Respirer sous l’eau: vivre avec santé, intégrité, sérénité et sa dépendance
BY LEE HAUSMANN MA, ICAAC
« Breathing Under Water »
I built my house by the sea.
not on the shifting sand.
And I built it of rock.
A strong house
By a strong sea.
And we got well acquainted, the sea and I.
Not that we spoke much.
We put in silences.
Respectful, keeping our distance,
aim our thoughts looking across the fence of
Always, the barrier of sand,
always, the sand between.
And then one day,
– and I still do not know how it happened –
The sea cam.
Without welcome, even
Not sudden and swift, but a shifting across
the sand like wine,
less like the flow of water than the flow of blood.
Slow, but coming.
Slow, but flowing like an open wound.
The thought of flight and the thought of
drowning and the thought of death.
And while I thought the sea crept higher, till
it reached my door.
And I knew then, there was
death, nor drowning.
When the sea comes calling you
Well acquainted, friendly-at-a-distance,
And you give your house for a coral castle,
And you learn to breathe underwater.
~ Unpublished poem by Sr. Carol Bieleck,
It must be 7:30 am on this clear and cold February morning. I stand in front of the bay window of our Executive Suites hotel room, admiring the skyline of downtown Vancouver. We are currently planning a detour to the Edgewood Center in Nanaimo and visiting former clients. I always bring my soluble coffee on a trip. Previously an epicurean lover of fine wines and hard drugs, I am now a connoisseur of coffees. Our suite is equipped with an electric kettle to satisfy my morning pleasure. We can also enjoy a luxurious hot tub that spills out into the hallway. I pour hot water into my favorite cup, which I brought from home. While stirring my coffee, I walk towards the window to contemplate the sight when suddenly, I find myself on the ground, my shattered mug on the marble corner of the bathtub and my bloody hand. The nausea goes up in my throat as I realize I just stumbled on the hot tub. I look at my left hand and see that two of my fingers are open. It looks serious.
My companion calls a cab to bring us to St. Paul’s Hospital. It’s quite a challenge to be able to slip into the taxi with a damaged hand and a white bath towel dripping with blood. The driver greets me with a disapproving pout and warns me not to stain his seats. As we approach the hospital emergency room, my hand shakes and my nausea intensifies. The hospital staff is efficient and caring. After four painful anesthetic punctures in my hand, I see the emergency physician, who quickly sutures my wound. No tendon has been damaged, but he suspects that a nerve has been severed. It will have to monitor the evolution on my return.
Seven days later, I am at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto, where I am being prepared for an emergency operation. I put on the blouses, one in front, one behind. I am asked to lie down and then answer a series of questions, while an intravenous is placed in my wrist. I ask what it will do and the nurse responds that it is to relax. I did not expect this. The surgeon’s hand had said that I needed nothing. Suddenly, without warning, dopamine reaches my brain and the idea of receiving drugs that will affect my mood makes me euphoric. I can not believe it. I’ve been sober for more than 20 years, and now I’m excited about the idea of drugs. The anesthetist stands above me in the operating room. I hear the clinking of the instruments and suddenly, the effects reach me! Ah, that’s it! This first intense puff in the back of my throat, then my brain hypnotized by the effect of drugs: heat and calm, as in the arms of a mother. But I’m addicted, and I’ll never have enough. My own reaction shocks me. I have the audacity to say to him: « You know, if a dose is good, two will be even better. Through the mists of my brain, I hear him say, « Uh … Okay. » « You know, if a dose is good, two will be even better. Through the mists of my brain, I hear him say, « Uh … Okay. » « You know, if a dose is good, two will be even better. Through the mists of my brain, I hear him say, « Uh … Okay. «
« Everything comes back to me so quickly. I know
these rules so well . I teach them. I live them.
The active addiction is only one step,
a glass, a dose. «
I want more. There is never enough. There is no stop button. I will never be able to consume safely again. I can not stop at the first shot. My mind is obsessed. My body is allergic. Powerless. Everything comes back to me so quickly. I know these rules so well. I teach them. I live them. The active addiction is only one step, a glass, a dose.
