Best-selling author, actor and addiction recovery advocate Christopher Kennedy Lawford died on Tuesday in Vancouver, British Columbia, according to a series of tweets from his cousin Patrick J. Kennedy. He was 63.
Lawford was the son of Hollywood royalty and Washington elite. His father was actor and Rat Pack member Peter Lawford. His mother, Patricia Kennedy Lawford, was a sister of President John F. Kennedy.
Lawford died of a heart attack, Patrick J. Kennedy said.
Lawford worked in film and television for more than two decades. He was an actor, lawyer, executive and producer. His acting credits include parts on the soap operas “General Hospital” and “All My Children,” and the sitcom “Frasier.”
He is, perhaps, best known for writing about his struggle with addiction and path to sobriety and for advocating on behalf of people in recovery.
“To the world, he was an author, actor & activist, but to the recovery community he was a pioneer – living proof that long-term recovery was possible,” Patrick J. Kennedy, a former congressman from Rhode Island, tweeted. “Chris had lived in long-term recovery since the mid 80’s and helped countless others along the way. In my own struggle to achieve sobriety, he always encouraged me to stay the course, providing love and guidance when I needed it most.”
Lawford traced his journey in intimate detail in the 2005 book “Symptoms of Withdrawal: A Memoir of Snapshots and Redemption.” In it, he wrote about the trauma he suffered as a result of his parents’ divorce and the assassinations of two of his uncles. Lawford said in the book that he began drinking at 12, and later turned to cocaine and heroin. He followed the memoir with several more books.
Drawing on his personal struggles, Lawford founded the Global Recovery Initiative in 2001 and served as the organization’s CEO. The not-for-profit seeks to remove barriers and provide opportunities for people in recovery, according to its LinkedIn page.
He also worked with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the White House Office on Drug Control Policy, the World Health Organization and the Canadian Center on Substance Abuse.
In 2013, Lawford and Patrick J. Kennedy sat down with CNN to discuss Lawford’s self help book, “Recover to Live: Kick Any Habit, Manage Any Addiction.” At the time, the former representative had been in recovery for almost two years and Lawford for 26.
“I’m about reducing stigma and shame and giving people the opportunity and the empowerment to do something about this illness if they want to,” he said during the interview.
Lawford is survived by his children, David Christopher, Savannah Rose and Matthew Valentine.