In the last few weeks, two very famous and influential women passed. Betty Ford, wife of former President Gerald Ford and founder of the Betty Ford Center, and Amy Winehouse, an influential British singer known for her unique soul, jazz and R&B sound. These two women, while achieving fame and recognition in different arenas – Betty Ford was an outspoken women’s rights advocate and Amy Winehouse for her incredible voice – shared the disease of addiction. Though they both battled this deadly disease, the outcome of their battles took decidedly different paths. Betty Ford traveled the path of sobriety while Amy Winehouse continued to struggle with the disease reportedly up until the very end of her life.
Elizabeth “Betty" Ford was one of the most well-known names in the field of addiction treatment and recovery. A former First Lady, Mrs. Ford overcame alcoholism and addiction to prescription medication, gaining both her sobriety and then going on to found one of the first nationally recognized treatment facilities. Her work in the field of addiction recovery greatly enhanced the profile of addiction treatment nationally and helped to remove much of the stigma of addiction.
Mrs. Ford’s addiction led to a family-staged intervention in 1978. This intervention forced her to confront her alcoholism and an addiction to opioid analgesics, which had been prescribed in the early 1960s for a pinched nerve. In 1982, after receiving treatment for her addictions at the Long Beach Naval Hospital, Mrs. Ford along with Leonard Firestone co-founded the Betty Ford Clinic, later referred to as the Betty Ford Center. In the years that followed, Mrs. Ford remained an active force in the treatment center and the larger addiction treatment community. She passed away on July 8 of natural causes.
Amy Jade Winehouse was born on September 14, 1983 in north London. Winehouse’s debut album Frank was released in October of 2003. The album was a success in the UK being nominated for numerous awards and went on to achieve platinum sales. She gained international fame for her second studio album Back to Black, which housed the international hit “Rehab.” Amy was plagued by a substance-abuse problem which resulted in her becoming a favorite of the tabloids. Throughout her meteoric rise to fame there were constant reports of drug and alcohol abuse. On May 25, 2011, Amy checked herself into the Priory Clinic Mental Health Clinic for a one-week stay. Sadly, Amy lost her battle with addiction and her life on July 23.
While writing this piece, I kept thinking the following words from the book Alcoholics Anonymous: “Rarely have we seen a person failed who has thoroughly followed our path.” I sure wish that would have been the case for Ms. Winehouse as it was for Mrs. Ford.