Matthew Perry is sharing the deepest, darkest moments of his addiction journey to help others who suffer. One of the stories is about his detox experience which followed his five-month stay in the hospital after his colon exploded due to opioid abuse.
The Friends alum, 53, writes in his memoir, Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing, about being in a coma on life support with 2% chance to live in 2018. Five months later, he was discharged, returning home with a colostomy bag, which he had for nine months. Nearly dying didn't miraculously heal his addiction.
Perry said he was given Oxycontin, after lying to his doctor saying he was in pain from one of the 14 stomach surgeries he had as a result of the colon explosion. However, what he had "conned them into giving me wasn't working anymore, and I needed more," he wrote. His doctors said no, but his drug dealer said yes. Over the next month, he made four attempts to get opioids from his dealer, but was caught each time. At that point, Perry was sent to rehab, again, this time in New York City.
Along with the colostomy bag (that he cried over each morning when he awoke and remembered he had it), Perry had lost his two front teeth after biting into toast with peanut butter on it and hadn't fixed them when he got to rehab. Those were lesser worries as he had to detox from pills and quit smoking at the same time in rehab. Perry, a "big smoker," explained that he was ordered to stop smoking because he was having another stomach surgery and it would affect his post-op healing.
He felt it was all "way too much to ask" to "quit Oxycontin and smoking simultaneously," admitting he was "scared." He started on the detox drug Subutex, which helps prevent withdrawal symptoms caused by stopping other opioids, and it was not that bad — until day four.
By then, "I was going out of my mind. This had always been the hardest day" of detox — a process he has gone through an estimated 65 times in his life. He felt trapped in rehab, which he compared to a prison, saying every counselor was a "guard" and said he looked like a convict "missing my two front teeth."
On that dreaded day four, he said "something hit me" and it was "like something was punching me from the inside." To take his mind off everything, he left the room wandering aimlessly. He said it was like an attempt to "walk outside my body," but he found himself in a stairwell "in a sort of panic confusion fugue state."
There, he was thinking about his life and struggles — "like the bad parts of my life were appearing to me all at once," he wrote. "I'll never be able to explain what happened next, but all of a sudden I started slamming my head into the wall as hard as humanly possible."
Eight times he made the "mind-numbing slams." There was "blood on the cement, on the wall and all over my face… There was blood everywhere." He said he looked like Rocky Balboa from his end-of-movie scenes.
Someone eventually heard him and stopped him. "'Why are you doing that?'" he recalled being asked. "Because I couldn't think of anything better to do," he said he replied.
That attempt to get sober was preceded by and followed by many others, wrote Perry, who estimates he has spent $9 million on addiction treatments. In 2019, he went to rehab in Switzerland and had surgery to "put some kind of weird medical device in my back" for pain. He took hydrocodone the night before his surgery and was then administered the anesthesia drug propofol during surgery, and the combo of those drugs stopped his heart for five minutes. That was his second near-death experience.
Perry has now been sober for 18 months now. It was then, while in the back seat of car as he was driven to a Florida trauma therapy facility, that he started writing his book on his phone notes app. Perry said once he completed the memoir, he didn't read the whole thing until the eve of recording the audiobook. When he did, he "cried and cried and cried" he told GQ. "I went, 'Oh, my God, this person has had the worst life imaginable!' And then I realized, 'This is me I'm talking about…'"
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).