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Matthew Perry’s Book Reveals He Was Only Sober for 1 Season of ‘Friends’

The one where he decides to share it all. Matthew Perry rocketed to worldwide fame thanks to the success of Friends, but off screen, his addiction was taking a massive toll.

“You can track the trajectory of my addiction if you gauge my weight from season to season — when I’m carrying weight, it’s alcohol; when I’m skinny, it’s pills. When I have a goatee, it’s lots of pills,” the Almost Heroes star wrote in his memoir, Friends, Lovers & The Big Terrible Thing, which hits stories on Tuesday, November 1.

Perry noted that a drastic difference in appearance is sometimes visible from episode to episode. “Compare … how I look between the final episode of season six and the first of season seven — the Chandler-Monica proposal episodes,” he wrote. “I’m wearing the same clothes in the final episode of six and the first of seven [it’s supposed to be the same night], but I must have lost fifty pounds in the off-season.”

The actor played sarcastic Chandler Bing on the beloved sitcom, which ran from 1994 to 2004. Over the years, his character had a grand romance with Courteney Cox‘s Monica Gellar, the sister of his college best friend, Ross (David Schwimmer). The cast was rounded out by Lisa Kudrow, Jennifer Aniston and Matt LeBlanc.

In his memoir, Perry recalled having his first drink with friends at the age of 14. “The world made sense; it wasn’t bent and crazy. I was complete, at peace. I had never been happier than in that moment,” the Massachusetts native said about drinking for the first time. While Perry’s first drinks made him feel “normal” for the first time, he experienced an entirely new sensation after being given a pain pill after getting into a jet ski accident on a movie set in 1997.

“As the pill kicked in, something clicked in me. And it’s been that click I’ve been chasing the rest of my life. … I couldn’t believe how good I felt; I was in complete and pure euphoria,” he recalled. “I was on top of the world. It was the greatest feeling I’d ever had. Nothing could ever go wrong. As I drove that red Mustang convertible to my rented house in Vegas, I remember thinking, If this doesn’t kill me, I’m doing this again.”

The Fools Rush In star later added: “A year and a half later, I was taking fifty-five of those pills a day. I weighed 128 pounds when I checked into Hazelden rehab in Minnesota, my life in ruins.”

Through all of the ups and downs, Perry’s Friends costars were there to support him. “[Jennifer Aniston] always took time to listen to him, even when she was busy or had her own issues to deal with,” a source told Us Weekly exclusively in October 2022. “Matthew feels that these people who stood by him when the chips were down, Jennifer included, saved his life without question. They gave him the will to carry on and get healthy, even though it took a huge amount of willpower of his own.”

Kudrow — who wrote the foreword for Perry’s memoir — explained that the cast became family during their time working together. “[Addiction is] a hideous disease, and he has a tough version of it. What’s not changing is his will to keep going, keep fighting and keep living,” the Comeback star told the New York Times in October 2022. “I love Matthew a lot. We’re part of a family. I’m basically ending this with ‘I’ll be there for you’ [the Friends theme song], but it’s true. I’ll always be there for him.”

Keep scrolling to learn more about what Perry revealed about Friends in his memoir:

