Actor Matthew Perry’s unexpected death on Saturday afternoon quickly led to an outpouring of heartfelt tributes and heartbroken reactions.
Perry was found dead in a home in the Pacific Palisades neighborhood of Los Angeles from an apparent drowning. He was 54.
Perry was a beloved actor best known for his portrayal of Chandler Bing on the sitcom Friends for which he won a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series. He also received Primetime Emmy Award nominations for his performances in The West Wing and The Ron Clark Story.
The challenges Perry faced throughout his life started early. His parents divorced before his first birthday. He was raised mainly by his mother in Ottawa, Canada.
At age 10, he began misbehaving – stealing money, smoking and letting his grades slip.
At age 14, he began drinking – an innocent first sip turned into a lifelong struggle with alcoholism. By 18, he was drinking every day.
As is the case with all addictions, drinking could mask the pain – but it couldn’t heal his soul. Perry eventually turned to pain pills following a jet ski accident.
By 2000, all outward measures showed Perry was at the top of his game – he was the epitome of “success.” He was earning $1 million per episode of Friends, and was on the number one show and the number one movie, The Whole Nine Yards.
Yet, Perry said, all he wanted was more drugs.
In a 2022 sit-down interview with ABC’s Diana Sawyer about his memoir Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing, Perry revealed that at one point, he was taking as many as 55 Vicodin pills a day.
“At the time, I should have been the toast of the town,” he said. “[But] I was in a dark room meeting with nothing but drug dealers and completely alone for months.”
Perry’s addictions nearly took his life when he overdosed on opioids in 2018, leading to a burst colon and a five-month hospital stay. Despite being given a 2% chance of survival, he made it through.
After hitting rock bottom, Perry wrote in his memoir that he decided to turn to God. He wrote,
“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.
Perry said his spiritual encounter led to two years of sobriety.
Despite experiencing more ups and down with his addiction, he always remembered this spiritual moment, saying it turned him into “a seeker, not only of sobriety, and truth, but also of him.”
Perry chose to use his mistakes for good and sought to help others who struggle with addiction get sober.
He became an advocate for drug rehabilitation and a spokesperson for the National Association of Drug Court Professionals. He was also awarded the Champion of Recovery Award from the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.
While the Lord is Matthew Perry’s judge, we can be hopeful that the Maker of heaven and earth – who loves and died for Matthew Perry – has forgiven him and will welcome him with open arms.
Perry’s personal life was marred by mistakes and missteps.
But isn’t that true for all of us?
We all have struggles. We all sin. And we all suffer as a result.
And yet, the Lord loves us and chooses to forgive us – if only we repent and turn to Him.
Christians know that God has created us for relationship with Him, and that we can know God most fully in the person of Jesus Christ, who loves and died for us.
“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39, ESV).
Christians also know that Christ is our Lord, our Savior and our God. But we also call Him our “Friend.”
No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15, ESV).
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