R.I.P. Betty Ford, 1918-2011

The patron saint of modern recovery, Betty Ford died at the grand old age of 93 last week. Famous for many things, outspoken First Lady, cancer survivor (breast cancer), dancer, and ERA activist; most agree her legacy will be the world famous treatment center that bears her name.

Mrs. Ford co-founded the non-profit Betty Ford Center in 1982, along with Ambassador Leonard Firestone. “I’m not out to rescue anybody who doesn’t want to be rescued,” she once said, according to ABC News. “I just think it’s important to say how easy it is to slip into a dependency on pills or alcohol. And how hard it is to admit that dependency.” The New York Times obituary for Mrs. Ford notes that her “dependency on pills began in 1964 with a medical prescription to relieve constant pain from a neck injury and pinched nerve. Her drinking, which became troublesome as she was faced with her husband’s frequent absences on political business, grew increasingly serious as Mr. Ford’s Congressional career advanced.”

The Betty Ford Center caters to a varied clientele, but also became the gold standard treatment option for the rich and famous, from Elizabeth Taylor to Ozzy Osbourne. Other well known alumni include Kelsey Grammer, Ali McGraw, Mackenzie Phillips, Steven Tyler, Etta James, David Arquette, Lindsey Lohan, Robert Downey Jr., Drew Barrymore, Liza Minnelli, and Johnny Cash. Now that’s what I call celebrity rehab. And speaking of Dr. Pinsky, in a statement to The Associated Press he said “Betty’s deep appreciation of the pain of addiction sufferers motivated her to simply put aside her fear of personal harm and tell her story,” Pinksy wrote. “With that one gesture of courage and honesty Betty Ford swept aside an eternity of discrimination. I suspect that even Betty would not have foreseen that addiction would become the disorder of our time, nor that the disease would steal millions of young lives, nor that her name would become synonymous with the highest standard of treatment.”

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