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CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Interview With Former First Lady Betty Ford
Aired December 19, 2003 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, exclusive, former first lady Betty Ford on her very public fight with drug and alcohol abuse, how she beat it and how she's helping others do the same at the famous center that bears her name. Betty Ford in depth, personal for the hour next on LARRY KING LIVE.
Good evening, and welcome to another special edition of LARRY KING LIVE. It's always great to welcome our dynamic duo to these cameras. Betty Ford, the former first lady and author of "Healing and Hope: Six Women from the Betty Ford Center Share Their Powerful Journeys of Addiction and Recovery." And with her, as always, is John Schwarzlose. John is president and CEO of the Betty Ford Center. Always great to have them with us. Thank you both very much for coming back.
We'll talk about the book and lots of things, but let's get an update first on the president's health. How is Mr. Ford?
BETTY FORD, FORMER FIRST LADY, AUTHOR, "HEALING AND HOPE": He's doing great, Larry. He's swimming twice a day in his usual morning and evening swim, playing a little golf and going to the office regularly and just being his usual, ornery self.
KING: He's 90 now.
FORD: He's 90, yes. But he doesn't seem like 90. He's more like 80.
KING: You're 85, right?
KING: How does that feel, too, by the way? That's monumental to reach...
FORD: Well, the fact we've been married 55 years is kind of nice, and we appreciate that. You know, every day, we just thank the good Lord for the days he's given us, and we just hope to keep going, as Jerry says, another 50.
KING: You ever argue?
FORD: Well, I think everybody argues, you know? But my feeling is, you have to be willing to compromise. And also, my mother told me never go to bed mad and I... KING: Have you lived up to that?
FORD: Pretty much.
KING: And how's your health?
FORD: My health is fine. I'm feeling really well, and I appreciate...
KING: You live now where? You live in Palm Springs?
FORD: We're living in Rancho Mirage, but we're leaving soon to go to Colorado for the winter season -- I mean, for, you know, holiday season, Christmas.
KING: And you then you come back, I hope.
FORD: Oh, yes. We come back in January. But that house in Colorado is big enough to have all our children. We have about 14, with the children and grandchildren, so it makes a busy time.
KING: How are they all doing?
FORD: They're all doing great. And now we just had another great-grandchild. We had a great-grandson recently, and his name is Ford.
KING: Ford Ford?
FORD: His last name is Goodfellow (ph). So maybe Ford is a nice, short name you can't fool with much.
KING: You're like George Foreman. He named everybody George. A couple of other things here, then we'll bring in John and get to the book and the whole conversation about -- how do you think Laura Bush is doing?
FORD: Couldn't be better. I think she's one of the finest first ladies we've ever had. She has a serenity about her, and yet a very strong person that she is. I think she's a fine example for a first lady.
KING: What's the role of a first lady?
FORD: It's what you make it. It really is.
KING: That's what she told us last week.
FORD: Yes. It's what you make it. Most first ladies have, you know, a cause that they really feel very strong. And of course, she was a librarian and education is one of her strong points. But the other night, Maria Shriver said I, have so many causes, I don't know what I should focus on. And I said, Well, you ought to pick two important ones and not have too many.
KING: What do you think of Hillary Clinton becoming a senator?
FORD: Well, I think she's very bright, not always in my political -- although I agree with her, certainly, on a lot of things that -- standing up for women, which, of course, has always been a real strong issue with me.
KING: But you had no issue with a first lady running for office.
FORD: Heavens, no. No.
KING: Did you ever think about it yourself? Sometime back?
FORD: No. That didn't appeal to me at all. I like what I'm doing.
KING: John, how long you been president and CEO now?
JOHN SCHWARZLOSE, PRES., CEO, BETTY FORD CENTER: Mrs. Ford hired me 22 years ago, Larry, to come out...
KING: That's when it started.
SCHWARZLOSE: ... and help her set up the center. And so I've been able to be at her side, watching the place grow.
KING: One of the great honors of my life was to emcee the 20th anniversary of the Betty Ford Center, with all the first ladies.
FORD: And you were fabulous!
KING: Oh, stop. I had a great time. It was just great being among the wonderful people saluting you. You ought to feel very proud.
FORD: Oh, I was moved to tears.
KING: Where did they find you, John? What were you doing before?
SCHWARZLOSE: I was running an addiction hospital in Peoria, Illinois, and had been in the field for almost 10 years. And Mrs. Ford asked me to come out and develop a model program, and one of the keys was she wanted a place where women would not have to fit into a male-oriented treatment center.
KING: Was that the norm then?
