Today, I interview Sheldon R.S. Crocker who grew up in a very, very small town in Newfoundland, Canada. He was born with Arthrogryposis, which causes muscle atrophy and contractions at most joints. From birth he was challenged with not being able to walk. In order to become the inspiring speaker he is today, he has a story of abuse but also one of resilience and strength.
Sheldon was unable to crawl as a baby. He wore braces on his legs, and doctors thought he would never be able to walk (although he did teach himself). Despite plenty of surgeries, he also could not straighten or raise his arms, which prevented him from doing many things we take for granted, like the ability to open a door or brush our teeth or lift things.
As if that didn’t fill his life with enough challenges, Sheldon’s father was also an alcoholic and would come home and assault his mother. There were no siblings, so Sheldon was on his own. His father abused him as well, saying he would never amount to anything and that he should’ve never been born. Despite hearing those heartbreaking, hurtful words, Sheldon pushed forward. But his mother also abused him, beating him with a belt and criticizing him, comparing him to other people.
He isolated himself and never really developed communication skills. This was his best way to protect himself from the meanness all around him. But this was no way to live. He didn’t want to avoid people or be avoided by them. He didn’t want to lash out or bottle up his feelings anymore. At 18, he had become addicted to drugs and alcohol. He wasn’t coping well. He was forced out of the town. He moved to another town, drank his way through college, and though he had nothing, walked himself all the way to the addiction rehab center.
Deep down, he knew he had a purpose. He went through a trauma program, where he learned to process his experiences and understand his own story. He’d always known that something great would eventually happen in his life, and he finally found a way to understand his journey and feel a new sense of hope. In sharing his story with others, he has found his purpose in life. He has written a book and loves to pass his story of hope on to others.
Despite being born with Arthrogryposis, Sheldon Crocker inspires his audience with his distinctive style and unforgettable humor. He has appeared on several national news programs. His inclusion in the MerB’y Documentary and Calendar made history as the first disabled person to appear in such a publication. The Dale Carnegie Human Relations Award was awarded to him. Compassionate, empathetic, and humble about his message, he has lived the issues he speaks about. He has published “KEEP on WALKING – A Transformative & Inspirational Journey.”
His goal is also to help make a difference in someone’s life that he wishes he had received when he was young. Sheldon says, “For most of my life, I felt like I had no voice, too afraid to speak up.
Download Sheldon’s 7 Ways to Discover the Feeling of Assurance and Achieve Your Goals: https://sheldonstransformativethinking.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/7-Ways-to-Discover-the-Feeling-of-Assurance-and-Achieve-Your-Goals-free-ebook-from-Sheldon-R.-S.-Crockers-Transformative-Thinking.pdf
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Transcript of Interview
Transcript of Interview
Find Your Voice, Change Your Life Podcast
Podcast Host: Dr. Doreen Downing
Free Guide to Fearless Speaking: Doreen7steps.com
Episode # 89 Sheldon R.S. Crocker
“Keep On Walking”
(00:36) Dr. Doreen Downing
Hi, this is Dr. Doreen Downing and I am host of the Find Your Voice, Change Your Life podcast. I invite guests to share life stories about how they didn’t have a voice and what was the journey that they took to find it. In sharing journeys, these life journeys, I feel like we get to learn more about what it takes to be more of ourselves in this world. This world is not necessarily an easy one to navigate. Especially when people have challenges, it becomes even more difficult. Today, I am so excited. Sheldon, you are from Canada, and we get to talk to you all the way down here in California. How are you today?
(01:27) Sheldon R.S. Crocker
I’m doing good. Thank you. I really appreciate you asking me to be here.
(01:31) Dr. Doreen Downing
Yes. I know you have a story. There’s a wonderful bio you sent me but basically I just know that it has something to do with your physical disability called— Help me with the— Tell me the name. How do I say it?
