Excerpt: 'Symptoms of Withdrawal'

Christopher Kennedy Lawford, son of the late Rat Pack actor Peter Lawford and nephew of President John F. Kennedy, was born into a life of wealth, power and privilege. But as his new memoir details, such assets did not prevent him from becoming an alcoholic.

"Symptoms of Withdrawal: A Memoir of Snapshots and Redemption" examines Lawford's legendary parents and his life as a Kennedy, as well as his road to recovery. Below is an excerpt from his memoir.

Chapter 1

You can always do it wrong.

That's the beauty of life. -- Anonymous

What happens when you are born with the American dream ful- filled? The dreams that drew my ancestors here had been realized for me at my birth. I was born just off the beach in Malibu, California. My father, Peter Lawford, was a movie star and a member of the Rat Pack. My mother's brother Jack would be president of the United States. I was given wealth, power, and fame when I drew my first breath. Now what?

My mother gave birth to me in Saint John's hospital in Santa Monica, California, on March 29, 1955, on the same day that Judy Garland gave birth to her son, Joe, in the same hospital. I was named Christopher because my mom liked the name and had a thing for Saint Christopher -- the giant Catholic saint who carried the baby Jesus and the sins of the world on his shoulders. I received a Saint Christopher medal on every birthday until he was decanonized when I was fourteen because the church determined that the evidence of his existence was entirely legendary. My name lost a bit of its luster on that day, and I remember wondering if the Church might be able to negate my existence also.

The circumstances of my birth were further extolled because Judy was up for an Academy Award that year for A Star Is Born and the press was keeping a vigil. Western Union delivered a boatload of telegrams to my parents from those known and unknown.

We're so happy for you both. He'll be quite a boy.

Love -- Jeanne and Dean Martin

Dear friends -- I'm so happy for you both and may I say you picked my favorite hospital for this epic event -- and I'm a man who knows about hospitals. Hello to Sister Mary David -- Bing Crosby

"Quite a boy."

"Epic event."

I was just out of the womb and there were already lofty expectations from some pretty accomplished folk. Uh-oh! I better get my s*** together.

So thrilled for you both. Love Gary & Rocky Cooper

My aunt Ethel sent a telegram that read: What a difference a day makes. Whew. Little Ethel

She should know. She was pregnant at the time with her fourth child, David Kennedy, who would be born two and half months later and become my "best friend to the bitter end."

So Judy's son, Joe, and I were born on the same day to movie star parents in Hollywood, California, and the media were paying attention. From the moment I came into this world, I have had a bizarre and constant relationship with the media. They were rarely there to take a picture of me or get a quote from me, but I was always in the mix -- in the glow. I have known many people who have been touched by fame. For most of them -- whether movie stars, politicians, artists, or criminals -- it only lasts a short time. They go from ordinary to extraordinary and back again in the blink of an eye, but the damage done can last a lifetime. Once you have had a taste of the glare, it's hard to step back into shadows.

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