A Sibling's Recovery Mission

Her brother's love and a donor's generosity lifted Aida from the depths of addiction
Aida - Web Copy
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From a young age, I think my parents thought my drug use was about being rebellious. None of us realized the nature of what I was struggling with.


As Hurricane Katrina hurtled toward Baton Rouge with deadly force, Aida knew she should evacuate to Dallas with her family. But addiction had a stronger pull on her.

“I was so addicted to crystal meth I could barely function,” says Aida. “All I could think about was staying put and staying on drugs.”

For her brother, Will, Aida’s refusal to flee the oncoming disaster was a clear SOS. Will had seen warning signs in his younger sister’s behavior for a while. But her decision to remain in the hurricane’s path revealed how trapped Aida was by addiction.

Seeing Through the Chaos

Two days after Katrina tore through Louisiana, as helicopters air-dropped relief items to survivors, Will drove through the wreckage to locate his sister. Not only had he planned an intervention, he found an “angel” donor who was ready to fund treatment at the Betty Ford Center if Aida would make arrangements to go.

“I heard the helicopters overhead, and I just prayed ... and then Will showed up,” Aida shares. “I was so sick and so scared to leave that it took me a little while to make that call to the Betty Ford Center,” she admits. “Things were very chaotic and dire. There were no detox beds or treatment beds available in Baton Rouge. We were just overflowing with addiction.”

Trusting her brother’s love and guidance, Aida managed to grab onto the hope he offered. She made the call and made it to the Betty Ford Center—catching the last flight to California before Hurricane Rita hit.

Aida was met at the Betty Ford Center with a level of care and dignity beyond her imagination. “I was in really bad shape. I couldn’t walk or do anything for myself,” she shares. “The people there were so kind to me and nurtured me.” For the first time, her complex condition was properly diagnosed and treated, and Aida was able to make the connection between her mood swings and her self-medicating substance use.

For his part, Will never doubted that Aida could recover once she had the chance—and the right care and support. Instead, the most unexpected part of his sister’s treatment experience was the connection and emotional healing it brought for their family.

Healing for the Whole Family

At the Betty Ford Center’s Family Program, Aida and Will’s parents were able to learn about addiction as a complicated, pervasive and chronic disease. That recognition alone shifted their family dynamics and opened the lines of communication for understanding and forgiveness, says Aida.

“From a young age, I think my parents thought my drug use was about being rebellious. None of us realized the nature of what I was struggling with,” Aida shares.

“When my father could finally see me as someone who was sick—that I wasn’t just trying to be bad—and he could see that there was a solution for me and my condition, the dynamics of our relationship changed.”

And that transformation had a healing effect on the rest of the family, including all three of Aida’s brothers who saw their sister’s struggles with new eyes and empathy.

“The impetus for going to treatment was to stop the addiction. But recovery has been about much more than that for our family,” explains Will. “Recovery is about embracing the whole family. Our family’s experience at the Betty Ford Center was the catalyst for a whole new way of supporting one another.”

Carrying the Message

Today, in long-term recovery, Aida manages Awakening Recovery, a structured sober-living residence for women in West Los Angeles. Her healing journey continues to unfold as she helps other women put their lives back together.

Will carries the hope of recovery forward through his work as a social-emotional education consultant and spoken word artist. His message often draws on themes of connection and compassion, the very gifts his sister and family were graced with at the Betty Ford Center: “To be given another chance—to be given the dignity to become whole again.”

Listen to the Full Story

Meet Aida and Will who are featured guests in our Let's Talk Addiction & Recovery podcast series hosted by William C. Moyers.

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