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The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

Remembering Matthew Perry

Valerie Jarrett/Wikimedia Commmons
Matthew Perry at an event for the National Association of Drug Court Professionals in 2013, a non-profit for which he was a spokesperson for.

In the early evening of Oct. 28, the world was shocked when TMZ announced that Matthew Perry, the notable actor and author, had died. My friend and I stared at each other in disbelief when we heard the news, watching as reactions from social media began pouring in.

Perry died of an apparent drowning, though his official cause of death has been listed as “deferred” as additional investigative steps have been deemed necessary, according to the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner’s Office.

His role in “The West Wing” may have earned him two Emmy nominations, but there’s no denying that Perry’s role as the beloved Chandler Bing on “Friends” boosted him into international fame. The 10-season run earned him another Emmy nomination and cemented his place as a figurehead in pop culture.

While it would be easy to lament in detail about my own memories of “Friends” — to talk about jokes with my aunts and cousins, the “Friends”-themed birthday parties we hosted or the constant stream of live-reaction texts I sent to my friends as I watched it for the first time — it simply wouldn’t be the proper way to honor Perry’s memory.

“When I die, I know people will talk about ‘Friends,’ ‘Friends,’ ‘Friends,’” Perry said in an interview in November 2022. “But when I die, as far as my so-called accomplishments go, it would be nice if ‘Friends’ were listed far behind the things I did to try to help other people. I know it won’t happen, but it would be nice.”

The fact of the matter is Perry was much more than a beloved sitcom character, or what the current news cycle is only focusing on: whether or not the actor had drugs or alcohol in his system at the time of his death.

Perry’s journey with addiction and recovery was one that he was incredibly open about. But more so than his own struggles, he focused on how his own experiences had given him a self-imposed responsibility to help others, especially those also dealing with addiction.

In an interview with Diane Sawyer on Oct. 29, 2022, Perry said, “I’ve gotta help as many people as I can.” And he did.

Over a decade ago, Perry opened the Perry House out of his own Malibu beach house. The Perry House acted as a transitional home for men who were in recovery from addiction. The sober living facility was an in-between stop from rehab to the “real world,” where they were offered the opportunity to participate in activities such as meditation programs and learning the 12 steps of recovery.

The Perry House ran for two years before closing in 2015, which Perry explained was because the space being used didn’t properly fit the business operating within it. While he hadn’t reopened the business at the time of his death, it was reported that Perry was in the early stages of setting up a foundation that would fund addiction recovery treatments.

In addition to his involvement with addiction recovery — for which he received the Champion of Recovery award from the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy in 2013 — Perry also served as a spokesperson for the National Association of Drug Court Professionals, which is a non-profit dedicated to reform and innovation surrounding substance use and mental health disorders in the court system.

His most recent, and personal, act of help came through his memoir, “Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing,” which was released in November 2022. The book is the most detailed account of Perry’s addiction and recovery, as the actor is one of few celebrities to write their own memoir without the help of a ghostwriter, according to The New York Times.

The novel leaves no confusion to its contents, starting with a prologue which reads, “Hi, my name is Matthew, although you may know me by another name. My friends call me Matty. And I should be dead.”

While it’s easy to write-off the vulnerability in the memoir as a celebrity cash-grab, Perry hoped that by sharing the dark details of his own story he might help other addicts. The thought of helping others drove him to continue writing and to continue writing honestly.

In the days since his death, those who knew him personally have come forward to share their own stories about Perry. Many, including actor Hank Azaria, shared how Perry helped them get sober themselves, detailing how he attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings with them and supported them in the early years of their recovery.

On top of personal testimony, the Matthew Perry Foundation set up a fund in Perry’s name, supported by the National Philanthropic Trust. While still in the very early stages of development, the Matthew Perry Foundation states that its mission is the “realization of Matthew’s enduring commitment to helping others struggling with the disease of addiction.”

At the end of the day, it would be impossible to discuss his impact on the world without bringing up “Friends.” But Perry was much more than just Chandler Bing, and may he continue to be remembered as such.

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Zoe Leone
Zoe Leone, Arts & Life Editor

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