Bravo’s hit show Shahs of Sunset just returned for its sixth season and my Sunday nights are suddenly a whole lot more exciting! The series follows a group of fabulous Iranian American friends living in Los Angeles. Original cast member Golnesa “GG” Gharachedaghi has always been one of my favorites—and by favorite I mean she makes me stare in fascination, scream at my TV and shake my head.
GG is a study in contradiction. She’s one of the youngest cast members, but she’s definitely not naïve. She’s beautiful and glossy like her fellow Shahs, but she has a wild side that’s about more than just partying. She loves shiny things—not just jewelry. She’s obsessed with guns and knives (she’s admitted on camera that she keeps a knife within reach at all times). She’s known for her heavy drinking and outrageous behavior, but she’s also struggling with some major health issues. In short, she’s insanely entertaining—insane being the operative word.
From the very beginning I suspected GG was an addict. She spoke vaguely about having “been through a lot” and something about her intensity and ability to manipulate people seemed very familiar. It finally clicked when I spotted copies of the Big Book and the AA Basic Text on her bookshelf in the background during season one (I remember feeling like a super TV recovery spy). GG eventually opened up on the show about her history of addiction. She spoke candidly about being on drugs as a teen, going to rehab and even becoming an addiction counselor in her 20s.
In interviews off-camera, GG revealed that childhood trauma led her to start doing drugs around the age of 12. She said she experimented with everything and her addiction progressed really fast. She said she quickly became a “full blown addict,” citing cocaine and marijuana as her drugs of choice. Although she consumes massive amounts of alcohol on the show, she claims that she’s been drug free since 2005.
She may not be sober, but damn she’s fun to watch. GG is known for always being at the center of controversy, picking fights, throwing chairs and generally causing exactly the kind of chaos you expect from an addict who is definitely not in recovery. And of course, she always looks great. But after several years of lighthearted drama and destruction, things took a dark turn for GG during season 5 of Shahs in 2016.
In the midst of some heavy drinking and seriously bad behavior that included pulling a knife at a dinner party and physically attacking a cast mate, GG revealed that she had been secretly struggling for six years with Rheumatoid Arthritis. She talked about being in constant physical pain, not being able to easily move her hands or bend her knees. After being diagnosed with the disease, GG had managed to control her symptoms pretty successfully for five years, but the previous year it had caught up with her.
She described living in debilitating pain during filming and turning to alcohol to self-medicate. Always a heavy drinker, GG admitted that alcohol had became more than just a party for her. Luckily, her experience allowed her to recognize the danger her history of addiction posed in combination with her arthritis. She recognized her pattern of substance abuse and knew where she was headed. In an interview, she admitted to telling herself: “Okay, well if I don’t stop it now, this could eventually lead to a few lines of coke, it could lead into a lot of other dangerous things.”
So, GG decided to take action. In typical fashion, some of her choices were positive and some…not so much. But all were super entertaining. Around the end of season five, GG started seeing a new doctor, got treatment for her RA and tried some new medication. During the break in filming, she got engaged to her boyfriend of only a couple of months, married him a month later and then got divorced within 60 days. After that, GG checked into rehab again.
She started season six of Shahs of Sunset fresh out of rehab. She described the experience as having helped her feel “normal and healthy” through meditation, chanting and Tai Chi. While she still has not embraced total abstinence, she says she doesn’t drink or smoke as much.
The season premiere featured the new and improved GG attending a “chanting” meditation class at trendy LA meditation studio, Hyperslow. We saw participants lie quietly on yoga mats, with a candle burning in the middle of the darkened room. The teacher led them in a guided meditation, speaking in a soft calm voice. Then they all started screaming at the top of their lungs! It sounded the scene of a mass murder, not a meditation class. How perfect for GG.
This season we will follow GG as she tries to apply some of her newly rediscovered serenity to the relationships with her fellow Shahs. Maybe now that her physical pain is being managed, she’ll have a chance to heal some of her emotional wounds. Perhaps she will finally demonstrate how an addict can drink in moderation. Or maybe she’ll fight less and just use her knives for cutting food.
Whatever happens, I know I’ll be watching. And if it makes me feel like I need to scream at my TV, I’ll just consider that my daily meditation.
Photo Courtesy of Bravo