Bourke’s Bookshelf: ‘My mind is out to kill me’

This week's featured read is "Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing" by Matthew Perry.

Matthew Perry book
"Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing" by Matthew Perry.
Tim Speier / Brainerd Dispatch

Despite not being the right age when it aired, I’m one of those young millennials who has become obsessed with the show “Friends.”

Theresa Bourke headshot

In fact, the show and I are the same age, so I was only 10 when the decade-long series finished its run, but I have since seen every episode multiple times and consider it one of my favorites. Chandler has always been my favorite character, with his witty one-liners and self-deprecating humor, so of course I got excited when Matthew Perry published his memoir last year, writing in part about his 10 years as Chandler.

The promise of a foreward by “Friends” co-star Lisa Kudrow, who played Phoebe Buffay, made the book even more appealing.

‘Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing’ by Matthew Perry (2022)

Those who have kept up with pop culture news over the years have probably heard rumblings of Perry’s alcohol and drug addiction. There have been publicized stints in rehab, concerning looking paparazzi photos and general Hollywood gossip. But as Kudrow so bluntly puts it in her foreward, no one can really say how Perry is doing except for Perry himself.

So that’s what he did.


The memoir details his decades long struggle with alcohol, opiates and other drugs as he strived to find happiness.

Despite being cast in what would become the No. 1 TV show of its time, buying a series of multimillion dollar homes and having no shortage of beautiful, famous girlfriends, life wasn’t as rosy as it seemed.

Dealing with abandonment issues since his dad walked out when he was a baby, Perry carried personal issues with him throughout this life that never allowed him — until recently — to comprehend that he was good enough just the way he was.

Drugs and alcohol seemed to be the only things that filled those gaping voids and made him feel just a little bit better.

But they were also threatening to kill him.

The sad irony in Perry’s story is that his only goal with using was to feel good, to feel OK, but the only possible outcome was destruction and several near-death experiences.

There were bouts of sobriety scattered throughout the past 30 years, and some high points when Perry used what he learned from AA meetings and therapy to help others on the path to sobriety.

But it took years of continued substance abuse and extreme circumstances to bring about the dramatic changes he needed to make in order to continue living. Today, at 53, Perry has been completely sober for nearly two years.


While the subject matter of “Friends, Lovers and The Big Terrible Thing” is incredibly serious, Perry still does what he does best — makes people laugh.

I fell in love with the character Chandler Bing on “Friends” because of his sarcastic sense of humor and ability to laugh at his own expense. As it turns out, that’s not a far cry from the man behind him.

The “Friends” writers allowed Perry and his fellow actors to imbed parts of themselves into their characters. The iconic line: “Hi, I’m Chandler. I make jokes when I’m uncomfortable,” Perry reveals, actually describes him to a T.

Ever since he was a kid, Perry said he always felt the need to ease tension by cracking jokes. Making people laugh was a source of joy, so it comes as no surprise that his memoir is full of unexpectedly hilarious quips.

While I would have appreciated some more behind the scenes revelations from “Friends,” I recognize the book was about so much more than that, and I hope it might serve as some inspiration for anyone who needs a guiding hand.

THERESA BOURKE may be reached at or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at .

Theresa Bourke started working at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and area education, including Brainerd Public Schools and Central Lakes College.
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