Rob Ford heads to Rehab to Face His Denial, Finally!
When my mother-in-law was alive, I remember her middle son telling me that his mother not only practiced denial, she had elevated the â€˜artâ€™ to a science! That stuck in my memory, first, because it was true, and secondly, because in recovery, most of us are also well versed in that science.
Again in the public eye is Torontoâ€™s crack-smoking mayor Rob Ford, who is finally doing the right thing by hopping on a plane for Chicago to get treatment for his addiction. Though media isnâ€™t revealing what treatment center he is in, an educated guess on my part would be that he is in Hazelton, one of the best treatment centers in the country. And itâ€™s unknown whether he is doing the inpatient or outpatient program, but another educated guess is that heâ€™s inpatient, due to the severity of his addiction.
I say severity because crack cocaine is one of the most addicting recreational drugs an addict can use. Users get addicted to this consolidated form of cocaine fast. And in spite of all the negative publicity his antics have created, Ford kept on keeping on, as addicts usually do. The blow to his livelihood, reputation and career would have been enough of a wake-up call for rational folk, but not so for an addict.
The nature of addiction makes us all self-centered to the extreme, and keeps us living in denial. It has to be that way to keep justifying what weâ€™re doing, in spite of whatâ€™s obvious to everyone around us. We seemingly have an ability to rationalize everything weâ€™re thinking. We become such adept liars that in time we actually believe our own spin-doctoring. We have to live in that depth of denial to even survive, or so we think. Itâ€™s more about our disease wanting to survive, and an addict will go to any length to ensure that. We elevate our denial to a science.
So as the world was castigating Fordâ€™s behavior, he still thought he was staying within acceptable social norms. Those became an addictâ€™s social norms, however, not the world-at-largeâ€™s social norms. We tend to hang around those who use the same way we do, or with those who enable us to feed the lie that we are hurting no one but ourselves. Though hard to buy by anyone whose lives havenâ€™t been touched by addiction, an addictâ€™s loved ones have lived with that type of denial for most likely a long time, frustrated, puzzled, hurt, and angry. They most likely knew what I did when Ford claimed he had his addiction under control after the McDonaldâ€™s incident, which was that he couldnâ€™t control his addiction at all. For those who donâ€™t know, Ford was filmed, obviously high, in a McDonaldâ€™s, ranting crap to those around him.
How do I know he was beyond controlling his substance use? A big clue is that he seemed to forget he was a public figure, therefore expected to exhibit a certain amount of decorum. By that time he was way too far gone into his denial to know that it left most of us shaking our heads at the wonderment of his rationalizing abilities. Once someone is that far into the disease progression, itâ€™s all about the survival, for both the addict and his addiction.
It was most unfortunate someone filmed him. Iâ€™m sure he didnâ€™t pay much attention at the time, and even if he knew he was being filmed, he probably assured himself that he wasnâ€™t that high, so he was justified in his rant. Thatâ€™s what I and my fellows in recovery know. Weâ€™ve lived it. Itâ€™s only in sobriety, after the fog clears and our brain chemicals start normalizing, that we even start getting a clue about how distorted our view of the world and our addiction was. This fact is one of the reasons that those who decide to clean up need to get involved in some type of recovery to start chipping away at the lies we told, to others and worse, to ourselves; on top of all the other distorted ways we did things. When we take away our escape hatch, our substance of abuse, the life weâ€™d been living starts becoming glaringly real. We feel the embarrassment of our behavior. Even though in treatment we learn we have a disease that willpower alone cannot conquer, we still have to begin to face the truth and begin separating it from the lies weâ€™ve lived. Itâ€™s as if we create our own reality in our denial, then when we get clean those glasses come off and we have to face how things really are, not an easy task for sure.
Thereâ€™s no exact reason why we lie and deny. No easy answers. Obviously we need to placate our enablers enough to keep a roof over our head and save our relationships. Iâ€™d say we need to eat, but that comes down towards the end of the list as far as priorities go. We have to find a source for our substance of abuse, so we must lie to keep jobs or obtain money and drugs another way. Since maintaining the addiction comes before all else, we do whatever we have to. Again, lying has to be a finely-honed skill. We use the love of those around us as a tool to manipulate them and get what we need.