SCHWARZLOSE: The norm was...
KING: So they were male-oriented.
SCHWARZLOSE: Exactly. In most centers, you'd see three or four men to every one woman. And Mrs. Ford said, Let's have a center where there's just as many women patients as there are men. KING: Did you -- from the get-go, wasn't it hard to start something up like that? Start-ups are always hard.
SCHWARZLOSE: They are hard. And Mrs. Ford and I have talked many times about the fact that the day we opened our doors, we really didn't know what to expect. We thought maybe we'd be a southern California regional center. And the fact that the patients come from all over the world was not what we expected.
KING: Your fame, then, surprises you.
KING: Does it surprise you, Betty?
FORD: Very much so. I thought we would be more regional. And as it has turned out, with magazines and books and so forth, people from South Africa and Ireland and Germany and Finland, all over the world, have come.
KING: You're -- the Betty Ford Center is almost generic for the term of addiction.
KING: As the very funny Albert Brooks said, Where did Betty Ford go?
FORD: That happens, and I've often wondered how I got talked into allowing them to name it the Betty Ford Center.
KING: You wanted something else?
FORD: Well, I really didn't want that, but they kind of twisted my arm because they said, Well, then people will know what it's all about because they know about your recovery.
KING: Let's discuss -- you know, we've had you on many times, but there are always new audiences tuning in. I want to discuss addiction in general, but your addiction, to begin with. It was first to alcohol, right?
FORD: My addiction was a combination of alcohol and the prescription drugs that I was...
KING: Which was first?
FORD: They both were a part of my life, but they did not become a problem until they overrode my common sense.
KING: Did it begin subtly?
FORD: Very subtly, yes. It was easy for me to realize that when I'd had the medications, which were many, much too much...
KING: For pain, they were originally given? FORD: ... during the day -- yes. And tranquilizers and sleeping pills. And then when I took a drink at 5:00 o'clock, 6:00 o'clock, I realized the interaction. I didn't know what was happening, I just knew that I felt great and the pain was gone and...
KING: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) of course, makes it encouraging to take it the next day.
FORD: That -- I looked for it every day and it became a daily habit, and it finally overpowered me. What was good for me suddenly became very bad for me.
KING: Is that classically typical, John?
SCHWARZLOSE: It is. And we see with women, more than with men, the addiction to legal prescribed medications.
KING: Why more women than men?
SCHWARZLOSE: Women are more likely to ask the doctor for help and to ask the doctor probably for a prescription and...
KING: Men are more macho, right? I can handle it.
SCHWARZLOSE: We have that in our society.
KING: So originally, it started with pain, and then -- then liquor. And then you -- when you're doing both, aren't they counterindicatory?
FORD: No. They have a synergistic...
KING: They do?
FORD: ... quality that actually causes this very -- almost vague situation. And I know my family were totally confused by it.
FORD: They didn't know what was going on. And although I was comfortable in my situation, feeling no pain, I was giving them all sorts of signals that I was not functioning normally.
KING: We'll take a break and be right back with the classic story of Betty Ford. We'll talk about the book, "Healing and Hope," on the Betty Ford Center, now in its 22nd year. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP - DECEMBER 17, 1999)
GERALD FORD, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Her problem was a combination of prescribed medication by doctors in the White House and elsewhere, plus a few martinis or a bourbon and water during the afternoon or evening.
KING: And as an enabler, you said, It's OK, right? GERALD FORD: Yes. I think I worried about it, but I didn't see that it in any way whatsoever prevented Betty from carrying out her duties as first lad. But Susan was more alert to it than I or anybody else in our family, and she was the one that prompted the intervention that took place in our house in Palm Springs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP - AUGUST 20, 1992)
KING: Was it hard to live with an alcoholic? One guesses that might be one of the hardest types -- and remember, you're a public man, major congressional leader, vice president, president.
GERALD FORD: Well, in retrospect, Larry, it was tough. But most people, once they understand what alcoholism is -- it's a disease -- then you understand why the person has all kinds of problems and...
KING: So you were able to love her right through it?
GERALD FORD: Oh, yes. I was very proud of her, particularly since she has been to treatment, and now as the chairman of the board of the Betty Ford Center for Chemical Dependency, and the wonderful job they do all year long for so many people. I couldn't be more proud.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back with Betty Ford, the former first lady and author of "Healing and Hope: Six Women from the Betty Ford Center Share Their Powerful Journeys of Addiction and Recovery." And with us also is John Schwarzlose, the president and CEO of the Betty Ford Center.
You were feeling fine?
KING: So you didn't...
