Trejo first smoked weed at 8 years old, had his first drink by 12, and started shooting heroin at 14. He was in and out of jail from age 15, and every time he got out, he went back to using. One time, when he was at San Quentin state prison, someone who was formerly incarcerated there came to speak.
“That guy saved my life,” Trejo said. “He said, ‘Why don’t you join us? Before you do anything, just join us. Give it a try. What do you have to lose?’ It was kind of like an awakening. So when I got out of the joint, I went back to meetings.”
This was when Trejo got sober for good, at 24. He immersed himself in the recovery community and eventually became a drug counselor. When Trejo was 16 years sober, a production assistant he met as counselor hired him to be an extra; the PA wanted Trejo around to help him stay sober.
That was the start of Trejo’s acting career, and since then he’s been in hundreds of movies and shows. “Everything from Aug. 23, 1968 to now is just like a dream,” he said. “I’ve got nothing to complain about. I’ve got nothing to fix.”
Trejo is a public advocate for recovery. He’s open about the work it takes to remain sober, as well as the rewards that come from it. He says he surrounds himself with other sober people, and that supporting others is important to him. His recovery is 12-step-based, so no matter where he is in his life, he makes sure to attend meetings.
Life is often erratic when you’re in active addiction—but as Trejo’s unexpected career path shows, it can be unpredictable no matter what. “You have no idea what’s coming when you’re clean and sober,” Trejo said, “but I can guarantee you that it’s going to be better than what you had.”
If you are struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder, there is help and hope. TruHealing Centers offers high-quality treatment for mental health disorders and addiction in facilities across the country. Our staff—many of whom are in recovery themselves—will help you build a great life in recovery. Call an admissions specialist at 410-593-0005.