The Sun-Times started a new wellness section, aptly entitled "Well," that debuted a week ago Wednesday, and the features editor asked me to write last Wednesday's cover story, reviewing Christopher Kennedy Lawford's new book. I enjoyed talking with him -- an open, rough-hewn sort of guy. I'm not sure of the utility of the book, but then again, I'm not everybody in the world, and I imagine there are people who will find guidance and support in it.
Society has a habit of viewing any particular illness first as shame and then as triumph. Not too long ago cancer was something families hid — you didn’t even tell your friends you had the Big C and certainly didn’t mention it in the inevitable obituary. Addiction is following the same path. What was once — and to some still is — seen as a personal failing, weakness and sin is increasingly recognized as disease, a complex mix of genetic, biological, social and psychological pathology scything through our nation.
Twenty years ago heroin was what happened to inner-city junkies who could be comfortably ignored. Now it afflicts suburban teenagers and society sits up and takes notice in a way it never did before.
Part of the process of dragging addiction into the light is expanding the circle of sympathy for people it affects. There is the addict, or alcoholic, of course. But then the ring of harm expands outward to include family and friends, who cope with the situation, or more likely, don’t cope with it. In some ways they’re in a tougher position; the addict at least has the brief refuge of using. For families, the pain can be unremitting, and they need all the help they can get.
Christopher Kennedy Lawford, author of best-selling books on recovery such as “Symptoms of Withdrawal and Moments of Clarity,” has joined up with family therapist Beverly Engel, an expert on abuse, to write “When Your Partner Has An Addiction: How Compassion Can Transform Your Relationship (And Heal You Both in the Process).”
That’s a big promise to pack into the title of a book...