Inside Matthew Perry's tragic real life story

Matthew Perry was once one of television's most beloved actors. For ten years, from 1994 to 2004, he played the unforgettably sarcastic Chandler Bing on the hit NBC sitcom Friends, a role that snagged him an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series in 2002. He later followed up on his small screen success with the shows Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, Mr. Sunshine, and Go On — not to mention films like The Whole Nine Yards and Serving Sara. But while Perry's pockets were likely lined with lots of cash, his private life was secretly falling apart.

From an addiction to prescription pills and several trips to rehab to health issues and surprising scandals, Perry's Hollywood life hasn't been all red carpets and applause. In fact, his real-life story has been downright tragic. Keep reading to learn all about the actor's off-screen troubles that have, unfortunately, spanned decades.

A jet ski accident started his spiral

Perry's initial spiral out of control had nothing to do with hard-partying in Hollywood. According to People, the star suffered a jet ski accident 1997 and became addicted to prescribed Vicodin.

"'Here, take this,'" he remembers the doctors telling him. "I did and I felt better than I ever felt in my entire life. I had a big problem with pills and alcohol, and I couldn't stop." 

Things were further complicated by the success of Friends. "I was on Friends from age 24 to 34," Perry said. "I was in the white-hot flame of fame. The six of us were just everywhere all the time. From an outsider's perspective, it would seem like I had it all. It was actually a very lonely time for me because I was suffering from alcoholism. It was going on before Friends, but it's a progressive disease. I wasn't a massive party guy. I wasn't a bull-in-a-china-shop kind of drinker."

He went to rehab multiple times

In 1997, Perry made his first trip to rehab to try to kick his pill habit. According to People, he stayed 28 days at Minnesota's Hazelden Foundation rehabilitation center. The following year he told the magazine, "I don't think there's anything in the world that I can't face, having faced that," he said. "That was the scariest thing that's ever happened to me. You get a whole new respect for yourself and life when you go through something that difficult."

He returned to rehab a second time 2001, reported ABC News. "Matthew has every intention of completing his treatment so that he can continue his dream of entertaining people and making them laugh," his publicist said in a statement. "He appreciates everyone's concern and thanks them for respecting his privacy."

According to the Los Angeles Times, Perry's second trip caught NBC off guard as Friends was in production, but network officials would not disclose if his treatment affected the filming schedule. 

He suffered from pancreatitis

In between his first and second trips to rehab, Perry wound up in the hospital for two weeks with acute pancreatitis and lost 20 pounds. The condition is reportedly caused by both alcohol abuse and prescription drug abuse.

"In my case, it was hard living and drinking hard and eating poorly," he told Us Weekly (via E! News.) "You play, you pay. But there were no pills involved. I learned my lesson at Hazelden."

Following his release from the hospital, Perry crashed his Porsche into an empty house. He was uninjured in the snafu, and neither drugs nor alcohol were found in his system at the time. "The irony was terrible," he told Us Weekly of the awful day. "I was going to hang with my father at his place outside L.A. I made the first corner around my house on these really narrow streets, saw a courier van in the middle, swerved to the right and — well, I don't really know what happened — I crashed into this porch."

He made a third trip to rehab

Perry returned to rehab for a third time in 2011. He told TMZ he had not relapsed but was simply being proactive. "I'm making plans to go away for a month to focus on my sobriety and to continue my life in recovery," he said. "Please enjoy making fun of me on the world wide web."

From there, Perry began striving to advocate for others recovering from drug and alcohol abuse. Speaking with lawmakers (above), the actor said, "Drug courts are the single most effective program for curing serious drug addicts for lifelong recovery." Talking to The Hill, Perry added, "Any opportunity I get to talk about drug courts on a one-on-one level or a much bigger level—like testifying in that scary room — I grab at because it's just one of the few things that's a no-brainer: it saves lives, it saves money, it's bipartisan."

He forgot three years of Friends

Three years of Friends are a little blurry for Perry. As he revealed in a BBC interview, he can't remember a big chunk of the series because of his addiction. When asked what his least favorite episode was, Perry didn't mince words. "Oh, my goodness," he said. "I think the answer is, I don't remember three years of it. So none of those … somewhere between season 3 and 6." 

Perry told People in 2013 that his struggles were hard to mask. "I couldn't stop. Eventually things got so bad that I couldn't hide it, and then everybody knew." He said he never used drugs or abused alcohol while on set. "I was never high at work," he said. "I was painfully hungover."

He turned his house into a rehab facility

Perry's work to help others fighting their demons went beyond speaking with lawmakers. He took it a step further and opened his former home to those in need in 2013. According to a People magazine interview (via Today), Perry created Perry's House for men seeking a 12-step sobriety and meditation program. He essentially gave up his four bedroom Malibu home to help others.

