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July 07, 2009

Coroners and Amends

I hated coroners.

The day my son died from addiction caused by inhalant abuse I was visiting my father 2000 miles away.  It took me 10 hours to get back to Indianapolis from Phoenix Arizona . By the time I arrived the County Coroner had "processed" my son's body at the hospital and because of the "suspicious" circumstance of his death had ordered that the body be taken to the local medical center for an autopsy to be performed.

My wife and older son had been able to say their good-byes to David at the hospital.  To hold and hug his lifeless body for the last time, kiss his lips, run their fingers through his hair...and I was desperate to do the same.  The unspeakable grief I felt was magnified 10 fold by the guilt that gripped my soul for being so far away when his took his last breath.  My desperation to touch him, kiss him, hug him...turned to anger and rage when I was told I could not see him.  And by the time I was finally able to view his body 4 days later that rage had turned to hatred.

Two years after David died I sought treatment for addiction, became involved in 12-Step recovery and began attending AA meetings.  For the uninitiated AA is essentially a program of suggestions on how to live life without drugs and alcohol.  One of those suggestions was for me to get a "sponsor" and then work the "12 Steps."  A sponsor is a kind of life coach or mentor to help demystify the AA program and provide guidance in progressing through the Steps.  One of those steps is to make a list persons we had harmed or who had harmed us.  A later step is to make amends to the people, places and things on that harm list. 

Coroners were high on that first 12 Step list of mine and when it came time to make amends to them  my sponsor and I decided that since it was more the organization than any one individual ....that it was impossible to address the entire organization in any meaningful way.... that a"living" amends would be the best course of action. 

But last week...after 5 1/2 years in the program of Alcoholics Anonymous my Higher Power provided me with the opportunity to finally make a direct amends to all Coroners.  Harvey Weiss of the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition called to ask if I would be willing to help him make a presentation to the the group and as I drove to the hotel where the conference was being help I realized I had the opportunity to do something I had needed to do for a long time.  Something that would help me clean up my side of the street by admitting I was wrong and ask what I could do to make it right.

So when I finished my part of the presentation I told the 350+ coroners from around the State of Indiana I had one more thing to do.  I told them I was in recovery and of my need to make amends...how I had hated them and why...that I was wrong....that there were only fulfilling their professional responsibilites and asked what I could do to make it right. 

There was silence in the room for what to me seemed like an eternity but then before I realized it there were on their feet applauding....and I had my answer.

July 7, 2009 at 08:46 PM in The Odyssey | Permalink


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