(01:52) Sheldon R.S. Crocker
(01:55) Dr. Doreen Downing
Thank you. Just to inform the listeners right away. It causes muscle atrophy and contractions at most joints and leaves him unable to crawl. As a child, doctors believed he would never walk. And as a child, he had braces on both legs and a bar between both shoes. By sliding along the wall, Sheldon learned to walk. He had to sit on his bottom and bop his way down the stairs. Now that visual, Sheldon, is so powerful because that immediately shows people that you came from a situation of total—which isn’t total—but really not like any of us who are born in a natural sort of way. We’re walking around. You were challenged. I’m laughing, not laughing, but I’m excited. I’m smiling because you’re just really got to be an inspiration for what it takes to grow up in a world like this, and find your voice, and just all of your great accomplishments. There’s so many here that you’ve included. You were in a documentary. Dale Carnegie human relations award. Seven years, you were on Stella’s circle inclusion choir. You’re currently vice president of education at an online Toastmasters. You take my breath away, my dear. Let’s just launch into a little bit more. You came into this world. I just read what that situation was like. Emotionally, tell us more about what that was for you growing up.
(04:01) Sheldon R.S. Crocker
Thank you for such a lovely introduction there. I was born with a physical disability called Arthrogryposis. It does affect my muscles and joints and ligaments. I’m physically unable to raise my arms any higher than right here. This is as high as my arms will go. When I was younger, the doctor give me surgery on my arms. These are two straight arms. I have no bicep muscles. Doctor gave me surgery when I was three years old on my right arm, and it’ll always be bent because I cannot straighten my arms. He said I won’t be able to brush my teeth, wash my face, eat my meals, whatever. I couldn’t straighten my arm so that I’d be able to open the door, carry bags of groceries, whatever. In a very small town of only 300 people, I was the only person there with a physical disability. It was in the 1970s, before, people were more open minded and what they currently. The way people look at things back then is that if you had a disability, you couldn’t do anything. That’s the way it was in a small town, especially in small town where I’m from, North Carolina. But I believe it’s the same in all small towns. I have no brothers, no sisters, to support me, or to help me out. I had to be independent. It wasn’t only my disability. It was also the fact that my father was an alcoholic. He used to come drunk quite often and take advantage of my mother sexually, and I could hear her crying in her bedroom more than a few times. I actually wanted to stop him. He’d just throw me against the wall. Most often in my entire childhood, I would hear my father saying, “You’ll never be anything besides a disabled local farmer.” I would be better off if I were never born. He would actually say that in a different tone of voice.
(06:33) Dr. Doreen Downing
An aggressive one and one filled with disdain as I listened to you, and especially with alcohol, that brings out some meanness in people.
(06:48) Sheldon R.S. Crocker
Yes. My mother because she didn’t feel that she had any control over her relationship. She will take her frustrations and anger on me by beating me with the belt quite often, and the steel metal part hurt every time. Because I had no brothers and sisters, she would compare me always to my cousin. For example, even if I received 80 percent on an exam, he’d get 85, she’d beat me and say, “Why can’t you be more like them? Why are you born with a disability?” That’s the way I was treated.
(07:31) Sheldon R.S. Crocker
Before we go on, I just want to take and absorb that in because it feels like, here you are, such a beautiful gift into this world, and they both felt like you were totally unwanted, especially with a disability. They just took on that they could abuse you. That’s an example of not being loved. Isn’t it?
(08:10) Sheldon R.S. Crocker
It is. It’s hard to have a go. Most often my life growing up when I’m going through all that, I heard that kids are supposed to be seen and not heard. I know a lot of people after hearing the same thing. Mostly everybody thought that. That’s why all my life I didn’t allow myself to have friendships because of the way things were in the family behind closed doors. I was afraid. Loose lips sink ships. I was afraid to allow myself to have friendships because I was afraid it might slip out the way things were. It would definitely come back on me when I got home. I didn’t really develop communication skills.
(09:03) Dr. Doreen Downing
Totally isolated in growing up and socialization is so important, in school, in education. It is a place where we learn how to relate to other people. You were in a situation where obviously such difference was pretty noticeable. I imagine that people avoided you.
(09:35) Sheldon R.S. Crocker
They always did. They often did. I wasn’t nice to be around. Because of what I was going through, I wasn’t nice to be around. I was being defensive. I was lashing out at people. I didn’t have control in my family relationship. I wasn’t being nice to be friends with.
(10:01) Dr. Doreen Downing
Well, when we grow up, our parents are models of how we learn to be in the world and our own behavior is often modeled after them and having angry, abusive people who you’re surrounded by, you don’t really understand what compassion and love is at first. But you had your journey, you must have learned because you’re out in the world now really sharing something that’s going to help people and make a difference. What was the change for you? What was the transformation? What was the journey?
