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Avatar universal

Drinking and Diabetes in a just turned 21 year old

My son, who has had diabetes nearly 18 years, & has been in college for a full 3 years doesn't seem to take the drinking thing seriously.  Though he has gotten sick at least 3x to my knowledge from it, still I see him taking much liberty with alcohol.  Even when I'm out with him, such as tonight, he drank one corona and a mixed drink (long island iced tea of all things!)  I don't know what to do.  I hardly see him check, though I do see him whip out his kit to do his insulin.  He is Humilin and Lantus.  The other night at his brothers wedding, for which I cut him lots of slack, he drank so much that instead of staying at a hotel with his counsins & friends that night (for which they were supposed to be up checking him) he ended up coming home instead with no argument.  All night long I was up checking him every 2 hrs.  He went from 39 to 400, and back again.  I'm very upset with his lack of seriousness on his diabetes in general.  He keeps no rec. books, doesn't check his avg on machine, and most times doesn't check to see before he eats.  He covers the amount of carb he thinks he is eating, disregarding whether he may be low or high before doing so. I spent my life teaching him to do things right.  I must have read most books on the subject when he was diagnosed at a baby age.  Now I feel I have failed, that all my work and dedication to helping him lead a healthy adult life was useless.  What do I do before it is too late? He believes my small use of alcohol is the reason I am so "overly" concerned, which is certainly not the case.  Worried sick in Chicago. AA
19 Responses
Avatar universal
Dear anniem47 and par2323,

My heart goes out to both of you. This problem is too common with kids, teens and young adults with type 1. I am not a physician and cannot give you medical advice, but like the volunteers and people posting comments we do have alot of life experience in many different situations dealing with our own children with type 1 or from personal experience from type 1's themselves. I can only try to add to the wonderful postings already here.

I was in the same position as you are both in when my son was younger. His case was more of a matter of denial and not taking care of his diabetes. He was also dealing with depression. It did take a complication to make him realize that he is not immortal and that nothing could happen to him. This is what many teens and young adults go through. It is also a denial of dealing with any chronic disease. No one at that age wants to be considered different from their peers. Who can blame them, but as we know the dangers of one drinking incident with type 1 can have terrible results. Not to mention a refusal to take personal responsibility to manage their diabetes without us as parents constantly on top of them. Markie is correct that at some point we have to back off. As a Mom this was the hardest thing that I ever did, but I have come to believe that it is not all or nothing. The research that I have found is that up to 75% of anyone dealing with a chronic disease will experience some form of depression, especially with type 1. We were able to get our young adult son help with a wonderful doctor who he was able to talk to about his diabetes and his personal feelings about it. It made a difference to him to connect with a person other than parents, relatives and friends. In his case he was put on an anti-depressant that did help. This is not always neccesary, but in his case it was a great help. Lee07 has hit the mark on this one.

Although both of you are coping with children that are young adults, I would recommend trying to get them into therapy with a qualified therapist who specialise's in depression. Hopefully their endos can recommend someone. I know that this is easier said than done, but it is worth a try.

Par, I truly hope that you can get your daughter into a therapist who deals with type 1 and depression. They may then have resources with a diabetes educator who can help her with managing her own diabetes. It is obvious that she needs to get to have help accepting her diabetes first.

There are young adults out there that with age came wisdom. I encourage everyone not to give up hope and know that you are not alone.

anniem47 and par2323, The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation has a sister outreach program that matches you to a volunteer that have gone through the same issues. This is a one on one communication called the Online Diabetes Support Team. Go to http://www.jdrf.org/ and click on the right side of the page. Someone will be in contact with you if you like. Please keep looking for further comments.

I wish you both the very best,


Avatar universal
My daughter turns 21 next month and has been type 1 since third grade.  Although alcohol is not her problem (as far as I know), she is also extremely irresponsible with her diabetes care.  More likely, you would call it denial.  She tolerates us doing her blood tests and her injections but she will do nothing herself.  We drag her to her doctor appointments.  When we attempt to get her to show some interest in her own health care, she screams "You shouldn't have had me!  I'm going to die so just leave me alone."  We, like you, have tried everything we can think of to help her, but it just may require time.  My husband and I have never had a vacation alone since her diagnosis because we are afraid to leave her alone as she cannot take care of her testing and injections.  We have planned a vacation for after her 21st birthday and she knows that she will be left alone for a week.  We have told her we will leave her prepared syringes, but if we aren't there to insist, I don't know if she will take them.  I am scared about leaving her alone but feel we have to make some attempt to force her to take some responsibility for her health.
Avatar universal
I am going to play devils advocate here. I am sure you are doing your very best. But could be getting just a bit too protective? And provoking a negative response in the process.

