'Machete' Star Danny Trejo Talks 48 Years Of Sobriety

By McCarton Ackerman 08/30/16

The 72-year-old actor credits AA's 12-step program with helping him overcome his drug addiction.

'Breaking Bad' Star Danny Trejo Talks 48 Years Of Sobriety

Danny Trejo is 72 years old, but he believes he’s only truly lived two thirds of it. The Machete star is celebrating 48 years sober this month and credits a humble attitude with getting him closer to the big 5-0.

Trejo spent time bouncing in and out of prison throughout California during the 1960s, with his final stint lasting five years after selling four ounces of heroin—valued at $30,000—to another dealer. Only, the heroin was actually sugar, and the dealer was an undercover cop.

Trejo told the Hollywood Reporter how he narrowly avoided being sent to the gas chamber after he and his crew were accused of starting a prison riot during that final stint. “I remember asking God, 'Let me die with dignity. Just let me say goodbye. And if you do, I will say your name every day, and I will do whatever I can for my fellow man.’ I have been keeping that promise,” said Trejo.

Shortly after, he joined a 12-step program at the prison and said it helped him overcome his drug addiction. “Everybody asks me, how do you stay so young? I consider myself 48 years old. That's when my life started.”

The actor said that being of service to others has allowed him to maintain his sobriety. He mentors troubled youth in California, using his past experiences to help guide them on the right path.

“I help at-risk kids. I go to high schools. I do whatever I can,” he said. “I will get their attention before you or a doctor or a nurse or a plumber or anybody. It helps me with what I love doing.”

Even with his Breaking Bad fame, Trejo is sticking with what has worked for him in order to maintain his sobriety. He’s remained committed to living a normal life and is working the same program that he found success with decades ago.

“I’ve found in the 42 years that I’ve been doing this thing that any program that doesn’t adhere to the close steps of recovery that come out of AA and NA seem to fail. And not so much because that’s the only way but because what you’re doing is giving up your ego and saying this is the way I’m staying clean, it’s not my fortitude and it’s not my machismo. This is the way,” said Trejo to Prison Legal News in 2011.

“But you know you just keep coming back. The first time I was introduced to AA was 1959. Once you know about it, it’s always there, it’s always an alternative.“

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.