Rod Pedersen speaks in Swift Cur­rent about the road to re­cov­ery from sub­stance abuse

Prairie Post (East Edition) - - Swift Current - BY MATTHEW LIEBEN­BERG mlieben­[email protected]­

Sober coach and men­tal health ad­vo­cate Rod Pedersen hopes his per­sonal jour­ney of bat­tling with al­co­holism can make a dif­fer­ence to help oth­ers to find a way to re­cov­ery.

The Drug Strat­egy Ac­tion Com­mit­tee in Swift Cur­rent hosted two events where the for­mer voice of the Saskatchew­an Roughrider­s shared his story.

A com­mu­nity pre­sen­ta­tion took place dur­ing an evening event at Walker Place on April 7 and he spoke to Grade 9-12 stu­dents at Swift Cur­rent Com­pre­hen­sive High School the fol­low­ing morn­ing.

“I don’t find it difficult at all,” he said af­ter his first pre­sen­ta­tion. “From the mo­ment I gave my first speech about get­ting sober. You heard it, I lived 25 years in shame and guilt and I’m not go­ing to live the next 25 that way. So if it helps some­body along the way I’m go­ing to do it.”

He strug­gled with anxiety since a young age, but he only re­al­ized he was suf­fer­ing from men­tal ill­ness af­ter he be­gan his re­cov­ery. He discovered al­co­hol at the age of 16 and it be­came a magic tonic that made it eas­ier to talk to peo­ple and also took away his anx­ious feel­ings and fears.

His drink­ing habits be­came worse over the years un­til his life was com­pletely taken over by al­co­hol. An op­por­tu­nity in 2014 to be­come the voice of the Cal­gary Flames never ma­te­ri­al­ized be­cause some­one warned the team that he was an al­co­holic. Af­ter that dis­ap­point­ment he drank even more and he re­ceived a warn­ing at work, but it made no dif­fer­ence.

He had no more joy in life and went to see a doc­tor, who pre­scribed an­tide­pres­sants with­out ad­dress­ing Pedersen’s ex­ces­sive drink­ing. He started to use more pills than the pre­scribed dose, be­cause he thought it will help him to feel bet­ter.

The use of anti-de­pres­sants and heavy drink­ing caused his rock bot­tom on Jan. 26, 2015 at the ra­dio sta­tion, when he went on air in an in­tox­i­cated state. He was sus­pended and his first day of so­bri­ety started the fol­low­ing day, when he was told to ei­ther get into re­cov­ery or lose his job.

He spoke for the first time in pub­lic about his al­co­hol ad­dic­tion at a re­cov­ery day event in Regina in Septem­ber 2016. He was sur­prised by the pos­i­tive re­sponse and he was con­tacted by peo­ple from across Canada who told him how his story helped them not to drink.

Since then Pedersen has re­al­ized he can make a dif­fer­ence by shar­ing his story, and that there is no shame in do­ing it.

“The whole prov­ince knew I was a drunk,” he said. “So who cares if the whole prov­ince knows I got sober, and when you talk about the sto­ries of los­ing my NHL dream be­cause of al­co­hol, I look back and say it’s the best thing that ever hap­pened to me years later, be­cause it caused my rock bot­tom and got me into re­cov­ery. I am one of those guys that says ev­ery­thing hap­pens for a rea­son and the past is the past. My re­grets are be­hind me, and life’s great now and I would tell any­body just think­ing about making a change like this, to do it, be­cause I don’t re­gret stop­ping drink­ing, that’s for sure.”

He be­lieves it is im­por­tant to speak to young peo­ple about men­tal health is­sues and al­co­holism, be­cause he knows what that ex­pe­ri­ence was like when he was their age.

“There weren’t the re­sources back then when I was a teenager, there just weren’t, but there are for kids now,” he said. “So the rea­son I’m talk­ing to so many peo­ple, in par­tic­u­lar young peo­ple, is I don’t want to see them lose their dreams and I def­i­nitely don’t want to see them lose what­ever is dear to them, their families.”

