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Q&A: Rep. Madeleine Dean and her son reflect on his addiction

Jim Saksa, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON — Before her son came back from treatment, Madeleine Dean went downstairs and covered every bottle in the house with Saran Wrap.

When he saw it, he had to laugh. Alcohol wasn’t his drug of choice, and he had already raided those bottles many times in high school, replacing the liquor with water.

“Had anyone even opened them since then?” Harry Cunnane wondered as he looked around. The room was a shrine to his family’s political future, hung with pictures of his older brother working in the White House and his mom running for office, but the past was not yet behind them.

“I envisioned someone at a political fundraiser ordering cognac only to receive a watered down, disgusting drink,” he writes.

There are lots of mother-son moments like that in their new memoir, “Under Our Roof.” Switching back and forth between their perspectives, the book offers an unrelenting account of lies and good intentions, as Cunnane hides and then confronts his opioid addiction.

“I was ignorant of so many things,” writes Dean, a Pennsylvania Democrat.


While other books focus on the act of addiction and end at recovery, “Mad and Harry,” as they call each other, wanted to do something different.

“We wanted to show what recovery looks like — that it’s not easy,” Cunnane said in an interview this week alongside his mom, now serving her second term in Congress amid rumors she could run for Senate in 2022. “I don’t think you can fully understand just how joyous it can be without seeing the uglier side of it.”

Here’s a portion of our conversation, edited and condensed.

Q: Why did you structure the book this way, switching back and forth?


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