Friends star Matthew Perry opens up about the addiction struggles that led to him being on life support

Matthew Perry's memoir details his struggles with addiction and the health crisis that left him with 2% chance of survival

Matthew Perry attends the premiere of "The Circle" during the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival at Borough of Manhattan Community College on April 26, 2017 in New York City.
(Image credit: Taylor Hill/Getty Images)

Friends star Matthew Perry's memoir is a no-holds-barred account of his personal struggles, including an illness that left him on life support and what he truly seeks in a romantic partner.

Funnyman Matthew, best known for his role on the hit sitcom as Chandler Bing, admitted that one of the benefits of not drinking alcohol and tackling his addiction to narcotics was the ability to finally tell his story. "I wanted to share when I was safe from going into the dark side of everything again," he tells PEOPLE. "I had to wait until I was pretty safely sober - and away from the active disease of alcoholism and addiction - to write it all down. And the main thing was, I was pretty certain that it would help people."

The actor's memoir, Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing, is out on November 1 and for the first time he's openly discussing an illness in 2018 that nearly cost him his life. People reports that opioid overuse led to his colon bursting. This gastrointestinal perforation meant he spent two weeks on life support, five months in the hospital, and needed to use a colostomy bag for nine months.

Actress Lisa Kudrow, actress Jennifer Aniston, actor Matthew Perry and actress Courteney Cox attend the 53rd Annual Golden Globe Awards on January 21, 1996 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California.

(Image credit: Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)

Heartbreakingly, Matthew revealed, "the doctors told my family that I had a 2% chance to live. I was put on a thing called an ECMO machine," he added, "which does all the breathing for your heart and your lungs. And that's called a Hail Mary. No one survives that."

Cast in the hit series Friends aged only 24, the actor says his addiction with alcohol was well underway. Unfortunately, that further developed, and at one point during the series he was taking 55 Vicodin a day. Despite the toll on his physical and mental health, the disease of addiction took over.

"I didn't know how to stop. 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," he tells PEOPLE. "I couldn't stop because the disease and the addiction is progressive. So it gets worse and worse as you grow older."

Actress Lisa Kudrow and actor Matthew Perry attend the "Liar Liar" Universal City Premiere on March 18, 1997 at Universal Amphitheatre in Universal City, California.

(Image credit: Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)

As time went on and dramatic changes in his appearance were impossible to ignore, the actor's struggle with addiction was often reported by the press. His battle went so far that he went to rehab a remarkable 15 times and despite the difficulties this caused his costars were understanding and patient.

Matthew compares his Friends costars to penguins, for a poignant reason. "Penguins, in nature, when one is sick, or when one is very injured, the other penguins surround it and prop it up," he says. "They walk around it until that penguin can walk on its own. That's kind of what the cast did for me."

Lisa Kudrow, Matthew Perry and Jennifer Aniston

(Image credit: Steve Granitz/WireImage/Getty Images)

At this moment in time, the actor is proud to say he's healthy and sober and says the reason for writing this book is to provide hope for others fighting the ravages of addiction. "There were five people put on an ECMO machine that night and the other four died and I survived," he tells PEOPLE. "So the big question is why? Why was I the one? There has to be some kind of reason."

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction in the US, call SAMHSA's national helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (1-800-662-4357)

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction in the UK, check out mental health charity Mind's list of services available

Aoife Hanna
Junior News Editor

Aoife is an Irish journalist and writer with a background in creative writing, comedy, and TV production.

Formerly woman&home's junior news editor and a contributing writer at Bustle, her words can be found in the Metro, Huffpost, Delicious, Imperica and EVOKE.

Her poetry features in the Queer Life, Queer Love anthology.

Outside of work you might bump into her at a garden center, charity shop, yoga studio, lifting heavy weights, or (most likely) supping/eating some sort of delicious drink/meal.