Though Chandler Bing was often one of the most levelheaded characters among the Friends crew, Matthew Perry hasn’t always kept so steady. In the opening pages of his new memoir Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing — which hits bookstores November 1st — the actor reveals that his substance use caused him to nearly die in 2018 when he was 49.
At the time, Perry — now 53 — announced that he had suffered from a gastrointestinal perforation. But in reality, as People points out in their new cover story on the actor, his colon had burst from opioid overuse. He spent two weeks in a coma, five months in the hospital, and nine months using a colostomy bag as a result.
“I wanted to share when I was safe from going into the dark side of everything again,” Perry told People of writing the memoir. “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.”
Perry recalled that when he was first admitted to the hospital, doctors told his family he had only a 2 percent chance of surviving. “I was put on a thing called an ECMO machine, which does all the breathing for your heart and your lungs,” he added. “And that’s called a Hail Mary. No one survives that.”
Perry’s alcoholism began around the time Friends premiered, when he was just 24. Though he acknowledges that his castmates were “understanding,” his drastically-changing appearance throughout the years began to threaten his career. Thankfully, Perry was able to turn things around by the time Friends concluded: “Season 9 was the year that I was sober the whole way through. And guess which season I got nominated for best actor?”
Perry doesn’t hide the fact that he’s relapsed on a number of occasions, having gone to rehab 15 times. But things are looking hopeful for the now-sober actor: “My therapist said, ‘The next time you think about taking Oxycontin, just think about having a colostomy bag for the rest of your life,'” he said. “And a little window opened and I crawled through it and I no longer want Oxycontin anymore.”
Luckily, Perry’s health was in good enough shape for him to reunite with the Friends cast for last year’s HBO Max reunion special.