FORD: You might say I was on cloud nine.
KING: So you didn't know what the trouble...
FORD: I wasn't aware of how I was acting.
KING: Because most people -- don't most people get down, to a point where they want to get off it and they feel depressed and low?
FORD: That came later.
KING: So you were euphoric then.
FORD: Yes. I was euphoric. KING: Typical, John?
SCHWARZLOSE: Typical. And what happens -- and it's talked about in the book -- is the addict isolates themselves. And as Mrs. Ford said, you're not aware how you're doing it, but you're doing it in every way, isolating yourself physically and in every other way from the people around you because of that euphoria, because of how you -- you just want more of that feeling.
KING: Were you hiding your drinking?
FORD: Not particularly. I didn't have to. It was always available in our house. And I didn't have to use any large amounts because of the pain medication.
KING: All right, so you didn't need, like, to drink 10 glasses of scotch.
FORD: No, no. And I didn't like scotch anyway, so -- but no, that was no problem. I would say I did begin to withdraw, not only withdraw from my family, but I canceled appointments. I withdrew from my friends. It was almost as if I kind of went into my bedroom and pulled the shades down. I didn't do that literally, but I did withdraw, and the family felt that strong separation.
KING: Typical also, John?
SCHWARZLOSE: Very much so. And what starts to happen is a desperation begins to come in. And you know, the addict-alcoholic makes attempts to get off. Most times, they don't work. And interestingly enough, Larry, and kind of sad, during the holidays, at times, that can be even worse.
SCHWARZLOSE: Because I want the holidays to be -- to work well. I want it to be a family time. I want it to be good memories. And most of the holidays of my past have been bad ones. Because of my drinking and drugs, I've ruined holidays.
FORD: I felt...
KING: And these are the holidays.
FORD: You know, I felt -- the last holiday I experienced with my family up in Colorado, I thought it was gorgeous. Little did I know at that time, they were talking behind my back. What are we going to do about Mother? And I was totally unaware of it.
KING: So we can bet that thousands of people watching tonight have a similar situation, either addicted, or more likely, the family of someone addicted saying...
FORD: That's right.
KING: ... What do we do? SCHWARZLOSE: And what we worry about is how many of those families feel like, There's nothing we can do. And the message to get out, Larry, is, Don't give up. Don't ever give up.
KING: OK. You were helped by an intervention, which your husband brilliantly described on this show one night.
KING: What happened?
FORD: It was a terrible shock to me. I knew I didn't feel well, and all of a sudden, the family walked in.
KING: The whole family?
FORD: Surprising, yes. Everybody had come from all around the country. And...
KING: You were in bed?
FORD: No, no. I was up, but I wasn't dressed. It was in the morning. And they walked in, and I thought, Isn't this dear? They've come because I don't feel well. How sweet of them. And then I saw these strangers with them, and I knew immediately something was wrong. And it was a doctor, and another doctor and a nurse who were helping them with the intervention and...
KING: Were you shocked?
FORD: I didn't know quite what it was, at that point, because I knew nothing about an intervention.
KING: But when they spoke, were you shocked?
FORD: Oh, yes. I was totally destroyed when my family said what they felt.
KING: As I understand it, in an intervention, you go right from the intervention to get help, right? You don't sit around and say, I'll think about it for a week.
FORD: Generally speaking, yes. However, I was in the desert for about 10 days, but I had -- in fact, I chose to go to treatment because I wanted to regain their confidence.
KING: So you weren't forced into it.
FORD: No, I wasn't forced. And I don't think you can force anyone into it. They have to want the help.
KING: During those 10 days, though, you were drinking and taking...
FORD: No, no. I was being detoxed.
KING: What was that like?
FORD: Well, that's a slow detox because I was on such a multitude of prescription mood-altering drugs. I had built up a tremendous, you know, stamina for that.
KING: Where did you go for help?
FORD: Actually, a nurse came to the house.
KING: You never went to a center of any kind?
FORD: Oh, I went -- yes. I ended up...
KING: Oh, for the 10 days, the nurse...
FORD: A lot of people ask me why I didn't go to the Betty Ford Center, which is nearby, but of course...
KING: That's funny!
FORD: Then they think about it. But actually, I went to the Navy program, which was over at Long Beach.
KING: Was that a good program?
FORD: It was a good program at that time.
KING: Did it help you?
FORD: It definitely helped me. I was there four weeks, and I learned about my disease. My family came and participated in the program so they could learn about it. And that's very important because family sometimes think they're there to fix you, and actually, they have to pull back because they can't fix you. You have to fix yourself.
