Matthew Perry has been open about his struggles with alcohol and drug addiction for years, famously saying in a 2016 radio interview that he didn’t remember filming multiple seasons of Friends “somewhere between season three and six” because he was so out of it at the time. But despite the fact that Perry cleaned up and was sober throughout season 9, he would unfortunately go on to relapse several more times.
All told, the 53-year-old actor has been to rehab 15 times, and as he reveals in his upcoming memoir, Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing, his last battle with opioid addiction a few years ago was so serious that he nearly lost his life.
When Perry was 49, he says that he suffered from a gastrointestinal perforation after his colon burst from opioid overuse. As a result, he spent five months hospitalized, including two weeks when he was in a coma, and was forced to use a colostomy bag for nine months.
told People, ahead of the Nov. 1 release of his memoir. “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.”
But Perry did survive. In fact, he discloses that he was one of five people put on an ECMO machine that night, and the only one to live. Now, he wants to share his story in hopes that he might help others who are struggling. “So the big question is why? Why was I the one? There has to be some kind of reason,” he admitted to the publication.
“While he prefers not to disclose how long he’s currently been sober, he does still count each day. “It’s important, but if you lose your sobriety, it doesn’t mean you lose all that time and education,” he says. “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.”
It seems as though sobriety is going to stick this time, as Perry says he has a couple of stark reminders to keep him from using again, including the ever-present scars from his stomach surgeries or the looming threat of needing to permanently use a colostomy bag.
“He also has his scars: 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.”
His impetus to stop taking drugs? “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.”
And while Perry now has a new lease on life, focusing on his continued sobriety, he still hasn’t lost his trademark sense of humor.
“I’m pretty healthy now,” he says, before joking, “I’ve got to not go to the gym much more, because I don’t want to only be able to play superheroes. But no, I’m a pretty healthy guy right now.”
Matthew Perry as the newest addition to the MCU or DC Universe? We could see it — but hopefully if and when Perry stages his big comeback, he’ll continue to prioritize his health and recovery.