Judy Fifield
Judy Fifield grew up on a small farm outside Biddeford, Maine, with her parents, a brother, and a sister. She helped get in hay for the animals and wood for the stove that heated the house. But when she was halfway through high school, life became far less wholesome.
At 16 she was an active teenage alcoholic, and in her junior year she dropped out of school. "I was spending a lot of time on drinking, and I was getting into trouble." She worked in factories and at odd jobs, none lasting more than three or four months. Between jobs she hitchhiked, mostly throughout the South - North Carolina, Florida, Tennessee - and back to Maine. She had been out of school for three years when she heard about the Community School.
"I had been hospitalized for suicide attempts. There was a counselor there that I trusted, and she told me about the School. I felt I wanted to change my whole life. I knew I was a good person, but I just couldn't pull it off. Ijust kept getting further and further down .... Ifelt when l heard about the School, it would be perfect for me.
"I pictured the School out in the woods, and you'd have to chop wood and feed the wood stove, and I knew how to do that. I also knew it would be a chance to start over where nobody knew me, and maybe I could make something of myself .. because I had a bad reputation in that small town."
Judy is a shy young woman with tawny blond hair and brown eyes. She speaks softly, her words coming in a rush as she talks about the Community School, and tears well up in her eyes as she recalls the painful and poignant times in her early life.
"When I came to the C-School, I was real scared. When my Mom left and I hadn't been living with my mother - I cried so hard. Of course I didn't want anybody to see me cry. Tree (staff member Teresa Roth) came up to me and said, 'Are you scared? And I said, 'no,' and the tears were running down my face. Emanuel was my one-to-one, butTree was very important to me. She was the role model for me."
The most difficult part ofJudy's adjustment to the C-School was getting through each day without alcohol. "That was real painful," she says." I white-knuckled it for the first two weeks. Eventually I did drink and was put on drinking probation." Not long after, she broke probation and was asked to leave the School.
A woman Judy had met on one of the School's community service projects was a recovering alcoholic. She encouraged Judy to enter a twenty-one-day treatment program for alcoholism. "So, under the idea that I had failed in other things, I had nowhere else to go. I was 19, an adult. I went to treatment. I didn't see any other choice.
"My last day at the treatment center, the School asked me to come back, and that was the first time they had taken back a student who admittedly had a drug and alcohol problem. I came back and finished all my tests and graduated. And I never picked up another drink after that. Through all the problems that I was having, nobody had mentioned to me, 'It's your drinking that's causing your problems.' When I went to the School, that was the big issue. It was obvious to them.
"The thing I keep coming back to is this: I never thought anyone would think it was important to concentrate so much on one person and, even though it's hard, to do what's right - like kicking me out. That was really hard. It was hard for Emanuel because he was my one-on-one. It was hard on all the staff. It was hard on the students. They didn't want to ask me to leave just because I broke drinking probation, but they did.
"So the way the School helped me - besides daring to confront me by saying 'That's not acceptable' - they gave me choices, and they accepted me back. The School has never stopped caring about me. That's one of the things I love about the School; there's always somebody there. There was eye contact there. People listened to me. People really cared about me. They set limits for me when I couldn't. That's the way the School has helped me the most."
After graduation Judy didn't want to go back to her hometown and confront the temptation to drink. Instead, she moved two blocks from the School where she shared a house with three other adults. She stayed sober, but her bulimia - an eating disorder characterized by eating and purging got out of control. It had not been a major problem when she was drinking or in school. "But when the alcohol went away," she says, "the eating disorder became more important to me. I really hit bottom with it."
Finally she went into a treatment center in Florida, the only one she could find that also had the Twelve-Step Program. There she met a woman who ran a halfway house in Tennessee for people with eating disorders, and she asked Judy to come there.
In Tennessee she worked for three years in a long-term residential treatment hospital for adolescents with alcohol and psychiatric problems. For two of those years she worked in an outdoor program called Peninsula Outdoor Village, an accredited hospital and camp.
"We lived out in the woods in a log cabin that we built. I was a group leader and had eight to twelve girls beneath me. We also cleared the land and started building another cabin for a second group, and I eventually ended up working with the second group."
At this stage in her life, Judy can tot up a few solid achievements: She has graduated from the Community School, she's stayed sober and is recovering from bulimia, she feels good about the job she's done with kids at the hospital, and she has learned to handle a kayak on some big southern rivers. Enrolled as an English major at Pellissippi State Technical Community College, she plans to enter the University of Tennessee after two years.
Literature is her passion. "I've always read a lot. Emanuel and Tree have fed me books, 'Read this and read this.' I can't get enough. That's one of the first things we talk about. My latest favorites are Anne Tyler and Alice Walker, and I love May Sarton."
Now married, Judy leads a full, happy life in Tennessee. Most of her friends are recovering from eating disorders, and she feels surrounded by a "strong support community." In the long range she wants to get a master's degree and work at a community college.
"I love school. I thought maybe if I was a teacher I could get to go to school all the time, and I dreamed of teaching at the Community School. I've always been in touch with the Community School. The Community School was my first success, my very first. They never stopped casring for me. They are my chosaen family."
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