Review of Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing by Matthew Perry
Perry recounts the daily reality of his years in a chokehold of addiction to drugs and alcohol, his struggles to quit using, and the many (beautiful) women who got away. I found myself yearning for more introspection but appreciated his honesty.
“I am no saint—none of us are—but once you have been at death’s door and you don’t die, you would think you would be bathed in relief and gratitude. But that isn’t it at all—instead, you look at the difficult road ahead of you to get better and you are pissed. Something else happens, too. You are plagued by this nagging question: Why have I been spared?”
In Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing, Matthew Perry, former star of Friends, recounts his many, many daily struggles and his long-term battle with addiction, brushes with death, attempts to get sober, search for love and acceptance, and seeking a purpose in life.
Perry is candid about his reality of sitting in a life dictated moment by moment by addiction, not shying away from sharing the context of his repeated decision of drugs or alcohol over sobriety--despite having at times made progress in quitting, despite his multiple dire hospitalizations, and despite multiple rehab stays. Again and again he chooses the numbing effect of using over feeling uncomfortable emotions, and he ties his feelings of not feeling like enough as an adult to a childhood in which his young parents' divorce, remarriages, and new children hit him particularly hard.
The pain of his compulsion to use and his longtime inability to stop causes him to share multiple times that he would be willing to trade places with those in dire situations--for example, those who worry about money and health--if he could only be free of his addiction. He feels he would do anything to be free of the chokehold of his addiction, which he feels is more severe than most others'. Yet this particular assertion came across to me as uncomfortably privileged and felt in need of more delicate handling: supposing a semblance of understanding of the desperate plights of those who struggle to get by--particularly in light of the longtime weekly million dollars he mentions earning on Friends and the additional fortune he amassed and also notes in the book.
I appreciate Perry's honesty--he doesn't sugar-coat the endless march toward destruction that seemed perilously close throughout the book. His sense of feeling God in a moment and his resulting, sustained faith in a higher power was interesting. I was also intrigued by his early days of auditions and how he stumbled into the perfect role and a once-in-a-lifetime ensemble on Friends.
His candor and vulnerability in taking the reader through the depths of his experience are commendable. It seems unfair to say of someone's honest addiction story laid bare on the page (and, in my case, then read by the author) that I wished for a little more introspection.
Perry spends much of the page time focusing on the many (beautiful) women who got away. He relives his repeated dives back into drugs and alcohol, sharing his physical pain and discomfort due to withdrawal and due to the extensive drug and alcohol damage to his body (and the desperate physical repairs needed, which held their own complications and pain--and which he seems to resent), and linking much of his inability to function as an emotionally mature man to the abandonment he felt in his childhood.
The book zigzags through time to paint a picture of years of damaging substance abuse, and Perry's honesty about how much he drank and how many pills he took made me feel increasingly shocked that he has survived.
I listened to Perry's memoir as an audiobook.
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For memoirs I've loved that you might want to try, check out these Greedy Reading Lists: