Christopher Kennedy Lawford Dies At 63

By Victoria Kim 09/07/18

“He was the absolute cornerstone to my sobriety," said his cousin, Patrick Kennedy.

Christopher Kennedy Lawford
Photo via YouTube

Actor Christopher Kennedy Lawford has died, according to his family. The nephew of John F. Kennedy succumbed to a heart attack on Tuesday, according to his cousin, former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy. He was 63.

Lawford was living in Vancouver, Canada with his girlfriend and working to open a recovery facility, according to the AP.

Lawford used his own experience to author several books about addiction and recovery—including Moments of Clarity (2008), Recover to Live (2013), What Addicts Know (2014), and When Your Partner Has an Addiction (2016).

Lawford—the son of English “Rat Pack” actor Peter Lawford and Patricia Kennedy—was candid about his recovery, and guided others on the same path.

“He was the absolute cornerstone to my sobriety, along with my wife. He was the one who walked me through all the difficult days of that early period,” said Patrick Kennedy, who battled his own substance issues and is now a vocal advocate for mental health and addiction recovery.

Lawford described using LSD in his youth while in boarding school. He stayed away at first, but began experimenting to cope with the trauma of his parents’ bitter divorce and the assassinations of his uncles John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy.

“I had friends trying to get me to use LSD in seventh grade. I grew up with an ethic of trying to do good in the world, and I said no. Then my Uncle Bobby was shot. Next fall they asked me again and I said sure,” Lawford told the Chicago Sun-Times in 2016.

Things only got worse from there, as Lawford “graduated” to heroin and other opioids, according to the AP. In his memoir Symptoms of Withdrawal: A Memoir of Snapshots and Redemption (2005), Lawford described mugging women for money, panhandling in Grand Central Station, and getting arrested for drug possession.

Lawford finally went to rehab at the age of 30. And while his life was far from perfect, he said he has no regrets.

“There are many days when I wish I could take back and use my youth more appropriately. But all of that got me here,” he told the AP in 2005. “I can’t ask for some of my life to be changed and still extract the understanding and the life that I have today.”

After the death of his cousin David Kennedy (son of RFK) who fatally overdosed at the age of 28, Lawford said in 1991, “I never expected to make it to 30. I shouldn’t have. I just have to stay out of my own way, because I’ve got this capacity to screw things up.”

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr