A mother and son cope with addiction
Shirley Hawkins | 4/9/2008, 5 p.m.
R&B singer Mario is one of the contenders tripping the light fantastic on the ABC hit show, Dancing with the Stars, but for years, the Grammy nominated R&B singer was harboring a long-buried secret.
According to the singer, Marios mother, Shawn, was a heroin addict. Swept up in the throes of addiction, Shawn was unable to care for Mario throughout his early years.
I was about nine or 10, I remember seeing needles on the dresser, and her with like-I cant remember if it was a belt-something around her arm and she was just like, sleep on the bed, Mario recalled, whose hometown is Baltimore, Maryland. That was the first time I ever noticed anything weird and after that it was just, I guess, her personality and her mood swings, and that type of thing. And just her not being around for long periods of time.
Despite his turbulent personal life, Mario said that it was his mother, a pianist, who sparked his interest in music.
She had a lot to do with me acknowledging music in the first place, Mario told the Associated Press. She was the person who encouraged me to do those talent shows, and ultimately allowed people to see my talent.
Even with his blossoming career, hit songs and roles in several feature films, Mario grappled mentally and physically with his mothers addiction. Her unpredictable behavior sapped the singers energy and caused him undue stress.
Through it all, theres been this monkey on my back, this burden, and theres been my mothers drug addiction, he confessed. Whether Im on stage, whether Im accepting an award or on a flight to wherever Im going this is always on my mind.
Desperately seeking a solution to his mothers drug abuse, Mario spent hours surfing the Web looking for information on addiction. Even when he was on tour, Mario would often cry into the phone as he tried to convince his mother to seek professional help.
The R&B singers battle to cure his mother of addiction echoes the dilemma of many young people who struggle with alcohol or drug dependency in their families. According to statistics, 8.3 million children in the United States live with at least one parent who is in need of treatment for alcohol or drug dependency.
One in four children under the age of 18 reside in a home where alcoholism or alcohol abuse is a fact of daily life.
And children of addiction are at significantly greater risk for emotional problems such as depression or anxiety, learning problems and mental illness.
By the age of 20, Mario said he was playing the role of parent by providing a home for his mother and paying all of her expenses.
But eventually it dawned on him that the money he supplied his mother with was mysteriously disappearing. No longer willing to care for his mother alone, the singer staged an intervention with a professional therapist, his mothers boyfriend and a close family friend.
MTV contacted Mario about filming an hour-long special entitled I Wont Love You to Death: The Story of Mario and his Mom. The special aired in October of last year.
Mario revealed that filming his mothers intervention was often a painful and stressful experience. I didnt want people to see how I was sometimes aggressive with my mother, or sometimes I would have to raise my voice or I would say things that I really didnt mean, Mario told the Associated Press. It was really difficult but it got to the point where I felt like the camera was almost like a book. I was telling a story. I was releasing all of these feelings that I had inside for so long.
The MTV special depicted how Mario struggled to find a way to cope and change his mothers troubled life.
The R&B singers story has a happy ending: His mother received the help she needed and has been clean for nearly a year.
In an effort to help young people who are struggling with drug addicted parents, Mario founded the Do Right Foundation to help to raise awareness and provide alternatives for young people impacted by drug abuse in the home. His mother now helps him with the foundation.
The foundation also works with young people to make good choices for a brighter future.
To contact the Do Right Foundation, call 1-800-503-6781.