by William Van Ornum, Ph.D. on
In the news: Betty Ford, former First Lady of the United States of America, has died. The much-beloved wife of President Gerald Ford died at the age of 93, as reported in the July 11, 2011, edition of The New York Daily News.
Mrs. Ford was born in Chicago, reared in modest circumstances, became a dancer, and married Mr. Ford shortly after he returned from the Navy in World War II. She thought she was signing up for a life with a Midwestern lawyer. Instead he chose politics and she was thrust into the role of a political wife, all the while rearing four children and trying to keep her own interests as well.
Political life became difficult for Betty Ford, and she felt isolation and an emptiness inside from which she sought solace in alcohol and prescription pills. She was open about her addiction at a time when others were not. This courageous outlook gave others the encouragement either to seek help themselves or to be open about it with their families and communities.
In 1982, she founded the Betty Ford Clinic (now Betty Ford Center) in California. This nearly 200-bed program offers inpatient detox, follow-up and aftercare, an assessment program for pilots and professionals to diagnose and treat addiction problems, as well as other customized programs including one for young men and women between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five who are financially dependent upon their parents.
The New York Times reports: “The news of her death at Eisenhower Medical Center brought statements of condolence from President Obama, former Presidents George Bush, George W. Bush and Jimmy Carter, and Nancy Reagan, the former first lady.
“She was Jerry Ford’s strength through some very difficult days in our country’s history,” Mrs. Reagan said, “and I admired her courage in facing and sharing her personal struggles with all of us.
“Few first ladies have been as popular as Betty Ford, and it was her frankness and lack of pretense that made her so. She spoke often in support of the Equal Rights Amendment, endorsed legalized abortion, discussed premarital sex and revealed that she intended to share a bed with her husband in the White House.”
Betty Ford’s work lives on at the center she founded. Condolences go from AMHF to the entire Ford family.