‘Friends’ Star Matthew Perry Details 30-Year Addiction Battle in New Sobriety Memoir

After 15 stints in rehab and, ultimately, two weeks in a coma, the actor felt grateful to survive and motivated to share his story in hopes of helping others

October 21, 2022
Friends star Matthew Perry

When actor Matthew Perry was admitted to a hospital after his colon burst from opioid overuse four years ago, doctors gave him a 2% chance of survival.

Throughout the time he had played the internationally beloved character Chandler Bing on “Friends,” Perry struggled privately with the opioid and alcohol addiction that would nearly kill him years later. But the actor is now proudly sober and sharing his sobriety journey in a memoir, “Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing,” out Nov. 1.

Perry revealed the severity his condition had reached in 2018: When his colon ruptured, he spent five months in the hospital, including two weeks in a coma. “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,” he said.

Perry was already beginning to deal with addiction by the time he was cast on “Friends” nearly 30 years ago; he was using 55 Vicodin per day at times in those years. Although he was sober for significant stretches during the show’s 10-year run, he said his castmates were still supportive of him during more difficult moments.

“[They] were understanding and they were patient,” he recalled in an interview with People magazine this week. “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.”

Perry also leaned on professionals for support in getting sober. The actor said that he’s been to rehab 15 times, but a therapist finally helped get him on the road to long-term sobriety by pointing out the realities of continued opioid use. Perry has had 14 stomach surgeries already, and the therapist urged him to imagine needing a colostomy bag for the rest of his life.

Although Perry isn’t shy about admitting to relapses during his sobriety journey, he said that a relapse didn’t undo the knowledge he’s gained along the way.

“If you lose your sobriety, it doesn’t mean you lose all that time and education,” he said. “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.”

Today, Perry is taking his sobriety one day at a time. That approach has helped him feel removed enough from his addictions to write the memoir, and he’s hopeful that sharing his story will inspire others to win their battles with drugs and alcohol.

“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 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.”

More Inspiration

Man playing bass at a concert

Sobriety Roundtable: What's Your Favorite Sober Activity?

From roller derby to CrossFit and dog fostering to splurging on Mexican, nine sober folks shared what they do for fun and fulfillment. Get some ideas for your own Dry January or longer-term sobriety!

Depressed man sitting at wooden table

Subs & Drugs & Rock & Roll, Part 3: 'I'm a Loser (And I'm Not What I Appear To Be)'

Don Fertman reaches bottom as the jelly donut hits the wall. The latest installment of the longtime Subway exec's memoir.

Annie Zimmerman's soberversary cake

The Joy of Baking (Sober)

Two months sober, Annie Zimmerman decided to make cookies. Now, her hobby turned passion yields fulfillment, connection and delicious soberversary cakes. Read the interview!

Don Fertman

Subs & Drugs & Rock & Roll, Part 2: A Day in the Life

Don Fertman woke up one morning 40 years ago and poured himself a drink, as usual. But the future Subway exec didn't know this day would be far from ordinary.

Annie Zimmerman running a marathon

Running Toward Recovery

Seeking purpose in early recovery, Annie Zimmerman rekindled an old fire with distance running — and found it carried her through some of her toughest trials in sober life.

Ben Tuff

Closer to the Shore

On Ben Tuff's third day in inpatient treatment, he had a surprising encounter that would eventually lead him to attempt a grueling 24-mile swim across the Narragansett Bay.

Don Fertman

Subs & Drugs & Rock & Roll, Part 1: With a Little Help From My Friends

Don Fertman, longtime Subway exec, writes about a pivotal moment in his 40 years of sobriety: what happened after he went public about his recovery on "Undercover Boss."

Men hugging at a 12-step recovery meeting

Sober Holiday Tips: Meeting 'Share-a-Thons'

Need to get out of the house for a bit and see some friendly sober faces? Recovery support group meeting marathons run 24/7 from Christmas Eve through New Year's Day.

New Report