Matthew Perry is opening up about the health crisis that almost claimed his life several years ago, writing in his upcoming memoir that a burst colon from longterm opioid addiction prompted doctors to inform his family that the actor had a 2% chance of survival.
In a new interview with People magazine, the Friends star, now 53, reveals that when he was 49 he was hospitalized for five months and spent two weeks in a coma. He used a colostomy bag for nine months, he says.
“The doctors told my family that I had a 2 percent chance to live,” he tells 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.”
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Perry details his addictions to alcohol and opioids in his new autobiography Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing, to be released Nov. 1. “I wanted to share when I was safe from going into the dark side of everything again,” he tells the magazine in an exclusive 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.”
The actor had previously discussed his battles with substance abuse, but the severity of his health crisis at 49 had been kept under wraps. He also goes into detail about his addictions during the run of Friends.
Cast on the sitcom at age 24, Perry was increasingly turning to alcohol, he says. “I could handle it, kind of,” the actor says. “But by the time I was 34, I was really entrenched in a lot of trouble. 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.’”
Perry says at one point during his addiction to prescription painkillers, he was taking 55 Vicodin a day and his weight had dropped to 128 pounds. “I didn’t know how to stop,” he 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.”
Perry says his Friends co-stars “were understanding, and they were patient. 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.”
The actor says he has been to rehab 15 times over the years, and is “pretty healthy now.” He’s had 14 surgeries on his stomach, and the scars are “a lot of reminders to stay sober. 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 says. “And a little window opened and I crawled through it and I no longer want Oxycontin anymore.”
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