(10:40) Sheldon R.S. Crocker
The journey was— I was 18 years old when I was forced out of my own town. My mother said, “You can’t live with us. You are coming home drunk all the time. I started having double addictions actually. I was a big time alcoholic, and I was also into drugs. That was what I used as my escape. That was what I used as my way to numb the mental pain. But I stopped at adulthood. I moved to another town to go to college actually and I lived there for about seven years. I don’t remember six days. I remember having blackouts for a couple hours. I had a six or seven-year blackout. I don’t remember being there.
(11:34) Dr. Doreen Downing
But you went to school?
(11:35) Sheldon R.S. Crocker
Yes, I went to two different colleges. I graduated with honors. I don’t even remember being in class.
(11:42) Dr. Doreen Downing
Wow, and here you are a full-blown alcoholic going to school and getting honors. That says something about your brain, my dear.
(11:53) Sheldon R.S. Crocker
I ran into one of the instructors, professors years later, I said, “Did you felt pity on me? Do you just give me the good grades?” They said no. What it was is that “Yes, every time you came in school, you’re probably hungover. Every day, you left school, you go straight to the club, to the bar. But you always take your book open in front of you. As the alcohol was going in, even if it was all long enough for me to stay in the state, or to write an exam the next day. They said, “No, you’re always take your books home.” That’s how I managed to get through college. I managed to survive through that. Still on my own, still struggling. It’s either I stay in that place and drink myself to death, or I get a way to get to the capital city of the province where I’m living, where there was an addiction treatment centers. Actually, my mother was living here so. I actually had to walk the entire distance because I didn’t drive myself and I didn’t have money for transportation. Except living on the streets, except eating donuts off sidewalks. It’s a struggle. That was a part of my journey. But I always had hope. I always knew that I had to be here for a reason. There’s a reason why I’m here. I wasn’t just born to be tortured. I wasn’t just— There is a purpose for me to be here. I discovered why it was.
(13:43) Dr. Doreen Downing
I like hearing that. There was an inner voice. That’s what we’re talking about today is voice and there’s something that you carried inside of you that sounds like it was a voice that’s that spoke to you about hope.
(14:00) Sheldon R.S. Crocker
Yes. There’s always hope. I believe you got to have hope. People say, “Why do you have hope?” I discovered the answer. The answer to whether you have or don’t hope is nothing. You have nothing. I always try my best even when I was sleeping in the ditches and using a rock as a pillow. I managed to still say that something is going to be good someday. I just always kept it inside me. That’s what I used as my inner voice to help me today to have my outer voice.
(14:50) Dr. Doreen Downing
Great. I’m so glad that hope was a voice that spurred you forward and kept you going. What would you say was, maybe I don’t know, it might not have been a moment as much but you actually got through the alcoholism and started recovery or change towards some transformation to who you are today. What was the beginning of that they think?
(15:28) Sheldon R.S. Crocker
The beginning…the exact beginning?
(15:35) Dr. Doreen Downing
I’m not sure, like one day that maybe some people have an “aha” moment, but sometimes it’s a process.
(15:44) Sheldon R.S. Crocker
To me it was just a gradual building process, like I got so tired of just going to clubs in the bar and ordering drinks and just, there’s been times I just pushing it out. I don’t want it, I need it. To the bartender, it’s like, “You got to pay it. You’re going to drink it or you’re just going to leave it there?” That was the beginning. It just came to the point that I was actually when I moved to the bigger city and I went to the addiction treatment center. It was more than just addiction treatment center. It was actually a life skills component to it as well in helping you feel self-esteem and self-confidence get better and feel better about yourself and overcome past traumas. I went there and it was— I got my story all figured out in my head, and I wanted to tell you today that it’s always possible to keep going forward because keeping on walking is what led me through that trauma program to know that I was supposed to go to the addiction treatment center across the province to another place actually that I was living in, just an alcohol addiction treatment. The boss came to my door to pick me up and I canceled my appointment. I’m not going to go and three months later, I just scheduled again. This time I was going to cancel again. But a bright light flashed through my bedroom window. My whole bedroom just lit right up. The song by The Beatles, Let It Be, came out on the radio. All these years later, over 20 years later I still say, my radio was not plugged in. My radio was not plugged and the song, Let It Be by The Beatles came out. Let it be. There will be an answer.
