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Walter Armstrong Walter Armstrong

Why Is Toronto Mayor Rob Ford Giving Interviews and Conducting Official Business If He Is in Rehab?

4 Substance

Few people with substance use problems hit rock bottom while serving as mayor of their nation’s capital city. But perhaps only Toronto’s Rob Ford has been afforded the luxury of not simply hitting rock bottom but setting up office and governing from there. Last week that odd situation was interrupted—whether temporarily or permanently remains to be seen—when Ford announced that he was taking a leave of absence to seek “professional help” for his “problem with alcohol.”

After being refused entry to the US for treatment, reportedly because of his prior drug possession and use, Ford’s whereabouts remain unknown. Nothing was heard from him until today, when the Toronto Sun, the city’s popular conservative tabloid, published an exclusive interview with the mayor.

Ford gave the interview, after what he claims is only a week at an undisclosed rehab, in an apparent attempt to counter widespread suspicions that he is not in treatment at all but, rather, in hiding. Another odd situation. But the fact that he would give an interview while at rehab is also odd—or, at least, not normal procedure—as most in-patient facilities strongly advise against making public statements.

Be that as it may, we have the statements—what to make of them?

1. Ford says that he is in what the Sun describes as “a kind of working rehab.” “I asked for my calls sheets and I am making calls to constituents. I am getting help but I still want to help.”

Just as at most rehabs patients are prohibited from talking to the press, they are also prohibited from bringing their job with them, as if on a “working vacation.”

Ford says that he is on top of the world: “I feel great. Rehab is amazing. It reminds me of football camp. Kind of like the Washington Redskins camp I went to as a kid.”

This is an unusual response to what is likely Ford’s first week of sobriety after a long period of use of alcohol, crack cocaine and other substances. During these seven days, he has presumably experienced physical and emotional symptoms of withdrawal that, even under the best professional detox, can be a hell of a workout. Perhaps that is what he is referring to when he says, “I am working out every day.”

3. Ford describes his daily schedule as “there are meetings of eight and then sometimes four, then there is a meal before we have some one-on-one sessions”—the standard rehab program of 12-step meetings and individualized counseling.

It can take a long time, even a lifetime, for the precepts and slogans of the 12 Steps to break through the psychology of denial. Ford seems to be making a slow start.

4. “I think alcohol is the worst drug of all. It makes you do things you would never do or say things you wouldn’t.”

Denial that he was forced into treatment by a critical mass of scandal.

5. “I think alcohol is the worst drug of all. It makes you do things that you would never do or say things that you wouldn’t.”

Denial that he is responsible for the scandals, which include countless acts of well-documented intoxication, misogyny, homophobia, racism, sexual and physical harassment and superhuman bullying.

6. “I said to myself, ‘Am I going to try to cover it up for the rest of your life or deal with it and go to professional help. I decided to get help.”

Denial that his “problem with alcohol” has long been beyond his powers to “cover up” from the world.

7. “My family knows I am getting help but they don’t know why.”

Denial that his family is all too intimately acquainted with his “problem with alcohol” and its many negative consequences.

The saddest part of the interview is that his statements seem entirely crafted to benefit his public image. He has refused to resign. He vows that he will stand for re-election in the fall. Success will require him to emerge from rehab as someone who is sober and committed to recovery.

A poll of likely Toronto voters taken late last week found that 22% would vote to re-elect Ford as mayor.