As former First Lady Betty Ford rose before dawn on Oct. 4, 1982, to announce on Good Morning America that her new addiction treatment center in Rancho Mirage, California, would open just a few hours later, a hurting family from nearby Palm Springs was about to change forever. Susan G.—who had been hospitalized after a recent "crash and burn" night of drinking—soon became one of four patients admitted that first day. Three years later, her daughter Judy B. would also become a Betty Ford Center patient. And seven years after that, Judy's son launched his recovery there as well. Three generations. Today, almost 100 years of sobriety among them. "The Center was wonderful. It blessed my whole family," said Susan, now 88 and living in a senior care facility in Utah. "It was fate that brought me there." Susan also has a son who went to the Betty Ford Center and remains in recovery today. And two other family members, including Susan's late husband Max, were so impacted by the Center that they went on to work there, while many more in the extended clan remained involved for years in family support meetings held at the Center. "Family week did that, and then family aftercare," said Judy, noting that she and other family members were involved in the Betty Ford Center's post-treatment ‘aftercare' programs for more than a year following her mother's discharge. "My stepfather wanted to take mom out of treatment after just two days because he was afraid ‘they were changing my wife.' At that point, my husband talked him into leaving her, and then the Center brought us in for family week. We started learning about the disease of addiction and how it affects everyone in the family. We all were there—the whole family. And that's the rippling effect really, because that's where the seed was planted for the rest of us," continued Judy, now a very active 68 and living in California. "Of course," she added, "three years later, I went through as a patient, coming in through the back door of my mother's recovery, having first learned about addiction as a family member. Otherwise, I would have never known. And my son learned as a teenager that if he ever decided he needed help, there was a place to go. Sure enough, that day eventually came, and he knew where to go." As the Betty Ford Center celebrates its 35th anniversary, many former patients and their families are reflecting on the healing that has transpired since Mrs. Ford talked to Good Morning America host David Hartman at 4:30 a.m. California time. The early wakeup call followed a dedication ceremony on Oct. 3, 1982, that attracted then-Vice President George H.W. Bush and his wife Barbara; entertainer Bob Hope and his wife Dolores; and of course, President Gerald Ford, among many notable dignitaries. "I am so grateful because God knows what would have happened to me otherwise," said Susan. "I had a big crash and burn just before they put me in the Betty Ford Center, and from there on, I never had another drink and never had the desire for another drink. But I went to meetings all the time, and that's a big part of it, too." "Our family has proven that it works," added Judy. "Everything changed—my whole family—thanks to the firm foundation of treatment at the Betty Ford Center and the Twelve Steps." Back in 1982, Susan, then 53, was still actively grieving the loss of her son who had died of cancer in September 1976. "That's when she started drinking alcoholically," her daughter said. "Every year, mom would drink more and more, especially in September." One night in September 1982, while her husband was away for work, Susan fell in the bathtub after drinking more than planned. Her family found her passed out with a "horrible black eye" and one entire side of her face badly bruised and discolored. While in the hospital, Susan and her family learned the Betty Ford Center would be opening soon. So, upon leaving, Susan stayed with Judy, whose friend began taking mom to Twelve Step meetings—introducing her to recovery while they waited for opening day. After a few days of 24-hour "dry-runs"—with some employees playing the role of patients (including Mrs. Ford) and then switching roles to be employees—the Betty Ford Center officially opened its doors. "When I got to the Betty Ford Center on Monday, I was just grateful to be there. I was pretty shaken by what I had experienced," Susan said. "By the time I got out a month later, I almost regretted leaving because the atmosphere was so terrific. I kind of let my light shine there. It was a wonderful learning experience. A growing experience. And I never stopped learning. … From there on, it was my home base." Over the next three years, Judy—whose drug of choice was marijuana—began to recognize herself in other people's stories while attending long-term aftercare programming at the Betty Ford Center. "Because I functioned all day long, waited until everything was done, and then got loaded at night, I thought I was OK," she said. "I then tried it this way. I tried it that way. Tried not taking it with me if I went on a trip. But then I would just turn to alcohol. And at some point, I knew I had a problem myself. On the outside, it looked all fine. I didn't get DUIs—none of that yet. But inside, I knew. I couldn't fool myself anymore." Judy says she was an outpatient for six weeks in 1985 and then attended aftercare for another full year while also attending Twelve Step meetings several times a week. In addition, she came to acquire a hard-nosed recovery mentor, Meri Bell Sharbutt, who also mentored Mrs. Ford and co-founded the Betty Ford Center's popular public recovery speaker series, the Awareness Hour, which carries on today. Sharbutt guided Judy