Matthew Perry on the cover of PEOPLE
07/02/2013 at 01:00 PM EDT
For a decade, Matthew Perry
was living an actor's dream: he had an iconic role as sardonic Chandler Bing on the beloved No. 1 sitcom Friends
and a salary that reached $1 million an episode.
But behind the scenes, Perry was struggling. "I had a big problem with alcohol and pills and I couldn't stop," he tells PEOPLE in an exclusive new cover story. "Eventually things got so bad that I couldn't hide it, and then everybody knew."
After a harrowing, years-long battle with addictions to alcohol and Vicodin, Perry, 43, finally got sober
. "Something clicked," he says. "You have to want the help." And he's now dedicated to helping other addicts. He turned his former Malibu beach home into a men's sober living facility called Perry House, and he's becoming a passionate advocate for drug courts, through which non-violent substance abusers receive treatment instead of incarceration for their offenses.
Perry, who recently starred on the sitcom Go On
and appears in recurring role on The Good Wife
, says that sobriety and helping others have led him to finally find "true happiness" in his life. "The interesting reason that I can be so helpful to people now is that I screwed up so often," he says. "It's nice for people to see that somebody who once struggled in their life is not struggling any more."
For much more from Perry's candid interview about his battle with addiction and his surprising new life, pick up the July 15 issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands this week