In September 2016, key members of The Sanctuary’s management team were invited to attend the opening of a new wing of the South Pacific Private Hospital in Sydney’s Northern beaches. The guest of honour that night turned out to be Christopher Kennedy Lawford, son of the famous Brat-pack actor, Peter Lawford, and a member of the renowned Kennedy political dynasty in the United States.
We were privileged to connect with Christopher and pleased to discover a shared philosophy and desire to improve treatment for people in addiction. While Christopher was ostensibly in Australia to promote his new book “When Your Partner has an Addiction”, we are very fortunate indeed, to be able to entice him back to Byron Bay for a few days, as a special guest of The Sanctuary.
Christopher has had an incredibly interesting and challenging life. One would be hard pressed to meet a more interesting, kinder and urbane man, but Christopher is also very dedicated to the recovery and well-being of people with addiction issues, and his boundless enthusiasm and gentle compassion was inspiring to us all.
In America, a disproportionate amount of the health budget is spent on detoxing and getting people ‘cleaned’ up, but only 2% is spent on actually teaching people how to live well without substances. People who spend a long time in addiction and who’ve lost significant relationships, often lose basic living skills and struggle to manage everyday life. In order to live well, they must learn to overcome these deficits and get back into gear.
What The Sanctuary and Christopher agree upon, is the importance of a treatment programme that addresses living skills and provides the necessary tools to enable people to re-vision their lives and how they might take the necessary steps to do so.
So much emphasis on treatment these days is on avoidance, ‘white-knuckling’ through cravings and treading water – just surviving, in other words - but it’s a hardly a recipe for living a full, engaged life. Broader questions need to be answered, such as “How do I move forward?” “How do I create the life I actually want?” People building their lives anew need support on the basics – how to have relationships; how to live stable lives; how to build a satisfying and suitable career – in short, how to create a life that you value and cherish and actually keeps you wanting to keep on living.
We were lucky to have Christopher stay with us for a few days reviewing our programmes, giving us invaluable feedback, speaking to our senior staff and engaging with us at both practical and philosophical levels about the directions in which addictions treatments are going globally, treatment planning, the unfortunate medicalisation of addiction, the loss of creativity in treatment and how we could each and collectively do better. It was a fruitful, very interesting and inspiring visit and the beginning of a warm and treasured collegial relationship.
Christopher intends to return to us next year so we can collaborate on developing a “how to resource” for people with addictions so they can create a life of richness and value.
Click on the image to view Christopher Kennedy Lawford's bio.