KING: Did any of this have to do with the breast cancer?
FORD: Absolutely none.
KING: None at all. No connection.
FORD: No. No.
KING: How long have you been sober?
FORD: For 25 years. KING: We'll be right back with Betty Ford and John Schwarzlose. We'll talk about the book, how it came about, how the center works. Why four weeks?
Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP - NOVEMBER 26, 2002)
And what was it like performing when you were on drugs?
JOHNNY CASH: Well, for a while, it was OK. For a while, it was OK. For a while -- Larry, when I took my first ones, I said, That's -- this is what God meant for me to have in this world. This was invented for me. You know? I honestly thought it was a blessing, a gift from God, these pills were. And -- but then I thought -- then I finally found out I was deceiving myself, that this was a -- this was one of those things that have a false face, that it's the devil in disguise that has come to me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP - MARCH 20, 2002)
LIZA MINNELLI: Chemical dependency, alcoholism, if you look it up in the AMA, is a disease which nobody really knew about until recently. So I, like many people, didn't really know it was a disease. But I found out. I fought for my life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back with Betty Ford and John Schwarzlose of the Betty Ford Center.
Why did you go so public with this? You went public with breast cancer. You went public with this. Why?
FORD: Because I was afraid that people would think it was a reoccurrence of my breast cancer, and I did not want them to think that was what I was suffering from. And I made up my mind that I needed to do something, and I might just as well do it, speak out. I've always been up front and maybe a little outspoken, and I wanted to do it that way. It worked for me, but we don't recommend it for a lot of people.
KING: You don't tell people, Go, shout it to the mountain?
FORD: No. No. It was just a different situation for me, being such a public person.
KING: How much of the Betty Ford treatment has been trial and error? By that I mean, how different is it today than it was 22 years ago?
SCHWARZLOSE: It is different, Larry. And one of the primary reasons it's different is the patients we see. This addiction is such a complex illness. And today, you get men and women with not only an addiction but a multitude of other problems, psychological problems, other issues that are...
KING: That weren't there 22...
SCHWARZLOSE: Well, not to the extent that we see today. I mean, we used to -- we used to see people that really -- alcoholism or drug addiction was really their only issue going on. Very rare today to see that.
KING: There are issues like what, depression?
SCHWARZLOSE: Depression. You get eating disorders, a lot of things from the past that have not been dealt with, whether it's issues of abuse, family issues. And getting clean and sober means I now have to deal with those.
KING: Do you deal with almost all addictions, Betty?
FORD: We deal with alcoholism and drug addiction.
KING: You don't deal with tobacco, like?
FORD: No. We certainly don't encourage it. We discourage it. But we do not have a non-smoking, you know, program. We will do cooperative things like patches and help them.
KING: Tell me about "Healing and Hope: Six Women from the Betty Ford Center Share Their Powerful Journeys of Addiction and Recovery." How did this come about?
FORD: You know, Larry, it's a wonderful book because these women had been such great volunteers around the Betty Ford Center, and they had such fascinating stories. And they were...
KING: They were patients and then volunteers?
FORD: They were patients, and then as -- in recovery, they came back to help us help recovering people by sharing their stories. And their stories are absolutely magnificent. They come from, really, all walks of life. They're mothers. They're professional people. They're different sex -- you know...
KING: There are same-sex people, as well?
FORD: Yes. And as far as race and -- but the stories are all different, even though they go through the same...
KING: Program. Whose idea was the book?
FORD: I think it was probably John's, right?
SCHWARZLOSE: Mrs. Ford and I talked about -- she said these fascinating stories, and how do we get them down? And we kept saying, Well, you really can't -- you can't tell these stories. And we thought, Well, if we change the women's names...
KING: Because privacy is paramount.
SCHWARZLOSE: Exactly. Exactly. So we did change the women's names, and these women were eager to tell their stories. And then what Mrs. Ford did, in only the way she could, was to weave those stories together.
KING: So you sort of edited this?
FORD: A little bit.
KING: How did you pick the six...
FORD: You know, they talk about what it was like before, when they were out there drinking, using, and whatever, and then what happened in treatment and what their life is like now. It's just absolutely magnificent.
KING: How did you pick the six?
FORD: Well, as I say, they were people who had worked with us.
KING: But I mean, you asked them and...
FORD: Yes, and they volunteered when they knew we were going to do this.
KING: Did anyone turn you down?
FORD: No, we didn't have any turn it down, surprisingly. Most people who have gained recovery and are feeling good in their recovery are very happy to share it.
KING: Who should get this book, John?
