Navigating through one's Black Sabbath
Loretta Kroetsch (1955-1990) changed the course of my professional life
Every morning of my boarding school years, I awoke to the dark, heavy metal lyrics and discordant vibrations of Black Sabbath invading the walls of my dorm room. The source of the rhythmic assault didn’t much care if she bothered anyone. Loretta prioritized her own mental health over the serenity of others, and Black Sabbath provided her with an indispensable ingredient to her sense of wellbeing.
I had never known anyone like Loretta. Brilliant, sensitive, reclusive, angry, she was, in many ways, my opposite. Yet somehow, we found a way to break through the barriers that separated us.
Loretta and I spent hours together that year discussing philosophy, religion, drug use (hers, not mine), Black Sabbath, and life. One day, when some bad mescaline caused her to run away from school, I tracked her down in a nearby park and returned her safely to school. She never thanked me, but I sensed she was grateful. She preferred her love-hate rapport with the school to her broken relationship with her family, which is where she would have been sent if the police had found her instead.
After we graduated, I never saw Loretta again. I’m not sure why, but we never reconnected. A few years after I graduated from college, I heard from a classmate that she had cleaned up, graduated college herself, and was enjoying her work as an environmental scientist for the federal government. Then, at our twentieth high school reunion, I heard she had died of colon cancer, possibly caused by chemicals she encountered as part of her job.
I don’t know what influence I had on Loretta’s life, but I believe I helped her survive a time that felt as close to unraveling as the raised hems on our school uniforms. I hope that was so.
My friendship with Loretta became a key factor in my decision to work in the substance abuse field. Through all her trials, she helped me understand both hope and promise. She found her way through her own black sabbath, and that taught me that others could too.
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