TODAY   |  January 16, 2014

JFK nephew reveals ‘What Addicts Know’

Christopher Kennedy Lawford, son of Patricia Kennedy and a nephew of President John F. Kennedy, now 27 years sober after battling drugs and alcohol in his youth,  visits TODAY to talk about his new book, “What Addicts Know: Ten Lessons From Recovery to Benefit Everyone.” He is joined by his cousin Patrick Kennedy, a former congressman who has also struggled with addiction.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> kennedy lawford, son of jfk's sister patricia said he began drinking and using drugs at just 12 years old. now he's sharing his life lessons in his new book "what addicts know" with his cousin patrick kennedy . thank you for joining us.

>> thank you.

>> first thing is this is not just about addicts.

>> we grew up with the ethic that anybody who achieves something great in this world overcomes something equally great. this book shows what wisdom they have to show society.

>> you talk about the stigma. i think a lot of people hear about an addict or a mental illness and they say that's a weak person who can't deal with difficulties and challenges. your message is, no, they're dealing with the exact same things we're dealing with.

>> that's right.

>> it's threefold. it's not just a physical illness, which we need to treat medically, but it's recovery for life, which is what chris deals with in the book and that's how to live.

>> people go through addiction and they come out on the other end and they don't get credit for the achievement.

>> not only that, they have wisdom and they have a way of loving that actually enhances their experiences of being human . and that's what this is about. there are a lot of people out there who are miserable who are not addicts who can benefit from this book.

>> you share lessons in the book. some, i'll be honest, sounded a little like psycho babble to me. one is "find out who you are." what does that mean?

>> there's a possibility of spending a little bit of time getting to know who you are will enhance your life.

>> realign your relationships. patrick, you've been there, done that, what does that phrase me to you in your life?

>> it means having a significant other in my life who knows everything about me, having the unconditional love of family, things i took for granted before but now i'm spiritually realigned to be grateful for them.

>> i like this one, engage with community. in your life that was hugely important.

>> this is important. support in your community is critical. you gather and you people who have a common perfect.

>> maintain a spiritual practice. most people go through addiction, they go through it with people they love and know who are close to them, their friends and families knowing about it. you guy goes through it, you make headlines. did it make it harder?

>> it makes it harder in the sense that, you know, people expect and they look at you and this is about -- this is an inner journey. it's hard to do the inner journey when people are paying attention, but it's possible.

>> i'm grateful for having been public. because everywhere i went, matt, people would self-identify with me, who i never knew had shared the same experience. so i was never alone now. when you walked into a room, i'd have people who were anonymous come up to me because i wasn't anonymous. it turned into a blessing.

>> on the other side, is it still a daily struggle for you?

>> no, it's a daily struggle to be a human being . that's the critical thing. this is a hard journey for all of us and this book i hope will help ease that struggle a little bit.

>> it's good to see you both. i think the book is going to help a lot of people, i really do. this is not a book for addicts, it's a book for everybody.

>> thanks.

>> appreciate it.