Kennedy Cousins Tackle Addiction in New Book

Christopher Kennedy Lawford is 26 years clean. Former Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) has hit the two-year mark. Both men are serious about their recoveries from drugs and alcohol. Both believe strongly in 12-step programs. Lawford, a big gum chewer and the UN’s Goodwill Ambassador for the Office on Drugs & Crime, has written a few books on the subject, including a memoir. Now he has a comprehensive guide to addiction and recovery called Recover to Live: Kick Any Habit, Manage Any Addiction. Lawford is the author; Kennedy wrote the foreward. They will appear together tonight at Politics & Prose at 7 p.m. to discuss the book. They insist the book is part of a preventative outlook in the next wave of the recovery movement. So not only is it meant for those who might be addicts; it’s for their family members and friends as well and anyone who might be headed down a destructive path. FishbowlDC sat down with the Kennedy cousins Thursday afternoon at the stylish Hotel Helix in northwest Washington for a candid discussion. Lawford’s next proposed book: What Addicts Know: 10 Lessons From Recovery to Benefit Everyone.

(For the purposes of the interview, Christopher Kennedy Lawford will be CKL and Patrick Kennedy will be PK.)

FBDC: With all the books already out there on addiction and recovery, including your own, why the need for a new one?

CKL: Well, first of all, I wanted to publish a book that was accessible, complete. In other words, that dealt with all the manifestations of this illness and I wanted it to be the most credible in terms of the information in it. I watch television and see people selling rehab and books that are less than credible. I felt I was in a unique position as a UN Ambassador and a person with this illness and my legacy because people trust my family  not only to access the best and brightest, but to put together a book well. [I imagine they think], if he did this and those people were in it, it must be legitimate. It doesn’t have an agenda where I am selling one thing over another. We have to come together as a big tent and put our differences aside.

PK: I started One Mind For Research to do the same thing when we passed the Mental Health Parity Act. In other words, bring people together on the same sheet of music. It talks about he phenomenon of addiction — sex, food, hoarding, alcohol. Today there is still a notion that these are separate diseases. What Chris addresses is the fundamental commonality, that recovery can also be viewed in the same way. We can take lessons learned.

CKL: It was difficult to sell this book because of the broadness of it. All the majors passed. I went to a small publisher. Two months after I started writing this book, the American Society of Addiction Medicine redefined addiction as a brain illness.

FBDC: What are your thoughts on Alcoholics Anonymous?

CKL: The thing about this book is it’s not written just for addicts, it’s written for addicts, for family members, for friends, for friends, for everybody. If you want to know about 12 step, I like 12 step programs. They’ve had a profound effect on the world since 1935. I’m a big fan. I think they are misunderstood by a lot of people. There’s a lot of resistance to 12 steps. It’s unfounded fear in my opinion. This book seems to demystify and explain. Yes, I do go to 12 step programs. I believe in keeping that anonymous.