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Alcoholism and My Bathroom Nightmare
The consequences of addiction weren't always life-ruining, but they were exhausting nonetheless.
When I think back to my years as a heavy drinker, I tend to focus my attention on the biggest impacts that alcoholism had on my life. For example, my drinking led to increased isolation, worsened depression, and struggling finances. It’s no exaggeration to say that alcohol was slowly tearing my life apart.
However, as important as it is to remember these truly devastating consequences, I don’t want to forget that drinking led to many smaller problems in my life too. My alcoholism caused constant headaches—both literal and metaphorical—which, although not life-ruining, were nonetheless exhausting.
Of these small, alcohol-induced problems, the one that drove me craziest is probably something you wouldn’t expect: It was the nearly constant need to pee.
I know that to some readers, this might sound like a joke. What could be more trivial than needing to run to the bathroom? But, the honest truth is that my drinking habit made me need to pee all the time, and it was incredibly disruptive to my life.
When I was in my early twenties, my alcoholism was already in full swing, but for the most part, it wasn’t affecting my life quite as badly as it eventually would. Although my drinking would eventually turn me into an isolated loner, near the beginning of my habit, I still had a fun, active social life.
Even back then, though, I was already seeing the effects of my heavy drinking when it came to my bladder. I’d go to parties and spend half the night running back and forth to the bathroom. I’d even have to carefully plan when I left so that I could make it back to my apartment without feeling like my bladder was going to burst.
I remember always looking at the clock, calculating how much I had already drank, how much time I had left at the party, and how long the ride home would be, all to decide whether I could squeeze in another beer or two or not.
Sometimes, I even ended up crashing on friends’ couches, not because I was too drunk to ride the train home, but because I had to use the bathroom too badly to risk the long trip. Other times, I’d get on the train, then realize I wasn’t going to make it, and get off at a random stop desperately looking for an open store where I could pee.
I had certain train stops and restaurants memorized as the best place to use the bathroom. (If you’ve ever been to the Belmont stop in Chicago, you’ve certainly walked by a few bars that I used to stop in just to pee.) I often wondered whether they recognized me as the guy who always ducked in at midnight.
It’s worth emphasizing again that this wasn’t the worst consequence of my alcoholism. I get that peeing all the time wasn’t the end of the world, and I’m not trying to turn it into more than it was. However, I can honestly say that it was a huge headache and also surprisingly embarrassing.
I think that the embarrassment was in part an extension of my embarrassment over my drinking habit in general. I was ashamed of how much I was drinking and went to great lengths over the years to keep it a secret. By constantly running to the bathroom, I felt like I was giving away the fact that I was a drunk.
Even though it feels like a relatively minor consequence of my alcoholism—especially compared to the more serious effects, like depression and loneliness—I still remember spending a ton of time and energy worrying about it.
My alcohol-induced bathroom problems had a more serious consequence as well: They interrupted my sleep every single night. I literally never slept through an entire night without waking up and running to the bathroom to pee. Normally, I did this several times a night.
This wasn’t the only way that alcohol interfered with my sleep. I often stayed up way too late at night trying to finish off the beer that I had bought for the night. I also rarely fell into a deep sleep because I always went to sleep drunk. However, out of all of these problems, constantly waking up to go to the bathroom was the worst.
I’d estimate that on average I woke up every two hours or so. That’s three or four times every night.
A single night with this many interruptions probably wouldn’t be a big deal. I’m not sure if I’d even notice the effect. But, when I woke up three or four times every night for years at a time, the effect added up.
Now that I’m sober, it feels crazy that I went practically a decade without a full night’s sleep. At the time, though, it just felt like an inevitable part of my life. It left me absolutely exhausted, but I learned to live with it because I was prioritizing my drinking habit over everything else.
Even after getting sober, I’ve unfortunately continued to struggle on and off with insomnia. The good news, though, is that once I’m asleep, I’m now normally able to stay asleep throughout the night. It truly makes a world of difference to be well-rested throughout the day.
Sobriety Brought Relief
Sobriety changed my life in more ways than I could ever list. Although I normally focus on the big picture changes, like getting my health in order or improving my mood, sometimes it’s the little changes that I appreciate most.
I didn’t realize how many ways alcohol was negatively affecting me when I was still drinking it. Since getting sober, it has felt like I’m continually discovering new ways that alcoholism damaged my life (and that sobriety has improved it.)
The way that my drinking habit affected my bladder was no joke. It disrupted my schedule, embarrassed me, and interrupted my sleep every single night. Getting sober brought massive relief.
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