“If we published the first go,” warns Leah McSweeney, “I wouldn’t be allowed to even have a child.”
She’s kidding (we think) but on the cusp of publishing her first book, McSweeney is in a state of reflection — and full of praise for her editor.
“Chaos Theory: Finding Meaning in the Madness, One Bad Decision at a Time,” out Tuesday, is McSweeney’s story of how she came to be the public figure she is today, through her upbringing in New York in the ’80s and ’90s, working through her addiction struggles, rehab stints, single motherhood in her twenties and ultimate creation of her line Married to the Mob and place on “The Real Housewives of New York City.”
Writing a book has been on McSweeney’s wish list for years.
“I just wasn’t sure what it was going to be about,” she says, over a squabble between her chihuahuas Angel and Ruby. “I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do a memoir, or social commentary or what. But I’ve always wanted to write a book talking about my teenage delinquency and drug addictions because I feel like it could help someone. By being on the show and talking about my alcoholism, I got so many people reaching out to me about mental health and addiction. It’s becoming destigmatizing but it’s not fully there yet. But I think that seeing how many people were reaching out to me I was like, ‘OK, I think I need to focus on this in the book.’”
She got to work in January 2021, and through much of the teenage stories found herself fact checking memories with her mother, ultimately a healing experience for the two of them (her mother is now going on her book tour with her).
“When I was 16 I called the cops on my parents. The cop was like, ‘you have to let her go,’ and my mom followed me outside to where the taxi was and tried to physically keep me,” she recalls of one of the more emotional memories she wrote about. “Now being a parent, knowing the kind of terror that was going through her head, that I was maybe going to overdose that night…and at the time, I had no idea what I was doing and how much pain I was causing them. And that was just one of hundreds of things that happened like that. That was hard, thinking about that. I can’t imagine my daughter having an addiction issue at such a young age, and having to worry that she’s going to die every night. How the f–-k do you sleep? If she’s had a hard day at school I’m a mess.”
Trusting that all of the events of her life have led to where she’s meant to be is what she calls her chaos theory, which she put into words in the midst of writing and knew she had her book title.
“Chaos theory is a real thing, it actually embodies my life,” she says.
She hopes with her book that fans who know her only from the show will see a new side and learn more about all that she has overcome.
“The show does a pretty good job of showing who we are, but it’s us in that environment and how we’re going to react in that environment that’s kind of a pressure cooker in that way,” she says. “And I think a lot of people don’t know my story, they only know what they see on TV. There is so much about my history and my business and about me and Rob [Cristofaro, her ex-husband] and about my parenting and what I was going through when my grandmother died, things like that. I don’t think people see that when they’re just watching the show.”
Though book one is just hitting shelves, she’s already plotting her next: “I would love to do a co-parenting book with Rob.”
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