Matthew Perry is telling all in his new memoir, Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing. In his book, he details how he struggled with a serious, dark opioid addiction for years. His addiction cause his colon to burst and his family was told he had a 2% chance of survival. He hopes that his memoir can help others going through similar struggles.
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Matthew Perry Struggled With Addiction Throughout Most of Friends
In an interview with People, the Friends star spoke about juggling his addiction while starring as Chandler Bing. A combination of alcohol abuse and opioid abuse took a severe toll on his body. At one point, he was down to 128 lbs. — and while filming Friends.
Perry told People that he was taking 55 Vicodin a day at one point, on top of drinking. “I didn’t know how to stop,” he said. “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.”
Perry likened his Friends cast mates to penguins because they were “understanding” and “patient.” “It’s like penguins,” he said. “Penguins, in nature, when one is sick, or when one is very injured, the other penguins surround it and prop it up. They walk around it until that penguin can walk on its own. That’s kind of what the cast did for me.”
Because Perry’s addiction was so severe, he was in and out of rehab more than a dozen times. He’d go back and forth between sobriety and substance abuse.
“But there were years that I was sober during that time,” he told People. “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.'”
Matthew Perry Almost Died When His Colon Burst
But eventually, all the drug abuse almost killed him. Perry landed in the hospital a few years ago at age 49 due to a burst colon. All the opioids caused a gastrointestinal perforation, and he ended up in a coma for two weeks. He had a five-month hospital stay and needed to use a colostomy bag for 9 months.
Perry was one of five people in the hospital put on what is called an ECMO machine on the night of his admission. Also known as extracorporeal life support, the ECMO does all your breathing for you and pumps your blood while removing carbon dioxide. All of the other people put on ECMO machines that night passed away. Perry was the only one who survived.
Doctors had told Perry’s family that he had a 2% chance of surviving. He told People that, once you’re put on an ECMO machine, you’re pretty much dead. “That’s called a Hail Mary,” he said. “No one survives that.”
Perry’s abdomen is now riddled with scars, reminding him of what he’s been through when he starts to struggle with thoughts of using again. He also said that his therapist told him to think about whether or not he wanted to be in control of his colon.
“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 Had to Wait Until He Was “Safely Sober” to Write the Memoir
Talking about addictions can be triggering for many or most people. So, Perry needed to get to a point mentally where he wouldn’t feel triggered by his own memories and writing.
“I wanted to share when I was safe from going into the dark side of everything again,” he said. “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 the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics, about 2.7 million people in the United States suffer from opioid use disorder. But in any given year, nearly 9.5 million Americans will abuse opioids.
Matthew Perry wants people to know that they shouldn’t feel ashamed if they fall off the wagon in their journeys towards sobriety. What matters, he said, is that you keep trying, because if you’re still learning, that knowledge stays with you.
“It’s important [to count the days], but if you lose your sobriety, it doesn’t mean you lose all that time and education,” he said. “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.”
November Kicks Off Perry’s Book Tour
The Friends actor has been very candid about his forthcoming memoir, which is available for preorder now. It will ship November 1st and you can purchase it from just about any book retailer.
In an Instagram post, Perry just announced that he will also be embarking on a book tour this fall. Beginning November 2, he will be traveling to New York, New Jersey, Washington, DC, and Toronto. He will be joined by “special guests” and will be offering some virtual tour experiences as well.
“I absolutely can’t wait to share this book with you,” he said. “It’s really personal and I poured my whole heart into it.”