Dee Sherwin | My Story
My name is Dee Sherwin. I was born into an incomplete family where I did not even have the luxury of meeting my father and two brothers. Money was tight, which led me to start working at coffee houses when I was 13 to support my family. As I was still a student, school seemed like a “baggage” that held me back from working full time. Thus, I started cutting classes to work more.
When I reached 14, my absence from school soared to an all-time high, where I was skipping classes almost every day just to support my family. It came to a point where I only attended school once or twice a month. With continuous poor attendance, I was eventually expelled by the school committee. However, my family was still ultimately supportive of the decision to prioritise work over education.
Over the next 2 years, I was dissatisfied with the jobs I was having. I was just doing repetitive work and I felt that my personal growth was limited. Furthermore, the jobs that were higher paying required me to put on a “showman” attitude which was not in my comfort zone due to my anxiety and introverted nature. However, I was then approached by Beyond Social Services where it introduced me to another company. Over there, under patient guidance I overcame my lack of confidence due to the fear of judgement. Thus, this shaped my interest of wanting to work at jobs that has social purposes.
For the next 3 years, things progressed smoothly until one day when I was greeted with the news that my father is on his deathbed. I was overwhelmed as this was the very man, my own father, that I had yearned to meet for all my 18 years. When I visited him, he was frail and weak, and I felt my heart sank. I gushed into tears to greet him and it was saddening that I met him under such circumstances. Through my father, I was reunited with my second brother. It was then that I realized my first brother had fallen under the influence of drug and was serving time. This made me determined to reach out to him to ensure that we would be reunited under better circumstances.
When my father passed away, I felt very lost. Work did not interest me any longer and money was getting tighter each day. In a bid to find a better paying job, I left my current work place and found a job as a bartender. With bar-tending, I had to drink to entertain customers as well. Alcohol masked my anxiety, enabling me to be more expressive. It helped me cope with the loss of my father. At that point, it was my comfort source, and it eventually became an addiction.
I knew I was hooked on alcohol when I was drinking even after work. I found myself continuously being in and out of the rehabilitation center to kick off my addiction. Things came to a turning point for me when I woke up one day in a hospital bed. I realized that I had blacked out from alcohol poisoning. I realised my kidney was also starting to fail from my high alcohol consumption. It was my wake-up call and I knew I had to pick up my life from that point onward. My first goal was to kick off my addiction and reach out to my first brother. I started it off by joining the rehabilitation programme and resigned from my bar-tending job. It was through a friend of mine that I was introduced to Matthew Poh, the founder of The Caffeine Experience.
I found that this is my calling as the mission felt close to my heart. I hoped that if I could change my life around, I could change my brother’s life too.
Subsequently, I contacted my second brother in prison and planned a trip to Thailand upon his release to celebrate my birthday. However, something unexpected happened and I was unable to join him on the trip. During the trip, he picked up drugs again and I only got wind of it when he passed away due to overdose. This made me very remorseful for cancelling the trip with him. I felt that his relapse might have been prevented if only I had been there for him. There were instances where he showed effort in trying to fit back into the society and yet I failed to help him along the way. It hit me how dangerous an addiction could consume up a person. For me it was alcoholism, for my brother it was drugs. I was the lucky one of the two as I was able to stop, but for him it was too late.
Now, I can safely say that I am in a good environment surrounded by a supportive family. At TCE, I feel that everybody here is my family, my brothers and sisters. I will continue to stand strong as a physical testimony with my experiences. I am determined to empower any willing individual to help break free from their addiction and shape their lives for a better future. I wish to help them in the ways I could not help my brother.
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We have published a follow-up story on Dee. Read more here!
January 7, 2022