Lawford tries to teach others to kick addictions

By Carolyn Susmankennedy

It has been nearly 30 years since one of the most shocking deaths in Palm Beach.

David Kennedy, 28, — son of Robert F. Kennedy — died of an apparent drug overdose in a hotel room at The Brazilian Court on April 26, 1984.

His cousin, Christopher Kennedy Lawford, thinks often and intensely about that day. It was David’s death, he says, along with that of Chris’ father, actor Peter Lawford, that shocked Chris into sobriety after years of battling drug and alcohol addiction.

Since he threw off the chains of addiction, Lawford has devoted his life to helping others do the same. He is promoting his newest book, Recover to Live – Kick Any Habit, Manage Any Addiction ($26.95, BenBella Books) to convince those who are teetering on the edge of recovery to make that commitment.

He wants readers to understand what addiction is, to understand dangerous habits (do you smoke more than you think you should?) and to understand self-treatment options.

But, does he think he could have saved David?

“I don’t know,” he says in a telephone interview from Los Angeles, where he is preparing for a book-signing at 6 p.m. Jan. 14 at the Hanley Center in West Palm Beach.

“I think if I had been clean and sober, I could have. Some of us have to die,” he says of his cousin, “so the rest of us can achieve recovery. David was fragile, so it makes sense he wouldn’t make it. But I don’t forget him, ever.”

His latest book is his vision of what is far more than a self-help recovery book. It deals with addictions that people don’t consider as such, including hoarding, and it also encourages people who can’t afford expensive private recovery programs to try on their own to beat their demons.

“Maybe they have a bad habit, drink a little too much. They can learn how to moderate that. This isn’t about prohibition; it’s about taking control,” he says. “You’re empowered here.”

He acknowledges that addiction can run in families; his father died of alcoholism, he says, even though that isn’t what’s on his death certificate. And he has already intervened with his own children.

His ex-wife called him about finding marijuana in one of his son’s jeans.

“He said he was holding it for someone. I said, ‘You don’t have that kind of father. That’s not gonna fly with this dad.’ I told him he has a long line of alcoholics in his family and has a 40 percent greater chance of becoming an addict because of that.”

His daughter, now 22, is into her third year of recovery and doing well.

“She has the genetics (for addiction) and she medicated the trauma she had with alcohol. But she is way ahead of me,” he said, by getting clean and sober at her age, while it took him until he was 30.

He is fighting the addiction battle, using his own money to spread the word, he said. And he is challenging the addiction community to help him distribute his books to 9,000 libraries and to underfunded treatment centers.

He also is serving as a public policy consultant for Caron Treatment Centers, which owns Hanley.

“My purpose is to bring attention to this issue,” he said, “and to reduce the stigma and shame.” Article Link…

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