Matthew Perry is discussing his addiction journey in heartbreaking detail.
The Friends alum, 53, sat down with GQ for a new interview and part of his ABC News interview with Diane Sawyer has been released. Both contain stories uncomfortable to digest — and that's really the point of him sharing his hellish battle.
So far, quite a few stories from the book, out Tuesday, have leaked. He was given a 2% chance to live after his colon ruptured in 2018 due to opioid use — and spent five months in the hospital. His heart stopped beating for five minutes at a Switzerland rehab two years later. He made out with Valerie Bertinelli while her then-husband Eddie Van Halen was passed out in the same room. He dumped Julia Roberts due to his own low self-esteem. He lost all his teeth. He took shots at Keanu Reeves, but has since apologized.
Some of that pales in comparison to new revelations. For instance, he told GQ that at the height of his pill addiction, during the Friends era, he was taking 55 Vicodin a day. (He also abused Xanax, OxyContin and alcohol). That necessitated daily doctor shopping to acquire many pills from different sources — to avoid getting dope sick — and it also involved theft.
Over a period of approximately five years, Perry — who was earning over $1 million an episode by the time Friends ended in 2004 — would make appointments with his realtor to see high-end properties with the purpose of stealing pills from medicine cabinets. (Perry told Sawyer he'd also attend open houses and steal medicine at those, too.)
"I would just go into the bathroom when they were somewhere else," he explained. "Because if I said, 'Could I go to the bathroom?' everybody knew that I was in the bathroom."
Inside, he would rifle through the owner's medicine cabinet to see what he could find. He would carefully check the labels and if the medicine was expired, he would take a bunch, thinking it would be a safe steal. If the prescription was new, he'd take just couple because it would be more noticeable.
"You do what you need to do," Perry said. "I counted on the fact that no one would think that Chandler went through my medicine cabinet and stole from 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 over a two week period of his five-month hospital stay, he had colostomy surgery to change the trajectory of the waste from his bowels. A surgeon made an opening in his abdominal wall for the feces to come out and it was collected in a bag.
Perry previously said that having a colostomy bag is what keeps him from using drugs, as the thought of having one again is so traumatic for him. And you can see why as he detailed specifics of the experience.
"I would wake up," he told the magazine, and "the bag would have broken again and I had s*** all over my face, all over my body, in the bed next door. When it breaks, it breaks. You have to get nurses."
This was not a one-off thing. "When I say that I woke up covered in my own s***, I'm talking 50 to 60 times," he said.
Perry had 14 surgeries related to that hospitalization. One was a failed attempt at removing the colostomy bag. As a result, he was given a temporary replacement: an ileostomy bag. An ileostomy connects the last part of the small intestine to the abdominal wall, and the bag catches the waste.
"Ten times worse," he said of the experience. "You have to deal with 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 surgery successfully fixed things. "I've lived without it now for a long time and I'm very grateful," he said.
However, even nearly dying in the hospital didn't halt Perry's addiction. When went home, he called his drug dealer.
"The first time I took my shirt off in my bathroom after returning from the hospital after my first surgery I burst into tears," he wrote in the book. "I was so disturbed by it. I thought my life was over. After about half an hour I got my s*** together enough to call my drug dealer…"
"It didn't matter" that he had just survived a brush with death. "I needed to take them," he said.
And that led to yet another stint in rehab — he estimates he's lived half his life in a treatment center or sober-living house — where he nearly died for the second time. During surgery, he was given propofol —which he referred to as "the drug that killed Michael Jackson"— and his heart stopped for five minutes.
Perry is 18 months sober today. He's come to understand — and fear — that if he ever uses OxyContin again, he'll end up with a colostomy bag for life. He's also still "getting used to how my body looks" with all its scars, but he is grateful for them "because it helped me stay alive."
Perry started writing his book in his iPhone notes app 18 months ago while in the back of a car on the way to a Florida trauma therapy facility. He switched to an iPad for the second half. When he read the final book for the first time, on the eve of recording the audio book, "I read it and cried and cried and cried. I went, 'Oh, my God, this person has 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 that it is eventually housed in the self-help section of book stores and library. He also wants the general public to read it "to realize how hard it was to quit and not be judgmental for people who are using. Because it is really, really hard…" He said the book "is not an ego journey or anything like that. It’s the cold, hard truth about being an addict. Who made it. Who has to make it every day. The work you have to put in every day to save yourself from this monster that lives in your brain is a baffling thing to live with."
Perry also devoted much ink to his love life, telling stories about crushing on Jennifer Aniston, dating and dumping Julia Roberts, a date from hell with Cameron Diaz and a kissing a then-married Valerie Bertinelli. The GQ story also notes he once had "a make-out session in a closet with Gwyneth Paltrow."
He hopes they'll be "flattered" by the recollections, as he pined for the women (minus Diaz). And he talked about them while revealing his own struggle with self image. While one of TV's most famous men, he never felt he was 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’m deathly afraid that they will find out that I’m not enough, that I don’t matter, and that I’m too needy, and they’ll break up with me and that will annihilate me and I’ll have to take drugs and that will kill me," he said of his past romances. "That's why I break up with these wonderful women that have crossed my path. You know, I'm not being dramatic when I say there's 10 women on the face of the planet that I would kill to be married to. Who I've gone out with and broken 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 crash your car. But I looked in the rearview mirror and I was like, they're all gone. They're all happy, which is great, but I'm the one who’s sitting in a screening room by myself. And there's no lonelier moment than that."
Loneliness was a theme in 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's the happiest he's every been, then said he's a 7 on a scale of 1 to 10.
"Which'll probably be the highest I'll ever get," he said. "Maybe if I had a kid it would move me up."
The new footage from the Sawyer interview — which airs in full Friday in primetime — hones in on facts and figures related to Perry's addiction. He's spent $9 million on treatment to fight his addiction. He detoxed 65 times. He's been in rehab 15 times. He's been in therapy for 30 years. He's been to 6,000 AA meetings.
"Secrets kill you," he said of his addiction, which has impacted every facet of his life, down to his speaking voice. "Secrets kill people like me."
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, contact Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Treatment Referral Helpline at 800-662-HELP (4357).
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