January 9th, 1997-May 8, 1997
He was getting dangerously thin. Phoebe noticed it as did the other members of the group. Ever since Chandler broke up with Janice, he seemed to resemble a twig. It scared Phoebe but Chandler refused to open up. He acted out, hooking up with one of Joey's sisters during Joey's birthday and that was what Phoebe thought might be rock bottom for him. She had seen Chandler drunk before but this was new and after he got punched in the face by one of Joey's sisters, she decided maybe she would take action. A few days after Joey's birthday, she and Chandler sat across from each other at their favorite pizza place. She noticed him picking at the pepperoni off his slice and slowly sticking it in his mouth. She took a deep breath, trying to form the words in her head. She cared way too much about him to see him this thin, this anguished and she wanted it to stop.
"How's your eye?" Phoebe asked.
"I got punched in the face by a girl. Fine. How are you doing? I'm sorry about that guy."
"Oh, that's fine," Phoebe said. She had briefly dated the guy who lived upstairs from Monica and Rachel but that had crashed and burned before it had even begun to take off. "Chandler, what's wrong? I mean...what you did at Joey's birthday. That's not you."
"I know. It was a stupid mistake."
"You blacked out. How do you not remember who you made out with? You tried to stick your tongue down Monica's throat. Is that in your master plan to get Monica to be your wife?"
"I don't want to talk about it," Chandler said, shifting uncomfortably and staring at his pizza.
"No. You fucked up, Chandler. What is going on? Maybe...maybe you're drinking too much. I mean, if you're blacking out-"
"Really...you wanna discuss drinking too much?" Chandler asked, giving her a look.
Phoebe let out a snort. She had never actually been angry at Chandler. She had always been so grateful to him, felt so in debt to him that anytime he did anything that would normally upset her, she brushed it off, but now she was getting annoyed. He started to look annoyed as well but she wasn't backing down.
"I don't black out, Chandler. I remember things. I wish I didn't but I do and I didn't hook with you know...Ross because I got too drunk."
"You did hook up with Ross once, didn't you?"
"I wasn't drunk and neither was he. He was depressed and I felt bad for him. Carol had just left him. Why are you trying to pick a fight with me?" Phoebe asked.
"I'm not. I'm just saying that..."
"Why do you look so thin?"
"I don't look thin," Chandler said.
"You look thin, You look unhealthy like we could break you."
"I'm already broken."
Phoebe rolled her eyes. She could feel the anger bubbling inside her, wanting to snap at him but she stayed there. She felt this need to save him but she wasn't sure what she needed to save him from.
"What's going on, Chandler?"
"Nothing. I'm fine, Pheebs. Really. Just getting over Janice was tough. But I'm okay."
"You know...I love you a lot. You are one of my favorite people and...you made everything I have now possible. Please let me help you."
"I'm fine. I'm not leaving you."
"I was just feeling depressed. I'm fine. I promise."
Chandler smiled as he picked up his slice of pizza and took a large bite. Phoebe let out another sigh as she looked at him, the anger in her eyes melted into sympathy. She wanted to believe he was fine, but she couldn't bring herself to believe him. Phoebe never went to high school, she did study for the GED but that had been so long ago and she had since forgotten all she had ever studied. She hadn't really been to the library in a long time either. But what she lacked in book smarts, she more than made up for in street smarts. She had seen enough that she knew when something wasn't right and sitting there, staring at Chandler, she knew...something just wasn't right.
It was three days before her twenty ninth birthday, February 13th, and instead of planning, she was trapped in Monica's room with Joey, Chandler and Monica while Ross and Rachel were breaking up outside. Ross had cheated and Rachel found out and now the four were trapped with nowhere to go. As the hours droned on though, Chandler began looking sick, his face taking on a pale shade. Ever since Phoebe had tried intervening at that pizza place at a month earlier, it seemed like Chandler was still getting thinner and thinner. She had thought he might have finally turned a corner when he dated that girl with the artificial leg, but it never went anywhere.
"Are you alright man?" Joey asked.
The four were on Monica's bed. Joey was absent-mindedly stirring a container of leg wax with a stick. The wax had been an impulse buy on Monica's part. She had gotten it after watching an infomercial. Phoebe and Monica had tried waxing their legs with it but did not get very far. The pain reminded Phoebe of some of her worst nights on the streets or was closely on par with being raped and tortured in Prague.
