Rob Ford and the realities of rehab redemption

Anne Kingston on the cultural script and the real work in recovery

(The Canadian Press)

The chorus calling for Toronto Mayor Rob Ford to enter rehab has swelled from a murmur in March, with news His Honour was so smashed at the Garrison Ball he was asked to leave, to a full-out chant after Wednesday’s video showed him engaged in some kind of hopped-up  murder rant. Even Jon Stewart chimed in with a direct plea after Ford admitting smoking crack cocaine: “Even though I will lose precious material, please go to rehab.” By late Friday there was a sigh of relief from City Hall when Ford’s lawyer suggested the mayor was considering “treatment.”

It’s all utterly predictable, if equally pointless. Rehab redemption has become hardwired in the cultural imagination, dating to former First Lady Betty Ford’s brave admission in the late ’70s that she overcame addiction to booze and pills. She inspired the first in a brand name treatment facility. Thirty years later, entering rehab is a way to seek treatment — and a calculated strategy for escaping public crisis, witnessed by  Tiger Woods paving his way back to the endorsement green after an apology and “sex addiction” treatment.  In the process, addiction and recovery have become mainstream macabre entertainment—rabid “death watches” for Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan,  Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew and now Rob Ford.

Many expected  Ford to throw out the “rehab” bone of contrition when he called a press conference on Tuesday. It’s the route any canny  politician in crisis-management mode would take—a last-ditch get-out-of-jail card. Calgary mayor Ralph Klein remained in office after admitting to his well-documented problem with alcohol during a tearful press conference in 2001. That Ford didn’t clearly came as a shock to those unacquainted with the mayor’s inability or unwillingness to take responsibility for his behaviour.  Like a rogue elephant, Ford, who speaks in terms of “one of my stupors,” refuses to follow cultural script, much to the delight of his steadfast supporters. He was defiant, not only staying put but running for office again. He’s singing from the Amy Winehouse songbook: “They tried to make me go to rehab but I said, ‘No, no, no.’ “

Not that rehab is always required in order to recover from addictions, as  Anne Fletcher  points out in her acclaimed book  Inside Rehab: The Surprising Truth About Addiction, published this year. The myth-busting investigation of U.S. rehab facilities reveals quality of care is wildly uneven. And no guarantees exist, a fact driven home in July when actor Corey Montieth was found dead in a Vancouver hotel of a toxic cocktail of heroin and alcohol. He was fresh out of a voluntarily stint in a treatment facility. His death gave rise to criticism that abstinence-based programs, with their all-or-nothing approach, are unrealistic, even dangerous.

Rehab is not a magic bullet, says doctor and addiction specialist Patrick Smith, CEO of Toronto-based Renascent alcohol and drug addiction recovery centres. But he claims abstinence-based treatment can have great success: 71 per cent of people in his program, which involves residential stay (the Ontario government funds 21 days) plus a 15-week out-patient program, are clean and sober two years later.

Seeking recovery  requires a precipitating event to tip someone over the edge, says Smith—the “OK I need help” moment.  But recovering from addiction won’t work without commitment, he says. The real work begins after rehab: “The most important thing we can do in 21 days is have influence on what someone is going to do on day 22.” But, as  Torontonians know, self-discipline isn’t Ford’s strong suit, witnessed during the “Cut the Waist Challenge” at City Hall last year. Ford, who shed 17 of  his target 50-pounds target before falling off the scale altogether, was caught on video mid-challenge purchasing KFC.

Smith says it’s premature to diagnose Ford as an addict, adding: “but if those behaviours are not because of addiction, then there has to be some really good reason.”  Diagnosis requires an assessment to differentiate between heavy social use and someone who truly has an addiction. It also involves looking at negative consequences of behaviour and use.” One doesn’t have to be an addict to engage in destructive behaviour, Smith says:  ”College binge drinkers may not be addicted but can have really bad outcomes.”  He also points to the fact some drugs—among them crack cocaine and heroin—are  almost impossible to use “socially” without running into severe consequences.

Addiction is a family disease, says Smith: “With full-blown addiction it’s impossible to find someone whose family hasn’t been touched.  The problem is our health system, he says, is that it’s focused only on the addicted person—”the thinking is that you send them to rehab, like you dip-wash them and they’re fine.” But family members,  particularly children, also require help.

For their part, the Fords, a clan that inspires the descriptor Strip Mall Gothic, has adopted an if-there-was-a-problem-we-would-know-it defence, a rationale perversely buttressed by the fact the family is well acquainted with addiction. In a TV interview Thursday, the mayor’s mother, Diane, defended her son as “human” and claimed; “If he needed help … I would be the first to help him.”  Yes, her son, drinks too much, and should speak to a “counsellor,” she said, but that’s not his primary problem: “He has a weight problem … that is the first thing he has to attack.” Ford’s sister, Kathy, who has battled addiction, is also dismissive: “Robby is not a drug addict,” she said “I know because I am a former addict.” She then went on to describe his “binge drinking every three months” and shared that she was once forced him to boot him from her house for acting out.

