample number of singers. As he said,
“I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me…I denied myself nothing my eyes desired. I refused my heart no pleasure.” (NIV)
Yet Solomon concludes the chapter by saying,
“So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” (vs 17, NIV)
This is a hard truth that each of us must swallow.
The greatest pursuit for every man and woman is to know God and experience His love.
Then we discover Jesus is the greatest Friend we can have.
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
You are My friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants,
because a servant does not know his master’s business.
Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that
I learned from My Father I have made known to you.