The operation is over and the effects of benzodiazepines fade. I am prescribed Tylenol 3. My daughter comes to pick me up and takes me home. The first time, I take Tylenol as prescribed, but the second, I say to myself: « Two doses are good, four are even better ». The addiction is back, but not for long. I turn to my companion, member Al-Anon. He comes to take them away. Sigh of relief. The next day, I go to work and everything is back to normal, except my bandaged hand. Will I drink or take drugs again? No. How can I say it with as much confidence and firmness? Because I learned to breathe underwater.
Breathing underwater helps me cope with personal crises, getting into trouble with mood-altering substances, and not falling back into addiction. When I face tough challenges and feel stifled, I learned to accept that I can not control everything and let go. I can continue to breathe in myself without being consumed by what surrounds me. « The New Testament calls it Salvation, Buddhism calls it Illumination, and the Twelve Steps call it recovery. (Richard Rohr, Breathing Under Water)
I am a woman, a mother, a companion, a therapist, an active AA member and an addict. I cherish my addiction as a gift.
When I found myself at the lowest, Grace arrived in time to save my life and led me to the Twelve Step Recovery Program. This crisis has allowed me to experience great spiritual growth. Using the tools I was offered in the Twelve Steps, I was able to evolve my thinking, my value system and my interactions with this world. I opened up to a new way of seeing things, a new level of clarity and higher awareness. I did not succeed until I realized that my strength and my human will were not enough to fight this disease. I was about to drown, but instead, I abdicated. Recovery « work » taught me to breathe underwater. My journey began with a process of honesty and rigorous humility. I had to admit that my human capacities were not enough to stop my addiction and that I learned to confess myself defeated. In this way, I found a force greater than mine.
Hope has replaced despair. I was presented with an idea of faith, an expansive and inclusive faith. I then made the decision to leave my will and my life in his hands. After laying the foundations of my faith, I was able to find the courage to make an honest and fearless moral inventory. I needed to take a step back from my life and my actions and take responsibility for the harm I had done to others. « A life without examination is not worth living. Said Socrates. My work with Steps helped me identify unhealthy patterns of behavior. In my case, I had to worry about my pride, my ego, my arrogant anger, my gossip, my fear of others’ eyes, my propensity to judge others and my obsession with control. It took me a lot of humility to admit my limits while recognizing my strengths. The paradox of this humility is that I am both tall and tiny. Daily, ongoing awareness and reflection can solve problems immediately, preventing them from turning into resentment or tension. I got used to questioning myself and it helped me achieve and maintain emotional sobriety. I am able to maintain this state of mind through meditation and serving others. preventing them from turning into resentment or tension. I got used to questioning myself and it helped me achieve and maintain emotional sobriety. I am able to maintain this state of mind through meditation and serving others. preventing them from turning into resentment or tension. I got used to questioning myself and it helped me achieve and maintain emotional sobriety. I am able to maintain this state of mind through meditation and serving others.
« In my case, I had to worry
about my pride, my ego, my arrogant anger,
my gossip, my fear of others’ eyes,
my propensity to judge others and my obsession with control.
It took me a lot of humility to admit
my limits while recognizing my strengths. The paradox of this humility is
that I am both tall and tiny. «
Breathing underwater is not always easy. Sometimes I wonder if I’m going to drown. But that will not happen. I have built a structure of life in which I feel comfortable. When the torments of life threaten my serenity, my work of recovery teaches me to return to my center and nourish myself with my inner power: faith, strength, and love. That’s how I can breathe underwater. This article was inspired by Richard Rohr’s book, Breathing Under Water, Spirituality and the Twelve Steps.
Lee holds a Master’s degree in Addiction Counseling from the Hazelden Graduate School of Addiction Studies in
Minnesota. During her postdoctoral training, she also completed clinical training that included assessments of new patients, diagnosis of chemical dependence , treatment planning and recommendations for follow-up.Lee also belongs to the Canadian Addiction Counselors’ Federation and holds an ICCAC certification.
In addition to her work in Bellwood , Lee runs a private practice where she helps men and women cope with their dependence on chemicals. She founded Women of Substance, an organization that supports women in their recovery and spiritual growth.