One of the most underrated pleasures in life is a good bowel movement. (Did I really say that out loud for everyone to hear?) Come on, you know I’m right, even if you blushing or saying “Gross!” under your breath. Like most good things in life, that simple pleasure doesn’t exist in withdrawal for many of us. We struggle with GI issues and elimination problems. Since so many of us struggle with these issues, let’s take a look at them as honestly as we can without shame or embarrassment.
Constipation. I don’t even like the sound of the word, let alone what it feels like when I suffer with it. For many in withdrawal, we either don’t feel the urge to empty our bowels or we are plugged up, and nothing happens. For quite some time, I never had a normal urge to use the bathroom. I could go days without eliminating. I was so focused on the laundry list of symptoms I had, that I would forget when I last had gone to the bathroom. Eventually, I’d start to feel awful, and I’d have to give myself an enema. I also relied on glycerin suppositories. (They were far less emotionally challenging than an enema.) I hated buying the suppositories, though. I would always be embarrassed when the checker at Walgreens picked up the jar and looked at me. One time, I was at a new drug store and clearly unsure of where things were in the store. A young clerk asked me if he could help me. I stammered that I was looking for glycerine suppositories. He asked what they were, and I could barely get my voice above a whisper, “A laxative.” I could feel my cheeks glowing red. He then proceeded to shout to another clerk across the busy store for their location. The other clerk hollered, “What are they for?” and the clerk next to me hollered back, “Constipation!” I swear I wanted the floor to open up and swallow me right there!
Some of us have the opposite problem—diarrhea. Everything we eat goes right through us. It can be painful, too. The stomach cramps can bring us to our knees. We may fluctuate between constipation and diarrhea. We may also have strange colored stools: yellow, white, chalky, gray, etc. The shape may change as well: raisin like pellets, grapes, or clusters. Consistency may change as well. If we google changes in bowel habits we may scare ourselves into believing that we have a serious health issue. Even though our symptoms may seem frightening, I’ve not heard of one person actually having anything wrong other than benzo withdrawal.
Gas and bloating are other symptoms we battle in withdrawal. We call the bloating “benzo belly.” I looked pregnant at times. My stomach was so distended! I passed gas dozens of times a day. I remember worrying that I would heal from every other symptom, but not be able to go out in public because I couldn’t stop farting. I can laugh about it now, but in the thick of the fight, I was terribly worried! Of course, the benzo belly went away, and unless I’ve eaten a big bowl of beans, I’m back to normal. You will be too, in time.
Stomach pain, burning, and cramping are benzo withdrawal symptoms, too. I used to feel that there was something gnawing at my insides, the pain was so bad! Sometimes, not long after I’d eaten, I’d feel a ravenous hunger and a pain in my belly as if I hadn’t eaten in days! The insatiable hunger pangs were more than annoying. I was glad when they finally stopped.
We often have bladder issues in withdrawal. I had to have my bladder scoped repeatedly. My doctor couldn’t understand why my bladder looked so inflamed when there were no germs present. After speaking to so many others in withdrawal, I know that I was not the only one with an angry bladder.
We urinate a lot in withdrawal. Excessive urination is usually from stress or anxiety, and we sure qualify for both in benzo withdrawal. Some people have the opposite problem. They don’t feel the urge to urinate. They have to watch the clock and force themselves to go to the bathroom. I’ve not heard of this response to withdrawal very often, but the numbing of body sensations can occur. It does resolve in time, like most everything else in withdrawal.
I’ve had so many people ask me about bathroom issues lately that I thought it best to put aside my squeamishness and talk openly here. Thank you for allowing me to write about a topic most of us would prefer not to talk about and for me to not have to hide behind being polite in mixed company.
You don’t need to leave a comment; I know these are delicate matters. Just know that digestion and elimination symptoms are very common in withdrawal. They can show up during tolerance, while tapering, and once off. Once off, they can show up right away, or many months out. The good news is that eventually, everything goes back to normal.