He partnered with interventionist and addiction specialist Earl Hightower to prepare. "Matthew is an ambassador of possibility for a vast group of people," Hightower said. "People he'll never meet will get services because he championed their cause." 

He sold the rehab facility

Perry's House experienced two years of success, but, in 2015, the program hit a bump in the road — and it all had to do with finances. As a result, Matthew Perry sold the 5,500-square-foot home for $10.65 million, noting that it simply cost too much to keep going. "That was a Malibu beach house, and it was too expensive to run and the business didn't really work," Perry explained to The Hollywood Reporter.

But, just because the Malibu home wound up not working out, that doesn't mean the actor's over and done with Perry's House. He shared that he was going to continue running the rehabilitation center once he found a more affordable location. Mentioning that he was looking at places in Santa Monica and Studio City, Perry said, "I'm keeping the business going because I like it; it's a good way to go help alcoholics."

At the time of this writing, Perry has yet to make any public announcement about the facility's next location or its opening date.

He beat up the Canadian Prime Minister

Even before Perry was famous, he was a troublemaker— like the time he beat up Justin Trudeau. Yes, that one. Granted, Perry was a fifth grader in Canada when he and a friend roughed up the future Prime Minister, but the memory stuck with him. "We both beat him up," Perry told Jimmy Kimmel. "I think he was excelling in a sport that we weren't so it was pure jealousy."

"I think he was the only kid in school that we could beat up," Perry continued. "You know, I'm not bragging about this, this is terrible. I was a stupid kid, I didn't want to beat him up. In fact, I think at one point I tried to turn it into love play."

Trudeau later made news when he issued a statement asking for a rematch. Perry, who has wised up, declined the invitation. "I was like, 'Dude — you have an army at your disposal. I'm not going to accept the challenge!'" he said.

A porn star claims he asked her to get him pills

Perry's claims of sobriety got broadsided in November 2017 when a porn star told the Daily Mail that Perry allegedly tried to hit her up for pills. Maddy O'Reilly, the adult entertainer who claims to have previously hooked up with Perry in his Hollywood Hills home, said the actor texted her to ask if she had "a contact" who could help him score 40 or 50 "Vicaden/Roxy's/oxys," which are all powerful prescription opioids. 

Perry never publicly responded to the allegation, and with seemingly good reason. For starters, O'Reilly claimed the whole text exchange started on an unverified Instagram account. On top of that, she claimed Perry initially asked her out to dinner, blew her off at the last minute, then texted her a few more times before the supposed request for pills.

It doesn't take a detective to consider that O'Reilly could have been catfished. Also, if she sold this story to a tabloid after an apparent rejection, even if Perry did fall off the wagon in this admittedly embarrassing way, O'Reilly comes off looking rather shady too.

No one told him The Odd Couple was canned

In April 2017, Perry tweeted, "My face on the Odd Couple stage door has been painted over with green paint. I think it's safe to assume that we have been cancelled. #subtle." Perry seemed to imply that he was blindsided with the sudden end to his big return to a network sitcom, however, upon closer inspection it seems Perry was either being naive or just plain deceptive.

Co-star Thomas Lennon already spilled the tea to Cinema Blend the month prior, telling the site that "the numbers" weren't so hot. If The Odd Couple returned, "no one would be more surprised than me," he said. Before that, TV Line reported in November 2016 that CBS "opted not to order an additional back-nine episodes for the series' third season, capping it at just 13," an ominous clue that apparently flew right over Perry's head.

It sounds like Perry was maybe playing up the role of unsuspecting victim here a little, but still, we admit that a phone call would have been the classier move for CBS.

He was recognized by the White House

In May 2013, Perry was awarded the Champion of Recovery Award from the Obama Administration's Office of National Drug Control Policy. Perry was speechless. According to The Hollywood Reporter, he called the honor "surreal," adding, "During my darkest times, I never could of imagined receiving an award at the White House." 

In 2015, Perry was given the Phoenix Rising Award by the famed rehab facility Phoenix House. "You can't have a drug problem for 30 years and then expect to have it be solved in 28 days," Perry told The Hollywood Reporter about his award. "At Phoenix House, I was very moved by the hope that I saw there, which is what this is all about. Getting sober is a really hard thing to do."

Ever the comedian, he quipped, "I'm an award-winning alcoholic. I shouldn't be getting an award; Phoenix House should be getting an award."

He is determined to help others

Despite a personal life filled with numerous ups and downs, Perry continues to transform his troubles into a positive purpose, and for that, he deserves a standing ovation. 

"My life has a lot more meaning now that I try to help people," Perry told The Hill. "It's also a selfish thing—it makes you feel better than anything else will."

No matter what, he seems to embrace a glass-half-full perspective. "I've had a lot of ups and downs in my life and a lot of wonderful accolades," he told The Hollywood Reporter, "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.'"