Rob Ford: I Abuse Substances & Therefore Say Gross Things
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Rob Ford: I Abuse Substances & Therefore Say Gross Things

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Surprise, surprise: disgraced Toronto mayor Rob Ford is blaming his racist, homophobic former tirades on none other than substance abuse. (Dude, we’ve known that forever, though it did seem to take him a notably long time to realize it himself.)

 Canadian Confession

He returned to work on Monday after completing a two-month rehab stint for addiction to both alcohol and drugs. He now acknowledges that he’s basically used every drug you can think of, including cocaine, pot, mushrooms, crack but miraculously he managed to avoid sampling heroin. “You name it, I’ve abused it,” he said. He also noted that while he did drink at City Hall, he never used drugs there (phew).

Sounding like a good little 12-step attendee, when asked about his long-term commitment to sobriety, he said, “I’m taking it one day at a time. I did not drink yesterday, I haven’t drunk today.” He has no plans to resign anytime soon.

Trouble in Toronto

As you probably know because it’s been splashed all over the media for months on end, Ford’s mayoral leadership has been consistently dampened by increasingly icky revelations about his alcoholism and illegal drug use. He was stripped of most of his responsibilities and powers by Toronto’s City Council last year.

His reputation got even dicier, though, when he was videotaped while drunk in public, making gross, racist and homophobic remarks that were caught on tape. He now blames his disease for his previous behavior, and says he “can’t even imagine using that terminology.”

Pulling the Addiction Card

While I feel for Ford—really, I do, kind of—I can’t help but be skeptical of his excuse. I know from experience and from watching and hearing other addicts’ stories for years in the rooms that drugs and drink can indeed turn addicts into a completely different version of themselves; it’s a Jekyll and Hyde-like condition, for sure. We’ve all either had or experienced the situations ourselves: being a crying mess, or incredibly violent, or reckless and careless when in an altered state. But just because it happens to a lot of folks doesn’t make it okay, especially not when you’re a public figure (a mayor of a major city, no less!) in the spotlight.

I’m generally disturbed by people who claim that racist or homophobic language just magically “slips out” when they’re not in their right minds; sorry, but if the n-word is the first insult that pops into your mind when you’re trying to describe a frustration with a person of another race, you have a problem. Most of us would never dream of using those words no matter how shitty we were feeling. So while I sympathize with Ford’s plight for sobriety, I can’t really get on board with the whole drugs-and-alcohol-made-me-racist-and-sexist thing.

Photo Courtesy of JasonParis from Toronto, Canada (Nathan Phillips Square (Toronto City Hall)) [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons (resized and cropped)

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About Author

Laura Barcella is a documentary researcher, author, freelance writer and ghostwriter from Washington, DC. Her writing has also appeared in TIME, Marie Claire, Salon, Esquire, Elle, Refinery29, AlterNet, The Village Voice, Cosmopolitan, The Chicago Sun-Times, Time Out New York, BUST, ELLE Girl, NYLON and CNN.com. Her book credits include Know Your Rights: A Modern Kid's Guide to the American Constitution, Fight Like a Girl: 50 Feminists Who Changed the World, Popular: The Ups and Downs of Online Dating from the Most Popular Girl in New York City, Madonna & Me: Women Writers on the Queen of Pop and The End: 50 Apocalyptic Visions From Pop Culture That You Should Know About…Before It’s Too Late.