Matthew Perry caught up with Diane Sawyer last week for an intimate ABC Nightline interview, in which the 53-year-old Friends graduate opened up about his near-death experience from drug addiction and the impact his battle is having on his overall health. Many fans have expressed concern for Perry’s well-being in recent years, particularly after hearing his slurred speech in interviews. Perry told Sawyer, 76, how his dental surgery just before the Friends reunion in May 2021 affected his ability to speak, as well as other shocking revelations ahead of the Nov. 1 release of his new book Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing: A Memoir .
Perry’s slurred speech, dental surgery, and friends gathering
In the seated interview, Sawyer mentioned the noticeable “wear and tear” on Perry’s “voice and speech” while listening to him, and the “17 Again” actor explained that he had all of his teeth replaced last year after major surgery. This, of course, affected his speech and came just before the long-awaited Friends reunion special, where fans were expecting Perry to join his legendary sitcom cast members Jennifer Aniston, David Schwimmer, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow and Matt to join LeBlanc.
Perry described having “emergency dental surgery” just days before filming the reunion. “They did all sorts of things,” Perry told Sawyer, adding that the procedure “did it [his] Mouth feels like fire.” Perry explained that he still wanted to perform, although his slurred speech inevitably worried fans. “It sounded like my voice was off,” he admitted, but admitted that he felt like “I couldn’t show up.” Perry continued, “So I decided to just do the best I could,” he told the longtime interviewer, who noted the “wear and tear on his voice and speech.”
Perry recently announced that he had been free of all substances for the past 18 months and was freshly sober when the reunion aired. Later in the interview, Perry spoke about his front teeth falling out while biting into peanut butter toast and then having all of his teeth replaced. The Emmy winner explained that he had to carry his teeth in his jeans pocket on the way to the dentist to have them fixed, making it an understandably stressful and traumatic situation.
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Support from friends castmates and details of Perry’s behind-the-scenes fight
Perry’s addiction to pills began at the height of his fame on the popular NBC show, when he became addicted to Vicodin after a 1997 jet ski accident. He later told Sawyer and viewers that he had his first drink at age 14 and recalled feeling “in heaven.” By the time he turned 18, he was drinking “every day.”
During his interview with Sawyer, Perry tearfully expressed his co-star Aniston’s support and urged him to seek help for his addiction. He recalled a moment when the Golden Globe-winning actress walked up to his trailer and told him the cast could smell alcohol on him. He said: “She was the one who tried hardest, you know. I’m really grateful to her for that.” Perry admitted that throughout his experience filming the hit series, the cast “had had to support themselves [him] up” and that his producers also confronted him about his noticeable addiction.
Perry tried to deal with this by making a rule for himself. He said: “I made a rule that I would never drink or take anything at work, so I would do that, but I would show up blindly hungover. Like tremors and crazy hangovers.” He noted that after being prescribed painkillers in 1997, he took about 55 pills a day and did everything he could to get the meds from doctors, including doing MRIs for “fake migraines.” He also confessed that he frequently does “open houses” to find pills in bathrooms in order to “steal” them. He added, “I think they were like, ‘Oh, there’s no way Chandler stole from us.'”
Perry’s message to fans
Perry admitted to Sawyer that “it’s not fun talking about this stuff” in terms of his personal life, drug and alcohol addiction struggles, but that he ultimately wanted to open up to “help people” who are situations are just as brutal and exhausting. Perry told Sawyer that he has attended about 6,000 AA meetings, has been in therapy for 30 years, has been in treatment for half his life, and has been on detox about 65 times.
After 15 stints in rehab, fans will be relieved to know that Perry has since maintained his sobriety and is determined never to walk down an unhealthy or toxic path again. The Fools Rush In star recalled, “I didn’t do that [drugs] feeling high or feeling good. I certainly wasn’t a party goer; I just wanted to sit on my couch and take five Vicodin and watch a movie.” He then added, “That was heaven for me. It’s not anymore.”