'Friends' Star Matthew Perry Reveals Harrowing Addiction Journey
THURSDAY, Oct. 20, 2022 (HealthDay News) – Just a few years ago, "Friends" actor Matthew Perry almost died from opioid overuse that nearly destroyed his colon and almost killed him.
Now, he’s sober and wants to tell his story.
Perry has written a memoir, “Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing,” which will be published Nov. 1.
"I wanted to share when I was safe from going into the dark side of everything again," Perry told the magazine PEOPLE. "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."
Perry shares that he has gone to rehab 15 times, but he doesn’t say how long he’s been sober.
"It's important, but if you lose your sobriety, it doesn't mean you lose all that time and education," he says. "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 talks about how his alcohol addiction was just beginning when he was 24 and cast on the TV show “Friends.” Perry, now 53, played Chandler Bing on the show.
"I could handle it, kind of. But by the time I was 34, I was really entrenched in a lot of trouble," he admits. "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.'"
Among his lows during the “Friends” years were when he was taking 55 Vicodin a day and weighed only 128 pounds.
"I didn't know how to stop," Perry says. "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."
His cast mates were aware of his conditions and patiently propped him up.
"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. They walk around it until that penguin can walk on its own. That's kind of what the cast did for me."
A few years ago, at age 49, Perry nearly died because of his addiction. His colon burst from opioid overuse, causing him to spend two weeks in a coma, five months hospitalized and to use a colostomy bag for nine months.
“The doctors told my family that I had a 2% chance to live," Perry told PEOPLE. "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 said he’s now healthy and that scars on his stomach remind him of his journey to sobriety.
"I'm pretty healthy now," Perry said, before joking, "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."
Perry said his therapist suggested that when he thinks about taking Oxycontin, he think about the possibility of having a colostomy bag for the rest of his life.
"And a little window opened and I crawled through it and I no longer want Oxycontin anymore,” Perry said.
Perry, the only survivor among five people put on an ECMO machine at his hospital the night his lengthy stay began, is determined to help others who struggle with addiction.
"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 said.
He has learned "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 says. "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."
The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration can help people struggling with addiction.
SOURCE: PEOPLE magazine