07/03/2014 10:30 EDT | Updated 09/02/2014 05:59 EDT

Rob Ford interview 'painful to watch', writer says

A journalist who has struggled with and written about addiction said he found it "extremely painful" to watch Wednesday's one-on-one television interview with Rob Ford, saying it suggests the Toronto mayor has emerged from rehab with a "primitive understanding of what addiction means."

"He looked kind of zombified in his demeanour, he was flat," Toronto Star writer Jim Coyle said in an interview with CBC Radio's Metro Morning.

"People come out of rehab usually, if anything, overly enthusiastic about repairing damage and living a different life," said Coyle, who wrote candidly about his addiction and recovery in the book Hell and Back: Alcoholism, Addiction and the Lessons they Taught Me.

Ford returned to work at city hall Monday after a two-month stint at a rehab facility. That rehab stay came after a year of scandal surrounding Ford. Last fall he admitted to smoking crack cocaine. That followed promises to change his ways before new recordings emerged last spring that showed Ford inebriated, ranting, and at times making racist, sexist and homophobic comments.

Ford made a public apology in a statement to the media on Monday, but took no questions from reporters. On Wednesday Ford gave a one-on-one, sit-down interview to CBC News. You can watch Dwight Drummond's full interview with Ford here.

In the interview, Ford admitted to struggling for years with alcohol and drug abuse and said his addiction is a chronic condition that will require years of treatment.

And while there was some contrition from Ford during the interview, Coyle said he found it striking Ford made no mention of any "epiphany" moment he experienced in rehab. Also telling by its absence, Coyle said, was any significant mention of the mayor's two children.

"I haven't met a single parent who's been through rehab who didn't find their most devastating moment to be the moment when they realized the harm they'd done to their own family," said Coyle.

Coyle concedes the nuances of the recovery process often confound those who face it for the first time. Ford differs from most recovering addicts in that he's a high-profile public figure, who has now opted to go straight from rehab into a re-election campaign. 

"Most of us have the luxury of displaying the superficiality of our knowledge [about addiction recovery] in private, which is the reason the mayor probably should have resigned and gone off to get well rather than subject himself to that," said Coyle.

Coyle said he's concerned Ford gave no details about exactly how he planned to make meaningful changes as part of his recovery.

"I was looking for some detail about what he learned in rehab," said Coyle. "There was not an iota of detail other than 'I'm going to change and I'm talking to professionals.'"

Ford was photographed during yesterday's executive committee meeting drinking ice water from a glass with the Molson Canadian logo stencilled on its side.

Coyle said that his own rehab process involved ridding his daily life of anything in any way suggestive of alcohol or drugs.

"One of my favourite T-shirts in the day was a Guinness T-shirt and that got chucked," said Coyle. "It can be a slippery slope. It's in the little things that the slips occur."

In addition to speaking with CBC News on Wednesday, Ford also gave a similar interview to CP24. He has since cancelled similar interviews with two other networks.