By: Char Adams
Original Source: www.people.com
Patrick Kennedy, the son of Senator Ted Kennedy, has opened up about the alcoholism and mental illness that he says plagued his famous family for decades – and the “code of silence” that bound him to secrecy.
During an appearance on CBS’s 60 Minutes, the former Congressman spoke candidly about his father’s grief following the assassinations of his uncles John and Robert, how his mother would walk around inebriated in the middle of the day in a bathrobe and how it all drove him to turn to alcohol himself at the age of 13.
“I am an addict. I’ll always be an addict,” Patrick told CBS’s Lesley Stahl. “But I’m an addict in recovery. I count my days. It’s one day at a time.”
He said that the numerous parties thrown by his family caused him to blend in as a child, allowing his alcohol use to go unnoticed, but he says the lavish parties weren’t enjoyable. Instead, they were about “relieving the pain.” He added: “What you’re really getting is relief from the low.”
The 48-year-old spoke ahead of the release of his memoir A Common Struggle: A Personal Journey Through the Past and Future of Mental Illness and Addiction. The book, Patrick said, is meant to show that hiding addiction or mental illness could be just as harmful as the disease itself.
Now nearly five years sober, Patrick says he wants the cycle of silence broken. He is leading a political movement to change the way society views addiction and mental illness. He says they are medical issues not morality issues.
“I don’t tell, in this book, about my family stories as some way to talk about their story. This is my story. These experiences are embedded in me,” the father of three told Stahl.
He says his family’s pattern of alcohol abuse stemmed from the assassinations of his uncles, former U.S. President John F. Kennedy and former Senator Robert “Bobby” Kennedy, which he says hit his father the hardest.
“My father went on in silent desperation for much of his life, self-medicating and unwittingly passing his unprocessed trauma onto my sister, brother and me,” Patrick wrote in the memoir (Stahl quoted the former Congressman during the interview).
“My dad never got to grieve. He had to be there for the country. He had to be there for my family. He had to be there for my uncle Bobby’s 11 children, and John and Caroline.”
This “unprocessed trauma” followed Patrick into his political career, CBS reports, where he struggled with drug abuse, alcoholism and mental illness – anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder – after being elected to Congress in 1994.
“I put vodka in Poland Spring water bottles and I put Oxycontin in Bayer Aspirin bottles,” he revealed to Stahl.
Before his own descent into substance abuse, Patrick said he tried to help his “self-medicating” father. By the early ’90s, Ted’s drinking became so heavy that the family staged an intervention, CBS reports.
“[Ted] felt we really had no place, no place whatsoever to question him,” Patrick said. “That’s the defensive position of every alcoholic. Go mind your own business. Back off! That was the message.”
The details of his dark past aren’t easy for the former Congressman to reveal. He said he recently received criticism from his older brother, Ted Kennedy Jr., who said the memoir is an “inaccurate and unfair portrayal of our family,” according to The Boston Globe. But Patrick defended his book, telling the Globe that he was simply “writing very truthfully.”
He told Stahl that he knew the book would cause some outrage.
“This is like breaking the family code here. I am now outside the family line,” he told Stahl. “I was hostage to the family code that no, don’t say anything about it. Anything you say, it’s disloyal. It’s against the family code.”
The book comes after Patrick’s long – and ongoing – journey to recovery. After the death of his father in 2009, Patrick retired from Congress and got married.
In order to stay sober, Patrick takes medication for his bipolar disorder, attends daily 12-step meetings and swims each morning, CBS reports.
He plans to celebrate five years of sobriety next year on Feb. 22 – his father’s birthday.
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