'Special' 's Ryan O'Connell Celebrates 1 Year of Sobriety: 'My Life Has Improved 1,000 Percent'

“We live in a culture obsessed with drinking,” Ryan O’Connell said as he opened up about his struggles with alcohol

Ryan O'Connell
Ryan O'Connell. Photo: Amy Sussman/Getty

Ryan O'Connell is one year sober.

The 34-year-old actor and writer — who chronicled his experience as a gay man with cerebral palsy in the hit Netflix series Special — revealed in a candid post on Thursday that he's stopped consuming alcohol.

"One year ago today I quit drinking," O'Connell wrote, in a lengthy post on Instagram.

He went on to reveal that he's long struggled with the substance, and pointed to Annie Grace's book This Naked Mind as a resource that helped him get sober.

"I used to see posts like this and be like 'WTF? HOW?' And, look, everyone is different. I did not do [Alcoholics Anonymous] which has worked for so many. I read a book," he said.

The Netflix star revealed This Naked Mind deconstructed "alcohol's power over our society and explained its addictive nature in a science and facts-driven way that made sense for me."

"But reading the book wasn't a magic trick. I was also ready to be sober and not live in the iron grip of booze anymore," O'Connell added.

Ryan O'Connell
Ryan O'Connell. Ryan O'Connell/Instagram

O'Connell then opened up about his journey to sobriety, admitting he put a rule in place while filming Special before lockdown that entailed "only drinking on the weekends."

Having that parameter in place gave O'Connell "some semblance of power and control," he said. The problem for the actor was that on those weekend days, he would binge.

"I needed a drink because I'd earned it. I made it through the week sober, HELLO? Celebrate not drinking by getting wasted!" he said of his thought process, before giving an example of a time when he rushed to a bar at 1:15 am after a late night shooting "and proceeded to drink three martinis by myself before closing time."

"I even took a picture of the martini to make it seem glamorous instead of sad," the Awkward writer continued. "I experienced just a flicker of clarity that night where I was like, 'Gee, maybe alcohol is in control of me and not vice versa.' Yes, I haven't drank five nights a week but I'm thinking about it and counting down the days 'til Friday when I can do it again. How is that normal?"

Ryan O'Connell
Ryan O'Connell. Michael Kovac/Getty

O'Connell then told anyone struggling with sobriety "don't feel bad," citing the ways alcohol is intertwined with the social experience.

"We live in a culture obsessed with drinking. It's been railed into our subconscious that we need alcohol as social lubricant, as a reward, to enhance our food?" he wrote. "It's years and years of conditioning, which makes opting out of it seem insane and not feasible."

The producer continued, "Well guess what? It is possible. I did it. You can do it too."

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He ended his post by revealing some of the ways in which sobriety has changed him.

"My life has improved 1,000% since removing booze from my life," O'Connell said.

"I used to think I was an anxious person who needed alcohol to deal. It turns out alcohol was actually the thing making me anxious and turning me into someone who can't handle anything," the actor explained. "Alcohol is such a scam."

There's been one other benefit for O'Connell.

"Also, when you quit drinking, you get really hot," he said. "That part is fun too."

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, please contact the SAMHSA substance abuse helpline at 1-800-662-HELP.

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