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Betty Ford: An Advocate for the Ages

Betty Ford, former first lady and substance abuse advocate, has died at the age of 93. Ford, who battled breast cancer, alcohol addiction and prescription pill abuse, was a lifelong recovering addict and extremely influential in the evolution of substance abuse treatment programs and awareness on the subject. Ford, who became addicted to pain medication in 1964 after a pinched nerve injury, battled her addiction for years at the side of her husband, former President Gerald Ford. In 1978, the Ford family staged an intervention for Betty, age 60, to help her finally come to grips with her decade’s long addiction. She will be remembered as one of the greatest success stories on the ability to battle addiction, and after her intervention and subsequent treatment, lived the rest of her life in recovery. Although for many that would be enough, Betty Ford still strove to do more. Her candor when speaking about drug and alcohol abuse has been instrumental in removing the stigma from addiction and she is the founder of the Betty Ford Treatment Center in California. Since its opening in 1982, over 75,000 people have been treated with millions more benefiting from her decision to bring her own personal addiction battle into the spotlight. Betty Ford, for all of her charisma and tenacity, showed that addiction is a disease that leaves no one untouchable. Fortunately though, her conviction to recover has forever changed the substance abuse community and finally created open and honest conversation about addiction. Ford was able to bring the once cloistered and secretive conversation of addiction to the forefront and present a positive portrayal of someone working diligently to overcome their struggles. She will be remembered as one of the most influential substance abuse advocates and through her work and treatment center, her impact will certainly live on. Now, almost 30 years later, that impact can still be seen within the drug and alcohol community. Substance abuse programs, including The Ranch PA, are here today due in part to the work that Betty Ford put into changing the perception of addiction. Because of her personal struggle and public advocacy, treatment programs were able to expand, evolve, and better tailor themselves to the needs of their patients. Today, The Ranch PA is able to offer a holistic approach to the recovery process with an emphasis on healthy living, alternative therapies, and the capability to deal with dual-diagnosis needs. The amount of progress within the recovery community over the past 30 years has roots within Ford’s own struggle, but it has also taken on a life of its own. With support and determination through the networks of addicts in recovery, the programs meant to provide the first step toward sobriety, and the constant quest for knowledge and information on unlocking the science behind substance abuse, daily progress is being made into understanding, and ultimately winning, the on-going fight against addiction. (photo via)

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