Diabetes And Addiction Are A Lot Alike

June 1, 2010 — 15 Comments

I’m going to catch some shit about this article…I can already tell. There are going to be people who are suffering from Diabetes reading this, thinking that I am insulting them by comparing addiction to diabetes. But hear me out.

My husband and I run the BattleDiabetes website. The reason we choose to run a site dealing with this subject matter is because my husband has Type 2 Diabetes. It is also for that reason that I have been witness to some of the similarities between diabetes and addiction.

Deny, Deny, Deny
I have seen it written in many places that diabetes has the highest denial rate of any disease in America. The reason for this denial is the fact that most times the person with diabetes is not feeling all that sick when they are diagnosed. If they don’t jump into action when it comes to taking care of themselves they aren’t really going to feel the negative effects any time soon. The effects are mainly to their long term health.

Well we all know that denial is a huge part of addiction. How many times have you heard stories of an addict or alcoholic with severe health problems as a result of their using? I’m sure that these problems were seen earlier on and the patient was warned about continuing their using and what negative effects it would have on their body. Denial makes up a huge part of the addiction disease.

So what let’s a diabetes patient break through the denial? The same kind of thing that brings an addict to face the realities of their lives…rock bottom. Now I am in no way saying that these rock bottoms are in anyway alike. Usually with addiction the person has lost a lot of things in their lives and finally it clicks.

A diabetic doesn’t necessarily have to have lost things, per say, but they still have that shocking moment that usually drives the severity of their disease home. For my husband it was the fact that a doctor sat him down and explained to him that if he did not take care of himself the way that was necessary to deal with his diabetes he would die. And he wouldn’t just die in his sleep. He would slowly die. Starting at the toes and working it’s way up to his organs, diabetes would slowly kill him.

It Works If You Work It
As addicts we know that you need to constantly stay on top of your disease. When I started out on my road to recovery I felt the need to live a very, very structured life. I needed to go to meetings, I needed to see my therapist once a week. I needed to get back in the habit of eating a nutritious diet. I needed to relearn how to fall asleep at night without the use of narcotics. It was so difficult to get through each and every twenty-four hours without using that I felt that every minute of every day I was struggling to stay clean.

When diagnosed with diabetes most people have got to change just about everything about the way they live. They definitely need to think about every piece of food that they are putting in their mouth. They need to make it mandatory for themselves to increase their activity level. Newly diagnosed diabetes patients usually have some sort of medication that they need to take daily, without fail. They need to check their blood sugar around 5 times per day.

Basically diabetics and addicts have to work day in and day out against becoming complacent. Complacency in either one of these diseases spells death. Death is usually not the instant result to complacency but it is inevitable in both cases. Diabetes patients and addicts need to work on staying in the moment and putting their disease as the top priority in their life each and every day.

And Then There Is The Relapse
I know, when you think relapse you don’t really think diabetes. I can tell you from experience with my husband that diabetics relapse. Their relapse doesn’t consist of using a mind altering substance but it involves them not working their program. The complacency has kicked in. With my husband it would start out with checking his blood levels. He would say “I’ve checked my levels everyday for the past week and everyday they are good…why keep checking?”.

It is little slips like that in the routine that eventually lead to stumbles. Diabetics can go from not checking their levels to not scrutinizing everything they eat to not exercising. How does it happen? Just like it does with addicts. Everything is going good. You let your guard down, you slip back into addictive thinking…you relapse.

So although I know that there are diabetic patients out there that would be insulted by me comparing their disease to the disease of addiction, I think they have very similar.

15 responses to Diabetes And Addiction Are A Lot Alike

  1. I have often heard the analogy made by those in support of MMT (methadone maintenance treament) that it should be considered in the same light as insulin for a diabetic. While a supporter of MMT, I don’t really agree with this analogy because I believe that the endgoal of MMT should be that the recovering addict make the choice to wean off and quit. Diabetics may never have this choice.

    But the recovery lifestyle seems to be a spot on analogy. I hope that you get some responders from the diabetic side of the aisle, I am curious to what they have to say on the toipic also.

