TORONTO (AP) – Toronto Mayor Rob Ford acknowledged a drug problem for the first time and vowed that his commitment to “living clean is now unwavering” as he returned to work Monday after a two-month stay in rehab.
Ford read an emotional statement at City Hall, but refused to take questions, after checking out of a facility in Ontario.
The mayor of Canada’s largest city said staff at the rehab facility saved his life.
“For a long, long time I resisted the idea of getting help,” he said. “Like a lot of people dealing with substance abuse, I was in complete denial. But it soon became obvious that my alcohol and drug use was having a serious, serious impact on my family, on my health and on my job as mayor.”
Ford didn’t specify which drug or drugs, but he acknowledged last year that he had smoked crack in a “drunken stupor.” His reign as mayor has been marred by revelations about his drinking problems and illegal drug use. He has been repeatedly videotaped and photographed while intoxicated in public.
Ford said the road to recovery remains long, and he again apologized for his behavior. He called addiction a chronic medical condition but said he looks forward to serving the residents of Toronto for many more years.
“When I look back at some of the things I said and some of the things I did when I was using, I’m ashamed, I’m embarrassed, I’m humiliated,” he said. The mayor said he was “blind to the dangers of some of the company I kept” and said he ended the unspecified associations. He said he became his own worst enemy.
Ford has not abandoned his effort to seek a second term in October, and he listed some of his accomplishments during his speech. After he finished, he ignored questions.
Toronto’s City Council stripped Ford of most of his powers last year.
The mayor announced in late April that he would seek help for alcohol addiction after a video surfaced that apparently showed him smoking crack cocaine.
Reports last year of a similar video led to months of denials before Ford made his statement about smoking crack in a “drunken stupor.”
His decision to seek treatment came months after he announced he was finished with alcohol – only to be followed by a steady flow of reports of intoxicated behavior.
Many councilors expressed reservations about his return.
“He’s put Toronto on the map worldwide for reasons that none of us would want,” Councilor John Parker said.
John Tory, a leading candidate in the election, reiterated that Ford needs to step down. “He has massively embarrassed our city,” Tory said. “His refusal to answer questions today is a further indication that he doesn’t get it.”
Olivia Chow, also a leading candidate, wished Ford well in his recovery but noted that Ford is a failed mayor who didn’t apologize for his homophobic and racist remarks. “We need a new mayor. On Oct. 27, we need ask Mr. Ford to leave permanently,” she said.
Doug Ford, Ford’s brother and a city councilor, has said Rob Ford will resume campaigning right away. He said his brother loves being mayor and is fighting for his political life.
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