When I was a senior in high school I wanted to get a feel for college, so I spent the night in a freshman dorm at the school I’d be attending that fall. That night was the first time I was ever offered a drink. I was the only one in the room not to take a cup, and it wasn’t because we were all underage; I had friends who drank and I was fine with it.
“Nah, I don’t drink. I have diabetes,” I said.
“I’ve got a buddy who’s the same way,” one of the other guys said. “But he smokes too much weed and gets the munchies, so he messes up his sugars anyway.”
When I finally started college, I would rarely turn down such a friendly drink again.
I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes when I was twelve and went on an insulin pump when I started high school. Though it was attached to me like a literal ball and chain, the pump made everything easier. Later I was able to upgrade to a new wireless pump, which has only further simplified taking my insulin. Instead of needing multiple injections a day, the pump simply enters the amount of carbohydrates in my food by pushing a button. After college, my doctors finally convinced me to use a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) to further help monitor my sugars, and that’s the one that’s helped — especially in terms of being a more responsible drinker.
But a responsible drinker with diabetes? Well, that takes some time. Eventually, I threw caution to the wind and split a bottle of wine with my roommate and new friends — diabetes be damned. I quickly grew to love alcohol as much as the next modern college student.
By senior year, I wound up in the hospital.
Even after that it took a little while — being surrounded by the cultural drinking world kept me rather wild for awhile — but I started to pay more attention to what I was doing.
Like with the consumption of anything else, your body takes in carbs and sugars when drinking alcohol, turning them into glucose that insulin allows from the bloodstream into the body’s cells. But if you have diabetes, the body simultaneously drops your blood sugar, so taking insulin for your drinks will almost inevitably leave your sugar too low. Believe me, you don’t want to be woken up by low blood sugar — especially when you’re incredibly hungover.
Now, the CGM lets me know if the carbs in my beer will make my sugars too high, or if the alcohol is dropping it low. It allows for a lot more balance…so long as I keep an eye on it.
I’m 25 now, and I’ve had diabetes for over half my life. Even more of that time has been spent as a drinker. My love for beer is consistently the largest cause of inconsistency in my sugars, but that doesn’t mean I love it any less. Living in NYC, there are too many great bars to not go out for drinks with friends. We are all learning how to drink responsibly — some of us just have to be a bit more responsible than others.