SCHWARZLOSE: Really, the group you were talking about before, not only women who might need help, but even more importantly, all -- anybody who loves a woman who they think might have a problem because it will give them such insight into recovery and into addiction.
KING: Is a woman addict different from a male addict?
FORD: Well, certainly. The disease, they say, you know, is all -- for everyone the same, but as far as women, what it does to them and what it does to men is very different.
KING: Physiologically and psychologically?
FORD: Yes. And the treatment is somewhat different because they have different needs and they have different backgrounds, the way they have lived their lives.
KING: Can you force help? Can you -- are there hospitals that take people who don't want to go, whose families sort of drag them in?
SCHWARZLOSE: Well, we get people like that. Now...
KING: You do?
SCHWARZLOSE: ... a good example are licensed health professionals, where they're in danger of losing their license -- a dentist, a physician, a nurse. And...
KING: So they don't want to go, but they're forced to.
SCHWARZLOSE: They don't want to go, but the state says, You're not going to practice dentistry anymore unless you...
KING: Are they harder to deal with?
SCHWARZLOSE: At first. But interestingly enough, those groups have the highest rates of recovery there are because...
SCHWARZLOSE: ... the line's drawn in the sand. I mean, the state who licensed them says, You know, this is your last shot. You -- we're going to stand behind you and support you getting well, but if you want to practice dentistry, this is what you got to do.
KING: Let me get a break and come back. More with Betty Ford and John Schwarzlose on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP - MARCH 16, 2001)
Do you ever fear going back?
KELSEY GRAMMER: Going back? No. But what I do -- what I like doing is recognizing once in a while, you know, the Kelsey that says, Boy, it'd be great to do a line right now.
KING: You really get that...
GRAMMER: Oh, sure. Once in a while. You know, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) really bad day or a tough, tough situation going on...
KING: And what stops you?
GRAMMER: Well, just the knowledge that it's not going to do me any good, that it will make me less capable to deal with it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KING: But your world came apart, right? But people that don't know -- you were into everything, right? BARRYMORE: Right.
KING: At what age?
BARRYMORE: Through the ages of 9 through 14.
KING: Did you blame your father? Did you blame your grandfather? Did you blame the name you carried into birth?
BARRYMORE: Well, I mean, we can all do that. And that's just an incredible disease that we're all capable of having called denial. And once I recovered, I had to realize that it was nobody's problem but my own and the only person that could help me was me so once I learned that secret inside of myself, it was very easy to overcome.
KING: Do you think you have it licked now?
BARRYMORE: I think so. I think I'm doing a really good job of it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Betty Ford center is 22 years old. And in keeping with that, a new book has been published, "Healing and Hope." Six women from the Betty Ford Center share their powerful journeys of addiction and recovery.
Our guests are Betty Ford herself, former first lady, and John Schwarzlose, who's been the only president and CEO, right, that the Betty Ford Center has ever had. Now, we commonly think of Betty Ford and celebrities. Was part of the reason for this book to take a little of that image away and bring it more to every day people?
FORD: Well, celebrities have the same problem as everyday people. And we have a very small percentage of celebrities. I don't think that is a particular role that people think of us anymore.
KING: You don't think, John, that people might say, "Oh, I can't go to Betty Ford. That's where Liz Taylor went."
SCHWARZLOSE: We've really tried to play that image down. I mean, as you know, Larry, that has good and bad to it. The good is people say, well, anybody can go there and get help but I think we worry that people will think, well, I can't go there. That's just for the rich and famous and in reality, the Betty Ford Center is affordable compared to most centers.
KING: 99 percent -- it's affordable and 99 percent are everyday people?
KING: How many beds do you have?
SCHWARZLOSE: We have 100 licensed hospital beds and then we have about another 100 people receiving treatment that live off campus but then are getting treatment each day on the campus.
KING: So you're treating 200 people any one time?
KING: How do these people obtain prescription drugs if doctors are limited based on the kind of drug, especially like major painkillers? Would they go to many doctors? Do they kite them? What do they -- how do they...
FORD: No. Doctors are not very knowledgeable about addiction.
FORD: Unfortunately, that's very true. There's very few doctors that are really involved in some sort of a person that has an addictive problem. They think that those are -- they don't expect the person to continue taking them for a long time. It's very easy for that person to get refills at the pharmacist.
KING: They're monitored heavily, though, now, aren't they?
SCHWARZLOSE: They are monitored.
KING: The doctors are listed. If they prescribe too much of it, they can lose their license?
SCHWARZLOSE: It's monitored very closely but the addict will still find a way to get them often.
