'The Kennedys have very strong genes, some good, some bad," Christopher Kennedy, a first cousin of Rep. Patrick Kennedy, told me Friday.
Patrick Kennedy, a Democratic House member from Rhode Island and a member of America's most storied family, was supposed to be in Chicago on Friday, not flying to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota to check himself in to rehab.
Kennedy had been planning to spend the day in Chicago raising money for his campaign fund -- taking in about $25,000 from two events -- a lunch with trial lawyers at the Mid-Day Club and a larger event Friday night for about 50 people who were to attend a reception and then a performance of "Spamalot" at the Cadillac Palace Theatre in the Loop.
But his recurring addiction problem roared to life again, and Kennedy seems lucky to be alive and not to have injured anyone while driving in a dazed and confused condition.
The accident occurred while he was on Ambien, prescribed April 25 for insomnia, and Phenergan, prescribed May 2 for gastroenteritis -- a bad upset stomach.
The 38-year-old lawmaker, the son of Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), crashed his Ford Mustang into a vehicle barrier near the Capitol early Thursday, at 2:47 a.m., after bobbing around a police car. Kennedy told the responding officers he was en route to the Capitol to cast a vote. He told reporters Friday in Washington he did not remember a thing about the incident.
Kennedy's history of substance abuse has been well-known, as have the battles of his mother, Joan, with alcohol.
'I struggle every day'
But it certainly was not general knowledge that he was in rehab again just a few months ago and that he sent himself to the Mayo Clinic over the Christmas and New Year's holidays, while the House was in recess.
He admitted to recurring slides into addiction and depression when he spoke to reporters in the House Radio and Television Studio before leaving for Minnesota.
"Over my 15 years in public life, I felt a responsibility to speak honestly and openly about the challenges that I have with addiction and depression. I've been fighting this chronic disease since I was a young man and have aggressively and periodically sought treatment so that I can live a full and productive life.
"I struggle every day with this disease, as do millions of Americans," the lawmaker said.
Christopher Kennedy is the president of the Merchandise Mart and the son of the late Sen. Robert Kennedy. Friday, he said he would stand in for his cousin at the theater fund-raiser. We talked in the afternoon about his cousin. Although they keep in touch pretty regularly, he did not know of his cousin's visit to Mayo over the holidays.
"I think it is a lifetime struggle," Christopher Kennedy said, true for his cousin as well as everyone who wrestles with addiction.
Patrick Kennedy is "struggling" with a "genetic" disorder that "as a family we will overcome." He said "there is plenty of evidence to show that addiction has a genetic base to it."
I've interviewed Patrick Kennedy on many occasions. He is affable, smart and self-effacing.
Concluded his cousin Christopher Kennedy: "There is a genetic element to all this. But his good genes are stronger than his bad genes, and he will rebound."
Lynn Sweet is the Washington bureau chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.