(17:54) Dr. Doreen Downing
You’re talking miracles, aren’t you?
(17:58) Sheldon R.S. Crocker
That was at the same time that the bright light passed through my window.
(18:05) Dr. Doreen Downing
Finally, finally, finally, your time. Wow.
(18:09) Sheldon R.S. Crocker
The boss showed up, and I haven’t been drinking, and I haven’t been back to my addictions since. I continued on, but the program, Life Skills Program. Years afterwards, I received a phone call, “We’re having our annual general meeting. How would you like to come in and give a talk?” What are they talking about. They’re like, “You have been struggling to enjoy your life, even though you’re not exactly where you want to be right now. You have come so far that you’ve definitely got a story to hear.” That’s my first ever public speaking, and I got a double standing ovation. Everybody approach me afterwards telling me how much he appreciated what I had to say. Two people actually approached me and said that they were going to commit suicide before they actually heard my talk. Two people at the same time have heard. I actually saved two lives that day. That gave me the motivation and the desire to keep going.
(19:28) Dr. Doreen Downing
I loved what you said a few minutes ago, which is part of the idea of walking and when you entered in this world as a child not able to walk and then what you did with the braces and today the walking feels like it comes through in the talking and your voice and so thank you for being willing to share all those details and to help but see what a major transformation you have gone through. That first time when you stood up to speak, and even though you weren’t as fully developed as you are now around what you offer, it feels like the universe or you got the message, people are impacted by your life story. So, today, how are you? What are you doing? Speaking? How do people find you? What are you up to nowadays?
(20:36) Sheldon R.S. Crocker
I’ve done quite a few speaking gigs since then. I’ve written a book actually and published it. Funny enough, the name of my book is Keep on Walking. It’s transformative and inspirational journey. It’s really a coincidence the things that we’re talking about, and it is more than one reason why it’s called Keep on Walking. Then part of it was I proved the doctors wrong. The doctors said I might never be able to walk on my own, but another thing is their way of saying, I’m not able to climb a mountain but I’m not able to walk around my room, or just to keep on walking. Don’t have to get through any troubles with the walkers to go further.
(21:24) Dr. Doreen Downing
What a message. I like that it’s not necessarily this is how you do it. It’s more about, what I get from you, is it’s a deeper message around a belief that whatever it takes, you can.
(21:43) Sheldon R.S. Crocker
We’re not giving more than what we’ve can handle. That’s what I believe. We’re not giving more than what we can handle. We might not know where the handle right now. But everybody handles things differently. I am not going to profess to take this step, do this, do that. That might work for me but might not work for you. There’s no set rules to say this is what you need to do in order to go where you want to go.
(22:13) Dr. Doreen Downing
Yes, that is such a profound and lovely way to say it to people who are listening today. It’s something about believing in what we can do, and not necessarily we got to go out and do it this way. I get that from you. Thank you for sharing here today. How do people find you?
(22:39) Sheldon R.S. Crocker
People can find me through— My website is currently being redesigned so that will not be available, but I’m on every social platform. You can find me, Sheldon R.S. Crocker, on Facebook, you can email me firstname.lastname@example.org. That’s a few different ways.
(22:59) Dr. Doreen Downing
We’ll have all those links in our show notes and people will be able to get a link to your book also. Keep on walking. It must be on Amazon. That’s another way that people can learn more about you and how to connect…
(23:19) Sheldon R.S. Crocker
Is actually on special right now. I got the price lower. I’m also teaching a course as well. I got an online course available on mastermind.com. You find my name when you find that platform, and you can join my program.
(23:39) Dr. Doreen Downing
Look at you grow. Yes, thank you. Thank you so much, Sheldon, for taking time to come on today and give a lot of hope to those who are listening. Thank you.
(23:56) Sheldon R.S. Crocker
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Get started now on your journey to your authentic voice by downloading my Free 7 Step Guide to Fearless Speaking: doreen7steps.com.
Get started now on your journey to your authentic voice by downloading my Free 7 Step Guide to Fearless Speaking: doreen7steps.com.