Betty Ford, the wife of our 38th president, Gerald Ford, died on July 8, at age 93. While her outspokenness offended some people, her quality of frankness and a lack of pretense made her very popular as the first lady.
Because of her public admission of her alcoholism and addiction to prescription pain killers, most people thought highly of her. Her addiction to pain killers started after she suffered a pinched nerve in her neck. Even with therapy and traction, the condition remained. The pain, coupled with arthritis, was debilitating.
But she faced her problems and took the necessary steps to get the help she needed.
An intervention for the First Lady
At first she did not seek help on her own. The initial motivation came after a push by her family, friends and doctors, who confronted her after her husband had left office. In her book Betty: A Glad Awakening, written years later, she called this help from family and friends a turning point that saved her life.
In October 1982 she and Leonard Firestone co-founded a clinic to treat addicts, which is now called the Betty Ford Center, located in Rancho Mirage, CA. Her support effected beneficial changes in the public perception of the treatment of addicts, evidenced by appreciative tributes from Nancy Reagan, Ali McGraw and countless others.
Betty Ford’s legacy of overcoming
The Center has served about 97,000 patients to date, and 81 percent of the alumnae remain drug free.
New patients to the Center hear a recording of this frank greeting: “Hello, my name’s Betty Ford, and I’m an alcoholic and a drug addict.”
Betty Ford demonstrated what we each need to do. She confronted her weaknesses. Our problems may or may not involve addictions, but we each have behaviors that need to be changed or eliminated from our lives.
People use substances and actions to either feel good or to avoid feeling bad. When strong measures along these lines are performed repetitiously, both are escapes from reality.
What can we learn from the example of Betty Ford?
Step 1: Confront Your Weaknesses
Facing and confronting our problems is not easy. We resist starting. Mrs. Ford resisted the confrontation from her family. She became angry and called them “monsters” for making her confront those weaknesses.
Overcoming denial seems to be the most difficult step for everyone. Here is how John Schwarzlone, executive director and vice president of the Center, put it. He said, “I don’t think anything compares to the difficulty of denial. Even people who want to come in don’t believe they really need to be here. They still don’t believe they are that bad.”
Perhaps we can think of confronting our weaknesses as our personal “glad” awakening. It is a sound biblical principle to confront our sins or weaknesses.
In 1 John 1:8 1 John 1:8If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
American King James Version×we read, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”
Step 2: Confess Your Weaknesses
The Nelson Study Bible has these wonderful comments about confession: “Progress and change start with confession. Confession works against the worst part of human nature, the part that imagines itself to be better than it really is.
“We think ‘I’m not perfect, but I’m not as bad as the next-door neighbor.’ There is no confession in that statement. There is no admission of guilt.”
Confessing to someone you respect and trust is usually quite rewarding. But it is especially essential to learn to be completely open, honest and humble toward God. In Psalms 32:5 Psalms 32:5I acknowledge my sin to you, and my iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions to the LORD; and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah.
American King James Version×(New Living Translation), King David prayed: “Finally, I confessed all my sins to You and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, ‘I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.’ And You forgave me! All my guilt is gone.”
Would that we all followed that example of David! Our progress and change can start today. As John wrote to fellow believers in 1 John 1: 9: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Step 3: Continue to Work on Your Weaknesses
Persevering is a major key to success. In the fight to overcome your weaknesses, never give up.
And there is a practical tool we can each use to start overcoming our weaknesses. It’s the spiritual tool.
Gary Wilkinson, the Center’s clinical supervisor was asked, “What is the hardest part about treatment?” He said: “The spiritual side: to get to the point of realizing I need to depend on somebody or something else. I can’t do this alone.” Isn’t that true for each of us, too, to admit we that can’t do this alone?
And the greatest and most available power is that of God. “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God” (Luke 18:27 Luke 18:27And he said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.
American King James Version×).From Betty Ford’s example, we can learn to confront our weaknesses, to confess our weaknesses, and to continually work on our weaknesses.
For more on overcoming addictions, please read An Addict’s Story: What’s at the Root of Addictions?