sober lifestyle


If the title isn’t fair enough warning, let me be crystal clear: This post gets down and dirty with some off-color subject matter.

Yes, that would be fecal matter. Feel free to flee while you have the chance! 💩😱

Although the topic is by no means humorous, it’s kind of “funny” that I’m sitting here writing about it, considering that just the other day, that one “Family Guy” episode came on where Brian and Stewie get stuck in the safe at the bank. There’s a point where Stewie prevails upon Brian to help with “cleaning up” his full diaper, and I always have to change the channel during that particular scene. 🤮 Somehow, it’s less triggering for me to watch a dog and a baby get drunk, shoot guns and rip holes in each other’s ears…🤷🏼‍♀️

And somehow, discussing my own digestive issues feels different. Guess I’m just so used to living with IBS-C, so entrenched in the all-consuming daily struggle that started more than a decade ago and has been gradually, insidiously escalating ever since, that I’ve gone “nose blind” to how gross it all is — kind of like a hoarder living obliviously in filth. Or like an alcoholic driving to the liquor store faithfully every Thursday after work for a new bottle of tequila, after promising herself faithfully every Thursday morning that she was “only going to drink on the weekends from now on.”

Humans can truly get used to anything. Bad shit, literally, can become “ho hum” to the conditioned brain.

I mean, the real reason I’m writing this right now is that I can no longer live the way I’ve been living. I have to share the true “dirty little secret” that’s preventing me from enjoying life. IBS has definitely counteracted many of the positives that come with getting sober.

At the very least, I need to release my thoughts and feelings, regardless of how embarrassing or taboo they might be, because being unable to release my body’s waste has crippled me physically and driven me into depths of mental and emotional despair that I have never before experienced — even in active addiction or clinical depression.

I am not myself. I’m losing track of who that person even is.

Over the past year or so, my symptoms have been so bad that I have had thoughts of harming myself. I have, in fact, been so frustrated that I’ve pounded my fists into my lower belly as hard as I could, trying to jar something loose or maybe find some fucked-up sense of comfort in a little bit of pain. I have often thought that I might prefer to die than to go on day after day in this state.

The GI doctor has been of no help — and don’t even get me started on a conveyor-belt health care system that barely shows interest in, much less empathy for, people they can’t easily diagnose. A colonoscopy found nothing wrong. Tests for celiac and Crohn’s came back negative. Prescription meds have been only marginally effective. A “low-FODMAP,” gluten-free diet and fiber supplements have been useless. Exercise not only doesn’t help, but the problem itself makes it much more difficult to exercise the way one wants to.

The only medical “advice” I’ve received in the past 10 years is to “stop eating broccoli,” “cut down on stress,” and “maybe see a neurologist because this could be MS.” Seriously. 😐

If you or a loved one suffers from a chronic illness for which you can find no reason, no cure or even any suitable relief, I know you understand where I’m coming from. I know I’m not alone. And I know how hard it is to find support for issues like this, because not only do you lack that concrete, convenient label you can slap on a problem to help other people “get it,” but who the hell wants to go around talking about their crippling constipation?

Who wants to explain to their spouse that the reason they want to wear big baggy clothes and avoid physical contact and just sleep all the time is because they feel like a gigantic, disgusting, desperately unhappy blob of goo for 90% of their waking hours, and they wish they could rip off their skin — or rip out their intestines — and instead of riding high at 3 years sober the way they’re “supposed to be,” they are completely going in the tank?

Talk about unpleasant subject matter.

It needs to be said that without the enduring love and superheroic patience of my husband, I absolutely would not be here today, still “fighting the good fight,” even though I’m not even sure what’s good about it at the moment.

So, how the hell do I tie this one up with a neat bow?!? I don’t. All I do is drive over to my local hospital and pick up the bottle of “contrast” I have to drink in advance of the pelvic CT scan I’m scheduled to have on Friday.

(In case you wondered, driving to the liquor store is not an option…I’m still a committed grad school student working toward a future as a counselor, and if nothing else, this life experience has infused me with great empathy for people battling illness.)

This latest procedure has the feel of a last resort, like, I want the scan to show some big, glaring “thing” they can just take out of me and make me better. But I suspect I will keep having to do what I have been doing, which is getting up every day and continuing to fight, telling myself that “today could be better” even if I have doubts, and doing “the next right thing” while remembering that everything in life is temporary.

Recovery from alcoholism taught me about everyday courage. It has helped me grow some of my own! Thank goodness for that preparation; it equips me to meet this moment.

I will close with a quote I recently heard on the “Into America” podcast that I found appropriate and inspiring (supposedly Teddy Roosevelt said it?): “Courage is not having the strength to go on; it’s going on when you have no strength.”

1 thought on “Digestion”

  1. Good luck, Jen. I’ve only known one other person with IBS and I think he still grapples with it. It seems to be ongoing. I hope you get a solution soon. I know, from him, it can be debilitating.


    Liked by 1 person

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