Matthew Perry: Finding God in a Chaotic World
BY: Sharon Fitness for GOOD.
In a world that moves at a breakneck pace, where fame and fortune can overshadow deeper personal journeys, it’s not every day that we hear of a Hollywood celebrity finding solace and spiritual connection. But in the hours and days since the tragic death of Matthew Perry, best known for his iconic role as Chandler Bing in the hit TV series ‘Friends’, much has been shared about his journey of recovery from addiction and related health issues, marked by his discovery of faith and connection to God and a desire for a legacy of helping and supporting others to find sobriety.
News of Perry’s untimely, but ultimately not entirely shocking death at the age of 54, hit hard. It’s always upsetting when someone so young dies so tragically. But Matthew Perry was our Friend, a favourite Friend. ‘Friends’ aired from 1994 until 2004 and has been replayed continuously ever since, its timeless appeal due to the warmth, authenticity, humour and genuine love, relatability, and connection we felt with Ross, Rachel, Phoebe, Monica, Joey and, of course, Chandler.
Perry once said that his performance was so authentic because he too had the innate ability to mask pain and fill awkward silences with humour. When he read the script, “it was as if someone had followed me around for a year, stealing my jokes, copying my mannerisms, photocopying my world-weary, yet witty view of life,” he wrote in his memoir. “It wasn’t that I thought I could play Chandler, I was Chandler.”
Described, by co-stars as “always the funniest guy in the room…and the kindest”, Hollywood was just and shocked as we were.
A Complex Life in the Spotlight
Matthew Perry’s life was a rollercoaster ride of success, fame, and personal challenges. His struggles with addiction were widely reported, and his path to recovery was a long and arduous one. In his 2022 memoir, Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing, Perry described he had spent upwards of $7 million trying to get sober (in an interview with the New York Times, Perry said the number was more like $9 million). For many, Perry’s openness about his journey to sobriety was a beacon of hope and a testament to the power of resilience.
Matthew Perry’s exploration of faith and spirituality represented a new chapter in his life. His journey to finding God was deeply personal. He shared his experiences and thoughts in various interviews and in his autobiography, describing that this journey brought a sense of peace and stability to his life.
In his memoir, Perry recounts among the 15 stints in rehab, 15 stomach surgeries and more than 60 attempts at detox, a powerful encounter with God:
“’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. It was like I was standing on the sun. I had stepped on the surface of the sun. What was happening? And why was I starting to feel better? And Why was I not terrified.
“…My only choice was to surrender to it, which was not hard, because it felt so good. The euphoria had begun at the top of my head and slowly seeped down throughout my entire body.
“…for the first time in my life, I was in the presence of love and acceptance and filled with an overwhelming feeling that everything was going to be OK. I knew now that my prayer had been answered. I was in the presence of GOD.
“…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 wresting 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.”
Overcoming Personal Challenges
Perry’s faith journey coincides with his ongoing commitment to recovery. His struggles with addiction were a central theme in his life, and it seems his exploration of faith was an essential part of his recovery process, a source of strength, guidance, and support on his path to healing.
Matthew’s journey to recovery was far from linear. He faced setbacks and relapses, but he never gave up. It was through the support of his family, friends, and fellow recovery community members that he found the strength to keep pushing forward.
“If you spend too much time looking in the rearview mirror, you will crash your car,” he quipped.
“The one thing I got right was that I never gave up, I never raised my hands and said, ‘That’s enough, I can’t take it anymore, you win’,” he wrote in his memoir. “And because of that, I stand tall now, ready for whatever comes next.”
The battle, the struggle, the longing for whatever it is that keeps you going is an important part of the journey. Matthew described a conversation with Martin Sheen:
“Martin Sheen turned to me and said, ‘Do you know what Saint Peter says to everyone who tries to get into heaven?’ When I looked blankly, the man who was once president said, ‘Peter says, “Don’t you have any scars?” And when most would respond proudly, “Well no, no I don’t,” Peter says, “Why not? Was there nothing worth fighting for?”‘”
“The path of least resistance is boring, and scars are interesting – they tell an honest story,” he wrote elsewhere. “And they are proof that a battle was fought, and in my case, hard-won.”
A Message of Hope
As he embraced his own spiritual and emotional growth, Matthew found solace in his journey towards recovery. He became an advocate for sobriety and mental health, tirelessly working to help others find their own path to wellness.
“When I die, I don’t want Friends to be the first thing that’s mentioned,” he said on the Q With Tom Power podcast in November 2022. “I want [helping others] to be the first. And I’m gonna live the rest of my life proving that.”
Matthew Perry’s battle with addiction became a testament to the strength of the human spirit and the capacity for redemption and transformation. His story is a reminder that it’s never too late to seek help, that recovery is a process, and that the support of loved ones can make all the difference.
“Addiction, the big terrible thing, is far too powerful for anyone to defeat alone. But together, one day at a time, we can beat it down,” he shared. His story helps us understand that regardless of our circumstances, the pursuit of a deeper connection with God can offer hope, healing, and a fresh perspective on life.
While his journey was marked by trials and tribulations, Matthew Perry’s resilience and commitment to recovery will stand as an inspiration to others who face the same struggles. In a world where the spotlight often shines on the glamour and chaos of Hollywood, Matthew Perry’s life journey reminds us that each of us, regardless of our backgrounds or challenges, can embark on a spiritual quest to find meaning, purpose, and a connection to something greater than ourselves. He leaves behind a legacy of hope, reminding us that, even in the face of our darkest days, recovery and renewal are possible.
In memory of Matthew Perry, a beloved actor and advocate for recovery, may his story continue to inspire and bring solace to those who fight similar battles.
“I’ve seen God in my kitchen, of all places, so I know there’s something bigger than me…
I know it’s an omnipresent love and acceptance that means that everything’s going to be OK.
I know something happens when you die. I know you move on to something wonderful.”
Images Credit: Matthew Perry Facebook and Instagram
Friends, Lovers and The Very Big Thing: A Memoir, by Matthew Perry’s is available where all good books are sold.
Also read: How to Grieve Someone You’ve Never Met