The media has been full of stories about the death of former Friends star Matthew Perry, 54, in his hot tub. Most have focused mainly on the show’s impact and his importance to its success. I was more interested in his addictions and his long struggle with recovery.
The Guardian did the best job covering that. Here’s a link:
There’s lots more in his autobiography, which came out last year. Title: Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing.
Some excerpts from the article:
“Perry characterized himself as a ready-made, just-add-water addict: An alcoholic with his first drink at the age of 14, and hooked on painkillers with his first pill, prescribed after a jet ski accident.”
Not an uncommon story. If we conceive of addiction as a disease, Perry would represent those most vulnerable to it. Very little actual exposure to substances would be enough to trigger the pathology. Once that occurred, the real challenge would be how to stop it.
It isn’t easy.
“The fact that Perry managed to more or less keep it together over 10 seasons and 236 episodes, often while juggling ferocious substance abuse, is only further testament to his talent.”
Not really. The history of addiction is chock-full of examples of people who were able to continue functioning at a high level while under the influence of amounts that would stop the rest of us dead in our tracks. That’s the result of tolerance and also dependence, the physical withdrawal that motivates someone to continue using in the face of the inevitable adverse consequences. As one former patient described it: “The more dope I used, the sicker I was when it wore off. And the more I needed to use the next time out.”
“Even a “sober companion” to shadow him at work proved insufficient safeguard”. Well duh. Reminds me of the gambler who paid an employee to stand behind him at the tables, with instructions to pull him away (by force if necessary) before he lost control. I had to wonder what would happen if his handler was on a bathroom break when the urge hit.
Bankruptcy, I suppose.
No word yet on the cause of death. Drugs not found at the scene, so we’ll need to wait for the tox results to be sure.
Seriously, is it all that important? It’s his life people will remember.