‘The First Lady’ is a documentary that tells the experiences of three American first women and the events that occurred during their stay in the White House. The drama follows Michelle Obama (Viola Davis), Betty Ford (Michelle Pfeiffer), and Eleanor Roosevelt (Gillian Anderson) as they face personal struggles and triumphs in three parallel universes.
‘The First Lady,’ with its historical inspiration, provides a multitude of fascinating insights about the lives of the three first ladies. Betty Ford’s time in (and after) the White House is particularly significant, since she struggled with the status quo and the high expectations placed on her as a result of her position. Her battle with addiction, which she successfully overcame, is a moving chapter in her life. Here’s all you need to know about Betty Ford’s rehab stint.
Who Was Betty Ford?
From 1974 until 1977, Elizabeth Anne Ford (née Bloomer; formerly Warren; April 8, 1918 – July 8, 2011) served as the first lady of the United States as President Gerald Ford’s wife. She was interested in social policy as first lady and set the trend as a politically engaged presidential spouse. Ford also served as the United States’ second lady from 1973 to 1974.
She maintained strong approval ratings throughout her husband’s stint in office. Following her surgery in 1974, Ford became known for championing breast cancer awareness. She was also a staunch advocate of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). In addition, she acquired prominence as one of the most frank first ladies in history, commenting on every hot-button subject of the time, including feminism, equal pay, the Equal Rights Amendment, sex, drugs, abortion, and gun control, as a supporter of abortion rights and a pioneer in the women’s rights movement.
She also increased awareness of addiction when, as the first first lady, she acknowledged her long-term battle with alcoholism and substance abuse in the 1970s. She advocated for the Equal Rights Amendment after leaving the White House and remained engaged in the feminist movement. She founded the Betty Ford Center for Substance Abuse and Addiction and served as the first chair of the board of directors. She received the Congressional Gold Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom (as a co-recipient with President Ford in 1998). (presented to her by George H. W. Bush in 1991).
Before her husband’s presidency, Ford struggled with prescription medicine addiction and drinking. Ford had developed an addiction to prescription drugs (opioid analgesics) that she had been administered to relieve a pinched nerve in the early 1960s. Ford took more of this drug than she was supposed to. She wrote about her addictions, writing, and publishing in her memoir from 1987 “I enjoyed drinking alcohol because it made me feel cozy. And I had a thing for pills. They relieved my stress and pain “.
Ford had been prescribed tranquilizers for years to alleviate a pinched nerve in her neck, which had been public knowledge since she was the second lady. Friends and members of the press had speculated about Ford’s substance misuse throughout her time as the first lady, based on her occasionally slurred speech. Her addictions grew more visible to her family after they left the White House, and they appeared to be life-threatening.
Her family organised an intervention on April 1, 1978, forcing her to face the harmful effects of her addiction on her health and family connections. She agreed to stop taking her prescription that day. She also agreed to go to the Naval Regional Medical Center in Long Beach, California, for recovery. Ford was able to achieve sobriety. On April 11, 1978, Ford registered at the hospital.
Betty Ford’s Rehabilitation
Betty had been taking prescribed opiate pills for a pinched nerve and severe arthritis pain since the 1960s, long before she became the first lady. She also acknowledged to taking Valium during her time in the White House. Her drug and alcohol problems, on the other hand, appeared to worsen once her husband’s presidency ended.
The Fords relocated to Rancho Mirage, California, after leaving Washington, D.C. Betty’s habit of using pills and alcohol grew when her husband traveled for engagements and her children moved away. At Betty’s daughter Susan Ford’s request, an intervention with close family members and doctors was eventually organised. The family discussion, which took place on April 1, 1978, culminated in Betty accepting the detrimental effects of her addiction.
Betty checked herself into the hospital on April 11, 1978, after a week of monitored detoxification at home. Betty Ford was admitted to the Long Beach Naval Hospital for a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program, possibly as a result of Gerald Ford’s naval service during WWII. She was 60 years old at the time.
Betty was honest about her fight with addiction to the public with her trademark candour, as she had been during her battle with breast cancer. She was in for prescription medication misuse, but it took her a few weeks to admit to being addicted to alcohol as well. Betty appears to have spent a few months at the facility, and she attended one for her friend and neighbor, Leonard Firestone, a year after her own.
Betty Ford, Did She Really Live in Shared Rooms?
Betty Ford lived in shared housing throughout her stay in treatment, which is unusual for someone of her height. Of course, the show dramatises the scenario a touch, with Betty Ford’s character initially being put off by the center’s living situation. Nevertheless, Betty was an enthusiastic participant in the center’s activities in real life, even taking on day-to-day tasks like cleaning. Betty also went to emotional therapy sessions, and it was reportedly due to another patient’s denial of being an alcoholic that she admitted to being hooked to alcohol herself.
Betty Ford and Leonard Firestone founded the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage in 1982 after her rehabilitation. She was first hesitant to put her name on the centre, presumably because she was afraid of an embarrassing backlash if she relapsed. Betty Ford, on the other hand, agreed to allow the center to use her name, and it is now known as the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation.
You can watch all episodes of ‘The First Lady’ on Showtime.