Addiction, enablers and Rob Ford

| May 22, 2013
Addiction, enablers and Rob Ford

There are many problems surrounding addiction. And in particular, many problems with active addicts in positions of power.

But part of the problem, in the larger picture, goes beyond the addict themselves. Another significant component in the issue of addicts in positions of power is enablers.

The people who enable them, cover up for them and make excuses for them. This culture of collusion around addicts who refuse to even admit they have a problem is a serious concern with anyone in a position of power.

This is true whether it is an elected official or the head of a large company, or even the head of a family with young children. Those individuals have people relying on their leadership. When that individual is an addict in denial, all of those relying on that person's leadership will get lied to. And lied to A LOT. What's more, the enablers surrounding that person will become complicit in those lies, those cover-ups -- those denials. Then the lies get bigger as they become more difficult to keep up with. And the problems get worse. So the enablers will dig their heels in further and claim things like they've 'never seen him ever take a drink.'

Well that of course isn't the question. The question is whether you have ever seen him or her intoxicated in situations where, by all rights, they should not be intoxicated. Or what was the behaviour like even in situations where getting intoxicated is sanctioned. Belligerently and drunkenly yelling at strangers at a sporting event, for example.

All indicators with Toronto mayor Rob Ford are that not only does he come across as narcissistic and entitled, but that the cracks are widening dramatically on what looks, acts and smells like a substance abuse problem. He has all the classic pathology, in addition to the reports of his public intoxication (long before the infamous crack tape was shown to reporters): inability to own his own behaviour; everyone else is to blame but himself; poor him, he's just a victim of baseless smears. a leftist plot to 'get him.' And when he can't deny any longer, comes the contrite and less than believable 'apology', where he is really appealing far more for sympathy than he is looking to give in compassion.

The self-pity and rationalizations of addicts are legendary.

Whether it's the spousal assault charges he's dodged, the public nuisance charges he's dodged, the corruption charges he's dodged, the DUI charge he did not manage to dodge, the continuous stream of adamant denials on story after story -- it all combines to paint a picture. The picture becomes more vivid when you add in the chief enabler: brother Doug Ford. (The family psychology that seems to play itself out in our City Hall would be a treasure trove for psychologists.)

But Rob Ford is the mayor of the third largest city in North America. He represents us to the world. He is supposed to be steering the ship that has an annual budget of over 9 billion dollars -- larger than many provinces.

If the people who work closest to him ... the people that we pay ... that work for us ... are lying to us, covering up for Ford and denying this city the truth about what they themselves have witnessed, then what does that say about the public trust?

Well, you might say, no one wants to prejudge. Give him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he can get help. Maybe it's not as bad as it seems. Give the poor guy a break.

As someone who lost an entire childhood at the hands of addiction, I'm admittedly less inclined to give the benefit of the doubt when the glaringly obvious signs of addiction stare me in the face. But beyond that, I'm thinking of his children. Because you can bet that the raging, belligerent, pathological lying, bullying behaviours we have all seen in public are getting played out at home.

You can also bet his children have learned pretty quickly how to enable him. And cover-up for him. And protect him. And deny. They'd better learn to keep family secrets or else. Ditto for his wife.

I would like Ford to get help. Is he capable of getting help? Who knows.

But what I do know is that every single person who works with, for, or near Rob Ford is not doing anyone -- not his family, not this city, and not Ford himself -- any favours by continuing to enable him and cover-up for him.

Heather Morgan is a freelance writer and musician living in Toronto.

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