KING: Will you say the Betty Ford Center was made famous by not only the fact of the name on the door but that a lot of celebrities openly came out and said they went there?
SCHWARZLOSE: No question about it. That's very true. But it all -- it not only made people want to come because they thought maybe they'd be able to room with one of these people, but it also scared people away because they felt...
FORD: Yes. They didn't fit that pattern.
KING: Before we discuss what you do at the Betty Ford Center, what do people do who think -- how do you know someone's having a problem?
SCHWARZLOSE: The major way is the way their drinking or drug use affects major areas of their life. So it is not how much or how often but it's when it starts interfering with your marriage, your job, your health. The person who is addicted is going to keep using despite that interference.
KING: What does a family do to handle it, Betty, when the person doesn't know it, as you didn't?
FORD: They sought help. They went to someone who knew about alcoholism and asked for help.
KING: What do you look for in the family member?
FORD: You probably, as a family member, would call even the Betty Ford Center.
KING: Tell me, what do you look for in the potential patient? Change of personality, what do you look for?
FORD: Oh, yes, yes. Withdrawal. Strange behavior. Forgetfulness. Tending to doze off at inappropriate times which I did. Or if it's an alcohol problem, or drug problem, it's very obvious if they are overdosing.
KING: Of course. They're drunk.
SCHWARZLOSE: A preoccupation -- if I'm going to a function, going to my kid's Christmas play and I know there's going to be no alcohol served there. The alcoholic can have a few drinks beforehand because I don't want to get myself in a position where there's no alcohol available. Nobody will -- and I'll try to do that without anybody knowing I'm doing it.
KING: Is recognition difficult, though? Is it hard to say, "I am an addict? I am an alcoholic?"
FORD: I think it's very hard because it's a last thing that we probably want to think of ourselves and it's only after we realize in recovery, the great advantage of that and the fellowship, also, in recovery.
KING: You once spoke that your own kids used drugs. Right?
FORD: Well, I questioned it. It was going on at the time and I said they probably had experimented. I didn't say they had. But it was a question.
KING: Logical to think it.
FORD: Yes. And that was when my husband was president. And it was very shocking.
KING: Good old Betty. He probably said, "she did it again."
FORD: That's about right, Larry.
KING: All right. Now, this is, of course, the age-old question. What do you do at Betty Ford? And why is it four weeks?
SCHWARZLOSE: Well, it's interesting, Larry, that more and more four weeks is not enough. And it's for the very reason we were talking about earlier that people coming with multiple problems. And...
KING: So it can be five weeks? SCHWARZLOSE: We are having people stay up to 90 days and it all depends on the individual, it all depends on what their particular situation is. This is really going in the face of what a lot of centers across the country which are reducing their length of stay but we're trying to say oftentimes, people have one shot at getting well. So we've got to make sure there's enough time.
KING: Insurance covers it?
SCHWARZLOSE: Some of it. Most people have coverage for part of the treatment. But not the whole -- does not cover the entire treatment.
KING: This important book is "Healing and Hope: Six Women from the Betty Ford Center Share Their Powerful Journeys of Addiction and Recovery."
More after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TONY CURTIS: You've got to give it up. You've got to let it all go. That's part of my recovery from a drug existence I had for two, three years where I was free basing, you know.
KING: Oh, you went that far.
CURTIS: Yes, I was really, really bad.
KING: How did you lick it?
CURTIS: Just -- I cured an incurable disease with Betty Ford's help and slowly, my time of staying sober was longer than the time I was getting high and slowly that disappeared.
KING: I asked Richard Dreyfuss once, why with all this success would you do it? He says there's no answer.
CURTIS: There is no answer.
KING: Why you -- why would you -- you'd think you're getting your highs in life.
CURTIS: We are all vulnerable. There isn't anybody that isn't under the certain circumstances you will succumb. Now, if you know that, then you're ahead of the game.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back with Betty Ford and John Schwarzlose. What percentage of patients are female or male?
SCHWARTZ: Fifty percent.
KING: It is?
SCHWARZLOSE: And it stayed that way...
KING: It just worked out that way?
KING: All right, what happens when you come? What happens?
SCHWARZLOSE: Well, the first thing is a fellow assessment, as we really want to make sure that you belong. So medically, psychologically, spiritually, we really look at all aspects of your life so that the first three to five days, lots is devoted to the assessment. We then sit down with the patient and talk about what needs to happen next.
KING: Do people come in this groups?
FORD: Individually. They come in.
KING: That opens up, someone comes in tomorrow?
FORD: Yes. And it's an open ended program.
