This week’s “Here’s to your Health” is a continuation of Sister Ruth’s story we ended last week’s story with.


I woke up with a terrible hangover and couldn’t remember anything, I was so embarrassed and I felt terrible. The other nuns didn’t appreciate the way I had acted and they were ashamed of me. I remember that Saturday morning as if it was yesterday. I remember the room I was in and what I put on that day. I decided I was going to get out of their lives by jumping in the river. I couldn’t swim and although I’d taken two swimming classes I failed both times. I don’t know what it is with me and water, but I still can’t swim. I had it all planned and knew just where I would do it; I decided to jump off a bridge and make certain nobody saw me because I didn’t want anybody rescuing me. I was getting off my bicycle when this nun came along and asked me what I was doing, I told her, “None of your business!” She asked, “Can we talk?” and I said, “No.” Nuns normally don’t talk to one another like that. We didn’t get into a wrestling match, but we came close to it. We were still inside the building and that nun locked the door and called a doctor. It was on a weekend and normally doctors aren’t in, but there was one there that Saturday and so they shipped me off to a psychiatric hospital. I was there for six weeks and they treated me for acute depression and attempted suicide, but nobody asked me about my drinking. Of course alcohol wasn’t the problem, it was always about depression, but for the next three years I was in and out of psychiatric hospitals. Even though I’d thought about how horrible my suicide would affect my parents and the nuns, I just didn’t care; can you imagine a story in the newspaper about a nun committing suicide? When I look back on those times, the thing that really gets me is that I thought to myself, if I do this, I’ll go to hell, but I didn’t care. That’s how bad I wanted out. It was total and absolute hopelessness and despair and I can’t imagine anybody ever getting any lower than that. I need to say this because maybe somebody else out there needs to hear this. If that nun hadn’t physically taken me to a treatment center I wouldn’t be alive today. When a person has their heart set on getting out, talking to them won’t work. If you ever encounter somebody in such a state of hopelessness and despair remember, talking won’t work, you must get them help immediately.

After my encounter with West Coast psychiatric hospitals I asked for a transfer and was transferred back to Forth Wayne. I lived in the St. Joseph Hospital nurses school and worked in the operating room at St. Joe and I loved it because none of our nuns worked there and I could do my thing without their interference. I was allowed to drink and I became a party nun. The nurses and I went out to bars at night and we had ourselves a ball. I won’t go into all of that because they didn’t know I was a nun. At that time I decided to stick with wine because it was the cheapest thing to drink and let me tell you, there’s some pretty crummy wine out there. About then, I became concerned about my drinking because I’d heard there was an invisible line a person can cross with alcohol and so I decided to quit drinking altogether. I’d buy a bottle of wine and then tell myself I can’t do this and I’d pour it down the drain. But then, I’d buy another bottle and I thought, my gosh, “What’s wrong with me?” I did not understand why I could not stop drinking? I’d been a nun for thirty years and I had plenty of will power and discipline, but one time when I offered up my alcohol to God for Lent, I didn’t make it to Ash Wednesday. The blackouts started again and Delirium Tremens too, so I decided to take a geographical cure and asked to be transferred back to Oregon.

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John Barleycorn

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