From the Left



The One Where Matthew Perry is Sober

Bonnie Jean Feldkamp on

I waited 14 weeks on the library waiting list to listen to the audiobook version of Matthew Perry's much-anticipated memoir, "Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing." The first thing I loved about the book was learning that Chandler Bing and Perry have a lot of personality similarities. Chandler Bing has always been my favorite "Friend." And truth be told, while he was crushing on Jen, I was crushing on him. I love a man who can make me laugh.

"Friends" was one of those iconic shows that marked the time. But I didn't really watch it during its coveted Thursday night spot in the '90s. I watched the reruns during my own personal crisis in 2010.

I was diagnosed with autoimmune arthritis when I was 35. The onset of the illness forced me to resign from a job I loved, and I spent a year swollen, in pain and heartbroken. I was at the mercy of my horrid American health insurance, which required me to jump through hoops and try medication they deemed adequate. It's called "step therapy." I had to "fail" the treatment they approved first before gaining access to the more expensive yet more effective medication that my doctors recommended. And I failed beautifully while my life warped into something I didn't recognize.

Back-to-back episodes of "Friends" reruns aired on cable in the afternoon, right around the time my daughters were getting off the bus from school. My girls would climb in bed with me when they got home, and we'd watch together. I was taking immunosuppressant drugs, steroids, muscle relaxers and painkillers.

Reading Perry's memoir, I see the irony that I, too, was high on prescription meds many times while watching the show. I related to Chandler Bing's need for approval. Maybe that is the plight of the Gen-Xer with abandonment issues. If I can make you laugh, then for a moment I'm worthy of at least that. I do not share Perry's addiction struggles; my rumble with Vicodin was short-lived, but I certainly relate to the source of his emotional pain.


It's extremely brave to share one's story, especially when it's riddled with hardship that many deem self-inflicted. People can be cruel and judgmental, but Matthew Perry has survived. It's great to read he is turning his pain into purpose. I think that's the most meaningful thing you can offer in this world. No matter who you are, no one gets out of this life unscathed. You can either let it make you bitter or let it motivate you to help make it better for someone else. Choose to be the good in someone else's path.

By the end of Perry's book, I just wanted to give him a hug. I'm grateful for the laughs he offered me through "Friends" during my own medical hardship. Matty, you've helped more people than you know.


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