Prior to his reported death from drowning at age 54, Matthew Perry got candid about his life, career and struggles with addiction in his intense 2022 memoir, Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing.
The 53-year-old Friendsstar opened up like never before in the book, detailing his tumultuous family life, his long-speculated ups and downs with drug and alcohol abuse, and his relationships with stars like Julia Roberts and Valerie Bertinelli.
The overarching message, however, was from a man grateful to be alive after all he’d been through, and eager to pull the veil back on the real-life person behind one of the world’s most beloved sitcom characters. In fact, as Perry told The New York Times ahead of the book’s release, some of his happiest moments on Friends were surrounded by some of his darkest times in real life.
He told The New York Times that after his character, Chandler Bing, married Monica Gellar — played by Courteney Cox — in the NBC show’s season 7 finale, he was “driven back to the treatment center …in a pickup truck helmed by a sober technician.”
“[I was] at the height of my highest point in Friends, the highest point in my career, the iconic moment on the iconic show,” he notes. “When you’re a drug addict, it’s all math. I wasn’t doing it to feel high or to feel good. I certainly wasn’t a partyer; I just wanted to sit on my couch, take five Vicodin and watch a movie. That was heaven for me. It no longer is.”
Read on for a few more of the biggest revelations from Perry’s book.
He had multiple brushes with death.
Perry’s book makes mention of several hospitalizations that the actor endured throughout his years of drug and alcohol abuse. However, the book kicks off with his most dire medical emergency, when he suffered a gastrointestinal perforation at age 49 after his colon burst from opioid overuse. Perry fought for his life, spending two weeks in a coma and five months in the hospital, and had to use a colostomy bag for nine months.
“The doctors told my family that I had a two percent chance to live,” he told People at the time. “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 revealed in the book that he had 14 surgeries on his stomach, and that the scars served as “reminders to stay sober.” But the biggest motivating factor for steering clear of drugs came from his therapist, who told him, “The next time you think about taking Oxycontin, just think about having a colostomy bag for the rest of your life.”
At one point in his drug habit, he was taking 55 Vicodin a day.
Perry didn’t shy away from describing the magnitude of his drug and alcohol problems. In addition to his Vicodin habit, which got up to 55 pills a day during Friends‘ third season, he mentioned using and abusing Xanax, OxyContin, Dilaudid, methadone, buprenorphine/suboxone, cocaine, and lots of vodka.
Speaking with The New York Times in an interview around the time the book was published, Perry revealed how much money he spent battling his addictions, admitting, “I’ve probably spent $9 million or something trying to get sober.”
He said he was never high when working on Friends, but admitted that his drug use and drinking affected his performance on the show.
Perry claimed he was never high while working on Friends, not wanting to ruin the opportunity for everyone else, but he did admit that his drug and alcohol use affected him in terms of being hungover on set.
“One time, In a scene in the coffeehouse when I’m dressed in a suit, I fell asleep right there on the couch, and disaster was averted only when Matt LeBlanc nudged me awake right before my line; no one noticed, but I knew how close I’d come.”
He said he felt nothing when Friends ended.
Perry recalled watching his castmates sob around him as Friends filmed their final episode in 2004, but said the detox drug he was on at the time left him feeling numb.
“I felt nothing; I couldn’t tell if that was because of the opioid buprenorphine I was taking, or if I was just generally dead inside,” he shared. “So, instead of sobbing, I took a slow walk around the stage with my then-girlfriend— Friends had been a safe place, a touchstone of calm for me; it had given me a reason to get out of bed every morning, and it had also given me a reason to take it just a little bit easier the night before. It was the time of our lives. It was like we got some new piece of amazing news every day. Even I knew only a madman (which in many moments I had been nonetheless) would screw up a job like that.”
He claimed to barely remember proposing to Molly Hurwitz.
Perry was in rehab in Switzerland when he proposed to girlfriend Molly Hurwitz in 2019 and said he was “high on 1,800 milligrams of hydrocodone” at the time.
“I had even asked for her family’s blessing. Then I’d proposed, high as a kite. And on one knee. And she knew it, too. And she said yes,” he recalled. “I bought her a ring because I was desperate that she would leave me. I didn’t want to be this injured and alone during COVID.”
“Back in LA one more time, trying to sober up, I think, Wait… how did I get engaged? There are dogs living in my house. How did this happen?” he continues. “I had asked her parents, begged for her hand while high, and put up with the dogs. That’s how scared I was of being abandoned.”
He was supposed to be in Don’t Look Up,but had to pull out after breaking eight ribs.
In the book, Perry shared that he was initially cast as a Republican journalist in Adam McKay’s star-studded 2021 apocalypse satire, but had to pull out of the film after another medical emergency.
During a stay at a rehab center in Switzerland, Perry wrote, he was administered the anesthesia drug Propofol before a surgery to help with his stomach pain, but the drug had serious interactions with hydrocodone that was already in his system.
“I was given the shot at 11:00 A.M. I woke up eleven hours later in a different hospital. Apparently, the propofol had stopped my heart. For five minutes. It wasn’t a heart attack — I didn’t flatline — but nothing had been beating,” Perry wrote.
“I was told that some beefy Swiss guy really didn’t want the guy from Friends dying on his table and did CPR on me for the full five minutes, beating and pounding my chest,” he continued. “If I hadn’t been on Friends, would he have stopped at three minutes? Did Friends save my life again?”
However, while the man saved Perry’s life, “he also broke eight of my ribs,” leaving him in too much pain to return to the film. Perry called the decision to leave “the biggest movie I’d gotten ever” a “heartbreaking one.”
He wished for a family life.
One of the things Perry truly hoped to do with the rest of his life was fall in love and build a family. He ultimately broke things off with Hurwitz, and said he ended nearly every relationship he’d been in.
“That was me afraid,” he told People. “That is what I manifest, something that’s wrong with them. And then I break up with them. But there can’t be something wrong with everyone. I’m the common denominator. I left first because I thought they were going to annihilate me.”
While Perry admitted that he “had a tremendous amount of fear” about love, he said that, “through a lot of work, I’ve got over that fear.”
“I’m going to learn as I go. The thing that’s changed about me is I have no interest in hanging out with somebody that I don’t know or somebody that I’m not that into,” he shared. “The next person I really take seriously is somebody that I’m going to be in love with and not be scared by the things that used to scare me.”
As for who that person will be, Perry said he was looking for “somebody who’s self-supporting.”
“In every way, but monetarily especially because I got burned a few times by women who wanted my money, not really caring about me,” he added. “A sense of humor, beautiful inside and out, caring. This is really important, somebody who can have a back and forth with me.”
He also wanted to have kids, telling the outlet of being a dad, “I think I’d be great. I really do. I grew up with a lot of little kids around me, and that’s probably why, but I can’t wait.”
Health, a partner and kids were all things Perry was confident he’d be able to have in sobriety.
“I’m not run by the fear I used to be run by so everything’s kind of different,” he says. “I’m feeling more confident and I’m not afraid of love anymore, so the next girl I go out with better watch out.”