Published July 09, 2011
Hi, I’m Larry, and I’m an alcoholic…
There "was a time in the old west" that I would not have had the courage to even whisper those 7 words to myself, in a dark room, in the Australian Outback-if, in fact, there are any dark rooms in the Australian Outback-much less say, or rather, write them in an op-ed for Foxnews.com, and thereby let the entire known world find out the awful truth: that I am, in fact, a drunk. That’s right, a drunk. Well, that time is long gone because of one person, not really just a person, a saint and my friend, Mrs. Betty Ford.
There "was a time in the old west" that like me had to hide in the shadows, or meet in smokey rooms above pool halls or gas stations, or old school rooms, pretty much out of sight of the "regular" folks, the good Christian folk, or Jewish folk, or "whatever folk" of the town, for fear of being seen coming or going from the above-mentioned pool halls, gas stations, and school rooms.
You see, drunks like me were considered second class citizens, weak willed, spineless oafs who could not hold their liquor. Even when we "turned over a new leaf and took the cure," we were not given the exalted place in society afforded those other drunks. The ones who had not taken the cure, the "regulars" at the local watering holes, country clubs, and cocktail parties of the town, the Martini swilling, Mouton Rothschild sipping "swells" who lived in the mansions in the "good part" of town, and were really little different from us; except of course that they had not admitted that they were drunks. They were not looked down on, laughed at and derided as drunken oafs who could not hold their liquor. Oh no, they were not drunks, they were just, what's the word- festive.
That's it, festive.
Then, in a flash, everything changed as a saint entered named Mrs. Betty Ford, Miz Betty, as I called her. She really didn't act much like a saint at the start of what would become a story of courage, faith and overcoming. Oh no, she was a bit of a pain, to her husband, also my friend, President Gerald Ford, who I called Mr. Prez (at his insistence) to her family, and to another old friend, Dr. Joseph Pursch, who I call "Doc."
Let me explain. Miz Betty had become quite a handful for the entire Ford family, so much so that she was taken to San Diego for treatment under the supervision of "Doc Pursch." When she refused to "room" with 3 other female patients, "Doc" Pursch, in a moment of absolute spiritual inspiration said something like this in his thick Yugoslavian accent, "Well then Mrs. Ford, you go back to the room we assigned you and you can tell the other ladies to move out." Well, Miz Betty could not do that. At that very moment her beatification began. She did what "DOC" told her, or asked her to do, she stayed the required time for her treatment, then she went out into the real world and told that real world, to get off our backs and "cut us some slack." Not her words exactly, but you get the picture.
The "real world" got the picture too. Then she did something even more mystical and "saintily," invited all of us drunks to "come in from the cold." She insisted that non drunks, "Normies," and the "festive" folks change their way of treating us, because we were valuable people, worthy citizens, and most importantly, "God’s kids," and we were not going to be "kicked to the curb" anymore, or shamed or ridiculed, not if she had anything to say about it.
By her actions and her example of Sainthood, at least that's the way I see it, I would be dead now if it were not for "Doc," Coach Darrell Royal, and his wife Edith, who took me to treatment, and Miz Betty, who, almost single handedly, or single heartedly, made it okay for us drunks to, in fact, "come in from the cold."
So to her I say right now, because I know she can hear me, at a little past midnight, July 9th, writing this on my iPad....sober as a judge...God bless you my old friend, Mrs. Ford, Miz Betty. You are a saint for sure now. Tell Mr. "Prez" that I hope he shoots even par today.
Larry Gatlin is a Grammy Award-winning country music songwriter and musician. He is a frequent contributor to Fox News Opinion.