Renee Graziano: From Trauma to Triumph
This week’s Addiction Talk featured Renee Graziano, one of the stars of “Mob Wives.” Her powerful story is not just one of resilience and the courage to keep trying, but of survival and the power of faith that keeps her going every day.
She sat down with Addiction Talk’s Joy Sutton and shared her story, her struggles and triumphs, and the things she does to practice her recovery.
From Sheltered Daughter to Mob Life
Renee Graziano rose to fame as one of the stars of the hit television show “Mob Wives.” But long before her six-season stint on VH1’s hit show, she was the middle daughter of Graziano family consigliere, Anthony Graziano. Growing up, she knew her family wasn’t the typical Staten Island family, but had no idea that her father was anything more than the owner of a trucking company.
The startling revelation of her father’s other life came abruptly when she was 16 and a man approached her asking if she was was TG’s daughter. When she went home and told her father what happened, the full story of her family and their history and experiences came to light.
To cope with this new reality, Renee eventually started experimenting with drugs, first with marijuana and then with mescaline. From there, she moved to cocaine — her drug of choice for many years — and the late nights and partying lifestyle of 1980s and ‘90s New York mob scene.
“My Addiction Started Way Before Drugs”
Renee always felt out of place—her oldest sister was the beauty, and her younger sister the brains—and craved acceptance, attention, and love. Despite her father’s strict rules and her sheltered upbringing, Renee found herself in an abusive relationship at the age of 15. She said that experience, and the consequences, caused her to internalize her pain and to not seek help when she needed it.
Over time, Renee started using drugs as a way to cope with her, as she put it, real addiction to “power, money, and men.” Her drug use escalated during her volatile marriage, and she experienced her first overdose on July 4, 2007, and then a subsequent involuntary stay in a mental health facility. During her time in the facility, Renee endured additional heartbreaking tragedies.
Sober? Yes. Recovery? No.
Throughout the years of Renee’s drug use, she has been sober, but hasn’t been in recovery. Renee experienced a number of harrowing stressors and triggers, and would return to use because wanted to “just go to bed and not wake up.” Often telling herself, “I can’t snort cocaine or take Xanax, but I never had a problem with pot or alcohol,” she would experience relapse. After her father’s death four years ago, she went back to using in order to escape the pain.
Renee has learned that if you’re not practicing recovery you lose sight of what you’re after, and for her that means peace, love, and family. To get to where she is today, she’s had to walk away from people, places, and large paydays to preserve her life of recovery. But it hasn’t always been easy.
Tough People Last, Not Tough Times
Utterly honest and raw, Renee doesn’t pull any punches. She readily admits that she doesn’t have a full year in recovery because she’s tripped. Today, she takes her recovery one day at a time and, sometimes, one minute at a time. For Renee, working her recovery is an hour-by-hour active practice. She prays daily and says she still struggles with surrender. “I still fight God. I say, ‘you’re not doing it right.’ And then He says, ‘Sit here and let me show you something…’ It’s a battle when it comes to perseverance.” But Renee is her “father’s daughter and is not a quitter.”
Today Renee’s recovery practice includes therapy, gratitude, prayer, acts of service, and calling her mentor regularly. This has helped her stay on track and remind her to keep going.
Faith. Hope. Freedom.
Renee’s tattoo “Faith. Hope. Freedom.” serves as a reminder that where there is faith, there is hope. And from there, there is freedom from what binds you. It’s a permanent token that she can see that helps her remember to keep going — even when she’s struggling. As she says, “If you screw up, don’t give up. If, by chance you use, get up the next morning, get on your knees and pray. Then get to a meeting.”
Renee Graziano is currently writing a memoir about her life and her recovery, and is working on a new show, “Fairy MobMother,” where she will use her “gangster for good.” While she’s not sure what her ultimate purpose is, her hope is to use her experience to help people and save at least one life.
If you are struggling with addiction to drugs or alcohol, take the step toward reclaiming your life and call our compassionate and caring admissions navigators at . At our Hollywood, FL drug and alcohol rehab we provide high-quality addiction-focused healthcare to help you get on the road to recovery and back to living the life you deserve.
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