Chandler’s Signature Way of Speaking Was Inspired By His Own Childhood
One of the ways fans connected with Perry’s character was through his sarcasm, which the actor pulled from his own linguistic quirks. “I had my first drink when I was fourteen. … I was hanging out a lot with two brothers, Chris and Brian Murray,” the Odd Couple alum wrote. “Somehow, since third grade we’d developed a way of talking that went, ‘Could it be any hotter?’ or ‘Could the teacher be any meaner?’ or ‘Could we be more in detention?’ — a cadence you might recognize if you’re a fan of Friends, or if you’ve noticed how America has been talking for the past couple of decades or so.”
He Knew He Was Perfect For Chandler Even Before the Audition
It was easy for Perry to add some of his own personality into the character of Chandler from the very first time he read the Friends pilot, which was originally titled Friends Like Us. “When I read the script for Friends Like Us it was as if someone had followed me around for a year, stealing my jokes, copying my mannerisms, photocopying my world-weary yet witty view of life,” he explained. “One character in particular stood out to me: it wasn’t that I thought I could play ‘Chandler,’ I was Chandler.”
The Whole Nine Yards star added that many of his Hollywood friends also noted the similarities between him and Chandler, even going so far as to ask him to help them rehearse for the audition. “I ended up knowing the script for Friends Like Us pretty much off by heart because I’d practiced it so much with my pals—in fact, there were times I just acted Chandler out for them and told them to copy what I’d done, so sure was I that it was the right way to play him.”
After months of begging his agent to get him the chance to meet with the show’s creators, he finally got the chance to audition — and completely nailed his audition. “I read as Chandler for [creator Marta Kauffman], and I broke all the rules — for a start, I didn’t carry any pages of the script (you’re supposed to carry the script with you when you read, because that way, you’re acknowledging to the writers that it’s just a work in progress),” he wrote. “But I knew the script so well by this point. Of course, I nailed it.”
But He Almost Didn’t Get the Role
Despite knowing he’d be perfect for the role of Chandler, the Go On alum almost didn’t even get the chance to audition because he had already been cast in the pilot of L.A.X. 2194. “I was Chandler. But I was also Blaine in L.A.X. 2194. F–k me, is everyone kidding? Am I the least lucky person on the planet?” Perry explained.
Perry Can Track Where He Was in His Addiction While Rewatching ‘Friends’
“If you watch season three of Friends, I hope you’ll be horrified at how thin I am by the end of the season (opioids f–k with your appetite, plus they make you vomit constantly),” Perry wrote, noting that it’s easy to track the stages of his addictions based on his appearance throughout the series. “In the final episode, you’ll see that I’m wearing a white shirt, and tan slacks, and both look at least three sizes too big for me. … My weight varied between 128 pounds and 225 pounds during the years of Friends.)”
He continued: “You can track the trajectory of my addiction if you gauge my weight from season to season—when I’m carrying weight, it’s alcohol; when I’m skinny, it’s pills. When I have a goatee, it’s lots of pills.”
His Costars Supported Him When His Addiction Took Over
When his addictions began affecting his work, the Friends cast rallied around Perry to support him. “In nature, when a penguin is injured, the other penguins group around it and prop it up until it’s better. This is what my costars on Friends did for me,” he said, explaining that he’d frequently use the spin bike that Aniston and Cox had installed on set to power through his hangovers.
“But still, the addiction ravaged me,” the Studio 60 On the Sunset Strip alum continued. “One time, in a scene in the coffeehouse when I’m dressed in a suit, I fell asleep right there on the couch, and disaster was averted only when Matt LeBlanc nudged me awake right before my line; no one noticed, but I knew how close I’d come.”
Perry Was Only Sober For 1 Season of ‘Friends’
After checking into rehab twice during his time working on the hit sitcom — once in 1997 and again in 2001 — Perry was able to stay “completely sober” for the entirety of season 9. “Friends was a juggernaut, too, and I didn’t have to worry about f–king that up — I was clean, and I was about to have my season, the one where everyone was talking about Chandler,” he wrote, adding that it was “the only year I was completely sober for a Friends season.”
Aniston Was the First One Who Decided to Leave the Show
While the entire cast was “ready to be done” with Friends by the time the 10th season rolled around, it was Aniston who was the first to ask to leave. “Jennifer Aniston had decided that she didn’t want to do the show anymore, and as we all made decisions as a group, that meant we all had to stop,” Perry recalled. “Even though it had been the greatest job in the world, the stories of Monica, Chandler, Joey, Ross, Rachel, and Phoebe had all pretty much played out by 2004. It was not lost on me that Chandler had grown up way faster than I had. As a result, mostly by Jenny’s design, ten was a shortened season.”
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