Christopher Kennedy Lawford suspects that those who come to see him tonight at the Barnes & Noble at The Waterfront in Homestead won't be there because he's a great writer. And he hopes it won't be to discuss his life as an actor and a member of the famous Kennedy family.
They're coming to share experiences with addiction.
Mr. Lawford -- the son of Patricia Kennedy and Peter Lawford -- who has faced the demons of addiction since he was a boy, is promoting his latest book, "Recover to Live: Kick Any Habit, Manage Any Addiction."
"I talk about writing this book and other books and why I write about what I write about, and then I take questions from the audience," he said today while stopping for a quick sushi lunch. "It doesn't have so much to do with writing. I mean, if I was writing a novel, people might want to talk to me about my writing process. But most of the people who show up for my books about addiction show up because they're interested in the issue."
The book boasts interviews with "100 of the world's top treatment experts." While Mr. Lawford's story is one of addiction and recovery, the experts with whom he spoke are the true guides.
"I think personal stories are enormously compelling," Mr. Lawford said. "But there's a lot of science. There's a lot of really important information in brain science, neuroscience, psychology. There's evidence based on therapies, and people need to know what works and what doesn't work. What works for me might not work for somebody else.
"This is a medical issue. You wouldn't go to a cancer patient to learn how to treat your cancer. You'd go to a doctor. Well, this is a brain illness.
"This is where we get into a bit of trouble. It's like everybody in the field is somebody who's in recovery. You need the science, too."
Post-Gazette writer Patricia Sheridan, who interviewed Mr. Lawford for her popular "Breakfast With ..." series this week, asked him if his book is a "self-help" guide, as opposed to expensive therapy or a complicated 12-step program.
"It's a beginning," he told her. "There are seven essential tools of what I cobble together from the scientific evidence out there. These are the things that make a difference in people's ability to transcend some of this stuff. One of those tools is going to a 12-step program. I got sober in 12 steps. Nothing else worked for me. It took a long time, but it worked. So you're right. This is a very tricky illness. It is a very difficult illness. You have to treat all aspects of your life. There is no easy fix here."
"You write in the book that addiction should be viewed and treated as a family disease," Ms. Sheridan said.
"Right, right," Mr. Lawford said. "Especially for folks who are enmeshed in their families whether it is economics, geography or age. It says somewhere in the 12-step program that the root cause of alcoholism are defective relations with others. So it is a relational issue for most alcoholics. They can't really connect with other people really well, and they can't get what they need from other people to help them deal with life.
"I interviewed Dr. Allan Schore from UCLA. He does research on the relational part of the brain, which is wholly formed by the time you are 3. His theory is if you don't bond with a caregiver by the time you are 3 years old ... you will have relational trauma for the rest of your life, and you will need to medicate that somehow. I don't know if that is necessarily true or not, but it is definitely a component. I know from my own experience, I remember the first woman who came into my life who was really meaningful. I don't remember my mother before the age of 2 1/2, but I remember this woman who came in to take care of us. She did bond with me. My mother, God bless her, didn't really know how to do that."
"You had the double whammy of genetics on both sides of your family," Ms. Sheridan noted.
"Yes, that is the thing," Mr. Lawford said. "This is an issue that is complicated. You have a complex interplay between biology and environment, and you can't ignore either one."
Mr. Lawford will be at the Barnes & Noble, 100 W. Bridge St., in Homestead at 7 p.m. It is a free event.
If you have a suggestion for something to do some evening, let us know about it and we'll see if we can get some of our friends to join you. Contact Dan Majors at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1456.