My name is Karin B. and I am a recovering alcoholic. I am also a diabetic. In 2002, at the age of 42, I was diagnosed with Type 1 DM. Let me share some experience, strength, and hope with my story.
I moved to Colorado in 1991. I made the cross country move practically sight unseen. It was exciting and new to be living in a resort ski town. I made friends quickly, and was employed full time at the local hospital.
By the mid nineties, I found myself caught up in the “party scene” pretty heavily. At age 34, I was becoming more than a social drinker, and had discovered recreational drugs. The lifestyle of skiing, hiking, and teaching aerobics slowly gave way as my alcohol and drug use increased. It was not the life I wanted, and certainly not the dream I had envisioned for myself.
By 1998, I was hospitalized with a pancreatic cyst the size of a grapefruit, and bowel obstruction. At the time no one really questioned my ‘secret life’ as I was a very ‘high functioning’ alcoholic. Again in 1999, I was hospitalized, and it was then that my physician tagged the drug use and elevated liver enzymes indicating my disease. He cautioned me to stop drinking and I of course agreed. It was just 24 hours later that I had restocked by bar at home.
This went on for 3 more years until April of 2002. I rapidly lost 15 pounds, and developed the classic signs of DM with thirst, polyuria, and blurred vision. In the ER, my blood sugar was 896, and immediate insulin intervention and diabetes education ensued. When diagnosed, I was actually relieved to know I didn’t have some form of terminal cancer!
Did I stop drinking? Yes, for 2 weeks. Then, feeling better, although I was “managing” my diabetes with diet and insulin, I continued to drink. It progressed to nearly a liter of vodka a day. I was miserable. In 2006, I went to Alcoholics Anonymous, and was finally able to stop drinking altogether. I had to make more lifestyle changes despite the fact that I could somewhat manage my diabetes with just insulin. That was not the true case! Alcohol actually LOWERS the blood sugar, so I had been “falsely managing” my disease. It wasn’t until I stopped drinking that I actually began to feel and look healthy. My HgbA1C has gone from >15 to its current level of 5.9%!
I am also an avid scuba diver (24 years), and have worked to establish safe parameters so I can continue to enjoy diving 3 weeks a year. Friends see me as an example of how easy it can be to manage my diabetes….I enjoy balancing exercise and diet as well as my insulin. I have pride and my self respect back. The result is a new “me” who can say I am truly embracing life to its fullest on a day to day basis.
Having diabetes requires some work, but it is the kind of work that pays off with the greatest reward: my life. I no longer say, “I can’t”…I now say “it can be done.”
The hope I want to offer diabetics everywhere, is that I feel I was given a second chance. I was being kept on this planet for a reason. If nothing else, it may be to provide an example of how by asking for help (with AA) and following healthy guidelines (from my CDE and physicians), I have been able to live a full and vibrant life with minimal impact of a chronic illness. Diabetes wasn’t a “life” sentence for me, it was a “life wake-up call.”
Thank you for allowing me to share my story of the miracle of second chances.
By Karin B, Carbondale, CO
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