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.