KING: So they come in at any moment in the program and still pick right up on it?
FORD: Oh, yes. Those that are already there can be very helpful to the ones that are coming in.
KING: So there's no we start on February 4?
FORD: No. And you know, it's good for the people who are there and they see what it was like when they came in. And they've kind of moved along into recovery.
KING: Are there some people you say they're not for us?
FORD: Definitely. With psychological problems.
KING: They have to go somewhere...
FORD: Yes, yes.
KING: ... like a mental health institution?
KING: And you have to be honest and send them off there?
FORD: Well, it's to their benefit.
KING: Now, how do they bunk? Do they have individual rooms, do they bunk together? What is the living situation? SCHWARZLOSE: There's two to a room, except each hall has a four- bedroom, and Mrs. Ford spent her treatment in a four-bedroom, and the patients lovingly call it "the swamp." But it's totally random, so whether you are going to have three roommates or one, but most of the rooms are two beds.
KING: It's all voluntarily. You can leave at any time, right?
FORD: There are no locked doors. Nothing like that.
KING: Do you have classes?
FORD: All day. Yes. And there's all sorts of therapy classes. There's sharing classes. Exercise classes. Dietary classes. Because lots of times that's an issue with a recovery.
KING: What's the success ratio, John?
SCHWARZLOSE: Well, it's tough to come up with a specific percentage, because this is a chronic illness. As you know, there is not a cure.
KING: You arrest it, right?
SCHWARZLOSE: Yes. And -- but people relapse. And then often, often we watch people relapse and then get back into recovery. Over time, clearly, the majority of patients do well. But some of them have relapses along the way.
KING: Did you ever relapse, Betty?
FORD: No. I'm -- fortunately I haven't. Thank goodness.
KING: Those who do, do we know why? What happens?
SCHWARZLOSE: Really, it's about wanting to get that feeling back. Alcoholics relapse because they want to drink.
KING: Feels good?
SCHWARZLOSE: That's right.
FORD: I also think sometimes people will say, oh you weren't as sick as you think you were. And it's sometimes people trying to convince you that you really weren't as sick as you think. And you have to be very strong in that and say, well, you may not know it but I know it.
KING: I've read that the biggest addicts are doctors, because they have access.
SCHWARZLOSE: It's interesting, the two professions that have always been considered of having the highest percentage, physicians and clergy, and the theory is everyone goes to them for help. Who do they go to? And -- but both those groups have high rates of addiction.
KING: Is it easier to work with the young than the old? Can we say it's easier with a 20-year-old than a 50-year-old?
FORD: It's great when you can work with a 20-year-old, because their whole life is ahead of them. But I think it's harder because they feel that they are so young; I think it's much easier to work with somebody who's in their 35, 40s and such.
KING: What do you think, John?
SCHWARZLOSE: Yeah. I think the key thing -- I agree with Mrs. Ford. I think the key thing, no matter the age is, do they have a network? Do they have friends, family, around them? Because we want to rebuild that network. If they're 20 or 50, and they have no one, that's going to make -- it's going to be a more difficult situation to deal with.
KING: How young a patient have you had?
FORD: Well, 18 is the limit. We are...
KING: Oh, you don't take anybody under 18?
FORD: No. No.
KING: How old?
FORD: We have had them 83; 86, I guess, is the oldest.
FORD: And you know, the nicest thing is they don't want to die a drunk. So they want to get some help.
KING: Do you ever desire a drink?
FORD: No. I don't. I certainly did at times, when I was first sober. And probably, I would say, in pain, I looked, you know, if I can just have the Vicodin or something like that. But I realized that that is a mood altering drug and I can't handle it.
KING: So what do they give you if you had a migraine headache?
FORD: Well, probably get something over the counter. You know, a non...
KING: What if it didn't work as well?
FORD: Well, they'd have therapy for you.
KING: But they wouldn't give you... FORD: No. And the only time I've had drugs is when I've had surgery, and then it was under a hospital, you know, within the hospital, yes, situation.
KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments with Betty Ford and John Schwarzlose. The book is "Healing and Hope, Six Women from the Betty Ford Center Share Their Powerful Journeys of Addiction and Recovery." More after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEW PERRY, ACTOR: What happened was actually, on the set of "Serving Sarah" is when I kind of had a little kind of -- the best I can describe it is a kind of a spiritual moment where for a split second you see everything kind of clearly. I can't really describe it, because it's about stuff that's bigger than I can really put into words.
