Friends star Matthew Perry has written about his experience with addiction—including details of a time when his colon burst from opioid use, nearly killing him—in a new memoir. The book, called Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing, is out November 1, and Perry spoke to People about why he wrote it ahead of its release.
The 53-year-old said he struggled with addiction for decades—including throughout his time acting on Friends—explaining that he’d relied on both alcohol and opioids. But it all came to a head when his colon burst from an opioid overdose five years ago, at age 49. He was put on an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) machine, which is a form of life support. At the time, “the doctors told my family that I had a 2% chance to live,” Perry told People. “There were five people put on an ECMO machine that night and the other four died.” He spent two weeks in a coma, five months in the hospital, and had to use a colostomy bag for the better part of a year afterward.
But the experience ended up helping him in a significant way. Perry told People that his therapist advised him to reflect on how difficult the healing process had been anytime he thought of relapsing. “A little window opened, and I crawled through it, and I no longer want OxyContin anymore,” he said.
Perry previously told People that he first became addicted to Vicodin, a different prescription opioid, after a jet ski accident in 1997. “It wasn’t my intention to have a problem with it,” he told the outlet in 2002. “But from the start I liked how it made me feel, and I wanted to get more. I was out of control and very unhealthy.” At one point during his career on Friends, he was taking 55 Vicodin a day.
In 2016, Perry said he didn’t remember three years of the show due to his addiction during a BBC Radio 2 interview, per Prevention. He said his co-stars offered support while they worked together on the show, from 1994 to 2004. “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.”
Perry said it took him a while to start working on his memoir, explaining that he needed to be in the right headspace to begin. “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,” he said. “And the main thing was, I was pretty certain that it would help people.”
He also held nothing back during the writing process. “It’s a little scary to tell all your secrets in a book, [but] I didn’t leave anything out. Everything’s in there.” He expects readers will be surprised by the depths of his addiction—and how close it brought him to death—even though it’s something he’s lived with for decades.
Now, Perry said, he’s living and working from a place of gratitude—and thankful to be sober. “Everything starts with sobriety…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.”
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