Friends actor Matthew Perry opens up about his decades-long addiction in his new memoir.Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing“ (Now available). in the a recent interview with CBCHe described the juxtaposition of his struggles with addiction while playing the funny guy Chandler.
“I had a rule that I would never drink or do drugs while at work,” Perry said. “Because I had too much respect for the five people I worked with. That way I was never wasted at work.” When he wasn’t filming, he was taking 55 Vicodin a day. “I was 128 pounds, I was on Friends and I’ve been seen by 30 million people – and that’s why I can’t see the show because I was brutally skinny,” he said.
Perry also shared his frustration at the hand he was dealt, in an exclusive cover story interview with People. “It’s not fair that I had to go through this illness while the other five didn’t. They got everything I got, but I had to fight this thing — and I still have to fight this thing,” he added.
said Perry persons that his memoirs “[full] of hope.” But he’s definitely not shying away from the tough times of his life, which include multiple gastrointestinal surgeries, 15 visits to a rehabilitation center, and a complicated relationship with sobriety. The memoir even begins with a heavy revelation: at 49 , Perry almost died.
Perry told People he had a gastrointestinal perforation – a serious condition that describes a hole in the gastrointestinal tract – as well as a ruptured colon as a result of opioid use. After two weeks in a coma and months in the hospital, Perry recovered, but initially my family’s “doctors said I had a 2 percent chance of survival… I was hooked up to a thing called an ECMO machine, which does all the breathing for your heart.” and your lungs. And that’s called an Ave Maria. No one survives that.” The experience left Perry feeling “grateful to be alive.” per person.
Another epiphany Perry experienced happened in rehab when he met with a counselor who saved his life by simply acknowledging his fight. Perry shared with CBC, “He said to me, ‘Just remember, it’s not your fault.'” Perry then asked the counselor to repeat himself. “I said, ‘What do you mean, it’s not my fault? I’m the one doing it.’ And he explained addiction and alcoholism to me and saved my life.” He added, “Because then I knew I wasn’t weaker, it wasn’t my will that was screwed up, that I have this disease and need to get help.” It will not go away, it will never go away.”
With the memoir, Perry says he wants to share his story to help others who may be dealing with addiction firsthand. But he had to make sure he was in a good place before he did. “I wanted to share it when I was sure not to go back to the dark side of it all,” he says PEOPLE. “I had to wait until I was pretty sure I was sober – and off the active illness of alcoholism and addiction – to write it all down. And the main thing was, I was pretty sure it would help people.”
The writing experience — while it can be intimidating to share your life so publicly — has shown Perry his own strength.
“What surprises me the most is my resilience” he tells people. “The way I can recover from all this torture and horror. I wanted to tell the story, even though it’s a bit scary to tell all your secrets in one book, I didn’t leave anything out. Everything is in it.”
But it’s still difficult for Perry to watch himself fight on TV. He hasn’t watched “Friends” yet because he knows exactly what substances he took during the show. “I could tell season after season by how I looked. That’s why I don’t want to see it, because that’s what I see.”
Now he opens up to the idea. “I think I’ll start watching it because it’s been really incredible to see how it touches the hearts of different generations,” he said CBC. “It’s become so important and meaningful,” he continued. “It was really fun and everyone was nice. I’ve been worrying too much about it and I want to see Friends too.”
If you or someone you know needs substance-related treatment or counseling, you can contact the Substance and Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) through the Treatment Referral Routing Service Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).
— Additional reporting by Melanie Whyte