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Case Study of Betty Ford

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Case Study of Betty Ford
Substances like alcohol are used for many reasons. Alcohol is frequently used as a means of celebration, and also to assist in diminishing feelings of being anxious or overwhelmed. Some people use alcohol in social settings, whereas other people may drink alone. The use of alcohol to self-medicate when challenges come up in everyday life can cause significant problems. In many instances a person can become totally dependent on alcohol so that he or she can function appropriately. If a person builds a tolerance to alcohol, he or she will most likely need to drink every day as well as consuming larger amounts in order to achieve the same feeling. One of the most prominent and well-known instances of alcoholism and substance abuse is Betty Ford. Betty Ford was married to President Gerald R. Ford and was thought to be one of the most powerful first ladies in our history. Betty Ford’s achievements include her sponsorships of breast cancer awareness and women’s rights (Meyer, Chapman, & Weaver, 2009). Even though Betty Ford was acknowledged and respected for these achievements, she turn out to be an even greater inspiration in society when she admitted to and overcame her lifetime battles with prescription drugs and alcohol.
Betty Ford was raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan and was the only daughter and youngest of three children (The National First Ladies’ Library, 2012). Even though Betty had a pleasant and positive childhood, her mother was considered to be a perfectionist and she expected a lot from her children. Her father was a salesman who travelled frequently and who was hardly ever at home. Betty’s father died when she was sixteen years old and, because he rarely spent time with the family, she did not know until after he died that he was an alcoholic. Her older brother Robert was also an alcoholic.
Betty’s initial experience with alcohol was when she was a child and her mother would put bourbon in a cup of tea as a way to lessen the effects of being ill (Meyer, Chapman, & Weaver, 2009). As a youth, Betty would often socialize with her friends at nightclubs where she could dance and relax with a few drinks. Betty’s experiences with dancing at the nightclubs helped her to realize that she really loved to dance and she decided to pursue this dream. She went to New York to study dance, but she was not successful and she returned home to Michigan. Her feelings of failure and disappointment caused Betty to increase her consumption of alcohol.
Betty was married two times during her life. The first marriage only lasted for five years, and because their lifestyle included frequent socializing and drinking at nightclubs, the marriage failed. Betty’s next marriage was to Gerald (Jerry) Ford, who was an energetic, influential, and dominating participant in the political arena. Betty and Jerry had four children, with whom they had a loving and nurturing relationship. But even though the marriage was strong, Jerry would place his political career before anything else, including his family, which oftentimes caused Betty to feel lonesome and secluded. Following Jerry’s presidential election, Betty started to feel a renewed sense of hope. She was able to participate in numerous different charities, which gave her feelings of happiness and importance. Even though she liked having an active part at the White House, she likewise felt very pressured. She began to experience a number of psychological and physical health conditions, which also had an effect upon the way she felt. Included in her health issues were pain from a pinched nerve in her neck, emotional fatigue, and breast cancer. Betty ultimately became a major player in the march against breast cancer. To ease her pain, Betty was prescribed a lot of different medications to which she ultimately developed a tolerance. Betty would also use more alcohol in an effort to ease her pain.
After Jerry’s term at the White House was complete, they moved to California where Betty started to feel isolated and alone again. By this time, Betty’s children were all grown and lived on their own. Jerry busied himself by continuing his involvement in politics. Betty started using more and more alcohol and prescription medications to ease her pain and depression, and she was less and less involved in the social arena. Once Betty’s family realized how ill Betty was, they intervened and were able to convince her to get treatment for her disease.
Betty Ford’s circumstance is filled with biological, cognitive, behavioral and emotional, factors that connect her experiences to alcoholism. As stated by Nevid, Rathus, and Greene (2006), alcoholism is inclined to occur in families. Two other members of Betty’s family were also alcoholic, those being her father and brother. Moreover, Betty’s use of alcohol and prescription drugs during her lifetime, ultimately led to a chronic substance tolerance and dependence. Even though the use of substances can produce a feeling of pleasure, Betty’s continued use of substances had an effect upon her brain circuits, like the dopamine neurotransmitters, which typically generate pleasant feelings. Following years of continued use, the dopamine neurotransmitters were no longer able to generate the pleasant feelings that Betty used to feel when consuming alcohol, hence, she continued to drink greater quantities of alcohol to relieve the apprehension she often felt when she was confronted by demanding situations. The use of prescription drugs and alcohol in an effort to relieve anxiousness and sad feelings can be considered to be both behavioral and a positive reinforcement.
As indicated by Hansell and Damour (2009), expecting to feel good, calm, or less distraught can oftentimes be a significant motive for substance abuse, thus it is also a significant role in the cognitive approach. During Betty’s life experience there were frequent examples of the way her emotions had a significant role relating to her addictions. Betty started to feel lonely and neglected when she was a child because of her father’s absence, and these same feelings carried over into her adulthood by marrying a politician who was more involved with his career than he was with his family. Additionally, Betty suffered a major disappointment when she was unable to pursue a successful career as a dancer. Betty started to regret that she did not instead pursue a college education, and oftentimes she thought of herself as a failure because she did not see herself as successful.
Substance dependence is a very serious disease wherein a person feels like he or she is in constant distress. Signs of substance dependence include a major increase in the amount of the substance being abused, a significant amount of time spent in an effort to obtain the substance, and continuing to use and abuse the substance even thought the substance is causing havoc in one’s life. Betty Ford’s case demonstrates the way she became dependent on prescription drugs and alcohol by way of a number of factors including family history, positive reinforcement, and feelings of anxiety and lonliness.

Resources:

Hansell, J., & Damour, L. (2008). Abnormal psychology (2nd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Meyer, R., Chapman, L. K. and Weaver, C. M. (2009). Case studies in abnormal behavior. (8th ed.). Boston: Pearson/Allyn & Bacon.

National First Ladies’ Library. (2012). First Lady Biography: Betty Ford. Retrieved on July 20, 2012 from http://www.firstladies.org/biographies/firstladies.aspx?biography=39.

Nevid, J., Rathus, S., & Greene, B. (2006). Abnormal Psychology in a Changing World. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson

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