One Part Diabetes, Two Parts Planning: The Blend of Drinking and Diabetes

The blend of drinking and diabetes.

Kerri Morrone1By

May 2006 — Going out to a bar with your friends takes a certain amount of thought and planning on its own. Who's coming, who is going to drive, which bar are we heading out to? Adding diabetes to this mix is not impossible, but requires extra special planning.

Like many people – diabetic or not – I enjoy going out dancing with my friends. I like having dinner with my boyfriend and sipping a Martini. I like laughing and being ridiculous with my buddies. Why should I sit home and watch Perfect Strangers reruns when I can enjoy the life experiences available to my 27-year-old self just as much as anyone else?

How does a diabetic prepare for a night out, you ask?

After careful selection of a shirt and finding the right pair of shoes, I clip my pump to my jeans and grab a purse. I disassemble my testing kit so that only the meter, a bottle of strips, and the lancet device are tucked into my purse. A tube of cake gel weasels its way in, as does a sleeve of Life Savers candy. (I've never met a candy more appropriately named). My cell phone, with speed dials to my parents, my doctors, and my boyfriend, also joins the fray. I test my bloodsugar before leaving the house and if I'm within a manageable range – for me, anything over 90 (5.0 mmol/l) and under 200 mg/dl (11.11 mmol/l) – I consider my body capable of handling a few drinks.

Though I'm perfectly content with hanging out at the bar with my friends and downing diet sodas, there are times when I want to have a few drinks. And, for the most part, diabetes doesn't affect that decision.

You wouldn't know that I'm diabetic by looking at me. I hardly have a tell, save for the little black clip peeking out from the pocket of my jeans, attached to my Paradigm insulin pump. And while their purses hold lip gloss and cell phones, mine has the added baggage of my blood glucose meter and other assorted diabetes supplies.

When you do decide to have a few drinks, which ones do you choose?

I've done some careful analysis of the drinking process. Sugary drinks don't work for me. I don't indulge in pina coladas, strawberry daiquiris, or dessert wines. I don't have the Irish coffees (though I bet they are delicious). I stick to two drinks: a glass of Pinot Grigio or my friend, the Madras. I have the Madras down to a science. I've tested the hell out of this one. When the glass of vodka, cranberry juice, and orange juice hits my hand, I know exactly how much insulin it takes me to cover the juice. And I know, almost with precision, how long it will be before the alcohol causes my bloodsugar to drop. From when I start to drink straight through the close of the night, I am sure to test at least every hour, just to monitor the bloodsugar progression.

It's not to say that this system hasn't experienced glitches. I've had low blood sugars at the bar. I've spiked up to 265 mg/dl (14.72 mmol/l)because I've miscalculated a bolus. I don't feel any shame or regret for these instances. Things happen.

This is life.

And when things do happen, I have my friends. They lived with me in college and they've seen their share of literal highs and lows. Each one knows how to treat a low bloodsugar. They all know who to call in case of an emergency. Three of them know how to use my testing meter. Two are registered nurses. They all know I'm diabetic. And they all know I am responsible. I never consume so much that I am unable to test my own bloodsugar or respond to the readings. I know that I am accountable for my actions.

My mother once told me, ""I want you to come to the end of your life and not feel like you missed out on anything. Not on anything at all."

And I know that, with careful planning, I can enjoy every little bit that life has to offer.

Visit Kerri's website.

dLife's Viewpoints columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences, most often at a set point in time. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team before acting on anything you read here to find out what will work best for you.

Last Modified Date: June 14, 2013

All content on is created and reviewed in compliance with our editorial policy.

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by Brenda Bell
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