By Dr. Tony Greco
Dr. Tony Greco is a disability rights advocate for mental health and addiction support and the founder of GET HELP.
In 1977, my parents met in an AA meeting. My mom was still a teenager and my dad had a couple of years sober in the program. She was a troubled youth; in addition to alcoholism, he could not read or write, and suffered from an undiagnosed mental illness. They found comfort in one another, as new people in recovery often do. If the stories can be believed, they married shortly after she got pregnant. And again, as new people in recovery often do, my mom relapsed and would not get sober for another 23 years. In 2001, that unexpected baby she had as a teenager, now a young man, picked her up from a psych hospital to drive her to American Hospital in downtown Los Angeles for, what would hopefully be, her last detox.
I have been trying to get my mom clean, sober or, at the very least, functional since I was 7 years old. Truth be told, my childhood was a battle ground of both my parents’ dysfunction. I can remember coming home from school one day at 15 years old to a completely barren house, for the exception of my things in my bedroom. I was alone, homeless and turning to the same familiar haunts and vices as my own parents did, in spite of all my attempts to be anything other than like them.
I found myself looking to the same strangers in 12 steps meetings at 17 years old, and have been there ever since. Unlike my parents, those meetings worked for me, but it required coming to terms with things much greater than just addiction. Like many of us who turn to addiction, the problem is deeper than addiction. Addiction is a symptom. If we don’t stay clean or sober long enough to get to those underlying problems, we will surely return to the quick fixes and damage of addiction. But we need to get clean or sober before we can even begin to address the underlying things like trauma, depression, anxiety, bi-polar