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."
(Photo by Policy Exchange / CC BY 2.0)