Matthew Perry: Stomach Scars Remind Me to Stay Sober

Actor opens up about addiction to 'People' ahead of memoir release
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 19, 2022 11:37 AM CDT
Matthew Perry: Doctors Gave Me 2% Chance to Live
This cover image released by Flatiron shows "Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing" by Matthew Perry.   (Flatiron via AP)

Matthew Perry is opening up about his struggles with alcohol and drug addiction like never before ahead of the release of his memoir on Nov. 1. He deeply considered the timing of Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing: "I wanted to share when I was safe from going into the dark side of everything again," the 53-year-old actor who played Chandler Bing on Friends tells People in a cover story. Some highlights (and lowlights):

  • He nearly died: Perry publicly claimed to be suffering from a gastrointestinal perforation in 2018, but his colon had actually burst from overuse of opioids. "The doctors told my family that I had a 2% chance to live," he says.

  • Turning point: He "spent two weeks in a coma and five months in the hospital and had to use a colostomy bag for nine months," per People. His therapist later told him to "think about having a colostomy bag for the rest of your life" whenever he was tempted to relapse. "A little window opened and I crawled through it," Perry says.
  • Sobriety: He's had 14 surgeries on his stomach and the scars serve as "reminders to stay sober," he says. Perry—who's been to rehab 15 times—won't say how long he's been sober. But he adds "you learn a lot" with every relapse.
  • Three decades of addiction: Signs of alcohol addiction were already appearing when he was cast in Friends at age 24. "I could handle it, kind of. But by the time I was 34, I was really entrenched in a lot of trouble," he says.

  • The worst of it: He was at one time taking 55 Vicodin pills a day. At 6 feet tall, he weighed just 128 pounds. "I didn't know how to stop," he says.
  • Castmate support: "It's like penguins," he says. "In nature, when one is sick, or when one is very injured, the other penguins surround it and prop it up… That's kind of what the cast did for me." They "were understanding, and they were patient."
  • Season 9: He writes that he was sober during all of filming Friends' second-to-last season. For his work, he received a 2002 Primetime Emmy nomination for outstanding lead actor in a comedy series. "I was like, 'That should tell me something,'" he says.
  • 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."
(More Matthew Perry stories.)

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