Christopher Kennedy Lawford (1955-2018) 

“Christopher Lawford, an actor, author and member of the Kennedy clan who wrote a memoir about his years of drug addiction and subsequent recovery and later promoted efforts to help people attain sobriety, died Sept. 4 in Vancouver. He was 63. The cause was a heart attack, a cousin, former congressman Patrick J. Kennedy (D-R.I.), told the Associated Press. Mr. Lawford’s parents were Peter Lawford and Patricia Kennedy Lawford, who was the sister of President John F. Kennedy, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.).”

Obituaries, despite the personal details, read sadly impersonal.  I knew Christopher Lawford, he of the family some say are “cursed with sadness.”  From my personal remembrance, his family, and many other families were blessed by his joyous energy and enthusiasm for sharing recovery.

We first met in NY while Chris was working with Caron Treatment Centers spreading the word that effective treatment was available and doesn’t cost a fortune.  His memoir, Symptoms of Withdrawal: A Memoir of Snapshots and Redemption, was one worthy of celebration. We had a swanky fun-filled event with Rev. Lee Booth as Master of Ceremonies, and special appearances by Ritch Shydner, Tracy McDonald, and Mick Betancourt.  We decided to name the event “The Experience Strength and Hope Awards” with Christopher as the first recipient, although that accolade was agreeably bootstrapped onto his resume by mutual consent.

While we didn’t enjoy what some may call an intimate friendship, we had a perfectly comfortable personal familiarity over the years, crossing paths at conferences, lectures and AA meetings.

I especially recall spending time just last week with Chris when he was the keynote speaker at a Milestones gathering offering solutions to the addiction crisis. He gave a pep talk and regaled everyone with his journey from a hard bottom to celebrating 31 years sober. He told stories from inside the White House with “Uncle Jack” (JFK) to the Vegas Strip with his dad, Peter Lawford, snorting coke at his 21st birthday party.

As anyone who met him can affirm, his looks where striking. He had the Lawford “too damn good looking” features and the Kennedy morality – the definition of which is probably subjective, but I mean that in the most positive way.  We  shared a love of sharing, connecting, and exploring the reward of a life best lived awake and aware, a life of empathy and compassion and above all, a life of striving to be of value to others.

We also shared an award from SHARE the Self-Help And Recovery Exchange – different years, same honor.

Chris is  one of those guys I expect to see at various uplifting recovery events, but we all know about expectations.  They say only the good die young, and if that is true, sixty-three is very young indeed. Christopher Lawford will be conspicuous in his absence, yet equally conspicuous in his undeniable positive contributions to the recovery community.


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