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DANNY TREJO, 76, is 53 years sober from drugs and alcohol, with 398 acting credits to his name, as well as a new memoir, Trejo. He went to his first 12-step meeting at the age of 15 and found sobriety in prison. Through recovery, he picked up something else: parenting tools.
Men's Health: Do you believe recovery made you a better father?
Danny Trejo: I don’t think I would have been a father without recovery. Anyone can become a father, but being a dad. . . . My kids love me. One of my kids will call me every day. If it wasn’t for recovery, they’d be writing me in prison. I’d be sending them nice Christmas cards and shit.
MH: Did you ever fear that you would pass on your addiction to your kids?
DT: My children have never seen me loaded. I was clean and sober 18 years before I had my first son, Danny Boy. Great kid. Never had any problems. My son Gilbert, he shot dope; he’s got six years clean now. My daughter, Danielle, she shot dope; she’s got seven years clean now.
So this program not only let me know where to take my kids; it surrounded me with a support system that was able to help keep my kids from using. The support group saved their lives.
MH: What lessons have you learned about being a father specifically from the 12 steps?
DT: First of all, you can work the 12 steps on your kids.
“God, in all his wisdom, didn’t make me do wise. If I do something stupid, it won’t take Him by surprise.” And, believe me, I’m always doing something stupid.
What the program taught me was tolerance—hey, I made mistakes, too—to love my kids no matter what, and don’t snivel.
Every day we pray, “God, give me patience, and give it to me right now.” You have no idea what’s coming when you’re clean and sober, but I can guarantee you that it’s going to be better than what you had.
This article originally appeared in the May 2021 issue of Men's Health.
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