April 24, 1978 12:00 PM

The news from the Jerry Ford home in Rancho Mirage, Calif. was not good. Betty moved about from morning to night in a slow-motion, drug-sedated trance, rarely finishing sentences. Clearly she was not coping well with her husband’s frequent absences and, worse, the pain from a pinched nerve and chronic arthritis, so severe that it sometimes made her sick to her stomach. Now there was a new complication—dependence on painkilling drugs. The situation had become so troubling that some of the staff was leaving. “Nobody wanted to be part of a drug-maintenance operation,” a friend lamented.

Finally, last week Betty checked herself into the alcohol and drug rehabilitation center at Long Beach Naval Hospital to seek a cure. In a statement, as candid and courageous as ever, she declared: “It’s an insidious thing, and I mean to rid myself of its damaging effects. There have been too many other things I have overcome to be forever burdened with this.”

There was reason for hope, because she had previously worked on a drinking problem. But there was also a deeper difficulty this time. The flare-up that led to her hospitalization and brought Ford and all of their children hurrying home had occurred shortly after an L.A. speech in which he had indicated an interest in the Republican presidential nomination for 1980. “That had to have something to do with her getting sick,” said a friend of the family. “He had promised her he wouldn’t run.” Indeed, even before his wife was admitted to the naval drug center, Ford was back on the circuit of lectures, celebrity golf tournaments and banquets.

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