Griffin O’Neal, the son of actor Ryan O’Neal and brother of Tatum O’Neal has struggled for years to break free from one of the most famously dysfunctional families in Hollywood.
“My whole family has been absolutely destroyed to smithereens from drug addiction and alcoholism,” says Griffin, 50. “The common denominator is drugs and alcohol and depression and it’s a never-ending cycle. I had to walk away from all of it. I’m done.”
Now sober, he’s speaking out about his fight to remain clean now that his nephew, Kevin McEnroe, the son of Tatum and her ex, John McEnroe, has written a novel about Griffin’s mother, actress Joanna Moore. A beautiful actress, she struggled with addiction and raised her two kids, Griffin and Tatum, in squalor, eventually becoming unable to look after them. The book, Our Town is a devastating portrait of a family’s dashed hopes and trampled dreams.
“My mother was an alcoholic and she took weight-loss pills and other drugs,” says Griffin. “The combination of the two, along with her not being emotional stable because she was orphaned at age 6 and lived a rough life – was heart-wrenching.”
Griffin’s long battle with addiction began when he was just 9.
“I was the family joint roller,” he says. “My life has been a reign of drug and alcohol degradation. I had to self medicate my entire life because there was pain everywhere. There were drugs everywhere in my family all day, every day. It was the ’60s and ’70s and Tatum and I had a tough time. I had to go to prison and I have a multitude of DUIs. At least 10. I was basically an alcoholic but I did every drug on the planet. I had problems with cocaine and speed too.”
Today, he reports, “I’m three and half years sober. I’ve had stints of sobriety throughout my life. I was raised in rehabilitation center and institutions and I think I graduated from high school in my third rehab in 1982. That’s the part that is heartbreaking but maybe also inspiration for people dealing with the disease.”
Griffin left Los Angeles in 2007 and moved to a small town near the Mexico border. He’s no longer in touch with his father, who famously punched out his teeth when he was 16.
“The last time I saw my dad, he shot at me because I was trying to help his son [Redmond] get sober so I haven’t talked to him in nine years,” he says. (Ryan was arrested in 2007 for allegedly assaulting Griffin with a firearm. He claimed at the time that it was in self defense.)
Nor is he speaking to Tatum, whom he saw last year. Still, he wishes her well. “My sister is the most caring and loving and wonderful person,” he says. “The battle continues and it’s a battle.”
While his nephew’s book revisits his family’s tortured past, he supports his efforts.
“His life was tough in its own way,” he notes. “He didn’t always have stability. He was always the sweetest little boy. I imagine he’s trying to search and figure out where he came from and the type of people he has in his blood. It will probably break my heart to read it. I have great compassion for my family and I hope for the best for them.”