If you live in PEI and have any experience with addiction, you most likely recognize the name Dr. Leo Killorn, which often comes up in conversations around treatment. He ran the Alcohol and Drug Treatment Institute in Charlottetown. As a medical doctor, also in recovery, he understood addiction on many levels and had compassion for his patients. This combination of education, personal experience, and compassion made him very good at what he did. The fact that people still talk about him, more than twenty years after his death, shows the impact that he made in the lives of individuals, families, and the Island community.
As someone who is also passionate about addiction and its toll on individuals, families and societies, I regret not meeting Dr. Killorn and hearing his thoughts first-hand. Since he has been gone for many years now, I would have to settle with second-hand stories…….or so I thought!
At an event last spring where I spoke about addiction, I met Dr. Killorn’s son, Joe. He mentioned to my friend, Ronnie, and me that he had tapes of his father speaking that we could listen to if we were interested. I was so surprised, thrilled, and deeply touched. This is truly one of the most touching things to happen to me on this journey through addiction. I can’t express how much it meant to me that I was actually going to hear Dr. Killorn speak, something I never dreamed was possible. Ronnie was grateful, too. She had known Dr. Killorn and thought the world of him.
The first CD I listened to was of Dr. Killorn’s personal struggle with alcoholism. I was so impressed with the things that he said. I grabbed a pen and started taking notes. I can’t tell you how many times I laughed out loud at his stories. He clearly had a great sense of humour. I am sure that served him well in his career. I thoroughly enjoyed this talk.
The other tapes included interviews and talks that he had given. He truly was an incredible man. He was up to date on all the latest research and findings in the field of addiction. He travelled across Canada and the USA to investigate what others were doing and he appeared to read extensively on the topic. When he found something promising, he implemented it in his treatment centre. I was struck by how advanced he was in his knowledge and how open he was to trying new things. He was way ahead of his time.
Dr. Killorn spoke about the disease of addiction like he would any other disease and he tried to educate the public about it. He was a true champion for the cause and we need more people like him. A doctor’s voice carries a lot of weight when it comes to educating and building compassion around the serious disease of addiction.
I am so thankful that Joe took the time to introduce himself to me and that he was generous enough to share something so important to him. Thanks to those tapes, I now have a greater sense of who Dr. Killorn was as a person and doctor. As I watched and listened to him speak, I was in awe of him. I also felt a sense of sadness that someone so wonderful is gone.
I now know why people thought so highly of him. His patients would never have felt judged. Instead, they would have felt that Dr. Killorn cared about them and wanted them to succeed. Ronnie has a wonderful story that proves how much he actually did care and what lengths he’d go to help someone. When her father was a patient at the Treatment Institute, he needed to leave during the day for work. Dr. Killorn gave him permission to do this, but the good doctor would spend most of the day in the parking lot of the garage where he worked to make sure that her dad didn’t drink. When he got off work, Dr. Killorn drove him back to the Treatment Institute for the night. What a wonderful man!