"I'm fine. Not feeling well," Chandler said.
"You're sweating. Are you okay?" Monica asked.
"Just feeling sick. I'm fine. I got pain meds after my nubbin-ectomy. I feel-"
"Your nubbin-ectomy was ten days ago. I thought it was a quick, out patient thing. They gave you pain meds for that?" Monica asked.
"Yeah. I feel a bit of pain," Chandler said.
Phoebe cocked her head to the side and stared at him. Chandler tried to stand up but instead collapsed back onto the bed. Monica immediately put her arm around him, trying to comfort him.
"Leslie was right," Phoebe said suddenly.
"What?" Monica asked.
"Shit, Chandler...Leslie was right," Phoebe said.
"About what?" Monica asked.
"I'm fine, Phoebe," Chandler said.
"You're in withdrawal," Phoebe said.
"What?" Monica asked.
"I'm not...I just don't feel well. That is all. I want Rachel and Ross to stop fighting so I can get out of here," Chandler said.
It had been Leslie who had said something about a week and a half ago when she had briefly come back into Phoebe's life. It was against Phoebe's better judgment that she let Leslie back in. Monica had convinced her to and at first she was okay with it. The two reconnected instantly, forgetting all about the past but that was short lived when Leslie had sold one of Phoebe's songs to an advertising agency which led to a fight and what Phoebe knew would be the final blow out between the two. It was during that fight, before Leslie walked out when she turned to Phoebe and informed her that Chandler was a drug addict. This made Phoebe furious, how dare Leslie make such accusations but sitting there on that bed, staring at Chandler sweating she thought that perhaps Leslie was right.
"Are you on drugs?" Monica asked.
"No. No, I'm not," Chandler said.
"Chandler...come tell me the truth. Are you on something?" Monica asked.
Phoebe kept watching him..Chandler glanced over at Phoebe and then back at Monica. He took a deep breath and shook his head.
"No," Chandler said.
Phoebe's mouth dropped. In the years that she and Chandler had been friends, she never knew him to lie to Monica. Sure, she knew he could lie but she always felt that out of anyone, he would never lie to Monica. She drew in her breath to say something when she felt Joey's hand on hers. She looked over at him. He shook his head. She got his expression immediately and bit her lip as they watched Monica continue to comfort Chandler.
"We can leave the room. If you're feeling sick...we should...are you sure you're okay?" Monica asked as she held him closer, gently kissing his forehead.
"I'm gonna be fine."
Phoebe felt herself get angry. She knew he wasn't okay. He was far from okay, but he seemed so closed off, so unwilling to let anyone in. That's what made her the angriest.
When they finally left Monica and Rachel's apartment that night around two, Phoebe didn't want to go home. As soon as Monica closed the door, she followed Joey and Chandler into their apartment.
"Chandler," Phoebe began but Joey shushed her again. She felt like smacking him. Chandler walked into his bedroom and shut the door behind him. She let out a groan as she began to walk towards his room when Joey grabbed her arm. She glared at him, "will you stop?"
"Chandler's on drugs, I know," Joey said, matter of factly.
Phoebe stopped, taken aback by Joey's statement as she always was when Joey would say something insightful or would be aware of something she wasn't even sure he'd be aware of.
"How do you know?"
"I grew up Queens...besides a buddy of mine from high school died from a drug overdose."
"What? I didn't know that."
"I don't like to talk about it. I don't think he's on anything hard, Chandler. My friend was pretty hardcore."
"Well...if you know then...we have to do something."
"He just lied to Monica...he slept with your sister...why aren't you more upset?"
"We can't help someone who isn't ready to be helped. Look, I am watching out for him."
"What are you doing?"
"Every time he leaves for the day, I throw out one of the bottles he has hidden under his bed. He's almost out."
"Oh...Joey. what if we lose him? What if he doesn't come back? I don't want him die. I can't watch him die," Phoebe's eyes filled up with tears and soon she began crying. Joey moved into hug her. She held onto him as he gently stroked her back.
"What's wrong, Pheebs?" Chandler asked.