He still re­mem­bers an im­por­tant mo­ment in his life when he was nine years old. A speaker at his school warned stu­dents not to do drugs, and that ad­vice has pre­vented Pedersen from ever get­ting into drugs, even though there were many opportunit­ies over the years.

“I lost enough, I didn’t lose it all, thank God,” he said. “But that guy, when I was nine, who told me not to do drugs, I don’t even know his name. He saved my life. If some kid can look back and say this guy one day in Swift Cur­rent told me this and that’s what I’m go­ing to do and it changed my life, I would like to pay for­ward what he did for me.”

He did not plan to be­come a sober coach, but it hap­pened and he is now the founder and CEO of Pedersen Re­cov­ery. He has a di­ploma as a drug and al­co­hol treat­ment spe­cial­ist and he is a trained in­ter­ven­tion­ist.

“When I was get­ting training in New York to be an in­ter­ven­tion­ist I told the lady that was run­ning it, I don’t be­long here,” he re­called. “I’m a foot­ball an­nouncer drunk from Canada, I don’t have 27 let­ters be­hind my name like all the other peo­ple here. And she said ‘You were in­vited here for a rea­son; this is hap­pen­ing in your life; get out of the way, let it hap­pen.’”

Pedersen pointed to his “One Day at a Time” wrist bracelet, which sym­bol­izes his ap­proach to life since he started his re­cov­ery.

“Ev­ery dream, ev­ery goal I had I blew out of the water be­cause of my own ac­tions,” he said. “So every­body asks me now what’s your goal and I don’t have one. Ev­ery morn­ing when I get up out of bed I try to be a good per­son. I help peo­ple and you know what, it’s go­ing pretty good, but I don’t know what’s next. I didn’t plan to do any of these things that are hap­pen­ing in my life, but they feel good and I’m fol­low­ing with what feels good.”

He be­lieves the le­gal­iza­tion of cannabis was a bad de­ci­sion, and he hopes the tax­a­tion rev­enue will be used to fund preven­tion and re­cov­ery pro­grams. Ac­cord­ing to Pedersen there is still a short­age of af­ter­care pro­grams in Saskatchew­an and else­where in the coun­try. The pres­ence of sober homes in com­mu­ni­ties can make a dif­fer­ence to as­sist in­di­vid­u­als with their re­cov­ery.

“They need to stay sober and they’re in a sober com­mu­nity with other res­i­dents, which is great,” he said. “It’s the best way to get sober, and as long as they’re sober they can live in there as long as they want, but if they re­lapse they get 15 minutes to get their stuff and move out.”

He hosts the Pedersen Re­cov­ery pod­cast, which is also some­thing he did not plan to do since he started his own re­cov­ery. He speaks at treat­ment re­cov­ery centres around the coun­try and peo­ple sug­gested he should start a pod­cast.

“I started it with just peo­ple in sports and en­ter­tain­ment, and it ended up be­ing some pretty big names telling their story of re­cov­ery,” he said. “All of a sud­den they started play­ing these in treat­ment centres across the coun­try to the mem­bers. It’s peo­ple telling their sto­ries, and I know one thing. When pub­lic peo­ple come out with their sto­ries of re­cov­ery, it makes the av­er­age Joe say­ing if he can do it, I can do it. I hear that all the time. I have peo­ple writ­ing in Facebook say­ing if it’s cool for Rod Pedersen to be sober, it’s cool for me to be sober. So do­ing those in­ter­views helps me stay sober, and what I hear is that it helps oth­ers.”

Pho­tos by Matthew Lieben­berg

Rod Pedersen speaks at a com­mu­nity event in Swift Cur­rent hosted by the Drug Strat­egy Ac­tion Com­mit­tee, April 7.

Drug Strat­egy Ac­tion Com­mit­tee mem­ber Ron Toles thanks Rod Pedersen for his pre­sen­ta­tion in Swift Cur­rent, April 7.

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