Home>Feature>The O’Toole Chronicles: Loving the Drama of it all

Matthew Perry. (Photo: Courtesy of Warner Brothers).

The O’Toole Chronicles: Loving the Drama of it all

By Kevin O'Toole, February 14 2023 12:01 am

Over the recent holiday break, I read a few books to pass the time on the beach under 84 degrees of warmth and sunshine.

One of the books I read was the autobiography of actor, Matthew Perry, better known as Chandler Bing on Friends. I expected a quick and funny read, but boy did I get that wrong.

Matt Perry lived a tough life, one with fame and money, but also with a shocking amount of pain and suffering.

Matt Perry was born to be an actor and entertainer and as you read his words you found out that he used his humor to distract from painful points in his life. Matt had a lonely childhood as his mom worked long hours for the Canadian Prime Minister and his dad left early in the relationship to be an actor. Matt’s parents divorced when he was young, and he has long blamed his addiction issues on his parents’ break up.

Matt’s self-confessed story of addiction is pretty harsh and it is difficult to read each and every failure. By his account, he spent millions on rehabilitation and was in over 65 rehabs for drug and alcohol abuse. Matt couldn’t get his arms around “why” he was so addicted and he couldn’t pinpoint the cause.

In his book, Matt detailed his excessive abuse of alcohol, cocaine and his main culprit — OxyContin. At his height, he was taking 180 pills a day! Of note, this abuse happened right before our very eyes. He starred in the number one television show for 10 years and was under the influence 9 of those 10 years. The only year he was clean, he went on to win an Emmy nomination for best actor. Despite this staggering addiction, he went on to star on the small and big screen.

As a child, he remembers watching his childhood idol, and fellow Canadian, Michael J. Fox, star in the number one TV show and movies at the same time and he said all he needed was to do just that and he would achieve the internal peace he needed.

As luck would have it, he did just that, starring with Bruce Willis in a big movie, which rose to number one in the box office, while Friends was reigning as the number one hit on television. Guess what — he never found happiness and the pain and abuse persisted. His abuse got so bad that filming was halted on another movie with Elizabeth Hurley and later he was rushed to the hospital when his colon “burst open.” The unrelenting consumption of 180 pills a day caused medical distress. He was in a coma and had a colostomy bag for nine months, followed by a series of life saving surgeries.

So what is the point?

Somewhere near the end of the book, Matt comes to grips with the big WHY — an elder and wise counselor at one of these rehabilitation centers hit Matt with a proverbial 2×4. The counselor said the reason perhaps for the ongoing abuse and nearly 70 trips to hospitals and rehabs is because he was addicted to and loving the drama of it all. Lightning bolt to his system.

After more therapy and more living, Matt stopped blaming his parents, other people and his circumstances for his failings. He had no one else to blame but himself.

This is the point in the column where I normally pivot back to politics, but I’m not sure that we can do that this time.

Many of us know people with mental health or emotional issues. Certainly I have known people with addiction issues, even some family members, and it is hard to watch as they repeat the cycle of abuse, rehab, and back to abuse.

The larger truth that can be gleaned from this is we all know folks who live a certain life and we have questioned the sanity or wisdom of living that drama filled life. Whether we apply this to addiction issues, or other behavior, and certainly we need empathy for those in need, perhaps a drill down to better understand the core issue means finding out if they are addicted to or loving the drama of it all.

Spread the news: