Matthew Perry opens up about his addiction journey in heartbreaking detail.
The Friends alum, 53, sat down with QG for a new interview and part of his ABC News interview with Diane Sawyer has been published. Both contain uncomfortable stories to digest – and it’s really the point of him to share his hellish battle.
So far, quite a few stories from the book, released on Tuesday, have leaked. He had a 2% chance of living after his colon ruptured in 2018 due to opioid use – and spent five months in hospital. His heart stopped beating for five minutes during rehab in Switzerland two years later. He kissed Valerie Bertinelli while her then-husband Eddie Van Halen passed out in the same room. He dumped Julia Roberts because of his own low self-esteem. He lost all his teeth. He shot Keanu Reeves, but has since apologized.
Some of that pales in comparison to the new revelations. For example, he said QG that at the height of his addiction to the pills, during the Friends At the time, he was taking 55 Vicodin a day. (He also abused Xanax, OxyContin and alcohol). It required daily shopping at the doctor to acquire many pills from different sources – to avoid getting sick from drugs – and it also involved flight.
Over a span of about five years, Perry – who was making over $1 million per episode at the time Friends completed in 2004 – would make appointments with his real estate agent to view high-end properties in an attempt to steal pills from medicine cabinets. (Perry told Sawyer he would also attend open houses and steal drugs there, too.)
“I was just going to the bathroom when they were away,” he explained. “Because if I said, ‘Can I go to the bathroom?’ everyone knew I was in the bathroom.”
Inside, he was rummaging through the owner’s medicine cabinet to see what he could find. He checked the labels carefully and if the medicine was expired, he took a bunch, thinking it would be a safe flight. If the prescription was new, he would only take a few because it would be more noticeable.
“You do what you have to do,” Perry said. “I was counting on the fact that no one would think that Chandler went through my medicine cabinet and robbed me.”
He was never caught, as far as he knows, and did it to feed his addiction. “I couldn’t stop or I thought I would go crazy,” he said.
Another shocking revelation was Perry discussing having a colostomy bag after his colon exploded in 2018 due to OxyContin abuse. While in a coma on life support for a two-week period of his five-month hospital stay, he underwent a colostomy to alter the path of waste from his intestines. A surgeon made an opening in his abdominal wall for the faeces to come out and they were collected in a bag.
Perry has previously said that having a colostomy bag is what keeps him from using drugs because the thought of having one again is so traumatic for him. And you can see why by detailing the details of the experience.
“I would wake up,” he told the magazine, and “the bag would have broken again and I had shit all over my face, all over my body, in the next bed. When it breaks, it breaks. We have to find nurses.”
It wasn’t a one-time thing. “When I say I woke up covered in my own shit, I’m talking 50 to 60 times,” he said.
Perry underwent 14 surgeries related to that hospitalization. One was a failed attempt to remove the colostomy bag. As a result, he received a temporary replacement: an ileostomy bag. An ileostomy connects the last part of the small intestine to the abdominal wall, and the bag collects the waste.
“Ten times worse,” he said of the experience. “You have to manage an ileostomy bag 18, 19 times a day,” versus a handful. There are “a lot of suicides with an ileostomy bag. People can’t take it.” Another operation managed to fix things. “I lived without her for a long time and I’m very grateful for that,” he said.
However, even nearly dying in the hospital did not stop Perry’s addiction. Once he got home, he called his drug dealer.
“The first time I took off my shirt in my bathroom after returning from the hospital after my first operation, I burst into tears,” he wrote in the book. “It bothered me so much. I thought my life was over. After about half an hour, I managed to pull myself together enough to call my drug dealer…”
“It didn’t matter” that he had just survived a touch of death. “I needed to take them,” he said.
And that led to another stint in rehab – he estimates he has lived half his life in a treatment center or sober house – where he nearly died for the second time. During the operation, he was given propofol – which he called “the drug that killed Michael Jackson” – and his heart stopped for five minutes.
Perry is 18 months sober today. He has come to realize – and fear – that if he uses OxyContin again, he will end up with a colostomy bag for life. He’s “still getting used to how my body looks” with all the scars, but he’s grateful to them “because it helped keep me alive.”
Perry began writing his book in his iPhone notes app 18 months ago while in the back of a car en route to a trauma center in Florida. He switched to an iPad for the second half. When he read the last book for the first time, the day before the audiobook was recorded, “I read it and I cried and cried and cried. I was like, ‘Oh my God, This person had the worst life imaginable!” And then I realized, ‘This is me I’m talking about…'”
While he knows that Friends fans will read it, he said he really wrote it for addicts and hopes it will eventually be housed in the self-help section of bookstores and libraries. He also wants the general public to read it “to realize how hard it was to quit smoking and not be judgmental about people who use. Because it’s really, really hard…” He said the book “isn’t an ego trip or anything like that. It’s the cold, hard truth of being an addict. Who did it. Who has to do it everyday. The work you have to do every day to save yourself from this monster that lives in your brain is a bewildering thing to live with.”
Perry has also devoted a lot of ink to his love life, telling tales of crushing on Jennifer Aniston, dating Julia Roberts, dating Cameron Diaz and kissing a then-married Valerie Bertinelli. The QG The story also notes that he once had “a makeup session in a closet with Gwyneth Paltrow.”
He hopes they’ll be “flattered” by the memories, as he yearned for women (minus Diaz). And he talked about it while revealing his own struggle with self-image. While he was one of TV’s most famous men, he never felt good enough for any of the women he dated – and would leave the relationship early to protect his heart from a potential breakup.
“I break up with them because I have a deathly fear that they will find out that I am not enough, that I do not matter and that I am too needy, and that they will break up with me and that annihilate me and I I’ll have to take drugs and it will kill me,” he said of his past romances. “That’s why I broke up with these wonderful women who crossed my path. You know, I’m not dramatizing when I say that there are 10 women on the face of the planet that I would kill to be married. With who I dated and broke up with. And now they’ve all moved on, all of them, and are married and have kids. And you’re not supposed to look in the rearview mirror because then you’ll crush your car. But I looked in the rearview mirror and I thought, they’re all gone. They’re all happy, which is great, but this is me sitting alone in a screening room. And he doesn’t there’s no lonelier time than this.”
Loneliness was a theme of the article, which is pretty heartbreaking for someone who brought us one of the most beloved (and quirky) TV characters of all time, Chandler Bing. At another point in the interview, he said he was the happiest he had ever been, then said he was a 7 on a scale of 1 to 10.
“Which will probably be the highest I’ll ever get,” he said. “Maybe if I had a kid, it would get me going.”
The new footage from Sawyer’s interview — which airs in full primetime on Friday — focuses on the facts and figures related to Perry’s addiction. He spent $9 million on treatment to fight his addiction. He detoxed 65 times. He’s been to rehab 15 times. He has been in therapy for 30 years. He’s been to 6,000 AA meetings.
“Secrets kill you,” he said of his addiction, which impacted every facet of his life, right down to his voice. “Secrets kill people like me.”
If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Treatment Helpline at 800-662-HELP (4357).
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