This week’s Here’s To Your Health is a continuation of Sister Ruth’s story. We ended last week with…The blackouts started again and so did the delirium tremens, sometimes I’d be on call and go into work and not remember it. I’d check the charts and sure enough I was there alright because they were in my handwriting, but I didn’t want them to know that! I was really scared because I couldn’t predict what would happen. I didn’t know if I would drink a little or a lot and then I began seeing gremlins and Halloween creatures, I saw them on the window sills, floor, dresser, shades, on the bed and I’d hold on to my mattress and pray they’d be gone in the morning.
I got so scared that I asked to be transferred back out to Oregon. By then most of the nuns were gone and so I went back to surgery, but this time I was just on the staff. We had some top-notch surgeons working out there and my fear of slipping up increased because I continually feared the doctors would figure out I was drinking excessively. And so, I asked to be transferred from surgery to chaplain. Even though I hadn’t been trained to be a chaplain, I could be my own boss and do my thing. Can you imagine a drunken nun making the rounds in the hospital, but that’s what I did.
When I think about my past I never want to forget the isolation and the hell I was living in. I had to drink because if I didn’t keep alcohol in my system, I’d go into the DT’s, and maintaining my alcohol addiction with ever increasing amounts of wine created another problem. By then we had a brand new hospital, it was in the country and I’d have to wait for the head nurse to go to work before I could go into town, re-supply and get rid of the empties in the mall dumpsters. I never kept empty bottles on the premises; I bagged them and put them in the trunk of the car for the next trip to town. By the end of my drinking I had as many as four or five gallons of wine hidden around the house. I hid wine in the woodpile, the garage, clothes hamper or any place you can imagine. I was so afraid I’d slip up that my fear became a prison.
Today, I go into prison once a week and talk to the girls in there and tell them although I’ve never been in prison, I made my own of prison with alcohol and the walls were closing in. Suicide began looking better and better until it became an obsession and this time by golly I was going to do it. Well guess what, that same nun was still out there in Oregon, she ran the hospital and was its administrator and she got suspicious that I was going to try something, but this time instead of confronting me she wrote a letter to Indiana and said if they didn’t get me help immediately she was not going to be responsible for what happened. As soon as that letter reached Indiana I got a phone call and they said, “We’ve been dealing with your depression for a long time and we’re going to get you help no matter how much it costs or how long it takes.” They sent me to San Francisco, where there was a place for priests and nuns; it was a mental health center.
August the 28th was the earliest date they could take me and I believed that date was an omen because the 28th day of August was my birthday, and now August the 28th was the day I entered the mental health center. The hospital was only two blocks from the Pacific Ocean, I looked out there and said, “There’s enough water out there to do it.” They did an evaluation on me and said I had another problem besides depression, but since they didn’t treat alcoholism there I would have to be moved to another facility in Maryland. I promised I’d call Sister Superior when I got my evaluation and so I did.