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Matthew Perry says he was close to death after experiencing a gastrointestinal perforation and his colon bursting following opioid misuse.
In a new People magazine cover story ahead of the release of his new memoir Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing, releasing Nov. 1, Perry spoke for the first time about some aspects of his addiction history, which dates back to his mid-20s and early years on NBC hit Friends.
At one point, a medical complication resulting from his addiction left him with a “2 percent chance” of survival, the actor says. Perry developed a gastrointestinal perforation — or a hole that develops through the wall of a gastro-related organ such as the large or small intestine, esophagus or stomach — and suffered another medical emergency when his colon burst.
“The doctors told my family that I had a 2 percent chance to live,” he recalls of the time when he was first admitted to the hospital. “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.”
Perry ultimately was in the hospital for weeks after his colon-related emergency, which resulted from his opioid misuse. Two weeks were spent in a coma and another five months in hospital care before he had to use a colostomy bag for nine months.
During the interview, Perry also discusses the extent of his opioid and alcohol dependence, noting that during a window of time while starring on Friends, he took 55 Vicodin a day. His weight also dropped to 128 pounds. Acknowledging the noticeable changes in his appearance, he says his Friends co-stars “were understanding, and they were patient” in supporting him through relapses over the years.
“I didn’t know how to stop,” he explains. “If the police came over to my house and said, ‘If you drink tonight, we’re going to take you to jail,’ I’d start packing. I couldn’t stop because the disease and the addiction is progressive. So it gets worse and worse as you grow older.”
While the actor has previously discussed his substance disorder and three-month hospital stay, he told the magazine he had been grappling with addiction since he was cast on the show at 24. It was then that his alcohol misuse began.
“I could handle it, kind of. But by the time I was 34, I was really entrenched in a lot of trouble,” he says. “But there were years that I was sober during that time. Season nine was the year that I was sober the whole way through. And guess which season I got nominated for best actor? I was like, ‘That should tell me something.'”
After 15 trips to rehab and 14 surgeries on his stomach, Perry says he’s determined to help others who struggle with addiction and says of his own sobriety now, “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.”
He adds: “There were five people put on an ECMO machine that night and the other four died and I survived. So the big question is why? Why was I the one? There has to be some kind of reason.”
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