Moments of clarity: JFK's nephew on what put him and his friends on the road to rehab

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"Working with celebrities and their egos is no fun. But as much as I hated doing this book, I thank God that I did, because their stories are the most powerful messages you will ever hear," says Christopher Kennedy Lawford.

The son of Hollywood and Washington royalty, Lawford has been in London telling MPs about his "moment of clarity" when he took the first step from hopeless addict to addiction sage. He has also been promoting his book, recently published in the UK and extracts from which are seen here. His acting career is on hold as he travels around the US convincing his compatriots that addiction is a disease, not a crime.

He took acid at the age of 13 and by 20 he was using heroin. His father, Rat Pack actor Peter Lawford, and his mother, Patricia Kennedy, the sister of President John F Kennedy, were both alcoholics

"I was the Imelda Marcos of addiction. I was 13. Both my uncles had been killed. I was terrified. I was angry. I wanted to get out of here and drugs and alcohol gave me that for 17 years," said Mr Lawford.

On 17 February 1986 he had an epiphany – a moment of clarity. In that moment Mr Lawford lost his obsession with getting high. He has been sober for 23 years.

He was persuaded to gather similar stories from friends, celebrities and strangers for a new book after his own "moment" proved to be the talking point of his 2005 memoirs, Symptoms of Withdrawal.

"I didn't want to do it. I was writing a novel, but everywhere I went people wanted me to talk about how I changed my life," he says. "It was difficult for people to do, and five or six really famous people pulled out in the end because it was just too scary."

Forty-three personal stories in the book describe the point when each addict felt compelled to change; the majority describe the moment as a spiritual one.

He sees the book as his way of answering the Kennedy family "call" to public service: "I don't regret my path because my experience got me here and I couldn't be doing anything more important than what I'm doing now."

Celebrity rehab...

Alec Baldwin Actor

Alec Baldwin started drinking seriously in the early 1980s while living in New York. He swapped alcohol for drugs in 1983 and embarked upon two hedonistic years which he calls his white-hot period. His moment of clarity came in 1985, six weeks before his 27th birthday, in a support group for addicts.

"There were times when I did what I did because I was looking for God. There were times I did what I did because I was looking for a wife and a companion. And – this is the most dominant – there were times I did what I did because I was looking for a family.

"That day, God was a black, 65-year-old retired postal worker named Lenny. If you had told me that Lenny was going to deliver the message for me, I would have said, 'I don't think so.'... But when Lenny said, 'You never have to feel this way again if you don't want to,' I remember sitting there thinking, this guy really cares about me. And God to me is anyone who cares, really cares.... The people in that recovery room were my family."

Kelly McGillis Actress

Kelly McGillis left Hollywood in the early 1990s with her two daughters, husband and an addiction to alcohol. It took her 12 years to get sober.

"Those last few years I knew I had a problem, but I had all kind of things that kept my denial intact.

"Finally I lost everything. My marriage was over; my kids had been taken away from me and I had to sell my house because I hadn't worked in a long time, and so I decided it'd be a really good idea to kill myself. I locked myself in this little apartment with a bottle of booze and sleeping pills. I don't know how many days I spent there. I remember waking up at one point and I heard this little voice speaking to me, inside my soul, saying 'not yet'.... After experiencing that voice, I felt a sense of peace. It was something I had never felt before and I don't know if I ever will again.... The next time I woke up, a gardener had broken in the door and I looked at him and said, 'I have to go now. I need help.'"

She then spent five and half hours in a car on the way to a treatment centre, pleading with her friend to let her out.

Jamie Lee Curtis Actress

Jamie Lee Curtis was addicted to alcohol and the painkiller Vicodin – something that she kept secret for years until a friend caught her swallowing pills in December 1998 and told Curtis that she was a "dead woman".

"That January I woke up many mornings feeling sick and tired. There were many, many more moments in that months where my willpower, my strength, my belief that I was more powerful than this drug failed me one more time, and I woke up filled with shame. No public humiliations, but the private humiliation that one more day, I had said that morning, 'I'm not going to do it again,' and when the afternoon rolled around I had to find drugs. That was January."

In February, Curtis met up again with an old friend, who offered to introduce her to her own doctor. The doctor was happy to prescribe as many pills as they wanted.

"I knew my friend was going to be dead and I was going to be standing at her funeral with her children... or I would be dead and she would be at my funeral with my kids. I haven't had a drug or a drink since that moment."