In a watershed interview, former Congressman Patrick Kennedy reveals that alcoholism and mental illness ran rampant in “Camelot” but his famous family swore to uphold a “code of silence.”
On a recent episode of 60 Minutes, the son of Senator Ted Kennedy shared that after his uncles, president John F. Kennedy and former senator Robert “Bobby” Kennedy, were assassinated, his mom would “walk around inebriated in the middle of the day in a bathrobe,” an influence that ultimately led him to take up drinking himself at the young age of 13.
Patrick said his behavior was easily concealed by all the extravagant parties his family would throw to “relieve the pain.”
Now, Patrick says,”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.”
In his soon-to-be released memoir, A Common Struggle: A Personal Journey Through the Past and Future of Mental Illness and Addiction, Patrick explains that the act of hiding addiction or mental illness can be just as, if not more, damaging than the diseases themselves.
He’s hoping that by sharing his story, he can help end the societal stigma placed on addiction.
“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. 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.
“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.”
Patrick struggled with drug abuse, alcoholism, anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder throughout his political career.
“I put vodka in Poland Spring water bottles and I put Oxycontin in Bayer Aspirin bottles,” he said.
He also revealed that his father’s alcohol dependency became so dire that in the early 90s his family staged an intervention.
“[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.”
Though he’s facing a great deal of criticism from other Kennedys who believe he’s “breaking the family code,” he feels his message is important to spread, especially for other people in recovery.
“I was hostage to the family code that no, don’t say anything about it. Anything you say, it’s disloyal.”
After his father passed away in 2009, Patrick, 48, left Congress and married Amy Petitgout, a teacher.
On February 22, his father’s birthday, he hopes to celebrate his fifth year of sobriety.