Doug Ford, who knows his brother best, recommended containment, rather than any attempt at eradication. His solution was for Rob to limit his intoxication to a home that contains a wife and two children, and seems to have 911 on speed dial.  “Stay in your basement, have a few pops,”  he said. Yesterday Doug Ford continued the denial-denial on Talk Radio 640: “I don’t think Rob is in denial,” he said before doing what people in denial do: deflect blame. Other politicians—provincial and federal—have “a lot worse drinking issue than Rob Ford,” he said. All his brother needs is a good holiday: “If Rob goes away on a vacation, for a week or two weeks, Rob loses 50, 60 pounds, stays on the straight narrow, because he’s a good man … it’ll be tough to beat Rob Ford.”

Clearly no Ford wants Robby to relinquish the reigns, including Robby himself.  On Thursday, he expressed embarrassment for his unhinged, death-threat video. “I hope none of you have ever, or will ever, be in that state,” he told Toronto journalists. That he wouldn’t—or couldn’t—hope the same thing for himself speaks volumes.




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Rob Ford and the realities of rehab redemption

  1. when is the childrens aid society going to step in and save them from this monster ?

    • Just look at the history around his home. Spousal abuse 911 calls, convicted drug dealers busting in his door looking for money. A so-called “father” hanging out with crack gangs and serious ex convicts. Is this really simply the typical private life of your average citizen as we have heard from the apologists? Not even close ! If this was not some rich privileged creep like Robert Ford those kids would have been gone long long long ago and rightfully so ! Ford nation better pray nothing happens to that family or they will live with enabling and encouraging it for all their remaining days.

      • Druggery, thuggery, arrogance and delusions of grandeur – this whole dysfunctional family from the Dark Side should be in rehab of some kind or other. Perhaps at least one of them would be able to elevate him- or herself to the level of a decent, caring human being.

        • Thank you Mary!

          So in essence what you are saying is no decent, caring human being can be an alcohol addict.

          Once thanks again for stepping in for god while we all await judgement day, I wonder what his judgement about your comment will be?

          • um, no, you have just invented that. rob ford is not decent, because in his public capacity, he would deny many people who suffer from addictions the opportunity for the kind of rehab they need. public rob ford would throw private rob ford in jail and throw away the key.

            this hypocrisy is what is despicable. that and the extortion and bullying of a whole community (the people who live where his dealers live).

            questions still have to be answered around the deaths of those kids related to that video.

            i’m not saying politicians are angels, but if you can’t keep your nose clean, how honest can you be as a public official. a mayor who does illegal and arguably immoral things leaves himself vulnerable to blackmailing and outside influence and distraction. that is not a person who should be running a city.

    • It’ the attitude of the SORE LOSERS, that makes Toronto an embarrassing city,

      • And the CHEAP media, and of course GREED,

    • yes why havent they good question had it bin any other person the kids would be gone already

  2. Ford isn’t going to either get help and/or leave, anymore than Harp will.

    Crowbars under the fingernails in the doorjamb….both of them

    • Well, nobody’s really asking them to go, are they?

      You want Harper to go? Then get your MP to vote no on his next budget bill, and then organize enough voters in enough ridings to reduce the Conservatives into second or third party status.

      You want Ford to go? Then demand that the police (who have a videotape showing the mayor conducting illegal activity) bring formal charges against him.

      Canada is at least nominally a democracy. You aren’t powerless here. It’s not like you have to just sit there and hope your dictators get heart attacks the way they have to in North Korea or Chad. So why are you demanding that they go, when you have both the power and the responsibility to throw them out?

      • LOL

      • That’s it, I’m writing a letter…

    • they need to make drugs legal and start helping all the addicks….if one polition does drugs im sure there are alot more out there that do also maybe thats why when you see the house of commen on the gov channel they are all yelling and screaming at each other and nothing ever gets done exccept some lines or bowls…make the drugs legal and send the druggys to rehab problem solved…oh wait no if they read this there too hi to under stand the simple fact

      • The ‘war on drugs’ is certainly a huge failure. Time for a new approach.

        • The same could be said of Mayor Ford.

          • LOL Agreed.

  3. I think it’s time for the Kardashian family to admit that the Ford family are their long lost cousins. This unacknowledged branch of the Kardashian clan has been kept quiet to hide the shame of their more famous kindred in the States.

    • The Fords are a combination of the ” Here comes Honey Boo Boo” and The Sopranos

  4. It’s a moral compass thing. In Vancouver we have crack smokers who slaughter or riot, but it’s a more social thing among the commoners who are too inebriated to know better. In Montreal they are not necessarily crack smokers, more like hash, but are happy to feather their nests as a bonvivant would want to do… being seen as self indulgent and important but too inebriated. In Toronto it’s a more personal meaning, “I don’t share my shit with no one. Break my knuckles and cap my knees but I am one tough M**F, mean SOB in an inebriated state I can take on the world. I will not resign because I have done no wrong”

  5. What is most embarrassing about Toronto is the People themselves, the NASTY SORE LOSERS in that city is unreal

    • Everyone in Toronto is a loser with Ford as mayor.

