The Gift of Recovery - Q & A with Rod Pedersen
1. Rod, we are so grateful to have you join the Do More Agriculture Foundation for a Q and A. We wanted to connect with you because you have been a beacon of strength for many as you overcome alcoholism. Could you tell us about what prompted you to start drinking in the beginning?
- I was raised in a farm community (Milestone, SK) and drinking really was the "thing to do" once you hit high school. Road parties, bush parties, park parties, etc. That was fine for most everyone else but I was drinking to blackout from virtually the beginning. I had a history of alchoholism in the family and some underlying mental health issues that alcohol erased temporarily. I felt like I was just "going with the flow" but it was clear early on that alcohol and I shouldn't mix.
2. Was there any point in your years of drinking that you thought maybe it had become a problem? Did you tell anyone?
- My Dad was a recovering alcoholic and he warned me for years that I could be pre-disposed to this. Deep down, from the beginning of my drinking career, I knew that I had a problem because I couldn't drink like my friends and cousins. However the problems caused by drinking, initially, were few and far between so there weren't a ton of red flags raised early on.
3. You often mention the profound power of gratitude. What are three things that you are grateful for right now?
An alcoholic generally thinks he or she is "hard done by" and others just don't understand. The concept of gratitude was entirely new to me when I entered Recovery but now it's a cornerstone of my life. When I think of what I'm grateful for, it reminds me daily how lucky I am.
1 - A loving and supportive family
2 - Being able to pursue my career dream in my home province
3 - Having a wonderful career and support from the people of Saskatchewan
4. What do you mean when you say ‘recovery is a gift’?
Because the majority of alcoholics and addicts don't ever find Recovery. For those who are big on numbers, 1 in 10 people have an addictive tendency. Only 2% of those 1 in 10 seek help for it, or find "Recovery". It's a second chance at life. A "do-over". I never thought I'd ever achieve sobriety again, or a healthy, happy life. To get something back you thought you'd never see again is the greatest gift you could ever imagine.
5. You have discovered that your purpose is helping people. You and many others, have found their purpose through the battling of their own darkness. If you were to give someone advice on how to find their purpose, what would you say?
I have to credit CFL great Mike "Pinball" Clemons for cluing me in on this. He said to close my eyes for 2 minutes and try to imagine what my purpose was. I did, and a lot of things ran through my mind before it finally dawned on me what I'm here for. I'd encourage anybody else to do the same. Stop talking and start listening to the opportunities that are being presented in your life.
6. It sounds like your wife Cindy has been an incredible support. Would you have any words of advice for someone whose spouse is struggling with alcoholism?
That would more be a question for Cindy but I suppose the family needs to let the alcoholic/addict know that their behaviour won't be tolerated. Two sayings I love in Recovery are, "Nothing Changes If Nothing Changes" and "What You Allow Will Continue". Al Anon is a great support group for families of alcoholics. Cindy and I talk about it and she's let it be known that under no circumstances is it okay for me to have a slip-up with drinking. If it were to happen, she'd be gone. That's enough for me to walk the line.
7. Shame keeps us quiet and isolated and struggling on our own. How do you think we can create more supportive spaces for people who are struggling with the disease of alcoholism to feel seen, understood and heard?
That's a slippery slope but people need to make the distinction between active alcoholism and Recovery. Of course there's shame in being a drunk, but there should be no shame in getting help and turning your life around. That's why I'm so open about my struggles. When you repair yourself as a human being - and realize you were battling a disease that's treatable - why should you be ashamed about anything? Getting sober and dealing with your demons is a major accomplishment that should be celebrated.
8. What were 3 of the biggest changes you needed to make in your life to foster a hospitable environment for your sobriety?
1 - Having a support network at the ready whenever I needed it.
2 - Self-care and going to support group meetings regularly
3 - Putting up healthy boundaries, growing a backbone, and not being afraid to do what was best for me and my Recovery.
9. What would you say to your 16 year old self when you went for that first drink?
I would say, "Think hard about what you're doing and why you're doing it."
10. If you could have a billboard set up in a big city where thousands and thousands of people would see it every day, what would your message be?
"DON'T GIVE UP ON YOURSELF", with a toll-free number for someone who's struggling to call.