Coun. Doug Ford fought off tears Thursday as he vowed to stand behind his brother as he begins the “difficult journey” of getting help for the substance abuse problems that have plagued his mayoral tenure.

Ford made the emotional pledge at city hall in first public remarks since the mayor stepped aside amid a slew of fresh stories concerning his use of drugs and alcohol.

“I can tell you that this is one of the toughest days of my life but in saying that I also have a sense of relief,” Doug Ford said. “As an older brother I am relieved that Rob has faced his problems and has decided to seek professional help. This is not an easy thing for anyone to do, especially when you are the mayor.”

Doug Ford, who had repeatedly denied that the mayor has substance abuse issues, reversed course on Thursday, admitting for the first time that the mayor’s problems extend beyond his weight and a penchant for having a few too many beers every now and then.

“Rob was very emotional when he told me that the hardest thing about this is knowing he let people down,” he said. “He let his family down, he let his friends down, he let his colleagues down, he let his supporters down and he let the people of Toronto down. I love my brother and I will continue to stand by my brother and his family throughout this difficult journey. Please join me in keeping Rob and his family in your prayers. “

Ford’s mother asks media to respect privacy

It is not known where Ford will seek treatment or how long he intends to be away from city hall.

In an interview with CTV News on Thursday, Ford’s mother Diane called it a “sad” and “bittersweet” day.

“Just leave him alone. That’s all I ask of the media. Please leave him alone,” Diane Ford said. “Leave us alone. He’s doing what he has to do and that’s good.”

When allegations of drug and alcohol use surfaced last year, Diane Ford told CP24 her son has a weight problem.

On Thursday, she said she acknowledges that her son has more than a weight problem.

“I had no idea it was as serious as it was, but he doesn’t live with me,” Diane Ford said. “So, I don’t know what he does every minute of every day.”

@ChrisKitching and @chrisfoxnews are on Twitter. For up-to-the-minute breaking news, follow @CP24 on Twitter.