Alcoholism and addiction can affect any person, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, or socio-economic background. While some stigma still remains for those who face substance abuse and addiction issues, there has been a lot of progress toward bringing awareness and the potential for recovery and healing from addiction. Much of this progress began in the 1970s through the voice and advocacy of Betty Ford.
Betty Ford began taking prescription pain killers in the 1960s for a pinched nerve. However, she abused these prescriptions, regularly taking many more pills than prescribed. Because the pills were prescribed by a physician, she did not believe that she had a problem. She would note how the pills not only helped to ease her pain, but would help her with tension and help her to sleep. According to an article in The New York Times https://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/09/us/politics/betty-ford-dies.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0, Betty Ford admitted that some of the pain she was trying to relieve was emotional.
As for alcoholism, Betty Ford did not think she had a problem, because her situation was not as pronounced as many others. She would drink socially with her husband on a regular basis or would enjoy a drink or two at home. She admits to enjoying the feelings that alcohol provided, especially combined with the prescription pain killers.
Although she was able to control much of her alcoholism and addiction while in the White House during husband Gerald Ford’s partial term as President, Betty Ford returned to drinking and excessive prescription drug use after her husband left Office. During an intervention, her family helped her to realize part of her problem — her dependence on prescription pain killers. During her stay at treatment, she later realized and admitted her problem with alcoholism as well. Always candid, Betty Ford spoke out publicly about her problems with alcoholism and addiction, not only to help remove the stigma, but to let others know that they are not alone and that help is available.
Betty Ford not only worked on her own healing after recovery from alcoholism and addiction but on the healing of others when she worked to co-found the Betty Ford Center. While the center offers treatment and recovery to all individuals, there is special emphasis placed on the needs of women. According to a biographical article published on National First Ladies’ Library https://www.firstladies.org/biographies/firstladies.aspx?biography=39, Betty Ford felt that the treatment facilities of that time period did not address the root causes of alcoholism and addiction that were unique to women.
Those who suffer from alcoholism or addiction problems can realize that they are not alone. Betty Ford showed the world that chemical dependency has no barriers and can affect anyone. Her vocalization and advocacy has led to new awareness and new treatment options. She was able to overcome her own addictions to show others that recovery and healing is possible.
As a natural progression and a part of her own recovery, Betty Ford left a legacy for healing after addiction that is based on awareness and understanding. She emphasized the importance of family and spirituality during the treatment process. Betty Ford brought with her the awareness that alcoholism and addiction affects the whole family, with treatment bringing about the chance to heal the entire family by rebuilding relationships.