“My mind is out to kill me, and I know it.” 

Quote from Matthew Perry’s Memoir, Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing

Actor, author, and 12-step advocate, Matthew Perry, passed away this past Saturday (October 28, 2023). While we don’t know an official cause of death yet, it is not a stretch to say that his life for the past 30 years was tragic in and of itself. You may disagree, but I’m simply taking his word for it. In his memoir released nearly a year ago, entitled Friends, Lovers, and The Big Terrible Thing, he goes into great detail about his ongoing struggles with alcohol and drugs. He spent at least 1/2 of the book depicting the horrors of his multiple expensive rehab stays while simultaneously supporting the theories and ideas that he learned in those facilities.   

“My mind is out to kill me, and I know it.” This simple quote from his book is all you need to know to understand just how ill informed Mr. Perry was. By all outward appearances he had it all. He was worth tens of millions, had adoring fans from all over the globe, and was generally a likable guy from all accounts of those close to him. But he was inwardly tortured; a constant nagging self-image of the “unaccompanied minor” who had become a hopeless addict and alcoholic. The treatment industry had convinced him he was defective and that he couldn’t even trust his own mind. This is one of the most extreme forms of gaslighting that can be done to someone, to make them believe they can’t trust their own thinking, and it’s the basis of addiction treatment.

Sadly, it’s all too common to see Hollywood elite become lured and then trapped in the luxury treatment mill, paying millions for treatment that ends with the same useless platitudes that an indigent person receives in the publicly funded and ineffective rehabs across our nation “Just don’t drink/use and go to your meetings, and live one day at a time,” they say. It’s the grand universal rip-off. 

By recent accounts Perry was “sober” and had been for a few years. He said he was living one day at a time. Here’s the reality, we all live that way, because you can’t actually live any other way. The difference for him was that he was living each day as a “broken” person, believing that he was completely driven by his past traumas, his broken brain, and his bad genetics. He is the embodiment of the person relentlessly taught they must live under the table eating scraps while the rest of us “normies” enjoy the steak dinner he’s not allowed to have. Even sober, he fully accepted and embodied the addict identity, and the only answers he could find were more and more of the same; more therapists, more doctors, more rehabs, more sober coaches, and of course, more booze and drugs. “Relapse is part of recovery,” they’d repeat, and he fulfilled that prophecy relentlessly. 

But he quite clearly hated all of it. We know because as you can hear throughout his book, he kept trying harder and harder, thinking he just wasn’t doing “recovery” right. But in the end, when you’ve banged your head against the wall (which he describes in his book that he literally did in one of those million dollar rehabs) enough times, you accept what you are taught and thus, believe it to be true. And in Perry’s case the treatment professionals got what they wanted, for him to fully accept, “My mind is out to kill me, and I know it.”  

Whether or not his death turns out to be the result of a return to heavy use, or the result of a some other health crisis caused by his years of heavy use, his life and untimely death is one more in a growing list of celebrities who unknowingly became an integral part of a seriously broken and corrupt system. He ironically wrote a book to promote addiction treatment and recovery where he describes in great detail how it failed him over and over again. But here’s the twist – he believed himself to be the failure, not the treatment he paid millions to get. And in his recent years sober, he gives credit to the treatment and AA that had failed him for so many years. Can you think of any other treatment for any other disease that works that way? When the treatment fails repeatedly it’s your fault, and when you finally “get better”, it’s due to the treatment? When people finally stop their heavy use, it’s because they made the internal decision to do so, and that is true for Matthew Perry as well. He got “sober” in spite of what he’d learned, not because of it.

In the final analysis it’s not his substance use that’s the real tragedy here – it’s the lies, deception, and misinformation he was told in treatment that slowly destroyed Matthew Perry’s quality of life. Had he learned the truth – that he wasn’t broken, nor diseased, nor spiritually bankrupt, nor any of the other lies he learned in $9M worth of addiction treatment and years in and out of AA, Matthew Perry might have had a much more successful, happy, fulfilled life and a career of continuing to bring smiles and laughter to those he entertained. He will be missed. 

Mark Scheeren and Michelle Dunbar are co-creators of The Freedom Model for Addictions programs, co-authors of The Freedom Model for Addictions: Escape the Treatment and Recovery Trap along with their colleague Steven Slate, and co-hosts of The Addiction Solution Podcast.  They are two of the leading addiction experts in the world today. They have been researching addiction and helping people to solve their addictions for the last 34 years.   



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