Today I found out Matthew Perry died. Some media outlet was playing a clip where he was saying how important it is to help those in need, particularly those looking to get sober. That hit a nerve and I decided to break a personal rule, and AA rule, and his confidence.
I met Matthew Perry at one of the worst times of his life. He was in Dallas filming (I think) Serving Sara. I say I think because that movie was released in 2002 but I would have sworn it was the late 90s. In any case, at the time some tabloids and newspapers very publicly exposed that he had been going to strip clubs, acting erratically, and was somewhat out of control. Then that he went to rehab. Then he showed up that the AA meeting I went to. I remember how sympathetic I was to the publicity surrounding such a difficult time. I was furious with my own family for disclosing that I had gone to rehab and then AA but I could not imagine having the level of public scrutiny he was experiencing or the possible shame that might have caused.
I wanted to hug the guy. I didn’t. Partially because he had a body guard and partially I thought how hard it must be to be so famous that you would questions someones motives for being nice to you. I worried if I tried to be kind to him, maybe I would only be doing it because I had been such a huge fan of Friends. Or he would think I was only being kind to him because of Friends. So I broke my other rule: to always pay it forward to the next guy.
When I got sober, I was uncomfortable in my own skin. I couldn’t sit still. I couldn’t share in meetings. When meetings were over, I bee lined it for the door. I wanted desperately to have sober friends, but I couldn’t bring myself to ask for help. One day while walking towards to door immediately following the meeting, the guy that had taken me to lunch and bought me a Big Book cornered me (literally) and said, “What? You too cool for us? What show are you running off to watch at home alone? Why don’t you get dinner with us? Why don’t you come and hang out with us?” The irony. I was too proud to ask to hang out. So he forced me. And I never needed that so much in my life as I did in that moment.
I wish I had corned Matthew Perry. I wish I told him “I get it”. I wish I asked him to dinner with us, to hang out with us. Then later I wished so much to tell him I was sorry I didn’t extend my hand and pay it forward. I hated to see him struggle. Not that my ego is so unchecked as to think I would have been the one to make a difference, but that I hate that out of fear, I said nothing to him. And I am guessing many did not extend a hand for the same reason. I hate that. I hope to God I never do that again.
He was not the only famous person I met in AA. Another, who I will not name, became relatively good friends. I wish I could say that made me feel better. It makes me certain that when the hand is extended or the door opened, few on pass that opportunity.