  6. It looks to me like the majority of these ‘commenters’ need help more than mayor Ford. The obvious self righteous perspective shows these are clean and sober people (of course!).
    Yet the vile comments, accusations and poison they are spewing are basically the same thing they accuse mayor Ford of doing… but at least he was drunk.

    Amazing how some people will use anything to grind their own axe, me thinks the skeletons in their own closet are making noises.

    • Let me guess: you’d be “Robbie’s” mother, right?

      • That may be “Robbie’s” mother or even “Robbie’s” sister or maybe even “Dougie” himself ! Oh wait, is that you “Robbie” ? “Robbie” !

  7. I don’t see the substance abuse issue as the largest issue with Ford. I have had a few drunken stupors in my day. Usually woke up in my own bed, sometimes on a friend’s couch. What has never happened to me is to be overindulging and then magically end up at a crackhouse.

    Ford was familiar with that crackhouse, the guys in the picture, the Dixon Bloods. That is why the Ford brothers find it so easy to fall into making physical threats: they were threatening people long before they went into politics.

    • Absolutely! Shady businesses, threats, arrogance, entitelment, what else – he just have to face charges, plain and simple!

    • Incredible !! Somebody with some common sense !! Listen to reason people !! I have been saying this for months, if not years !!

    • Suck it up wimp.

  8. Anne, although Ralph Klein was mayor of Calgary at one time, that was in the 1980′s. When he made his “tearful confession in 2001″, he was the premier of Alberta. The confession came following a night of heavy drinking in which he ordered his driver to drop by a homeless shelter. Ralph in an inebriated state proceeded to throw coins at the inhabitants and demand they all get a job. Of course it made headline news the following morning and a contrite Ralph held a speedy press conference. Did he quit drinking….publicly yes.

  9. ..and yes, there is a moral dimension to it. I find it astonishing that conservatives who support him, seem to miss it completely. It’s really simple: do we tell out kids that, as long as they don’t do it at school/work, it is perfectly fine to be in a drunker stupor/smoke crack?

    Not to mention the fact that we all (I hope) cringe when Toronto is a laughing stock of the world..

  10. Ralph Klein was not mayor of calgary in 2001. Maybe some fact checking

  11. Well lest Ford has the Ball’s to admit he has a problem…maybe when the other government officals and Juges and lawyers admit they have the problem they can legalise drugs and every one can goto rehab and we all can get on with our lives….oh wait there is no money in the cure so they keep it all elegal so they make more money

  12. just get rid of him already. I am fresh off just watching that video of him ranting and I am no specialist but he isn’t really slurring his words….I don’t think the primary substance he is on his alcohol. I think its crack, or just plain cocaine…This guy is an embarrasement to Canada. Get him out now!!!

    • I thought the same thing. He didn’t sound like he was drunk, he sounded/acted hyper and coked out.

  13. The movement is growing!! Encourage Rob Ford to go to rehab and inspire others to do the same. Toronto, Canada is a SAFE PLACE where recovery is an option. bit.ly/RobFordRehab #RobFordRehab

  14. Oh yes. I’m glad you mentioned Jon Stewart. We all know what a respected journalist he is. And how many awards Jon Stewart has won. Macleans GTFO.

  15. As I watch the city councels ,I wonder if the idiot will get paid while on leave .how dare the city make such a decision with a public vote

  16. This is good time to bring up Rehab Center’s. Which one is Rob Ford going to? Rehab Center’s in most of Canada, and in Ontario and NOT LICENSED OR REGULATED IN ANYWAY. That’s why people like John Haines, Vita Novus, Pickerel Lake Recovery, Muskoka Recovey Center, are able to get away with SCAMMING ADDICTS.

    I hope Ford does go to a Rehab Center. When he SCREWED BY THEM, and by people like this Conman John Haines, then something will be done!
    You can google, John Haines Rehab, Vita Novus Complaints, Pickerel Lake Recovery Complainbts, Muskoka Recovery Blogs……,

    Please pass this on!

    http://badmanners2159.blogspot.ca/2013/09/john-haines-vita-novushow-it-works.html

    http://blog.canadiandrugrehabcentres.com/2011/12/16/welcome-to-pickerel-lake-recovery-center/

    http://www.complaintsboard.com/complaints/pickerel-lake-lodge-recovery-burks-falls-ontario-c566862.html

    http://www.complaintsboard.com/complaints/vita-novus-new-life-recovery-center-stouffville-ontario-c353871.html

    http://blog.canadiandrugrehabcentres.com/2012/08/25/muskoka-recovery-center/

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