Matthew Perry opens up about drug addiction in new memoir

Matthew Perry attends the Broadway opening night of Lucas Hnath’s ‘A Doll’s House, Part 2’ with Laurie Metcalf and Chris Cooper at Golden Theater on April 27, 2017 in New York City.

Friends Matthew Perry alumni spoke about his drug addiction journey to People before the November 1 publication of his memoirs Friends, lovers and the terrible big thing. Perry, 53, told the publication, “I wanted to share when I was immune to stepping into the dark side of everything again. I had to wait until I was safely sober – and away from the active disease of alcoholism and drug addiction – to write it all down. And the main thing was that I was pretty sure it would help people.

Perry opens his memoir with the revelation that he nearly died a few years ago at age 49 due to his colon bursting due to overuse of opioids. Suffering from a gastrointestinal perforation, the actor spent two weeks in a coma, five months in the hospital and had to use a colostomy bag for nine months due to a burst colon. Doctors told Perry’s family when he was first admitted to hospital that he “had a 2% chance of living”, he recalls. “I was put on a thing called an ECMO machine, which does all the breathing for your heart and lungs. And it’s called a Hail Mary. No one survives it. He recalls five other people being placed on that machine that night – four died and he was the only survivor.

When Perry was first cast Friends as Chandler Bing at age 24, his alcohol addiction was just beginning to surface. “I could handle it, sort of. But by the time I was 34, I was really entrenched in a lot of trouble,” he admits. “But there were years when I was sober during that time. Season 9 was the year I was sober throughout. And guess what season I was nominated for Best Actor? I was like, ‘That should mean something to me.’

Perry also abused opioids while acting on Friends, taking up to 55 Vicodin daily and weighing 128 lbs. “I didn’t know how to stop,” he said. “If the police came to my house and said, ‘If you drink tonight, we’ll take you to jail,’ I’d start packing. I couldn’t stop because the disease and the addiction are progressive. So it gets worse and worse as you get older.

Over the years, Perry went to rehab 15 times and underwent 14 stomach surgeries. “That’s a lot of reminders to stay sober,” he says. “All I have to do is look down.” Although he’d rather not divulge how long he’s currently been sober, he still counts every day. For those who have read the memoir, “I think they’ll be surprised at how bad things got at times and how close I came to dying,” Perry says. “I say in the book that if I died it would shock people, but it wouldn’t surprise anyone. And that’s a very scary thing to experience. So I hope people will understand and know that this disease attacks everyone. It doesn’t matter whether you succeed or not, the disease doesn’t care.

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