Today we can find countless first-person accounts of addiction and recovery, with a few keystrokes. It becomes easy to forget that the nation isn’t that far removed from a time when persons battling addictions would struggle to find a public role model anywhere.
The public and the field certainly owe much gratitude to Betty Ford for her prominent role in changing history. The former first lady, who died July 8 at age 93, “did for alcoholism what a few years later a famous actor, a beloved professional athlete, and a brave young boy would do for AIDS,” William White wrote in a December 2007 Addiction Professional cover story about Mrs. Ford’s legacy.
I’ve referred back to White’s words several times over this weekend. At the time he wrote the article, the Betty Ford Center had just commemorated its 25th anniversary. Mrs. Ford and her family in 1978 had raised awareness for the first time of concepts that were foreign to the public then but now are much more widely understood, as White explained:
“The manner in which Mrs. Ford initiated her recovery process was also significant in that it challenged the popular notion that nothing could be done to stop addiction until the person who was addicted had personally hit bottom and reached out for help.”
I invite readers to share their thoughts here about Betty Ford’s contributions to awareness, understanding, and the quality of care.