As a thirteen-year-old with great expectations, he aspired to follow the life trajectory of his uncle: attend and excel at a prestigious university; engage in a distinguished military career; publish an award-winning book at a relatively young age; pursue a successful path in politics; and, naturally, become President of the United States. If that’s what his uncle John F. Kennedy was able to achieve, well then, reasoned youthful Christopher Kennedy Lawford, why couldn’t he?
One of Chris Lawford’s earliest—and fondest—memories is of being awakened early in the morning of July 13, 1960 by Uncle John in Los Angeles. “Christopher,” said Uncle John as he sat on the edge of his five-year-old nephew’s bed, “I’ve been nominated to be President of the United States. Will you help me?”
“I was mesmerized by the whole American political spectacle,” says Lawford, recalling how he did indeed “help” his uncle by sporting a little red jacket, tie, and American flag during the wild tumult of the Democratic National Convention at the Los Angeles Sports Arena.
When Uncle John was assassinated just over three years later, it was a horrible blow to Chris and all the extended Kennedy clan. Not to mention the entire nation. But there was still hope. Chris turned to another uncle, Bobby, for inspiration.
“Uncle Bobby was the most profound influence in my young life,” Lawford says. Uncle Bobby always seemed to be there for Christopher, was continually involved with the family. He constantly urged his nephew to explore life, and, no matter what the game or contest, Uncle Bobby saw to it that “no one sat on the sidelines; everybody played.”
That hope ended abruplty with yet another assassin’s bullet when Robert F. Kennedy was cut down in June of 1968, just as his presidential campaign was reaching its climax.
It was the “Summer of Love.” But it devolved into a summer of despair for thirteen-year-old Christopher Kennedy Lawford. Subjected to such immense pain and trauma in raw adolescence, Chris began looking for a way out. Something to help him feel better. Laments Lawford, “I spent the next seventeen years trying to ‘feel better.’”
What began as teenage experiments with LSD escalated into chronic heroin and alcohol abuse. “I knew I had a problem at the age of twenty,” Lawford says, “but it took me ten years to get sober. I tried everything…nothing worked.”
But eventually, one miserably cold day in Boston, 1986, Chris hit rock bottom and began to look up.
To be continued…
- 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.