I remember insisting that I was an honest person when I got out of my third treatment center. I didnâ€™t steal. I prided myself on telling the truth, even as an alcoholic. I didnâ€™t have to hide my drinking, because I lived alone and didnâ€™t ask my family for anything. My denial, my insistence, that I wasnâ€™t that bad, permeated all my interactions with everyone.
That denial told me I wasnâ€™t that bad, even though there I was, in treatment once again. My denial told me I wasnâ€™t that bad because I was still working and functioning, even though I was no longer a journalist, but instead worked as a bartender. It was denial when I told myself that it was my choice, even though I was beginning to become unemployable. I was relegated to working in lower and lower-classed places. I had lost most of my friends. I thought it was terrible the way my family acted like they couldnâ€™t count on me anymore. Denial, denial, denialâ€¦
I couldnâ€™t understand why I would get all kinds of responses to my resume, but could never get past the interview. I know now it was probably the booze they smelled on me, either from the previous nightâ€™s bender or the drink I kept in the console, to drink on the way to steady my nerves! My denial wouldnâ€™t let me believe I had anything to do with the way people responded to me. My denial even told me I was always truthful, yet when asked how much Iâ€™d drank, I always admitted to less that the actual amount. I had the complete inability to look at things as they were. That denial remained with me even in sobriety for awhile until I slowly began to grasp what people were trying to teach me. Maybe it was a blessing that I was somewhat clueless as to the degree of my dysfunction. The embarrassment might have sent me right back to that bottle.
One thing I learned was that there are different ways of lying. We lie by omission. We lie by misrepresenting things. We lie by inference, exaggeration and not correcting someone who believes something different than the exact truth. A bartender may believe he doesnâ€™t steal, but thinks itâ€™s okay to keep a drunkâ€™s change when he doesnâ€™t realize what heâ€™s given you, or he may drink the ownerâ€™s booze, because â€œeveryone does it.â€ It may be a form of lying allowing people to perceive us differently, perhaps how we were in the past, instead of how we are now. One alcoholic I know still has a message on her voice mail identifying herself as a gallery owner, which she is not. She tried it five years prior, but her addiction ruined it. The gallery closed before it opened, but she still has that message. Only the people close to her know that itâ€™s a lie. And itâ€™s a way of lying to herself, since she is unable, as of yet, to face the wreckage of her addiction.
Rationalization is absolutely another way we lie to ourselves, and is a most difficult habit to call ourselves on. After a particularly troubling experience, we tell ourselves that weâ€™ve earned a binge. We tune out our neglected children and tell ourselves we have overbearing bosses who â€œhave it out for us.â€ We tell ourselves that weâ€™ve got things under controlâ€¦ weâ€™re gonna stop using â€œtomorrow.â€ We say weâ€™re not breaking the law, but weâ€™re still terrified of the cops. We say itâ€™s only one DUI, and having one doesnâ€™t mean we have a problem; it means the cop was out to get us unfairlyâ€¦
So call it denial, rationalizing, or outright lying to ourselves and others, it doesnâ€™t matter. Bottom line is that we do it. Mayor Fordâ€™s denial that he has an addiction problem he canâ€™t control is, for us, the norm. That denial is how intervention companies were born to begin with. To get families on the same page and out of their denial of a loved oneâ€™s problem is absolutely important. Families think their loved one will perish if they donâ€™t contribute to keeping him alive. Outlining for the addict the ways his addiction impacts his life and yours may raise his bottom by smashing those denial-colored glasses. Buying into an addictâ€™s denial is contributing to their eventual demise, because that addict probably wonâ€™t get help until he has no other choice. Alcoholics never want to be one, so they come up with any and all reasons that they arenâ€™t that bad, even when theyâ€™re near death! Something has to force the light of truth if any recovery is to be possible.
Whatever came up that broke Fordâ€™s denial, beyond another video, we may never know. Whether he will embrace recovery and do the follow up work needed to stay clean will also remain to be seen. He may be a mayor, but heâ€™s just another addict when it comes to his using. I’m glad he somehow learned he wasnâ€™t in control. Maybe if he has time to sort out his personal issues, he may someday again gain the publicâ€™s trust. Many of us do. For me, Iâ€™m happy I donâ€™t have to serve drinks to drunks like myself anymore. Thereâ€™s a freedom that comes with never having to hide again. May Mayor Ford discover that for himself.