Celebrity Feature: Renee Graziano
Some people tend to believe that if you’re starring on a successful reality show or if you are a celebrity in general, that your life is perfect. What they see is glamorous, so they think that celebrities are not supposed to be able to feel or relate to an average person working nine to five or that we don’t know what’s happening in our communities. A television show doesn’t shield any truths and it can’t change a person's experiences. I struggled with depression and addiction. My situation isn’t different from anyone else’s because I am human.

There were heavy challenges in my past that I wasn’t ready to face. From 2006-2007, my use of pills was triggered by two major surgeries: a botched plastic surgery, which lasted three days, and a broken bone caused by domestic violence. I also suffered from traumas in my personal life. Medication seemed to be the only way to numb the physical and emotional pain.

Xanax took away the emotions of just being attacked and from then on, I didn’t want to feel anything. It served as the memory blocker, hiding those adversaries because I couldn’t face them. How could anyone? That pill was necessary to prevent the anxiety I refused to see through.

It was Xanax that I couldn’t get off without help. Some days, all I wanted to do was take pills, sleep, and I thought everything would be alright. Soon, the motto was pop a pill, solve a problem. Relapse is not only a big part of recovery, it is the most difficult. Unfortunately, my last relapse was due to a recent death of a friend, however, this was essential to see the light more clearly and to be able to stay focused. It was a blessing.

Addiction can happen to anyone and as I always say, “Death doesn’t discriminate.” Even though my medications were prescribed by a doctor, I’m no more or less of an addict than someone who abuses street drugs. There isn’t a difference between illegal drugs and prescription pills because, eventually, both lead to death. I have been through way more than people know about, which qualifies me as credible to speak up in order to inspire others towards getting help with their addiction. I allowed the cameras to roll during my arrival to rehab to remind others who are struggling that there are ways to get back on track. Addiction can happen to anyone and whether you are a corner office CEO or a criminal, it will hurt you in the same way.

Addiction has taught me so much about myself and each day I stay sober, I grow stronger. I’m not speaking about my experience to put myself on a pedestal; instead, I want to spread the message that everyone can overcome the disease of addiction. Transitions (http://www.transitionsrecovery.com/) and other recovery programs are willing to provide treatment to anyone with open arms. They will always be available when the person is ready.

Yes, this is an ongoing battle, but no one has to face it alone. Not everyone is going to understand what an addict feels inside and how difficult addiction is to grapple with. This is something that no one should ever experience. With that said, people need to reach out to hold each other up as a way to help others. Struggling with addiction reminds me every day just how human I really am, but as I always say, if you fall down seven times, you have to stand up eight.

Addicts must know that we are not alone and we can collectively find a better solution. Television stars aren’t always able to receive “better" and we’re not special. I found the strength to admit to my addiction publicly, which was one of the best things I have ever done because if I can help even one person by sharing my story, then all of this has been worth it.