By late 1986, Christopher Kennedy Lawford found himself wallowing in a miasma of drugs and alcohol, both despite and because of his rich family heritage from the political Kennedy clan and high-profile actor/father Peter Lawford. Feeling his great expectations might never be realized, he considered his life to be over and contemplated suicide. Then it happened.
Chris Lawford experienced a “moment of surrender, a window of opportunity,” during which he resolved to do whatever he was told to do in order to change his life. Lawford frequently emphasizes the need for such a moment in his incredibly insightful writings about addiction and recovery. Is it a spiritual revelation? Perhaps.
Chris describes it as a gut-level feeling of submission: “Please help me!” And there is help. With that help—and it may take a long time or not—anyone can move from slavery to toxic compulsions into recovery.
Addicts, observes Lawford in his latest book Recover to Live, are driven by self-centeredness. Once that self-centeredness is overcome by the realization that there is, indeed, something greater than you, then the process of reaching out for help can begin. The ultimate prize of recovery, and what Christopher Kennedy Lawford regards as his proudest achievement, is “my freedom to be me.” Finally unchained from his perceived legacy, toxic relationships, and the other assorted carry-on baggage of his previous life, Lawford revels in the possibility to examine his untapped talents and explore his future.
And he firmly believes we as a society ought to foster those opportunities for all Americans. How? For one thing, “nutrition and healthcare should be affordable for everyone.” Why? Because “physical health is mental health.” Can’t have one without the other, as Chris sees it, and everyone should have access to both.
Universal health care is one priority for Chris Lawford. A national dialogue about mental health is another. Having come from a family scarred by divorce and murder, and seen first-hand the ugly influence of poverty, Lawford insists that “we (Americans) have to overcome this enormous ignorance and shame” we feel when it comes to talking about mental health.
“My family, generationally, was obliterated by gun violence,” Chris recalls, as he bemoans right-wing political hysteria that points accusing fingers at scapegoats and scarecrows instead of engaging in genuine discussion about the root causes of social ills like aggression and addiction.
“People that care about this as a social justice issue have to get involved,” Lawford implores. If it’s left up to politicians and insurance companies dealing behind closed doors, nothing will get done.
Perhaps we as a nation need to recognize our addiction to fear, surrender our ignorance, and recover our possibilities?
- Christopher Kennedy Lawford will be appearing in Seattle at Elliott Bay Books Tuesday, March 19, 7:00pm. He’ll be signing copies of his latest book, Recover to Live: Kick Any Habit, Manage Any Addiction, an extensive exploration of the possibilities for self-treatment of toxic compulsions from drugs to gambling to sex and pornography.
- Earlier in the day, at 7:30am, Chris will be speaking at an Invest in Youth breakfast for Youth Eastside Services, at the Meydenbauer Center in Bellevue.