Fri. Sep 30th, 2022

It is just before 6:30 a.m., and Patrick Kennedy, former Rhode Island congressman and nephew of a president, is about to start his remote morning sobriety meeting.

Patrick is now 54 and living in Brigantine, New Jersey, near Atlantic City, with his wife, Amy, and their five children, ages 14 to 4.

So as not to disturb them, Patrick goes into his garage, sits on a beach chair on the concrete floor and opens his iPad. He has been to thousands of AA meetings, but as moderator this day, he wants to get it right, so he has his starting script in hand, next to his morning coffee.

It’s now 16 years since the night that Patrick, who had hidden his addiction and bipolar issues, crashed his car into a barricade outside the Capitol building at 2:45 a.m., disoriented and thinking he was late for a vote after mixing medications for sleep. He knew it was a sign of deeper issues.

Opinion/Kennedy:As a Kennedy, I’ve lived my whole life in the shadow of gun violence

Patrick Kennedy recently testifying on Capitol Hill about the opioid crisis.

Against the advice of his famous dad, Sen. Ted Kennedy, Patrick went public about his alcohol addiction. It has at times been a tumultuous journey, but he is today one of the country’s foremost mental health advocates. Legislation he created is a key reason that illnesses such as depression, anxiety and addiction are now covered the same as physical disease.

Learning to avoid potential triggers

After a decades-long Rhode Island political presence, it’s been a while since he’s been in the news here, so I decided to catch up with him. My call got him remembering how during his 20s and 30s, he’d be talking to The Providence Journal weekly or more, and he named three or four of our reporters.

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