Matthew Perry Used Chandler to Hide His Addiction—I Did the Same as a Stay-At-Home Mom

It didn’t matter that Perry acted on the biggest television show of the 1990s and I attempted to act like a typical mom. We were both people with substance abuse disorders.

Blurred image of mother pushing child on a park swing

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Although Matthew Perry is a celebrity and I’m a stay-at-home mom, we both played characters to protect our true identities: people with substance abuse disorders. A multitude of excerpts from his new book, Friends, Lovers, And The Big Terrible Thing, which came out November 1, 2022, resonated with me. It didn’t matter that he acted on the biggest television show of the 1990s and I acted, or attempted to act, like a typical mom.

My opioid addiction began the same way Matthew Perry’s did—with a prescription for an injury. In fact, according to The National Institute of Drug Use, 75% of those who began using opioids during the 2000s started with a prescription drug. Matthew Perry and I were part of that vast majority. While his accident seems glamorous because he was injured on a jet ski while filming the 1996 movie Fools Rush In starring Salma Hayek, and mine was not—I had scoliosis related neck pain—the result was the same: a prescription for opioids.

After my first pill, at 32, I found myself asking the same question Perry asked himself when he discovered alcohol at 14, Am I allowed to feel like this? I felt like the me who was always meant to be.

More important than dulling the psychical pain, Percocet also dulled my emotional anguish due to postpartum anxiety and postpartum depression.

When I was pregnant, everyone warned me about the difficulty of teaching my son to breastfeed. I was told what kind of hold to use, how to fix mastitis, what lotion to buy when my nipples inevitably cracked and bled. So, when my son latched immediately, I was relieved. Nursing accomplished! Parenting unlocked!

No one told me I’d have to teach my infant how to sleep. He woke up every 45 minutes and was awake for the day by 4:30 a.m. I spiraled and spiraled deeper and deeper into PPD and anxiety. My husband and I fought constantly, I cried every day and became less and less functional. I thought about hurting myself. I thought about hurting my son.

Through Percocet, I thought I found a way to be myself, but better. Once I knew it was possible to feel warm and relaxed but still functional, I wanted—I needed—to feel that way constantly. I wasn’t taking any antidepressants or mood stabilizing prescribed medications; like far too many people, I was self-medicating with opioids. As an addict, my number one priority was my addiction. Not my family, but my addiction. 

I quickly realized that I was going to need to find more pills once my prescription ran out. I decided the best way to do that was to blend in. Even though I didn’t know how to feel like a regular mom, I knew how to look like one. I pushed my stroller (the same one that dotted Brooklyn playgrounds) with other moms, wore skinny jeans, flats, and a necklace with my son’s initials. My adorable son wore miniature versions of adult clothing styles. And, like most of my friends, my diaper bag was filled with BPA-free water bottles, organic snacks, chewable giraffes, and rainbow toys.

Like the other stay-at-home moms, we went to music, dance, and gym classes. Sometimes I would scoop him up tight, laughing while I looked at our audience. Did they see my giggling son? Did they see me looking happy?

I thought if I looked and played the part, I could be like the other moms, but it was all a façade. I was a fraud. I wasn’t like the other moms. I was an addict.

Like Perry, I considered opioids my “superpower” and my “security blanket,” meaning I had to always have them with me, but that required a lot of planning. “When you’re a drug addict, it’s all about math,” Perry shared. Regardless of how many pills were in my stash, I never had enough. I knew I was going to take every one of those pills. And then I’d need more.

Addiction became my job. I’m embarrassed and ashamed to say that if I brought someone a baby present, a meal after surgery or rerouted a playdate to someone else’s apartment, it was a ruse to gain access to their medicine cabinet. Like Perry, I wasn’t worried about being discovered; people trusted Chandler Bing in their houses; why wouldn’t they trust me, the mom from the playground?

Like Perry, I also doctor shopped, staggering appointments with five or six doctors so it appeared I was using my pills responsibly. When he was young, I deliberately brought my son with me as an accessory to my mom costume. He was an adorable, happy toddler who gave my request validity. A mom wouldn’t lie about her Percocet usage, would she? 

For years, Chandler gallivanted around New York and I did too, but never without my diaper bag or my pill bottle.

After five years of hiding, lying, and stealing, my addiction came to a crossroads. I was taking all the pills I could find yet they weren’t working the way they had in the past. Either I needed to quit or I needed to double down on my addiction and seek out OxyContin. Or even something stronger. Like many people, Perry included, heroin had always been my line in the sand. When I began to question that, I knew it was time to ask for help. I had tried to quit on my own many times, but in 2015 I went to a detox center. 

I’m proud to say I have been opioid free for six years and ten months. It hasn’t been easy, and I messed up a lot along the way. Many people are surprised when I tell them I’m pro-opioid, when used responsibly of course. When used properly, opioids do their job: they help with pain. Too many people have been denied medicine they legitimately needed during the last several years because someone like me took advantage of the system. I hope the Centers for Disease Control’s new guidelines will help them get the pain relief they need while working with a doctor about possible addiction or long-term use.  

What makes me feel good now? Unsurprisingly, the same thing that makes Matthew Perry feel good: helping other people. I’ve written about my addiction for several outlets and have been a guest on talk shows and a podcast. Hundreds of moms have told me that when I tell my story, I also tell theirs. They’re relieved to know they weren’t the only one hiding behind their ‘mom’ costume.

Matthew Perry said he’s using his fame to save lives and change minds. He absolutely will. The fact that he is 18 months sober is a testament to his strength and fierce determination. Every time addiction took hold of him, he worked to escape it. His honesty shows us the man behind the character. And I’m done hiding too. My honesty demolishes the character of ‘mom,’ allowing myself to be just that and not an addict too. 

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