Rob Ford has finally hit his rock bottom. You have to, before you get enough of a grip to get out. It can be a slow fall or a freefall, bouncing against the jagged edges of the hole, or hard and fast, straight to the bottom. It’s black. It’s lonely and silent, except for the voice in your head. Remember that scene in The Black Knight Rises when Bruce Wayne is left for dead in that hell hole, fighting against the odds to climb back out with a broken back? It’s like that.
I’ve watched Ford’s descent with sadness, and I’m sure that a lot of addicts share my sympathy. There were a few good one-liners along the way. Even I posted a few, but always with a guilty conscience. His destruction was so public; it precipitated his fall, and now we’re staring down at him, like some bum in the gutter.
We’re not helping. It’s now none of our business. This is a private matter. So enough already. We’re interfering with his treatment. The chances of recovery are slim enough. There’s no reason why we need to know where he is undergoing rehab. What hope does he have, if the media circus tents go up to peer through windows looking to catch him wandering the halls? It’s like staring at those patients who wheel themselves, rolling their IV and oxygen stand alongside, out hospital doors to have a cigarette.
We’re making too big a deal out of him making work calls. What real work can he do on the phone? He’s been effectively stripped of his job as mayor of Toronto. Whatever facility he is in should have immediately taken measures to strip him of the privilege. But I sometimes think that the sort of treatment resorts that Ford can afford use kid gloves rather than hard lessons.
The experts and the snarkers, none of whom have ever met Ford, are basing their opinions on media coverage. So am I, even though I don’t know anything about Ford, other than the public spectacle, the embarrassments, admissions, and decision to enter rehab. I’m not an expert and I was snarky a few times, too. What I do know is I’m an addict. But even then, I don’t have anything to offer other than my own story – a painfully private one. Maybe by sharing, I can give you just a glimpse of what it’s like or, at least, what I experienced — waking up one morning lying in a fetal position on the couch and knowing that if I didn’t do something – didn’t ask for help – I was going to end up dead on the Downtown Eastside.
Nobody had a clue until I mustered the courage to tell only my family and some very close friends. I had fooled everyone for years. Addicts are great actors.
I’ve been flipping through the journal that I kept while in rehab. This is the first time I’ve read it since going in on January, 10, 1999 and coming out on in March. Two months. Like I said, my rehab was painful. It was private.
Before I left for the Northern Addictions Centre in Grande Prairie, Alberta, a friend – a recovering alcoholic told me – “Go into it with the attitude that you’re going to do whatever they tell you to do.” From what we’ve seen from Ford, that could be hard for him to do. Addiction is like sex with a gorilla. It ain’t over until the gorilla says it is.
I was assigned bed D12 in the detox ward for 10 days. On my first day, one of the clients said, “I don’t know if I can do this.” After eight days, I was thinking the same. There were tensions, back-stabbing, confrontations, and big bad boring days of doubt. By the end of January, I didn’t want to be there anymore. I still had a month left. Two days later, I hated everything and everyone.
One morning, I got a new roommate – a jarhead from the navy who liked guns and “hated fags.” He was 22-years old, enlisted at the age of 17, and drummed out for drinking. While he was at sea, his teenage wife had died, leaving their daughter behind. He wanted to see his son by another woman. He almost killed a man once. He said if he couldn’t find his answer in rehab, his life was over. That’s who you share rehab with – people who think their lives are over.
I don’t expect the white-collar conditions that Ford is in are as harsh as I experienced. But the death threat is the same if his recovery fails. That’s the hardest lesson. More than most don’t get it. Not everyone who passes through the revolving door of rehab makes it. Addicts die. A sweet woman that I knew only as Bev M. left treatment saying that it had been a waste of her time. Within 48 hours on the outside, after three weeks clean, she was dead of alcohol poisoning.
After “graduating” – that’s what they called it — one of the two guys I’d gone through cocaine rehab and recovery with had gone back to work in Fort McMurray. A few weeks later, he hung himself. I last saw the other guy, whose name I can’t remember, walking along Hastings in the Downtown Eastside.
So that’s part of my story. A very small part. We don’t know Ford’s. We may never, even though he’ll be under the microscope when he gets out. But while he’s in, leave him alone to face his demons. Leave his friends and family alone to help him.
It’s not just the coke and crack addiction that Ford and I share. Cocaine? She don’t lie, she don’t lie.
Yes she does. Addicts lie.
Ford’s story is different from mine, but once an addict, always an addict. If there was one thing I could share with him, it’s this:
When I was in rehab, I got a card from Dad. You have to understand that Dad wasn’t one for writing. The card read – “To a Great Guy. As you go through this difficult time, hope you realize that someone like you who’s faced challenges and solved problems before can surely do it again. Hang in there.” In his own handwriting, Dad wrote: “I think this says it all. I know you will have had bad times, but keep your chin up. We’re waiting for you to come home.” – Dad.
I hope that’s waiting for Ford. Until then, let’s just leave him alone.