|The Pedersens on Capital Hill|
- I'm still in Ottawa, in the middle of an 11-day trip to Eastern Canada while the Roughriders play back-to-back games out here.
It was tremendous to have my wife - my rock - here for the last four days but she went home on Sunday afternoon after a whirlwind tour of the nation's capital.
- Reaction was swift and wide-ranging after I started this Recovery blog late last week. However I'm happy to report that it's been 100% positive.
- Perhaps the most rewarding comment came from my friend Ken L. of Regina - who's been sober 10 years - who said it's nice to read the viewpoint from someone in the same situation as him. (Like non-drinkers getting poorer restaurant service because they don't ring up high bar tabs).
- It's true. Alcoholics and addicts are in the minority of society (1 in 11) while those in Recovery are only a tiny fraction of that (2% of the 1 in 11). At least those are the numbers I've seen and have read nothing to prove otherwise.
- There were dozens of "Likes" and positive comments from others in Recovery (and/or their family members) on Facebook. Their support means the world because not everyone is comfortable with me being so brazen about this.
- Another comment of support came from Sam C., a close cousin of my Dad's who's been sober since the 1980's. He said that it's nice to see me so open about my sobriety, just like he is.
- I've long looked at this way: Everybody in Regina knew I was a drunk for decades so what does it matter now if they know I'm a recovering alcoholic? In fact it makes life TREMENDOUSLY easier not to face the pressure of drinking when everyone in our social circle knows that is no longer part of my life. It was bad. Reallllllllly bad, and it's taking years to clean up the wreckage but it's exhilarating to know that the worst is over.
- Which brings me to another big point. My intention was never to go public "to the world" that I'd entered Recovery. However nine months into my sobriety I was asked by the Regina Recovery community to be the emcee for their Recovery Day luncheon featuring former NHL goalie Clint Malarchuk. They felt it would help chip away at the stigma if a public person was open with their struggles and came out smiling on the other side.
- I was hesitant at first and told them I didn't even know what to say but they jammed a speech into my gut and trotted me out on stage under the spotlight. When I announced to the gathering of 600 people, "My name is Rod Pedersen, and I'm a person in Recovery", the room exploded with a wild ovation. It almost knocked me off my feet and sent tingles down my spine. It was totally unexpected.
- And then while listening to Clint Milarchuk tell his story of Alcoholism and Mental Illness, I thought to myself, "I can do that". But the next year was still spent "under cover" while I wrestled with getting on top of this disease. It's a mammoth bastard and unless you've been through it, you'll never understand. Hopefully this blog will help the 10 out of 11 get an understanding of what their loved ones (or employees, co-workers or friends) are dealing with.
- Anyway, it wasn't until a year later - in September of 2016 - that I was asked to be the guest speaker at the same Recovery Day event. That came with it a media tour which included appearances on CBC's Sheila Coles morning show and CTV's Morning Live. The Leader Post and CBC.ca ran stories of my speech and from there it literally went viral.
- From there, to quote Kramer from Seinfeld, "I'm out there Jerry!" There was no turning back.
Society now knew my dark, dirty secret but it ended up being totally liberating. It felt like the weight of the world was off my chest and it's been nothing but sunshine ever since.
- I'll end this blog post with the way I began that speech at Conexus Art Centre on September 26/2016:
"People said it takes a lot of balls to stand up here and tell my story. But to me, it doesn't take any balls at all. I spent 25 years living in shame, embarrassment and regret and I'll be damned if I'm going to spend the next 25 years of my life that way."
Onwards and upwards, One Day At A Time.