This is the inaugural post for Drinking for Diabetics, and I’ve decided I’m going to use it to share with you the reason this blog came to be.
Truly, there’s probably more than one reason — including the fact that I like writing Onion-style commentary about everything and needed an outlet for my snark. But this particular post is a story about the bedrock of D4D. It’s a story about a game.
Don’t tell anyone, but I’ve only been a diabetic for 3 years. Compared to many of my colleagues who’ve been battling highs and lows since they could walk, that barely makes me legitimate. I haven’t been in DKA or had to crawl into a store foaming at the mouth asking for a Coke, and I haven’t had to use my Glucagon yet (and God willing, never will). I still care about the scars on my stomach from injections or equipment, and I still sometimes forget I have a disease at all. Cross my newbie status with my winning Type A personality and my intrinsic hatred for the health insurance industry, and you’ve got basically a pharma-hating, needle-waving OCD lunatic.
But having this personality also means I care very much about my health, and I have been very proactive in learning everything I can about my disease and how to ensure I live the longest life possible under the circumstances. I pay careful attention to my actions and how they affect my blood sugar, and I have found I enjoy experimenting with different food and drink and exercise to see how it affects me.
Once I got over being terrified I was going to accidentally kill myself by consuming a bagel, this experimentation actually became fun. And this fun included reintroducing my love for trying new food, and my love for excellent cocktails, back into my life. And, let’s be honest – sometimes a girl just wants a fucking Sonic Blast. So my focus shifted from a determination to stay alive to a determination to figure out, to the last unit, how to consume that Sonic Blast (or, cough, french fries) without seeing a significant spike in my blood sugar.
As you can imagine, eating or drinking out will at times involve our friends behind the bar and in the restaurant industry, who have had a variety of reactions to my varied requests for certain things. Sometimes I just had to ask for something to be low-sugar and things went great; other times I had to play the diabetes card because someone was being a jerk. Some of them were awesome and some were not – and some were terrified. And, because I’ve got a little bit of asshole in me and one facet of my career involves education, these engagements have become a game for me. I call this game something like “what the fuck happens when the diabetic orders a drink?”
Here’s an example of the game. It’s kind of like a create your own adventure, actually, now that I think about it.
- Enter bar/restaurant, peruse cocktail menu (I don’t drink beer and have been off wine lately) for potential drinks that aren’t 90% lemonade or high-fructose soda product. Either (a) identify option where I can swap ingredients to something lower in sugar so I don’t end up accidentally drinking the equivalent of a Coke, or (b) decide to try to work with waitstaff & bartender to create something my body can manage.
- Let’s pretend I chose option b, work with the bartender. If the waitstaff has time and the bartender looks friendly and like they can handle drinks with more than 2 ingredients, challenge them to create something low-sugar for me that is great. This request has had wildly varied outcomes, depending on both bartender and wait staff. Occasionally, (1) I get a great drink that makes the waitstaff proud and my friends jealous, and the bar/restaurant gets added to my mental map of places to return… but more often than not, however, one of two things happens: (2) I’m informed, condescendingly, that didn’t I know liquor has sugar in it and my best bet if I want something low in sugar (sniffing haughtily) is to just get a soda water and vodka (YUM! glad I came all the way to this fancy restaurant to drink nail polish for $12!); OR (3) I actually get someone so stubborn they are like YOU DRINK WHAT WE SERVE YOU AND YOU’LL LIKE IT.
- Let’s pretend #2 has occurred (I receive a condescending response). Here’s where in my opinion the game gets fun. I don’t tend to play my diabetic card unless someone is being an asshole (or it gets me a discount somewhere), and attempting to condescendingly serve me nail polish definitely suffices as asshole-like behavior. So, then I (just as condescendingly) tell them I’m a diabetic and I can’t drink sugar because that’s very bad for me (and if they at all seem interested, I’ll explain why). All of a sudden, I become a VIP! Ideas come pouring forth, whatever you’d like ma’am, how can we help? Commence excellent drink and excellent service! Except for that one time, when a restaurant in Denver tried to refuse to serve me an alcoholic beverage at all because they were afraid I’d become deathly ill or die and sue them (my explanation of blood sugar must have gone awry in that case)…but that’s not usually the norm.
- Now that I’m a VIP – enjoy my tasty beverage and newly excellent wait service!
Not so surprisingly, by the way, drinks that have a lower processed sugar content are still excellent (and might give you less of a hangover). And my wonderful friends who have suffered through my experiments/gleeful discoveries/trials and tribulations with restaurants and bars have realized the inherent value of drinking with a diabetic, and encouraged me to share my findings more broadly. Because, WHO KNEW?!! (They sure as hell don’t teach this stuff in “How to be a Type 1 Diabetic 101”)
And so, Drinking With Diabetics was born. Cheers and see you at the (Stevia) bar.