This week’s Here’s To Your Health is a continuation of Sister Ruth’s story. Her story ended last week with…I had to wait until my 16th birthday to become a nun. On my 16th birthday in 1942, I entered the Sisters of St. Joseph Convent in Tipton, Indiana and finished high school there in the convent. It was a lot like home, it was a very structured and rigid existence, with many rules, sort of like the military where you must be at a certain place at a certain time. I followed all the rules and was a good nun.
We had a prayer book about the size of our Big Book (Alcoholics Anonymous) and there were no spontaneous prayers in it. Everyday prayer session was just one more job I had to do, it took about an hour and after it was over I was glad to have it done. After high school, I entered nursing school and as soon as I finished training, I was shipped out to Oregon and it was the first time I’d ever been out of Indiana. In Oregon I went to work in surgery and I loved it. I worked my tail off and for the first time in my life, doctors and supervisors complimented me and the more they complimented me the harder I worked.
Time went on and I returned home (Yoder IN) about every three years on vacation. I started drinking beer at home with my father and liked it. I didn’t get drunk and I never drank back in Oregon, but I began to look forward to coming home, visiting my family and having more beer. In hindsight I now see that looking forward to that beer should have been an early warning signal, but I liked the taste of it.
As the years passed in Oregon, I often rode my bicycle while wearing a full habit, we pinned up our dresses and away we went. In those days, I was the flying nun, but one day I had a terrible bicycle accident, it was not alcohol related, but nevertheless it left me with a serious head trauma. I started having black outs and could no longer be a super nurse and so I began suffering from chronic depression. When the amnesia hit me I couldn’t even finish writing on the chart and I had to lay down somewhere and come back later. The doctors put me on anti-depressants and somewhere during that time frame I started drinking alcohol. We were allowed to drink and one of the nuns suggest I should have some wine to cheer me up and the next thing I knew a beautiful glow came over me and then I started hiding bottles of wine, but it was gradual.
As time went on we were invited to a thanksgiving dinner and nine of us nuns went to the dinner. The host had a full bar set up with hard liquor and guess what happened? I spent most of the night in the bathroom because I was sick and couldn’t eat dinner. After I slept it off, the next day I had a terrible hangover and couldn’t remember what I’d done.