Phoebe and Joey stopped hugging as Chandler walked out of his room. He had been headed to the bathroom when he noticed Phoebe and Joey hugging. Phoebe took a deep breath and stared at Chandler.
"Pheebs," Chandler said.
"No...I can lie too," Phoebe said.
"Phoebe," Joey said.
"What?" Chandler asked.
Phoebe took a deep breath and walked towards him. She couldn't keep her feelings inside even though she knew that maybe Joey was probably right.
"You promised you wouldn't leave and I don't know what you're on or what the hell you're doing but you better just fucking stop. You hear me? Stop."'
"What are you on?" Joey said, his voice sounding tired. He hadn't been planning on having this conversation at two in the morning in the middle of the apartment, but maybe it needed to be had.
"Chandler, I know. I know you hide bottles of pills under your bed. I throw half of them out everyday and you were going through withdrawals in Monica's bedroom," Joey said.
"Wait, you're going through my stuff? Stay out of my things," Chandler said.
"You lied to Monica," Phoebe said.
"Look, I gotta get ready for bed. I'm okay. There is nothing...just stop touching my stuff, Joe," Chandler grinned and walked into the bathroom, shutting the door behind.
"Go home, Pheebs. I'll take care of him...don't worry," Joey said.
"Please don't let him die."
"I got him. I know how to deal with this."
Phoebe nodded, gave Joey a hug and opened the door to the apartment. Just as she closed the door, Monica opened hers. Phoebe jumped, startled.
"He's on drugs, isn't he?" Monica asked.
"I'm not stupid. He's on something...again."
"Again?" Phoebe asked.
Monica suddenly stood up straighter and shook her head. Phoebe was going to press for more information when both women jumped at a thumping sound that seemed to come from behind Joey and Chandler's door which was followed by some shouting. Monica and Phoebe exchanged a look and walked into Joey and Chandler's apartment to find Joey holding Chandler up to the fridge by his collar.
"Guys," Phoebe said.
"What are you doing?" Monica asked.
"Chandler tried to punch me in the face," Joey said.
"Chandler," Phoebe said.
"Stop messing with my stuff," Chandler said, trying to break free of Joey's grasp. Monica moved towards the two boys. She placed her hand on Joey's and removed it from Chandler while stepping in between both of them. She grabbed Chandler's arm and looked up at him.
"Can I talk to you, please?" Monica asked.
"I-" Chandler said.
"Please," Monica looked at him with a pleading look in her eyes. She held tightly onto his arm and the two walked out of the apartment. Phoebe was tempted to run after them but at the last minute, decided not to. She knew that if anyone could get through to Chandler, it would probably have to be Monica.
The next morning, the fallout from Ross and Rachel's brutal break up sent a divide within the group as the other four felt forced to take sides. The former happy couple could no longer be in the same room together and the others went to great lengths to try and keep them separated. Phoebe desperately wanted to talk to Chandler but she never seemed to get the chance until a few days later when Rachel had invited Phoebe, Monica, Joey and Chandler up to her sister's cabin for a belated twenty ninth birthday celebration for Phoebe but this unfortunately meant leaving Ross behind. It wasn't how Phoebe had wanted to celebrate. She had wanted the group to be together but Ross told her it was okay and told her he'd take her for dinner.
It had been a rough night though when they had gotten to the cabin without Ross. Chandler had started to smoke again and Ross had come up to help fill Phoebe's car up with gas which ended up starting another fight between Rachel and Ross. Everything seemed to be one giant mess which was leaving Phoebe feeling anxious and unable to sleep.
She noticed Chandler outside on the balcony of the cabin, sitting with his legs propped up on the table. He was smoking a cigarette. It was dark out and all Phoebe could really see was the amber from Chandler's cigarette. He still looked thin, way too thin. She recalled his little freakout earlier that evening and it scared her. She walked outside and took a seat next to him.
"I'm not on anything," Chandler said, still staring out into the darkness.
"Okay...you know...Monica said you were on something again. I was gonna asked her what she was talking about but we got sidetracked. Chandler, I love you so much and I hate what you're doing. I hate that you don't get how amazing you actually are and how wonderful you are...and you're so hard on yourself and I'm sorry I got mad, but I can't stick around and I hate that you're forcing me and the rest of us who love you so much...you're forcing us to watch you die. Why?"
