NCRG Conference on Gambling and Addiction

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Reflecting on Recovery with Christopher Kennedy Lawford

In the closing session of the 7th annual NCRG Conference on Gambling and Addiction, Christopher Kennedy Lawford admitted that, in writing his memoirs, Symptoms of Withdrawal: A Memoir of Snapshots and Redemption, his primary goal was to kick-start a writing career. What he didn’t anticipate was that the book would become a pathway to advocacy, a course he says he now embraces in a pursuit to help people like him who have struggled and continue to struggle with addiction.

Speaking to a room packed with conference attendees, Lawford shared his experiences both as a member of a famous family and as a person addicted to and in recovery from addictions to drugs and alcohol.

“Addicts are not bad people doing bad things who need to be handled in the criminal justice system,” Lawford said, reminding the audience that addiction is a chronic illness that needs to be treated.

While Lawford never suffered from gambling addiction, he made the connection between his experiences and those of gambling addicts by explaining that “addicts and alcoholics are all running away from something, we just choose different colored sneakers.”

To describe how important it is for addicts to seek outside help to turn their lives around, Lawford quoted Albert Einstein who said, “We cannot solve the problems we’ve created with the same type of thinking that created them.”

In addition to being a powerful message for those suffering from addiction, the quote also reminds researchers, clinicians, treatment providers, policy-makers and other stakeholders to be open and engaged in the development of new solutions to help people suffering from addiction. Lawford further emphasized that point by reminding he audience that getting someone sober is only the first step; recovery is contingent on a daily commitment to recovery. For all the stakeholders involved in problem gambling issues, Lawford’s comment can be translated into a daily commitment to reduce gambling-related harms.

Dr. Howard Shaffer closed the keynote session by noting that Lawford’s story is proof that science still has a long way to go in order to understand addiction, but that his story also serves as a powerful reminder that the ultimate purpose of the work of all stakeholders in problem gambling issues is to help people suffering from addiction.


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