EXCLUSIVE: Mario Uses Mother’s Past Substance Abuse to Help Children Affected by Drugs
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In 2004, while his songs were resting atop the charts, few knew R&B singer Mario was going through a crisis when a drug overdose left his mother in a coma. Panicked, he rushed back home from a European tour to care for her. He’d dealt with her addiction since childhood, but when her overdose left his younger brother with no parental supervision, Mario was inspired into action. Three years later he created the Mario Do Right Foundation to help children affected by drug abuse.

He recently spoke with ESSENCE.com about learning to forgive his mother and his foundation’s new partnership with The Partnership at DrugFree.org.

ESSENCE: You’ve been open about your mother’s past bouts with drug abuse. What’s your relationship with her now?
Mario: It’s steady growing. We’re in a better place than we were a few years ago, partly because of the distance that we’ve been able to grow from each other. She’s been able to become more responsible on her own with me not having to be in her ear everyday telling her, ‘mom you need to do this.’ She’s making her own decisions. She’s writing a book. I’m really proud of her. We have a more respectful social relationship and it’s something that we work on everyday. It’s definitely a choice. You make a choice and that to me is love because love has different shapes and sizes and forms but you want to make it a healthy love.

ESSENCE: Do you hold any grudges against her for the past?
Mario: I forgive her. I can’t say there aren’t times where I think about the past and what we’ve been through, the neglect and the times that she wasn’t there, but anybody who knows about growth understands that you have to look towards the future. Understanding the past helped me get to where I am today. Honestly, if I didn’t go through so much growing up in Baltimore I wouldn’t be fit for this business and lifestyle. You have to be strong. Forgiving her was freeing myself.

ESSENCE.com: You also started The Mario Do Right Foundation with the mission of helping children affected by drug abuse.
Mario: It was something I’d been wanting to do since 2004 after an incident where my mom went into a coma. She had an overdose. At the time she had just had one of my little brothers. He was without any parental supervision and he ended up having to be taken care by a friend of mine. I came from Europe to see her in the hospital and it was the first time I had actually seen her in a while. That experience inspired me to want to reach out and help kids who had gone through the same issues—having a parent that suffers from substance abuse.

ESSENCE: Your foundation is partnering up with The Parternship at DrugFree.org to help those affected by family members with drug issues.
Mario: They focus on not just hardcore drugs, but also prescription drugs and all these other drugs that people might not see as harmful. They educate people on how to prevent themselves from getting addicted to things and to understand that there are other outlets to deal with their issues. One day I hope we can have 20/ 30 schools in the inner city having our program because it doesn’t just help the kids, it helps the parents as well and their peers.

ESSENCE: A person reading this may know children who are in similar situations you were in. What advice do you have for them on trying to get that child help?
Mario: I would definitely urge them to get help for the kids, and for the parents, separately. I think it’s important to get to the core of a situation and what’s happening in the household because sometimes even the parents have no control. These kids don’t know where to go to talk about this situation and about what they’re really facing on the inside. So, I would urge them to find an organization like mine or Drug Free to get the kids to start feeling comfortable talking about it outside of the household and alone.

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