Is Matthew Perry, former star of the hit NBC sitcom, “Friends,” and a celebrated celebrity known for alcoholic and drug-induced binges, now a Christian?
On a national media tour to promote a new memoir, the actor has been revealing intimate details of some of the lowest and highest points of his life, including what he describes as an encounter with God.
Matthew Perry began drinking when he was just 14 years old. Don’t let anyone suggest underage drinking is harmless, innocent fun. For Perry, it all started with a can of Budweiser. Then another. Next came Baby Duck wine, sweet Canadian alcohol. Soon that wasn’t enough. The vodka and pain pills came next – and didn’t stop.
What pain was he covering or what fantasy was he pursuing? It was a bit of both.
Perry’s parents divorced before his first birthday. Raised in Ottawa, he also spent time in Montreal and Toronto. He recently told Diane Sawyer that he was a teenager when he prayed for the first time, and it’s a prayer he now regrets.
“God, you can do whatever you want to me,” he recalls praying. “Just please make me famous.”
Newly arrived in Los Angeles, Perry landed bit parts and fairly steady roles on a variety of television shows. The role of Chandler Bing on “Friends” came in 1994, a character that made him both rich and famous.
But Perry was never far from his addictions, going on binges here and there and trying (often unsuccessfully) to hide it from fellow cast members. Money and fame can blind someone to their problems – or provide a false sense that everything is going to somehow be okay. Matthew Perry says he spent upwards of $9 million just trying to get sober and clean. Drug abuse rotted his teeth to the point that his top row fell out one day.
As you may know from tabloid stories, Perry’s addictions also proved nearly fatal. An opioid overdose led to a burst colon and an extended hospital stay.
“I was given a 2 percent chance to survive the night,” Perry told HBO’s Bill Maher. “They didn’t tell me that, obviously, because I wasn’t really there, but they told my family. And I was put on a thing called an ECMO [Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation] machine. … They call that a hail Mary. … Five people were on ECMO that night, and the other four died, and I somehow made it.”
Hitting bottom is what finally led Matthew Perry to turn to God once again, but this time with a humbler yet earnest plea. Recounting the event in his book, the actor writes:
‘God, please help me,’ I whispered. ‘Show me that you are here. God, please help me.’
As I kneeled, the light slowly began to get bigger, and bigger, until it was so big that it encompassed the entire room…What was happening? And why was I starting to feel better?
I started to cry. I mean, I really started to cry – that shoulder-shaking kind of uncontrollable weeping. I wasn’t crying because I was sad. I was crying because for the first time in my life, I felt OK. I felt safe, taken care of. Decades of struggling with God, and wrestling with life, and sadness, all was being washed away, like a river of pain gone into oblivion.
I had been in the presence of God. I was certain of it. And this time I had prayed for the right thing: help.
In a world full of bad news, the very best news is that the Lord can transform and reform the very worst parts of us. Whatever you may be struggling with, turn it over to Him, knowing that He makes all things new (Rev. 21:5).
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