    • Happy and Healthy Diabetic January 15, 2010 at 7:07 pm

      I have type 1 diabetes (insulin dependant) for 35 years. I realize that addiction is a life time management process and so is the care and management of diabetes-weither it is type 1 or type 2. Although, it is important to remember that ALL people-no matter their age, size, race, religion or disability MUST eat healthy and lead an active lifestyle – not just diabetics or addicts (of any kind). EVERYONE must be proactive in their daily physical and mental health.
      I define health as sustaining healthy functional balance within all your body and mind functions. All types of conditions may bring psychological impairments, physical/chemical impairments or anyother type of impairment to anyone.
      Any condition or impairment is all in the matter of regulating the control where it is needed and putting the actions forward that are needed to help maintain healthy conditions for anyone’s condition-regardless of the nature of the condition.
      Diabetics need to be in control of their glucose measures, diet, physical activity and medication levels such as addicts need to be in control of their diet, activity and/or medication levels. Both conditions require daily planning.
      It is important to be REAL & AWARE of any type of condition – as there is no room for ignorance, voidance or delays while attempting to manage and/or regulate any type of condition – no matter what the present condition is.
      I believe diabetes and addiction, in respect to the type of conditions are not equal to one-another. Diabetes is a endocrine/metabolic / autoimmune disorder that may be genetic, or influenced by environmental factors and poor diet. However, addiction is a chronic neurobiologic disorder that has genetic, psychosocial, and environmental dimensions. Although, both treatments -either medical or theraputic or both may be different in comparison.
      Likewise, I do agree that the priority in the management and regulation of each condition (regardless of the kind of treatment) is similar in the reality of being proactive-daily- in their type of treatment regimines. Because the end result of poor control, management, and regulation to both diabetes and addictive conditions is DEATH.
      another similarity is both diabetes and addictive conditions will take control over a persons well being and distroy the person -ONLY IF THE PERSON DOES NOT TAKE THE CONTROL AWAY FROM THE DEBILITATING AND DEATHLY CONDITIONS OF EACH DISEASE.
      Please, IF ANYONE IS STRUGGLING WITH EITHER OF THESE CONDITIONS PLEASE get the support and knowledge you need to help you control any of these two conditions. I know it is hard and sometimes impossible to control these conditions alone.

      • Another similarity with both addiction and diabetes is that insulin is in fact very addictive. When you begin taking insulin it controls your Blood sugars levels, but a side effect of insulin is it makes you hungry, so you eat more, and consequently need more insulin to maintain healthy blood sugar range. Also over time your body can become insulin resistant, especially if you gain weight and this also means you need to take more insulin. So the cycle goes on. So there are some similarities. However, I do agree with the previous comment that their underlying causes come from different origins!! So I would be cautious in stating they are a lot alike. Interesting discussion though.

  2. Your post about diabetes and addiction interested me on a variety of levels. My memoir, JUNK SICK: CONFESSIONS OF AN UNCONTROLLED DIABETIC, http://bit.ly/V5RBO is about such a marriage. I’ve been an insulin dependent diabetic going on 53 years and had been an addict for 45 of those years. As you can see, I don’t “give-up” easily. It’s been a wonderful run–still is. We can argue all day about all manner of things, but after a certain point it all becomes bullshit or grist for the mill. A writer, by the name of Richard Powers, wrote, “The life we lead is our only maybe. The tale we tell is the must we make by living it.” I’ve told a portion of mine.

  3. diabetes can really crap your body, i now resort to sugar free foods-.’

  4. When you stumble onto a post with a lot of helpful tips it is a pleasure to be able to congratulate the author. I have learnt some interesting details from your postings. Keep writing. Regards

  5. Great topic and connection. The aspect that I agree with the most, is that the brain “rush” of endorphins one gets from indulging in ANY addictive behavior or consumption mimics that of a sugar “rush”. The spike and crash are almost identical between the way sugar affects our brain chemistry just as drugs, alcohol, or even gambling, sex,and other activities that generate natural spikes in our brains. It’s the brain that is affected, and inevitably altered through prolonged exposure to spikes and crashes. A 12-Step program specifically for Diabetes (especially Type 2ers) might be exactly what is needed? It exists…..Overeaters Anonymous. if branded Diabetes Recovery…it might take away the stigma and more would come on board? Keep writing…I’ll keep reading.

  6. I am so happy that I stumbled on this, I am not typically much of a blogger. I feel I can speak here with a little more authority than the average person. I was diagnosed in December 1975 with Type 1 diabetes, have been living with it for almost 40 years. I have also been an alcoholic most of my life, maybe 38 years. I am presently “clean” following two stays at a month long rehab center, an IOP treatment center, hospitalized detox, emergency room visits… you get the picture. I’ve been around the world of recovery :). Only when I looked for something deeper in Alcoholics Anonymous was I able to not only find sobriety, but serenity as well. So, as a person with vast, first hand experience in both of these afflictions, I can tell you…. THEY ARE ALMOST IDENTICLE! It’s all about acceptance, plain and simple. It is irrelevant what caused the afflictions. Acceptance brings about the ability to deal with the necessary daily regime required for both diabetes and recovery. I am grateful that at 54, after roughly 40 years of both diseases, I can say I am in great health. I am at the gym daily, still play ice hockey, hike and always remain active. For that, I continually try to give back to both the diabetic and addiction communities. Thanks!

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