Merry Christmas. I hope you have all enjoyed your festive breaks, spending time with family, friends, food and alcohol. My Christmas was spent back at my parents’ home playing every board game under the sun … very competitively. Scattergories led to broken glass, Monopoly led to day-long tantrums and the new family game, Pointless (based on the BBC TV gameshow) led to disappointment. FYI, it’s just a rubbish board game, don’t buy it.
Anyway, normality for me during Christmas time is a blood sugar level of about 18 because my laziness combined with over-consumption of food and alcohol means my insulin just doesn’t like working. Carb-counting * and insulin ratios ** go out the window at Christmas time. I don’t care what any doctors or nurses say, my ratios go mental when I’m out of my daily routine. Christmas is a great example of the need for either twice as much insulin, or (more likely) twice as many injections. I genuinely believe that insulin gets lazy at Christmas time too. It’s as if sitting on your arse all day drinking and eating chocolate makes your bloodsugar go up – what is the world coming to?!
Of course I know the real reason for all this. I’ve had too many glasses of wine to remember how many chocolates I’ve eaten. Or, I’ve pretended that I’ve had enough insulin for post-meal chocolates when really – deep down – I know I haven’t.
“I’ll deal with that later”. Good decision. Idiot.
It’s no surprise when I say alcohol does funny things to judgement when it comes to diabetes and pretty much everything else. We all know boozing excessively can cloud your judgement and make you do stupid things, so this post is about all those boozy decisions I’ve made whilst under the influence – and what added complications can arise when you throw diabetes into the mix.
Alcohol comes in many forms, and each one does very different things to bloodsugar levels. The main thing I always have to remember is – by the end of the night, alcohol will always bring my bloodsugar down. However, it’s not always easy to have faith in this statement when you’re downing JaegerBombs.
Once I asked, “Can I have Diet Red Bull in mine?”
Awkward silence. I realised I’d gone too far.
Asking for diet mixers while out drinking is just normal for me now. I’ve given up on Diet Red Bull though, literally nowhere sells it. I remember when my Mum shouted at a guy in Dubai who was manning a market stall in the middle of the desert:
“Where are all your diet drinks? WHAT ABOUT THE DIABETICS?!”
So embarrassing. The guy probably didn’t speak very good English and thought she was some mental tourist. It’s true though, the more remote places you go to, the chances of finding Fanta or Sprite Zero significantly diminishes – I should know, I work for the company that makes them!!
Sometimes I end up with a non-diet drink, either via a mix-up, mistake, or the bar-staff thinking it’s not a big deal to get Coke mixed up with Diet Coke. On my first trip to our local student bar during my 1st year at University, I ordered vodka and Diet Coke and was given vodka and Coke (believe me, I can tell the difference!):
“Excuse me mate, I asked for Diet Coke and I think this is Coke”
Barman (fellow student): “Oh right, you’re one of those are you”
I was confused, “One of those what?”
Barman: “One of those people that just complains about everything”
Who is this guy?! Yes, I’m one of those people that prefers to get what he asks for. He clearly is one of those people who can’t be arsed to press the right button on his mixer tap.
“I’m a diabetic, I can’t really have sugary drinks”
Barman (embarrassed), “Oh right. I’m so sorry mate, one second”.
This was such an avoidable conversation, and on reflection a very rare one for me since I turned 18. I’m not that kind of person that makes a big deal out of being diabetic, but on this occasion it felt appropriate to explain what I was getting at. In truth, I wanted to make him feel like an idiot. Since then, similar situations have occurred and I haven’t bothered to complain – maybe because I don’t want to be “ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE”.
As a rule, if I’m drinking spirit mixers I will always have a diet mixer. Beers and wine have sugar in them, so during a night out I know my bloodsugar will go up and then come down overnight when the alcohol kicks in. That’s why I always have to try and remember to eat something before I go to bed. If you’ve read my second post ‘Persistence’ you’ll know what happens if I don’t eat – those Gin and Slimlines really screwed me over!!
I stay away from all the new ciders like Bulmers, Magners, Koppaberg, and Crabbies ginger beer because they’re full of sugar and not worth the injection! Having said that, I’ll often throw in a sugary drink every now and again to make sure my bloodsugar doesn’t fall off a cliff. JaegerBombs are perfect for this. If my Mum ever found out how many VKs I used to drink at Uni she would probably have a heart-attack. As a student I was short of cash and desperate to fit in – VKs were £1, full of sugar, and everyone was drinking them. Drinking rubbish like that led me to overreact with my insulin pen. I know they’re full of sugar so I felt the urge to get my pen out and start injecting. Conversely, I am boozed up and not thinking straight, which makes an injection a doubly bad idea. More often than not I’d be injecting twice what I need, scared of getting a sugar high but forgetting that at about midnight the alcohol and insulin are going to club together and form a ‘kill the diabetic’ alliance for which I have little defence.
… And due to the alcohol, I’ve lost all my hypo warning signs except extreme sweating, which is not only embarrassing but also a sign of a very very low bloodsugar. Someone get me a VK!!
I was on a stag-do in Poland recently and while in a club a mate saw I had sweat pouring down my face. Weirdly, I thought I felt fine, but soon realised something was up. They forced a Coke down me and took a cab home with me. To this day, I owe so much to people like Chris and Andy who look out for me when I clearly am in no state to look after myself. On the taxi-ride home I got emotional, what a pansy! I felt guilty about cutting their night short because I couldn’t look after myself, and if you’ve read my other posts you’ll know that the most frustrating thing about having diabetes for me is the need to put your life in the hands of other people at certain times. I hate it. I wonder what other diabetics feel about this? Is it normal, and how do you accept it and deal with it?
To finish on a lighter note, whilst accepting a high bloodsugar during boozing is hard, there’s a level at which I know I need to intervene, and I’ve also learnt to limit injections to 2 or 3 units, whereas in any other situation I might need 5 or 6. This also reduces the chances of me losing my insulin pen – by injecting less, there’s less chance I’ll leave it on the table, on the floor, on the bar, in the toilet, in the street, in the kebab shop etc. My guess is I’ve lost over 20 insulin pens in my lifetime, all of which have been caused by alcohol-induced decisions. My trusty holiday spare pen has been utilised far too often, and once I even thought I’d lost that whilst on another stag in Latvia. Turns out a ‘mate’ had hidden it in someone’s coat pocket, after I left it out unattended at a bar. It was a valuable lesson – don’t let your insulin pen out of your sight!!
So for now… a Happy New Year to you all. Stay off those alcopops on NYE and remember to eat something before you hit the pillow!
From that emotional and persistent hummingbird. Cheers.
* Carb-Counting is the exercise of counting the amount carbohydrates in meals and adjusting insulin amounts accordingly
** Insulin Ratios can refer to either:
- The amount of carbohydrates that can be offset by 1 unit of insulin (mine is 10g), or
- The amount that one unit of insulin reduces your bloodsugar by (mine is 2.3 mmols)