“Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing”: Addiction in Hollywood

Elizabeth Ippolito, Television Beat Reporter

Author: Matthew Perry

Rating: 5/5

Trigger Warning: This article contains a discussion of substance abuse, alcoholism, depression, and anxiety. If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction, SAMHSA National Helpline is available 24/7 free of charge at the number 1-800-662-4357.


“What would I tell God when he reminded me of my prayer, the one I’d whispered three weeks before I got friends. God, you can do whatever you want to me. Just please make me famous”

“Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing” is a memoir written by Matthew Perry who many people young and old know as Chandler Bing in the groundbreaking 90’s sitcom “Friends”. But as many tuned in Thursday nights at 9 p.m. from 1994-2004 for their weekly laughs, the comic relief of the show was battling something so much more horrifying than the mind can imagine. Perry was struggling with addiction. Addiction to alcohol, pills, and attention. 

In “Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing” Matthew Perry breaks down his life for his readers. The book mainly focuses on his struggles with addiction, depression, and anxiety and guides the readers through his career at the same time. 

Perry describes his childhood with the simple phrase, “unaccompanied minor”, which he claims was the original title of the book. Perry was abandoned by his father when he was a young child and never felt accepted in the new family his mother created. Perry remembers being introduced to alcohol at just 14 years old and he immediately was hooked. His addiction only intensified when he moved to Los Angeles when he was 16 and began working as an actor. 

Hollywood is no stranger to addiction, with 300 celebrity deaths caused by addiction from 1970 to 2015 according to American Addiction Centers. With all the societal pressure of the entertainment industry, there is a very small circle of those who can relate. Celebrities such as Robert Downey Jr., Demi Lovato, and Drew Barrymore have made headlines in the past regarding their addictions and their recovery. But, Hollywood’s not-so-secret epidemic has crept into the lives of many who reside there. In the state of California, addictive substances such as cocaine, heroin, and other prescription painkillers are illegal, but they are legal for possession if they were prescribed by a doctor. In simpler terms, addictive substances are frequently prescribed to patients and thus cause these critical substance addictions.

Perry describes his time working on “Friends” as “the best experience of his life” he also explained to readers that the series has saved his life whether it be the people he worked with or the name it made for him. He talks about his path to recovery when he states, “I have spent upwards of $7 million trying to get sober. I have been to six thousand AA meetings. (Not an exaggeration.) I have been to rehab 15 times. I’ve been in a mental institution, gone to therapy twice a week for 30 years, and have been to death’s door”. Perry explains to readers that he was fortunate enough to be able to receive all the help he needed to overcome his addiction due to the success of “Friends.” 

But being in the limelight wasn’t so easy for Perry. He explains the pressure he faced every day from fans, “I would die inside if my joke didn’t land or someone got more laughs than me.” Perry explained his struggles with working on a comedy that was recorded in front of a live audience. All of his life he felt the pressure to entertain whether it be to cheer up his family or to get his peers to like him. Perry reminisces on using humor as a coping mechanism, throwing himself into the fire for a laugh.  

Life after “Friends” did not get any easier for Perry. He writes in extreme detail about how his addiction overcame his life. He was in and out of numerous rehabilitation centers all over the state of California, describing each detoxification process as if “my insides were trying to escape my body, there is no pain comparable- physical or emotional”. For those who are unaware of the detoxification process, it essentially is the process in which rehabilitation centers attempt to rid the body of its drug dependence by lowering doses and substituting addictive substances for other sedatives. The process is extremely painful and grueling. Perry speaks about his mindset every time he went through it, “I’d go through detoxification and four hours later I’d get high again, ruining my progress and being forced to start again. I didn’t care.”

Finally in 2020 while in a rehabilitation center in California, Perry’s body couldn’t take any more. Perry suffered from a perforated bowel due to his years of drinking. This is a condition that not many recover from. While in emergency surgery to treat the perforated bowel, Perry had gone into a two-week coma and was given a two percent chance to live. When he finally woke up he then knew he had to get sober. 

Matthew Perry is 2 years sober from alcohol and all addictive substances. “Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing” is the first time Matthew Perry has come forward to speak about his addiction to the public. 

The book is a poetic masterpiece and extremely detailed about Perry’s struggles. If you are a reader who loves memoirs and strong writing, “Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing” is a must-read. 

Perry writes, “As I’ve said, for the entire stay in those hospitals, I was never left alone- not once. So there is a light at the end of the tunnel- you just have to look hard enough for it” If there is one thing readers can take away from this memoir, it’s this: check in on your funny friends. Those who strive to make others laugh nine times out of ten are the ones hurting the most.