The only way you will get your young adult children to take responsibility for themselves is if you stop rescuing them. They are hiding behind a veneer of imaturity. And they will continue to do so as long as you desparately try and protect them from the consequences of their poor judgement.

I have no doubt that you your protective stance is well intentioned. The irony is that it does not do the intended beneficiaries (your children) any favours. The sooner you let them stand on their own two feet, the sooner they will come to terms with their diabtes and deal with the challenges involved.


Avatar universal
   I know you are right about letting them sink or swim so to speak on their own.  All I think about is that with diabetes letting them sink or swim just one time can kill them.  That seems like a rather extreme way to teach a lesson.  Even so, we are trying to figure out a way to do just that.  Thus, the vacation.  We feel that this is something we can do that requires her to "respond" to our behavior, not just us ordering her to do something.  She will have to respond (negatively or positively) when we leave her alone for five days.  I was thinking of hiring a part time nurse to come in and do her testing and injections and check on her; my husband says that would defeat the purpose.  I just don't know how I can enjoy a vacation when I am worried sick about how she is doing.  I just found this forum and just knowing something like this exists has lifted my spirits enormously.

Bless you,

Avatar universal
It's soo tough to watch our kids steer toward self-destruction.
Alcohol binging and abuse is dangerous even without diabetes, and with it, it can be much worse.

It's not inevitable, but it's common that DMers who've been constrained by well-intentioned rules, docs, fear, parents, etc. will eventually break out of their "shackles" and attempt to experience life on their own terms.  It's a normal part of maturing to distance ourselves from our parents, to find our own voices, etc.  "Kids" with DM also understand that the most effective way to get a rise out of their parents is to manipulate them thru DM denial.  The goal, of course, if for DMers to **internalize** the rules and not continue to respond with adolescent habits.

Two folks writing in this thread give painful, common examples of how it plays out.  I'm convinced (thru my own experiences, not a medical degree of any kind) that most often, the "issue" these kids are battling is NOT diabetes, per se.  It's depression grown out of less-that-adequate skills to cope effectively with a chronic illness and I would recommend pursuing options that focus on the emotional & psychological aspects of it, rather than the physical stuff.

To the person whose 21 year old daughter will not take meds or test herself, I wonder if she is developmentally disabled or if your family has enabled her to create this unfortunate situation.  Since your vacation is not yet "here," how 'bout preparing for the vacation by NOT stepping in at all between now &  then?  By age, she is an adult. YOu can impose rules on adults living in your home.  "live by our rules or live on your own" ... It's excruciating, I know.

I've had DM since teen years and am now 50.  I know the emotions of a DM teen.  As an adult, I know the emotions & very real, terrifying risks of dealing with a teen who went too long without the right diagnosis (bipolar) and treatment.
Avatar universal
Lee07 has knocked the nail on the head here. Depression is a really  difficult problem to deal with in DM teens. It is common with young diabetics. And the hardest part is to recognise it. Our 18 year old daughter, who was diagnosed with T1 in November last year, became very depressed. But we didn't realise it until after the second suicide attempt.

Fortunately, Caroline has recovered remarkably and continues to make great progress. I now recall her asking me before the crisis if it was possible to kill someone with insulin. But at the time, Caroline appeared to be cheerful and in control of her life. Then, out of the blue, she injected herself with about 500 units of Novolog. And I only just got to her in time. She was taken to hospital and put on an IV glucose drip. And it took three days to get her blood sugar to stabilise.

In retrospect, we should have listened more carefully to what Caroline was telling us. There were warning signs that we missed. We may have been able to get her to go for counselling and avoided the crisis altogether. But, on the other hand, Caroline doesn't tolerate interference in her life. And she probably would not have responded favourably to such a suggestion anyway.

Having said all that, I still believe that the best way to empower your children to take responsibility for themselves is to take a step backwards and put them in control. Just be sensitive to what may be going on with them. And be ready to pick up the pieces if there is a problem.


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