Real Life. Mike Hoskins On Scare Tactics.
Mike Hoskins was born in February 1979 in the suburbs of Detroit, Michigan. In spring 1984 at age 5, Mike was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes – something familiar to his family as his mom had been diagnosed at the same young age back in 1958. Mike has been a writer for most of his life, evolving from creative writing into journalism and working professionally for weekly, daily, and specialty newspapers. On his own time, Mike’s also been writing about his diabetes for years in personal journals and various online forums, including his personal blog The Diabetic’s Corner Booth. In May 2012, he weaved his journalism and D-advocacy together by joining DiabetesMine.com as the full-time managing editor. He’s lived in the Indianapolis area since 2004 with his wife Suzi, whom he met in college.
“You can’t drink alcohol because of your diabetes.”
Pffft. Whoever spouted that false claim was not only misinformed, but they obviously never knew me in my younger days.
Actually, I do know who said that: my pediatric endocrinologist. That’s what he told me, and I remember hearing that many times during my teen years even long before I got into college and drinking became more common.
I strongly remember my endo and diabetes team telling me horror stories about how I wasn’t allowed to drink, because if I did it would somehow lead to me not being in control of my diabetes management. Yes, it was a scare tactic used to “keep me in line,” but I wonder now that maybe it had the opposite effect and had some profound impact on shaping my views about drinking with diabetes when I was younger.
By the time I started getting curious about drinking, I was a decade into my D-Life and those healthcare messages seemed to limit me, tell me what I couldn’t do. That probably led me to look at the whole drinking with diabetes world with a jaded and rebellious eye, along with how I felt about my diabetes overall in those days.
Basically, diabetes management wasn’t a priority for me back then. I’d rebelled on D-management and was just skating by. There were times when I hadn’t checked my blood sugar in weeks, and we won’t even get into how high my A1Cs went back then. So when that’s how you’re taking care of your diabetes, the whole experience of drinking with diabetes takes a different tone than it might for those who are more responsible in their management.
Now that I’m a more “responsible” 30-something (ha!), I’d advise any PWD who wants to engage in some social drinking, to mind your diabetes effectively. But don’t ever think you can’t drink or be afraid to do so. Because that’s just not right.
In high school, I wasn’t into drinking. Mainly, because I was underage and it was against the law. But I was an athlete and it just didn’t appeal to me very much. I do recall my first “real drinking experience” that happened at a party in my final days of high school, and I remember being all dazed and confused while walking about a mile to my parents’ home. Yes, I was a little out of it, but I was also a little relieved. Because it was like I was having a low blood sugar, to a degree, but I felt very good and it had been my choice to experience this.
My choice. Not my endo’s. Not my parents. Not my diabetes deciding for me. Mine. That was huge.
That was the only time I drank anything in large amounts during high school, but in college I drank quite a bit. Not because I had to, but because I enjoyed being socially able to do something and be in control of that decision-making. Unlike going Low unexpectedly and being afraid of what “could happen,” I made the conscious choice to drink among friends and at parties. I was young, and it was fun.
Hell, I thought I was invincible back then – as most teens and young adults do.
But as I wasn’t managing my diabetes well at the time, I often didn’t have to worry about going Low. My sugars ran high most of the time, as was evidenced by my A1Cs. It’s not like I really even needed anyone to look out for me, since I wasn’t at risk of going Low.
Believe me, I knew what I should be doing. Testing before, during, right after my drinking. I knew light beer didn’t impact my blood sugars much, and that liquour straight up would likely drop my BGs hours later when I was asleep. And I also avoided sugary mixed drinks and mixers, because I knew the impacts that would have.
There was usually at least one person around me who knew about my diabetes, but again my D wasn’t a big “thing” back then and rarely came up in conversation. Diabetes wasn’t going to stop me from living my life, and it didn’t (I know now the folly in thinking that way, but this was 15+ years ago…)
I knew the risks, I just didn’t care. Diabetes wasn’t going to stop me from having fun and enjoying a drink (or several). And yes, I was very lucky.
Eventually, that behavior faded and I focused on school and life and the fact that I might not be as doomed because of diabetes that I had believed. So, I shaped up. In large part, I thank my girlfriend-turned-wife, who I met just about the time I turned 21 and who was with me in some of those college drinking days. She made me see that there was a future worth living for, that D-management had to become a priority, and that in those times of drinking I had to keep on top of my diabetes.
That led me to just not want to drink in those same ways as I had. But when I did drink more than usual, I would test religiously to make sure I was OK and be aware that I had enough carbs to balance everything out. And the CGM certainly helps on that front, being able to keep a close eye on what impact drinking has on my blood sugars.
During the past decade or so, I have found myself wondering: “Am I buzzed, or is this a Low?” On those subsequent mornings: “Man, this hangover feels like my blood sugar is in the 400s…” That’s not a fun feeling, and that’s why it’s not something I enjoy anymore.
I still enjoy sharing drinks with friends, and I enjoy wine and beer at home. When I drink heavy beer or something sweet (even though I can’t stand the sugary taste), I count the carbs and dose accordingly. And when I have whiskey bourbon with my soda, it’s Diet Coke or whatever diet flavor is available. If that’s not available, I choose another drink. Being aware of the D-impact from drinking is important, and it helps me feel confident about making the decision to drink in the first place.
When diabetes comes up in conversation during those drinking occasions, I see people sometimes shooting me a quizzical look or vocalizing their concern of whether I should be drinking at all.
It doesn’t get to me like it once did, when I was younger. Because I know that I can, and that’s what I tell them. But diabetes is along for the ride no matter what I do, and so I have to be mindful of it at all times.
As long as I do what I’m supposed to in managing my diabetes, drinking is no problem. I’m very happy that we’re at a point in the 21st century now where young PWDs who are experiencing these drinking scenarios for the first time have “real-person” resources… like Drinking With Diabetes and our friend “Uncle” Wil Dubois – along with many others who tell it like it is.
Looking back, I wonder how I would have viewed drinking if my healthcare team had been more realistic and explained that to me or if I’d had these kinds of resources available at the time.