I’ve had T1D for over 20 years (!!), but ever since my 21st birthday it’s made some of my decisions difficult. College is the time for fun, independence, and drinking…once you hit the appropriate age. Unfortunately for us T1Ders, drinking poses a major problem. Many times alcohol will shoot your blood sugar higher than a kite soaring in the great blue sky—but then it throws it down lower than the Earth’s core. It’s hard to stay balanced in these situations, especially if you indulge on sugary drinks that negate the lows.
Sure you want to keep up with the crowd but at the end of that day what’s more important, being cool or being healthy? I choose the latter. Not to say you can’t have a drink in hand; you just have to be much more careful. Liquors end with very low blood sugars, beers hover high then drop down low, and wine packs a ton of sugar even with a glass or two (think grape soda). So what do you do?
Every March I face this issue full blast thanks to St. Paddy’s Day. Green jello shots, beer, and sugar-filled drinks are the norm. It’s hard to say no, but there are ways to navigate. First, take your blood sugar on the hour every hour. It keeps you in check with where you’re at and if you need adjustments. Second, for every drink you have, chase it with eight ounces of water. You can even get it in a red cup so people won’t question you if you feel insecure. Lastly, make sure to be mindful with your selections. Diet soda mixers are a good idea if they’re available, and pounding drinks is never a good plan no matter if you have diabetes or not.
Although you might gravitate to the pina coladas or mojitos of the bar scene, you can have them but limit it to one per night. After that, stick with options that don’t pack as much sugar. The same applies to a buddy trip to Vegas. You can have fun like everyone else, but just keep these tips in mind.
The most important thing is to not be afraid to say no. If your blood sugars are off the charts, take a rest. It’s not worth feeling miserable all night or even the next day. People respect a person who is firm in their decisions. If they don’t accept your answer, perhaps you should reconsider what kind of relationship you have with this buddy.
Remember you’re in control of every situation. Diabetes is unforgiving—it doesn’t care if you’re cool or not. It just haunts you post decision. Stay smart, have fun, and don’t let diabetes (or your friends) unhinge your blood sugar balance.