RECAP: Danny Trejo’s Story of Recovery & Redemption Inspires Hundreds at The Council’s 37th Annual Spring Luncheon

Actor, activist, author and restauranteur Danny Trejo inspired a crowd of more than 900 Houstonians with his story of recovery and redemption at The Council’s 37th Annual Spring Luncheon on Thursday, April 21, 2022. Presented by The Moody Endowment, the event raised more than $450,000 to help local individuals and families recover from the effects of addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders.

Mistress of Ceremonies and Board of Trustees member Jerri Duddlesten Moore opened the luncheon, followed by an invocation by Reverend Michelle Manuel of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church. Board of Trustees Chair Joe Matula then announced that this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award is awarded to the late Kirby Attwell, a longtime friend and supporter of The Council, whose life and legacy have forever changed the landscape of addiction treatment in Houston.

President and CEO Mary Beck, LMSW, followed, giving an impassioned appeal for a community united against the growing shame and stigma around substance use disorders and co-occurring mental health conditions. “It is through this community that we find the antidote to shame,” she said. “Awareness, education, and connection are all powerful tools in the fight against stigma.”

Luncheon Co-Chairs Diane St. Yves Brewer and Patrick Keegan then shared their powerful stories of recovery, with Keegan recounting how his attendance of a previous Council luncheon inspired him to a life of recovery. “I saw hundreds of people: sober, happy, and successful and I thought to myself, ‘If these folks can do it, I can do it.’”

Board Trustee Joanie McLeod introduced keynote speaker Danny Trejo who told his harrowing, inspiring, and often humorous story of recovery and redemption. Trejo told the crowd about his substance use in his early childhood, how he found recovery with the help of a 12-step program, and how service to his community has been essential to his recovery. He also emphasized the importance of organizations like The Council to those struggling with substance use, saying, “The Council is like a lighthouse, they point the way when you’re lost.”

The event concluded with a surprise video from former Prima Ballerina for the Houston Ballet, Lauren Anderson, who announced she would serve as keynote speaker for The Council’s Fall Luncheon on October 21, 2022. Save the date!

Finding Recovery at The Council’s Luncheons

The Council’s beloved Annual Speaker Series is more than a luncheon: time and time again, it has served as the starting point in a person’s recovery journey.

It’s a big claim – and to the outside observer, may seem far-fetched. How could a luncheon be the doorstep to recovery? The answer lies in community. As one attendee explained, “My view on recovery was very narrow. I felt like a complete low-life alcoholic doomed to a life of despair, but when I walked into my first Council luncheon and saw the massive crowd of happy and seemingly normal and successful people, my vision changed.”

This centuries-old misconception of addiction as a moral failing has long contributed to the feelings of shame that work to keep people trapped in their disease. The Council’s luncheon is a bold declaration that it is okay to have this disease; it sends a message that recovery is possible and worth our best efforts for every individual. The Council’s luncheon delivers a radical shift in perspective and opens the doorway to possibility. Said one individual, “The Council’s luncheon broke the stigma for me of what an alcoholic was and what a glorious life in recovery could look like.”

The Council's luncheons
Every spring and fall, up to 1,000 members of Houston’s recovery and behavioral healthcare communities attend The Council’s luncheons.

The sheer size of The Council’s luncheons further strengthens this powerful message. One attendee remarked, “I sat in this room with 1,000 people who were there to support recovery. I had never seen anything like it. For the first time in my life, I felt the stigma of addiction lift. Here was a place free from shame and judgment. A place to share the stories of addiction, but more importantly to share the promises of recovery and the resources available to every person in Houston through The Council.”

Because if addiction thrives in isolation, community is the antidote.

Through community we can nourish recovery. A community of recovery can change despair to possibility; it can give us permission to replace shame with self-compassion; it can provide a lifeline of hope.

Since its inception nearly 40 years ago, The Council’s Annual Speaker Series has raised millions of dollars to support local families impacted by addiction; it has shared a message of hope for recovery; and perhaps most importantly of all it has created a community of individuals who can find strength in recovery, together.

If you know someone who needs to hear lived experiences of the power of recovery, invite them to our upcoming luncheon. They might just walk away changed.

Announcing Danny Trejo as Keynote Speaker for our 37th Annual Spring Luncheon

The actor, activist, author and restauranteur Danny Trejo will tell his story of recovery and redemption on Thursday, April 21, 2022 at the Hilton Americas – Houston hotel.

The Council on Recovery is excited to welcome Danny Trejo as the keynote speaker for our 37th Annual Spring Luncheon on Thursday, April 21, 2022. Danny Trejo is an actor, activist, author and restauranteur, best known for his starring roles in the Spy Kids, From Dusk Till Dawn, and Machete film series, as well as recurring roles in the television series Breaking Bad, King of the Hill, and Sons of Anarchy. He most recently appeared in the popular Star Wars series, The Book of Boba Fett.

Danny Trejo headshot

Trejo struggled with addiction at as early as 12 years old, found sobriety through attending 12-step meetings while in prison, and has been sober for more than five decades. He chronicled his harrowing and inspiring story in his critically acclaimed 2021 memoir Trejo: My Life of Crime, Redemption, & Hollywood.

Since its inception 40 years ago, The Council’s speaker series has promoted a message of hope and healing, and helped to reduce the shame and stigma of substance use and related disorders in the Houston community and beyond. The Council provides treatment and recovery support to individuals affected by substance use and other co-occurring mental health conditions, regardless of their ability to pay. Funds raised through our annual luncheons ensure that no family in need is ever turned away.

To reserve your table today, visit our speaker series website. Individual tickets will be sold at a later date.

Helping Families Find North: A Speaker Series for the Age of COVID-19

This blog post is contributed by Mel Taylor, MSW, President & CEO of The Council on Recovery

The Council on Recovery, like many of Houston’s essential nonprofits, has had to re-imagine how we operate as a result of COVID-19. That includes taking the time re-examine our fundraising efforts, as we shift from live to virtual events. While there have been many questions and uncertainties, we have taken the opportunity to look at what is and isn’t working, what we can do to increase interest in the work of The Council, and how we can promote greater understanding of addiction and co-occurring mental health issues.

For 36 years, The Council’s Luncheon Speaker Series has been our major fundraiser and friend-raiser, through which we have touched thousands of lives and raised thousands of vital dollars, allowing us to honor our pledge to turn no one away. The new COVID landscape has challenged this effort, so we went to work, boldly asking: what would we like to see in a new event as part of the Speaker Series? How can we increase our outreach? And how can we reach an even larger virtual audience that needs to hear our message?

The result was a painstaking examination of what The Council is and always has been in the face of crisis: leading, steady, reliable, and always here to help people find their way back to recovery from behavioral health disorders. Indeed, it is at the core of The Council’s mission to help anyone with an alcohol, drug or related issue.

We spent many hours re-thinking and re-imagining what was required to create a virtual event that would capture enthusiasm, create curiosity and educate the community. Now, we are proud to present a new look and new brand for the speaker series: Finding North. The concept of Finding North speaks to the heart of who The Council is: a trusted Houston institution, always here to help families find their way.

We remain most grateful to The Waggoners Foundation for their continued support in presenting the Speaker Series. With our new look and new ideas, we hope to increase those who can be helped from our efforts in honoring the life and memory of Jay Waggoner who died from alcoholism. Together with your help, we can help even more families find north out of the maze of addiction. We hope to “see” you on November as we introduce Finding North with our fabulous speaker Sugar Ray Leonard.

To learn more about our Speaker Series, or to become a sponsor for our first Finding North event, click here.