“The doctors told my family that I had a 2 percent chance to live,” the Friends star said, who has a new memoir where he talks about addiction
Matthew Perry is opening up about his years-long journey with addiction, including a horrific experience that nearly cost him his life.
In an interview with People for its latest cover story, the “Friends” alum spoke about his upcoming memoir, “Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing,” in which he recalled his struggles with drug and alcohol addiction, and his health and sobriety journey.
“I wanted to share when I was safe from going into the dark side of everything again,” said Perry, 53. “I had to wait until I was pretty safely sober — and away from the active disease of alcoholism and addiction — to write it all down. And the main thing was, I was pretty certain that it would help people.”
According to People, Perry begins his memoir by revealing that he almost died four years ago after his colon burst due to opioid overuse.
In August 2018, it was reported the actor underwent surgery for gastrointestinal perforation, with Perry sharing that he spent three months in “a hospital bed.” However, the “17 Again” star has now shared that he had a near-death experience, revealing that he spent weeks fighting for his life after his colon burst from overusing opioids. Perry had to be hospitalized for five months, including spending two weeks in a coma. He then had to use a colostomy bag for nine months.
The “Fools Rush In” star recalled details about what went down when he was admitted to the hospital. “The doctors told my family that I had a 2 percent chance to live,” he said. “I was put on a thing called an ECMO machine, which does all the breathing for your heart and your lungs. And that’s called a Hail Mary. No one survives that.”
Perry — who has been open about his past struggles with substance abuse — said his addiction to alcohol began after he was cast as Chandler Bing in “Friends” when he was 24. (He starred in all 10 seasons of the NBC sitcom, which ran from 1994 to 2004.)
“I could handle it, kind of. But by the time I was 34, I was really entrenched in a lot of trouble,” he said. “But there were years that I was sober during that time. Season 9 was the year that I was sober the whole way through. And guess which season I got nominated for best actor? I was like, ‘That should tell me something.'”
However, Perry went on to recall a specific low point in his battle with addiction, in which he only weighed 128 pounds and was taking 55 Vicodin a day.
“I didn’t know how to stop,” he admitted. “If the police came over to my house and said, ‘If you drink tonight, we’re going to take you to jail,’ I’d start packing. I couldn’t stop because the disease and the addiction is progressive. So it gets worse and worse as you grow older.”
The five-time Emmy nominee — who has previously revealed that he doesn’t “remember” filming Seasons 3 through 6 of “Friends” — shared how his cast members “were understanding” and “patient” during the ups and downs of his addiction journey.
“It’s like penguins. Penguins, in nature, when one is sick, or when one is very injured, the other penguins surround it and prop it up,” he said. “They walk around it until that penguin can walk on its own. That’s kind of what the cast did for me.”
Meanwhile, Perry — who has been open about his battle with substance abuse in the past — said he’s been to rehab 15 times. “I’m pretty healthy now,” he said, jokingly adding, “I’ve got to not go to the gym much more, because I don’t want to only be able to play superheroes. But no, I’m a pretty healthy guy right now.”
“The Odd Couple” star didn’t share what his exact “sober date” is, but stressed that each day matters. “It’s important, but if you lose your sobriety, it doesn’t mean you lose all that time and education,” he explained. “Your sober date changes, but that’s all that changes. You know everything you knew before, as long as you were able to fight your way back without dying, you learn a lot.”
Perry added that the 14 surgery scars he has on his stomach are “reminders to say sober,” saying, “All I have to do is look down.”
“My therapist said, ‘The next time you think about taking Oxycontin, just think about having a colostomy bag for the rest of your life,'” Perry said. “And a little window opened and I crawled through it and I no longer want Oxycontin anymore.”
Perry — who has also used his platform to encourage others to get treatment in the past — said, “There were five people put on an ECMO machine that night and the other four died and I survived. So the big question is why? Why was I the one? There has to be some kind of reason.”
“I think they’ll be surprised at how bad it got at certain times and how close to dying I came,” he added of those who read his memoir. “I say in the book that if I did die, it would shock people, but it wouldn’t surprise anybody. And that’s a very scary thing to be living with. So my hope is that people will relate to it, and know that this disease attacks everybody. It doesn’t matter if you’re successful or not successful, the disease doesn’t care.”
Perry went on to open up about gratitude, sharing that “everything starts with sobriety.”
“Because if you don’t have sobriety, you’re going to lose everything that you put in front of it, so my sobriety is right up there,” he said. “I’m an extremely grateful guy. I’m grateful to be alive, that’s for sure. And that gives me the possibility to do anything.”
Ultimately, Perry said the battle has made him stronger “in every way.”
“What I’m most surprised with is my resilience,” he shared. “The way that I can bounce back from all of this torture and awfulness. Wanting to tell the story, even though it’s a little scary to tell all your secrets in a book, I didn’t leave anything out. Everything’s in there.”
Perry concluded that his memoir is “filled with home,” noting, “Because here I am.”
If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, get help. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline (1-800-662-4357) provides 24/7, free, confidential support for people in distress.