Life in the Recovery Room

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Betty Ford- A Hero Remembered During Recovery Month

A grateful shout out to Betty Ford during recovery month.

Betty Ford: A Hero to the World of Recovery
Her spirit of recovery shines bright
September is Recovery Month- Let's toast an iced tea for one of America's grand dames and true heros.

"My makeup wasn't smeared, I wasn't disheveled, I behaved politely, and I never finished off a bottle, so how could I be alcoholic?" Betty Ford

I have thought about the impact this woman has had on this country and the recovery world. No doubt, in some indirect way, she even had an impact on my own family. After passing at 93 years of age, her spirit still guides the way for America. Boomers and Seniors are even more honest about their disease and hopefully grasp the notion that treatment does work because of her work. Too seldom does someone of such fame and notoriety enter the lives of so many, bringing awareness to a topic often kept captive "in the closet.".

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Ronald Reagan did it with Alzheimer's. Michael J Fox did it for Parkinson's. Lou Gehrig did it for ALS and now that we have lost an icon like Betty Ford, I can safely say that there has been no person in my lifetime who has focused so much attention on the silent pain and epidemic of women who suffer silently with alcoholism and other addictions. Before this month ends, I wanted to give a personal shout out to a powerful inspiration for all families and dedicate an entire blog to the impact this special woman had on my family and so many others.

I have very close friends and family who are powerful women and amazing examples today of sobriety in their own lives. I am beyond proud of them. I know that getting help was made just a little bit easier because of this brave and powerful first lady and her ability to bring awareness to so many.

She publicly spoke about her addictions and inspired so many women to self identify without the awesome weight of the shame and stigma Through the manner she lived her life she cleared a smoother path for my loved ones and so many others.

First Lady with her Husband
An inspirational woman spoke about the family illness
Betty Ford once said when asked how she would characterize the past three decades of her life, she said, "My activities have been pretty much focused in the last 30 years on the recovery world, on my own recovery and the understanding for my family of my recovery."

Wow! It is an "honest program" to be sure. Through this sincere effort she created an awareness; a dimishment of naivete and a great light for so many to seek transformation through AA and find sobriety.

Betty Ford not only spoke about her alcoholism publicly, she openly admitted she had an opiate addiction. Perish the thought that a First Lady would be so refreshingly honest! When Betty Ford admitted she was an alcoholic, women who were suffering from alcoholism and other addictions felt like a bad wife, mother, daughter or even grandmother. Their illness remained stealth and under the radar, preferring to keep the "elephant in the living room" secret yet dying a little bit every day as their co-addicted families diminished with them.When she sought help she was deluged with letters and words from women all over the country who felt the same guilt and shame about their own lives. Taking care of her own sobriety first, she stepped into an iconic role she maintained with grace and class over the next 30 years.

Betty Ford never seeked being a celebrity. She also never shied away from having the nation know her views on addictions, depression or mental health. Much like another hero of mine who I will be writing about in November, during Family Caregiver Month, Rosalyn Carter, Betty Ford was a first lady who could have stayed quiet and chosen not to be so public. Instead she ran towards the shadow, enbracing it and reminding the families in this country that addictions are an American story and a family illness.

Because of Betty Ford so many lives were saved. Her courage and honesty impacted the American woman in a way never before seen. And as we know, the American woman is the epicenter of the American family. Hence, imagine how many lives in how many families were impacted by this White House hero as she emerged in the recovery world. Remember, too, the American woman is also the "healthcare change agent" in America and impacts each and every healthcare decision a family makes. Betty affected each and every one of them through her life of attraction instead of promotion.

Both of my loved ones, found inpatient treatment. They never acknowledged Betty Ford was personally responsible but then again, they never had to. She did her best to make this world a better place by inspiring so many, so openly and with such class and dignity.

Today as I work with caregivers in recovery; www.caregiversinrecovery.com and speak nationally for one of the organizations that was responsible for saving the life of a family member, The Caron Foundation www.caron.org, I would like to tip my hat to a true hero during Recovery Month.

I know so that though Betty Ford is at peace today somewhere watching over us, So many women today are experiencing peace and serenity as well because of who she was.

Independent and Unstoppable in Powerful deliberate way
Peace & Serenity Be With You. Thank You!
"I have an independent streak. You know, it's kind of hard to tell a independent woman what to do."

Betty Ford (1918-2011)

Happy Recovery Month, America!

James Huysman, PsyD, LCSW, is a leading authority on caregiver burnout, compassion fatigue and related addictions. Aside from his blog here, he writes a behavioral health column for Florida MD.

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