in working through debilitating shyness and insecurity, asking her to volunteer at the Awareness Hour on Saturdays (reminding attendees to take only one of the free donuts!), and even speak there just four months into recovery. "I couldn't wiggle my way out of anything with her, and I really think that's why I'm sober today. She had me do a lot of things I didn't want to do, but I did them, and in time, I changed. I'm not the person I was back then, and that's the same with the rest of the family," Judy said. She only knew Sharbutt for five years but has indelible memories, including holding hands and tearfully singing Amazing Grace with Sharbutt and 50,000 others in the front row at the Alcoholics Anonymous 55th anniversary celebration in Seattle shortly before Sharbutt died in 1990. "Meri Bell was everything to me. She had so many great sayings, and everything she ever said was true. I still quote her today, 27 years after she died. And I'm sure if Betty were alive today, she'd still be quoting her too." As recovery as passed down through the generations to permeate Susan's and Judy's entire family, the Betty Ford Center and Mrs. Ford herself remain a consistent thread. Judy's son, whose sobriety began at the Center 25 years ago, even has a copy of the "Big Book" of Alcoholics Anonymous that was signed by Mrs. Ford and dozens of others as it passed from newcomer to newcomer for years until he became its permanent owner just nine days into recovery. "I told him in the beginning that I couldn't believe he got that book. He still has it today," Judy said. "A lot of cool stuff. A lot of cool history. Recovery has blessed us all." Indeed. And here are a few additional nuggets from my time talking to Susan and Judy, 35 years into their family's remarkable recovery experience. Susan and Judy both got to know Mrs. Ford as a treatment center operator, a fellow person in recovery and a friend. I asked them what was she like "away from the office." Susan: "Betty Ford was wonderful and down to earth—a really swell gal." Susan: "She was very nonchalant around others in recovery. There was no line between any of us. That was really nice. I enjoyed having that friendship with her." Judy: "Betty was so nice and humble and really had a good (recovery) program. She was just like us. I was still in awe of her though, especially at first. I'll never forget getting a call to go to lunch with her. For me, it was a big deal at the time." Judy: "I used to go to the Awareness Hour a lot to volunteer, and to the alumni anniversary gatherings. Betty was usually there, too, along with the President and Meri Bell, who made things a bit more comfortable for me." Judy: "Her name and her coming out was a big deal and meant a lot to all of us. It was a big deal for women alcoholics. It allowed a lot of women to step forward and be honest about needing help. Susan's recovery means a lot to her. When told her I was writing about the Betty Ford Center's anniversary, she said: "I was there the day it opened, so that must have been 35 years ago, huh? Gosh, I'm proud of myself." "I prize my sobriety. … It's been my way of life ever since the Betty Ford Center." "All these years, I've been able to stay sober, and I'm still sober. I never wavered." Susan misses her Twelve Step meetings. "I cannot go to a meeting unless someone takes me, and there's nobody here at the home to take me, so I can't go, and I'm really disappointed about that. I haven't been there in a while, but I still practice everything I learned. I keep it in my heart." "Thank God I brought my program with me because I can deal with anything today that I have to deal with. I have no desire for booze or to drink or anything. I'm happy. It gives you a much more spiritual life if you are open to that." Susan's husband, Max—Judy's stepfather—was clearly adored by both! A part-time counselor at the Betty Ford Center until he retired at age 80 (later passing away at age 88), Max was also a world-class jazz harmonica player who performed often at the Betty Ford Center's annual Jazz Without Booze fundraisers, which attracted a lot of celebrities and were a special part of the Center's popular speaker series, the Awareness Hour. Susan: "At his funeral, one lady who was a graduate of Betty Ford Center said that without Max, she would have never gotten through the program. I hear that over and over from people because he just had a way of explaining things that made sense. … He was an outstanding man. Everybody loved this man. He was a wonderful counselor and musician. He loved the Betty Ford Center and the people there. He was the kind of man that people were just drawn to. He helped a lot of people. He had a genuine gift for that kind of stuff." Judy: "After mom went to treatment and my stepfather had spent time in aftercare, he was very grateful and volunteered at the Betty Ford Center for a number of years, learning more and more about the disease of addiction. He was good as a volunteer and connected with people well, so they had him get his license and become a counselor. He was fabulous and, as a musician, the best." Susan, even approaching 90, maintains the sharp wit so often found in recovery fellowships. Some examples … When asked how she met her husband, Max, she deadpans, "We met at a club, of course." And at one point, mid-interview, she stopped to reflect: "You know it's hard to realize that I'm 88. I can still run, skip and jump—all the things that younger women do. In fact, this place is full of old ladies who can't do I can do." Referring to her senior living home: "I'm doing the best I can and I'm sober, thank God. And I will stay sober. Well, I have no choice; there's no booze here."