May 1, 2014 6:10 pm

What doctors say Rob Ford needs during his leave from office

Watch video above: Is 30 days in rehab enough for Mayor Rob Ford? Angie Seth reports. 

TORONTO – After months of saying he is not an addict or an alcoholic, Rob Ford is seeking help for substance abuse.

“It’s not easy to be vulnerable and this is one of the most difficult times in my life. I have a problem with alcohol, and the choices I have made while under the influence. I have struggled with this for some time,” the embattled Toronto mayor said in a statement Wednesday night.

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“I have tried to deal with these issues by myself for over the past year. I know that I need professional help and I am now 100% committed to getting myself right.”

By Thursday morning, Ford was on a private plane to Chicago out of Buttonville Airport.

READ MORE: Rob Ford to step aside, seek help for substance abuse

What’s next for Ford, according to addictions experts, is an uphill climb as he grapples with his addiction.

“It’s about adapting to one’s life without the use of this substance. When a person has become dependent on drugs or alcohol, suddenly they’re trying to cope with what has become a crutch in their life and that comes with a whole range of coping strategies,” according to Paul McGary, director of Lakeridge Health’s Pinewood Centre.

Pinewood Centre has six treatment facilities across Toronto’s Durham Region.

READ MORE: Is it time for Ford to consider rehab? Pressure mounts following violent video

Dr. Oren Amitay, a Toronto-based registered psychologist and Ryerson University instructor, says that overcoming an addiction is one of the most – “if not most” difficult – challenge to take on. And often, the process of getting over addiction is downplayed.

“Once you’re hooked, it’s all you think about. You have to stay away from all of the triggers and it’s a huge undertaking. It’s not as simple as saying I’m not going to drink,” he told Global News.

“It’s scary.”

READ MORE: Ford doesn’t deserve to be maligned, Dr. Drew says

McGary said that in Ontario, outpatient programs are most common when it comes to fighting alcohol abuse. But residential inpatient options are available for about three or four weeks in duration. Those in rehab undergo a broad range of education: skills training, coping with cravings and urges, developing strategies in stressful situations.

“Often times, the treatment or rehab process is as unique as the individual themselves,” he said.

“But they need to undertake a fairly significant transformation in new ways of functioning. It’s not a linear process but the ability to focus and take care of one’s self emotionally and physically is critical in this situation,” McGary explained.

The two strongest triggers to relapse are exposure to past cues – including people and environment – and internal or external stressors.

Most people return to their daily lives gradually, with part-time work or taking on roles in a reduced capacity. McGary said that in some cases, people change their professional course to suit their needs.

Amitay suggests that a few weeks in rehab may not be enough. Especially if Ford is throwing himself back into his high-stakes job, public scrutiny and a mayoral campaign for the biggest city in Canada.

“He’s not just going back to work. He’s going back to an extremely stressful, taxing campaign,” Amitay said.

“All of those things make it very difficult for anyone not to fall back on their old maladaptive coping strategies, which alcohol could be for him,” he said.

Once rehab is over, patients aren’t let off the hook either. As addicts reintegrate into their normal routines, they take on follow-up out-patient care that could be from as long as three months to years. Alcoholics Anonymous, for example, is a lifelong membership, McGary notes.

READ MORE: Doug Ford stands by his brother Rob during leave of absence

Amitay said that in order for Ford to succeed, he needs a handful of people who are going to hold him accountable. He also needs empathy and time out of the spotlight.

“He needs the public to back off and even his supporters who may have helped to enable him. Critics and everyone who cheered him on helped feed into this. Shame is such a powerful force in addiction, he needs understanding and compassion,” Amitay said.

carmen.chai@globalnews.ca

© Shaw Media, 2014

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