Laughs started early when Steve Ford spoke about his alcoholism at Horry Georgetown Technical College Thursday night.
“I’m just like the rest of you,” he said. “But, I had better government housing.”
The son of former President Gerald Ford kicked off the annual Addiction and Recovery Series.
With 20 years of sobriety, Ford spoke about his battle with alcoholism, his life in the White House and his mother’s addiction to alcohol.
Deb Bibart attended Thursdays lecture because of the effect alcoholism has had on her life as the daughter of an alcoholic with a brother who struggles with an addiction.
She is active promoter of AL-ANON, which is a support group for families and friends of alcoholics.
She said alcoholism takes a toll on more people than the addict and that everyone needs to make changes for a successful recovery.
“We believe that those people who are in recovery, us, the friends and family, getting well along with them getting well improves their chance of success.”
Ford shared pictures of his life in the White House, telling family stories to a captive, laughing audience of about 100 people.
“Those stories are great and they’re funny and they show a family that looks like they’ve got it all together,” he said. “But, they don’t.”
He switched gears to somber memories of his mother’s battle with alcoholism and intervention, which was followed about 10 years later by his own addiction.
“I thought I was on top of the world, but inside my life was falling apart,” he said.
He said he lived a double life acting one way at home and binge drinking while on the road working as an actor.
He starred in the soap opera “Young and the Restless” and has appeared in more than 30 movies, including “When Harry Met Sally” and “Black Hawk Down.”
He did not go into treatment at the nonprofit clinic named after his mother and instead went to 90 Alcoholics Anonymous meetings in 90 days, he said.
“My name is Steve and I’m an alcoholic,” he said. “A grateful alcoholic.”
He said he is grateful for his struggle because of the life lessons and principles he learned during the 12-step recovery process.
Ford said he hoped those hearing the lecture learned families are all the same, even if they’ve lived in the White House.
He shared copy of a book of letters, handwritten by his father of 20 life lessons like learning how to lose that he said helped him stand back on his feet when he had hit bottom. Ford challenged the audience to write similar such essays for their children, grandchildren or even a neighborhood child.
He said he didn’t appreciate the gift when he received it in his 20s, but that it helped save his life later.
Part two of the Addiction and Recovery lecture series will feature addiction specialist and author Candy Finnigan on Feb. 27. Then on March 6, a panel of students, faculty and staff will share experiences of personal addictions and daily routines to maintain recovery. The events are free and open to the public.