In April 1978, Betty Ford announced that she had an dependancy to prescription medicine, and can be looking for remedy for that dependancy. Later that month, the former first lady disclosed that she was additionally battling and receiving remedy for alcoholism—one thing she had solely been capable of admit to herself after spending a while in rehab.
Betty Ford’s candor about her addictions was exceptional for its time. In 1978, there weren’t many locations Americans might go to obtain remedy for dependancy. Betty was capable of undergo a rehabilitation program at Long Beach Naval Hospital, and her expertise motivated her to discovered the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, California to assist others who had been battling dependancy.
Pain medicine led to dependency
By the time Betty Ford grew to become first girl in August 1974—the month her husband, Gerald Ford, succeeded Richard Nixon—the previous dancer had already been taking prescription tablets for years to deal with ache attributable to arthritis and a pinched nerve. Unlike in the present day, these drugs didn’t include warning labels advising to not combine them with alcohol. So when Betty began to take ache medicine, she continued her typical sample of getting a cocktail at 5 o’clock.
“She was additionally prescribed Valium, which was quite common for girls within the ‘60s,” says Lisa McCubbin, author of Betty Ford: First Lady, Women’s Advocate, Survivor, Trailblazer. The anti-anxiety pill “was called ‘mother’s little helper’, it was prescribed a lot. And Betty admitted publicly that at instances she took it thrice a day.”
At the White House, Betty had entry to much more varieties of medicine. White House doctor William Lukash prescribed her tablets for no matter drawback she got here to him with, whether or not it was going to sleep or staying awake.
Eventually, her assistants grew involved. They knew she was taking lots of medicine, and suspected it was affecting her conduct. They famous that she typically slurred her speech or didn’t make sense, or appeared drowsy in the midst of the day.
“Her assistants actually had such concern about this that they went and spoke with the White House doctor,” McCubbin says. The physician “basically told them to go away, that they didn’t have any medical training and it wasn’t any of their business.”
After White House, household staged intervention
Betty Ford’s dependency on tablets and alcohol grew worse after she and her husband left the White House in January 1977 and moved to Rancho Mirage, California. With Gerald away a lot of time and her 4 youngsters out of the home, Betty felt lonely and depressed, and have become extra depending on tablets and alcohol.
It was Susan Ford, Betty’s youngest little one, who started to note there was an issue. Susan lived in close by in Palm Desert, and have become involved by her mom’s gradual, slurred speech and the best way she shuffled round the home. One night time, when Betty was alone, she fell within the rest room and harm herself. Her household started to fret that if one thing didn’t change, they might lose her.
With the assistance of medical consultants, Betty’s household and pals organized an intervention—a reasonably new idea on the time—for her in April 1978. After the intervention, Betty agreed to enter a rehabilitation program on the Long Beach Naval Hospital. The hospital had began its rehab program a number of years earlier than to deal with Naval service members and their dependents. (Gerald Ford served within the Navy throughout World War II.)
Rehab “was a rude awakening for her,” McCubbin says. Betty was public about the truth that she was getting into rehab for doctor-prescribed medicine; however in the beginning, she didn’t agree that she had an issue with alcohol. Within a few weeks in this system, she was capable of admit—each to herself and the general public—that she was an alcoholic.
Betty Ford established a rehab heart to assist others
Betty Ford’s public candor round her dependancy mirrored the best way she had dealt with her breast most cancers prognosis and radical mastectomy in 1974. Women wrote her letters thanking her for speaking concerning the illness publicly, and her expertise motivated many ladies to carry out self-exams or obtain medical checks for breast most cancers.
Betty’s public struggles with tablets and alcohol introduced consideration to dependancy points, and highlighted the truth that substance abuse was an issue for girls in addition to males. A yr after her personal intervention, she participated in a single for her buddy and neighbor, Leonard Firestone, retired president of Firestone Tire & Rubber Company. Firestone entered rehab, and when he acquired out, he satisfied Betty that they need to open their very own rehab heart.
At first, Betty wasn’t positive she needed to connect her identify to a rehab heart, fearing that it will be embarrassing for her if she relapsed, McCubbin says. But she went forward with it, founding the Betty Ford Center with Leonard Firestone and the doctor James West in 1982.
Betty, who died in 2011, was very lively on the heart. She visited and talked with sufferers, and established a rule that the middle couldn’t disclose the identification of anybody staying there. And, at a time when most individuals who sought rehab had been males, she mandated that the Betty Ford Center at all times preserve sufficient beds accessible for girls as nicely, acknowledging the fact that ladies wrestle with dependancy and need to have a spot to go for remedy.