New Patrick Kennedy Book Pulls Back Curtain on Family Problems

The details in the book have already upset his relatives.

Congrsesman Patrick Kennedy at the 2008 Inauguration by George Miller via Flickr/Creative Commons

Congrsesman Patrick Kennedy at the 2008 Inauguration by George Miller via Flickr/Creative Commons

Patrick Kennedy’s new book on his personal struggles with addiction, his late father’s battle with alcohol, and what it was like growing up in America’s most storied political family has raised some eyebrows.

The former congressman angered relatives when he broke the Cape Cod clan’s “code of silence” by pulling back the curtain on a family that, according to Kennedy’s portrayal, seems as dysfunctional as it is dynastic.

In A Common Struggle: A Personal Journey Through the Past and Future of Mental Illness and Addiction, Kennedy describes his father, the late Senator Ted Kennedy, as a man who turned to the bottle as a way of dealing with the assassinations of his brothers and chronic back pain.

Kennedy depicted a childhood where parties were constant and his parents were often inebriated at all hours of the day.

Kennedy said his father’s alcohol abuse became such a problem for him that it damaged their relationship in the early 1990s. Patrick declined to attend his father’s 60th birthday party in 1992 unless his father grappled with his drinking.

Kennedy goes into great detail to explain his personal struggles with alcohol by recalling multiple incidents where he was embarrassingly drunk or high. Kennedy finally committed to getting sober in 2010 after leaving Congress. In the book, Kennedy notes his father was well aware of his own addiction problems and wonders why he did not intervene when he was younger.

In an interview for the book on 60 Minutes, Kennedy described a failed intervention with his father in 1991 that soured their father-son bond for years.

“I remember him closing the sliding doors. And then sitting down in his big, blue suede chair and we all said, ‘We’re worried about your drinking. You need to get help. It’s affecting us. It’s affecting the family.’ And, uh, he stood up, you know, opened the sliding door and walked out,” said Kennedy.

Kennedy said his father sent him a letter not long after the failed intervention that told him to not visit for a long time.

Things were so bad between that when Kennedy decided to run for Congress in 1994 he did not tell his father ahead of his campaign announcement.

Kennedy told Lesley Stahl the book will upset his family.

“I still right now, Lesley, have trouble talking about this. This is like breaking the family code here. I am now outside the family line,” said Kennedy.

He was right.

In an interview with The Boston Globe, Kennedy said his step-mother, Vicki Kennedy, is not happy with the book. She has not commented on it publicly though he described her “displeased.”

His older brother, Connecticut State Sen. Ted Kennedy, Jr., issued a carefully worded response to his brother’s book that said he was “heartbroken” by his brother’s depiction of their upbringing.

“Our father was a man with an extraordinary capacity for empathy and intimacy who cherished many lifelong friendships; my dad and I shared a deep, emotional bond,” he said according to a statement obtained by The Boston Globe.

Watch the full 60 Minutes segment with Patrick Kennedy below: