Alcoholism & Diabetes

The prevalence of diabetes amongst recovering alcoholics is remarkably high. It’s humbling to realize how much damage we didn’t even realize we were doing. For most of us, the amount of sugar in the alcohol we were ingesting was the furthest thing from our thoughts.

In the throes of early recovery, we don’t overly discourage folks from over eating, smoking, or making a lot of other unhealthy choices. The focus has to be on attaining and maintaining abstinence from drugs and alcohol. It’s triage – there may be a dozen things that are killing us, and we eliminate the quickest and deadliest first.

It’s pretty common to see folks gain significant amounts of weight their first year. When we deny our addiction what it wants, it will take whatever we’re willing to give it. Nicotine, caffeine, sugar and sex tend to be at the top of that list. They’re legal, they’re comforting, and they do a bit to fill the emptiness we feel. There’s just always a cost to feeding the disease.

Recovery is a lifestyle. We choose and incorporate it progressively. As we accumulate sober time, we become free to invest in ourselves further. Even as we seek a better life, it’s still tempting to skip over the basics. Nutrition and exercise are foundational to us all. For the diabetic, they are critical life choices.

But hell, if your biggest problem in life is candy bars and being a couch potato, it’s pretty easy to rationalize that shit away. We resent even the suggestion that we should have to make further changes and sacrifices. This is the shift in perspective that’s vital to our wellbeing: Investment is far greater than sacrifice. What we’d be giving up is killing us.

Just like active alcoholism, unmanaged diabetes is progressive and cruel. It creates problems with vertigo, loss of circulation, and high blood pressure. Folks often experience losses in mobility. It can cause organ swelling, neuropathy, and may lead to amputations. Just as we were able to deny the obvious problems caused by our drinking, we’re free to do the same with diabetes.

We only make big changes when we’re sufficiently sick and tired of being sick and tired. The problem is that when we love everything except the costs, we’re less open to seeing what it takes from us. Small steps toward change are still our salvation. I urge folks to meet with a nutritionist and discover what we wouldn’t mind changing, what we can add, and how being more active helps.

Take a walk. Drink more water. Eat healthier. Talk to your doctor. Support others in your program about similar struggles. Don’t let another disease steal from you.

Jim LaPierre

About Jim LaPierre

Jim LaPierre LCSW CCS is the Executive Director of Higher Ground Services in Brewer, Maine. He is a Recovery Ally, mental health therapist and addictions counselor. He specializes in facilitating recovery (whether from addiction, trauma, depression, anxiety, or past abuse) overcome obstacles, and improve their quality of life. Jim offers a limited amount of online therapy to those with very flexible schedules.