Full Circle

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The most important thing I learned was to separate the person from the disease.

Angela M.

Angela M. was just eight years old when she participated in the Children's Program at the Betty Ford Center. She remembers playing games and watching animated videos…and learning about how addiction affected her father, who was in recovery at that time. 

Sadly, Angela's father suffered the fatal consequences of a return to use and died when she was 10. The tools she gained at the Children's Program helped her cope with the loss and have brought her comfort into adulthood. "My brother and I—and later my younger sister—went to the program because it was important to my parents that we learn to process what was going on. My dad wanted something different for his kids," she explains. "And he accomplished that. He put us on a better path."

Now in her 30s, "the experience and the messages have stuck with me," Angela says of her time at Hazelden Betty Ford. "What stood out to me most about the program is that it was really fun. I wasn't aware I was learning because they met us at our level." She credits her participation in the program to breaking the generational cycle of addiction in her family. 

With these happy childhood memories of the Betty Ford Center, perhaps it's no wonder that Angela was excited to have the opportunity to attend Hazelden Betty Ford's Summer Institute for Medical Students (SIMS). As a second-year medical student, participating in the week-long summer program on the same campus she visited as a child felt like coming full circle for Angela. 

"I felt almost like I had the chance to participate in the Children's Program again as an adult, surrounded by fellow medical students who just want to make a difference," she says. "I felt so safe there. I allowed myself to take off my 'medical school hat' and just soak up the experience." 

Angela points to one life lesson she took away from the Children's Program that has helped her both personally and professionally. "The most important thing I learned [there] was to separate the person from the disease," she says. "In a clinical setting, supervisors have told me that I communicate with empathy. It's the best compliment I could receive. And I thank the Children's Program for that skill."

Regardless of what medical specialty she chooses, Angela knows she'll make use of what she's learned from Hazelden Betty Ford's programs. "This information is vital for anyone in any specialty," she says. 

In the meantime, Angela is grateful for the generous supporters who make both the Children's Program and immersive education programs for medical students possible. She knows firsthand how desperately needed these services are—both for kids and for medical professionals. And she will continue sharing her own story, bravely, knowing that hearing her experience may help someone else down the line.

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