For his entire tenure in Hollywood, Matthew Perry has mostly been known for two things: being Chandler on Friends and his tempestuous struggles with addiction. But now he says that he’s sober and enough time has passed since he was in active addiction, so he was ready to reflect on the darkness he overcame by writing a memoir. In it, he reveals that his opioid addiction had gotten so dire that what he shared publicly as a gastrointestinal perforation at the time was actually a burst colon due to his excessive use of opioids.
People says that Matthew’s upcoming book–Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing–comes right out of the gate with a shocking tidbit: the medical crisis that kept Matthew bedridden for months that just seemed like a happenstance ailment was actually a colon explosion that came scarily close to killing him and was caused by all of the pills he was popping.
Perry opens his memoir with the revelation that he almost died a few years ago at age 49.
Publicly acknowledging at the time that he suffered from a gastrointestinal perforation, the actor had actually spent weeks fighting for his life after his colon burst from opioid overuse. He spent two weeks in a coma and five months in the hospital and had to use a colostomy bag for nine months.
He was in such a grim condition that his heart and lungs had to be kept going by a machine, and doctors gave him a minuscule chance of surviving.
When he was first admitted to the hospital, “the doctors told my family that I had a 2 percent chance to live,” he recalls. “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.”
Though Matthew says he was sober during season 9 of the show, his sobriety ebbed and flowed throughout, as he says could be evidenced by his ever-changing appearance. Matthew also paints a picture of how extreme his addiction was while in the thick of the Friends craze. And could this number of pills BE any more startling?
When Perry was first cast on Friends at age 24, his alcohol addiction was just starting to surface. “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.'”
At one terrifying point during his Friends reign, Perry was taking 55 Vicodin a day and was down to 128 pounds. “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.”
Now that he considers himself safely on the other side of all of this, Matthew says his intention in writing the book was to reach those who may relate to his hard-fought battle with drugs and alcohol.
“I wanted to share when I was safe from going into the dark side of everything again,” he tells PEOPLE exclusively in this week’s cover story. “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.”
Here’s Matthew announcing his book tour and sharing what the book means to him:
And while I would have guessed that it was Matt LeBlanc in full “Irish uncle” posture sitting Matt Perry down to loudly scold him into permanent sobriety, he says that his many surgeries since the rupture and the prospect of a colostomy bag for life was the literal shit that scared him straight.
He’s had 14 surgeries on his stomach so far. “That’s a lot of reminders to stay sober,” he says. “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 recalls. “And a little window opened and I crawled through it and I no longer want Oxycontin anymore.”
Matthew has been to rehab more times than Chandler and Janice broke up, so although his medical emergency must have been horrifying, hopefully, it was the wake-up call he needed to make better choices, and there won’t be any more alcohol, drugs, or video-chatting TikTokers from Raya in his future.
Pic: Nancy Rivera/INSTARimages.com