But I decided I needed to prioritize my life, and I decided that I needed to risk all the bad publicity, I needed to leave the movie, I needed to leave the TV show and I needed to go get help, because I was worried about -- you know, it got to the point where I was wondering if I was going to survive.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back with Betty Ford, the former first lady and John Schwarzlose, the CEO and President of the Betty Ford Center.
Are there expansion in the plans in the move, Betty?
FORD: Well, right now, we have nine buildings and that's adequate for the property we're on. We really don't have room for anymore buildings. The programs are full. They're running very well. And I kind of feel, you know, don't fix it if it ain't broke.
KING: How is it supported?
SCHWARZLOSE: Patient fees and philanthropy. We do a lot of fund raising, especially to help patients that pay for part of the care and not the rest.
KING: Has anyone proposed opening a string of them?
SCHWARZLOSE: They have.
KING: Why not?
SCHWARZLOSE: Well, there's a certain lady that doesn't her name franchised.
FORD: That's correct. I don't want to be Colonel Sanders.
KING: Don't want to be Betty Ford in Chicago? FORD: No, no.
KING: How often do you go to the center?
FORD: I'm over there probably once a week. And I wish I were there more daily because not only do I feel that it's important with my name on the center that I be aware. Of course, John keeps me very aware. We're on the phone on a daily basis. If I'm not over there, he comes by the house.
KING: How do people find out about your concept. How do people who want to help Betty Ford, help?
SCHWARZLOSE: Well, they'll call. They go to the Web site. We get a lot of people coming to our Web site, Bettyfordcenter.org. So a lot of people find out through that. But a lot of the people who choose to help are people who have had a loved one or a friend that have gone through Betty Ford Center. And watch this person's life change and now want to help somebody else.
KING: Do most, after they come out, readily talk about it?
FORD: I would say maybe not immediately. But when they finally are can comfortable in their own skin, as far as their sobriety is concerned.
KING: Do you have an alumni dinner?
SCHWARZLOSE: Once a year. We have a formal where we invite every alum whose ever been through to come back. We do that in Rancho Mirage every fall. But then throughout the year, in various locales, we have dinners and celebrations and meetings of alum.
FORD: We have a lot of chapters. And they're all over the United States. Some are in Canada. And those chapters meet on a regular basis. So they're interacting the alumni are in these areas. And they stay in touch with the center.
KING: When a celebrity comes in, are they just another patient?
SCHWARZLOSE: They're just another patient. In fact we...
KING: No private room?
SCHWARZLOSE: If they are somebody that's going to be easily recognizable, we actually tell the patients in the hall they're coming in. This person deserves as much right to get help as you go. So you don't call your sister in Des Moines and say, guess who's coming in? This is very important that we protect their privacy.
KING: What percentage leave before the time is up? Who can't handle it.
FORD: That varies at the time of year.
KING: Really? FORD: But it's usually -- it's probably usually in about the first five days. And a lot of times it's because they miss that drug of choice. And they just can't live without it.
KING: When you have a hundred do they all go to class together or is everything broken up?
FORD: Oh, no, it's broken up. There's only 20 to a building.
FORD: So they don't have to get to know everybody in that campus. They just get to know the 19 others in their building.
KING: I see. So one person doesn't know the other 99?
FORD: No, no.
SCHWARZLOSE: So it feels very small and a community. Much more...
FORD: You know, it's like a healing circle that they have within the center. And it's a safe place where they can let everything go as far as being comfortable with sharing their problems and their feelings. And women need that because they stayed very close in their home.
KING: I can only say, Betty, you are an American treasure.
FORD: Thank you.
KING: It was a honor doing it. I'll be there for the 40th.
FORD: It's always good to see you. Thank you.
KING: Our lips to god. Thank you, John.
Betty Ford, the former first lady, John Schwarzlose the president and CEO of The Betty Ford Center. The book, again, is "Healing and Hope: Six Women From the Betty Ford Center Share Their Powerful Journeys of Addiction and Recovery." I'll be back in a minute with a message. Don't go away.
KING: Former first lady Betty Ford and John Schwarzlose of the Better Ford Center for being our guest tonight. And this is an ideal night for us to urge everybody out there to drink responsibly this holiday season.
And our friends at Mothers Against Drunk Driving are doing their part to keep the highways safe. They've come up with a party guide that includes alcohol-free drink recipes for designated drivers, special coasters and red ribbons you can put on your drive as a pledge to drive safe and sober. You can get a MADD party pack by visiting www.MADD.org and making a financial contribution. MADD is hoping to raise $100,000 through its home for the holidays program.
So log on to MADD, M-A-D-D.org for more information.
Stay tuned. The news continues on your most trusted name in news, CNN.
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