Chandler remained silent and continued staring out into the darkness. Phoebe still kept staring at him, wanting him to talk. She wanted him to say something, anything but he remained silent. Phoebe let out a snort and shook her head.
"Fine. I'm going to bed and by the way, Chandler, if you remember, a few years I gave you seven thousand dollars if you never smoked again. Technically, you owe me seven thousand dollars.. Good night."
Phoebe got up and began to walk towards the sliding glass door that separated the patio from the inside of the cabin when she heard Chandler call her name. She turned around and watched as he reached into his pocket and pulled out a bottle of pills. He placed it on the table. Phoebe walked back to the table and sat. She picked up the bottle and squinted her eyes, trying to read it in the dark.
"It's Vicodin," Chandler said.
"For your nubbin-ectomy?"
"Kinda... When Monica said that I was hooked again...back when she cut off my toe, they gave me pain meds and I got addicted. I quit after a few months of just excessive pill taking. Ross and Monica are the only ones who knew about that. Monica has always felt really guilty about that because she thinks that had she not cut off my toe, I wouldn't have gotten pain meds and wouldn't have gotten addicted to pills. It's not her fault. It's completely mine. But I did quit. In fact, when I saw you that day on the subway...I had been sober for about a year. It got pretty dicey for awhile though, but I thought I was okay. I hadn't taken a pill in eight years but then I went to the doctor for the nubbin-ectomy and...I got hooked again. They gave me pills and then I...I forged a prescription to get more...and more...and the night Ross and Rachel broke up, you're right, I was going through withdrawals."
"You lied to Monica, Chandler."
"I know. I'm a bad person."
"No, you're not. Stop saying this stuff or thinking it...how can we get you to stop thinking this?"
"I don't know."
"What did Monica say to you? When you talked?"
"Asked me to stop...she said she was sorry. She didn't get me hooked. I got me hooked. I told her I'd stop."
"No...I mean, Ross and Rachel were fighting-"
"Do not blame them. They did not cause this."
"I know. Take those pills and flush 'em. It's my last bottle."
"I don't know if I believe you."
"I know you don't."
Phoebe looked at the pill bottle in her hand and wrapped her fingers around it. She placed her other hand on the cap and twisted it open. She poured the entire bottle of pills in her hand and stood up, walking towards the railing and with one swift motion, threw the pills out into the darkness. She turned and looked back at Chandler. Even in the dark, she could tell he was grinning at her.
"You know if an animal eats one of those, they'll probably die," Chandler remarked as he extinguished his cigarette on the table.
"What?" Phoebe asked.
"Or not...maybe it'll help them run faster you know...right before they die."
This worried Phoebe for a moment as she turned back towards the railing. Her worry for Chandler had briefly clouded her mind as it hadn't occurred to her that there might be animals out there would view those pills as a tasty treat.
"Oh, crap," Phoebe muttered, "animals! If you hear me out there...stay away from the Vicodin."
She heard Chandler laughing as he walked towards her and placed his arm around her her.
"I think that did it," Chandler said.
"If one of those animals dies from one of your pills, I'm gonna take that dead animal and beat you with it."
"I know. I'm sorry, Phoebe. I really am."
"Screw you," Phoebe said as she wrapped her arm around his waist. "You stink."
"I know. I love you, Pheebs," Chandler said as he kissed her on the dead.
"Worst birthday ever?"
"No..not great, but definitely not the worst and if you get well, then it will be the best birthday gift ever. Well, second best...I still loved seeing that movie with you on my Sweet Sixteen."
Chandler smiled at her as the two stood in silence. They did not take their arms off each other. Phoebe did not want to let him go. She wanted him to stay with her, she wanted her friend back.
In the days after the ski trip, it seemed like Chandler was actually keeping his promise. He had even taken Rachel up on her suggestion to quit smoking using a hypnosis tape. There were some rough nights though, according to Joey when Chandler would spend much of the night throwing up. The rest of the group would all take turns checking up on Chandler, making sure he was okay, but he was getting there. His health was definitely improving and by the time the group decided to go on a weekend trip to the beach that May, the old Chandler was back which made Pheobe as well as the rest of the group incredibly happy.