What other way to celebrate the beginning of recovery than a book about addiction? After an eleven-hour sleep, I emerged from the shallow end of my pool of phlegm. Last night’s nadir–a wet coughing fit mixed with choking on an Altoid–became a distant memory. Since I missed Thanksgiving, I walked over to Westside Market and got myself a giant slice of pumpkin pie and whipped cream. I’ve never been so attractive.
So began a perfect day and reading experience. In our friend Matthew Perry’s book, I’m learning about his battle with opioids and alcohol, beginning with the tale of how his colon exploded. It sounds funny, but really, when you’ve dealt with addiction for that long, an exploding colon becomes one of those milestones where the body warns that you’re about to visit the Pearly Gates of Hotel California. If you go back to drugs after this, it’s been nice knowing you. Many of us who’ve watched Friends since the 90s have been worried about Matthew Perry for quite a while. We know what happens in Less Than Zero.
Perry’s memoir is an engrossing read. And I may be wildly wrong, but it reads as if Matthew Perry wrote this himself. Ghostwriters are gems. I wouldn’t mind ghostwriting as it is a skill that offers a voice to those who can’t/won’t/shouldn’t write. So many valuable works out there wouldn’t exist if not for ghostwriters. But I do give an extra gold star if there’s no ghostwriter for a celebrity memoir (hello, Jane Lynch’s Happy Accidents). Kudos if the ghostwriter perfectly mimics the celebrity’s voice (Brandi Glanville’s Drinking & Dating). With Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing, there isn’t the practiced, beautiful flow of most “high level” memoirs. Here, I’m finding repetition, choppiness, stylistic choices not everyone makes, which reads like someone reliving the experience while writing. An interesting part of memoir reading is one’s change of profession, from ordinary person to brilliant armchair psychologist of a stranger.
Surely, the crux of this memoir, addiction itself, will be its neon warning to users. The accidents, medical emergencies, radical behavior changes, and life on a larger scale–both in the chemical joys and horror shows. From the shame of stealing meds from strangers’ houses to your body breaking down, there is no advantage whatsoever to addiction. I always see it as the last thing you need if you’re on a deserted island. No one can help you. In any situation, especially a real crisis, you can’t really rely on yourself. And yet, how terrible to be sober while saying the below line of dialogue. Forgive the humor. Like Chandler, I use it as a defense mechanism.
Since 9/11 and even the blackout of 2003, I’ve thought about what I would do if I had to leave with just the clothes on my back. What if I only had myself and whatever I was wearing and I had to hunker down for a few days or weeks? I keep a packet of tranquilizers wherever I go to get me through just such an event. With a prolonged crisis, this would never be enough. I would suffer a little, not as much as I imagine. An addict would truly go through withdrawal, which seems especially scary, but perhaps less awful than continuing using. In 2001, my only bad habit was smoking and Altoid consumption, both of which weren’t so bad.
Over time, I’m not sure I’d do so well on the deserted island since I’ve added to my dependencies since my thirties–though I don’t smoke anymore. Maybe due to denial or just laziness, I keep pushing off thoughts about the catastrophe that has me running off this isle and bearing life without my long-time, seemingly normal Rx cocktail. I’m nowhere in the vicinity of exploding colon phase. More like pernicious worrying about one day having an exploding colon–or that I’d even need to run at top speed out of Manhattan because of a plane going into a building. The better idea would be to address issues in a gentle way before the body says enough. This is when I remember that the book I’m reading is not my story, but someone else’s.
Why do these books appear in my orbit at the exact right time?
Ps. Turns out I’m right about MP writing this himself.