I've been known to rave about a fellow wheelchair blogger out there, who I mentioned in some previous posts, Mark Smith. He does make some interesting observations, which I've noted in the past. That being said, his latest I must vehemently disagree with. In "Explosive Combinations," he shakes his head in disapproval at wheelchair-users who smoke, and more astonishingly at those who drink alcohol and caffeine. Sorry Mark (both for my disagreement and the pun that follows), but this time you're off the mark.
Let me start by acknowledging that smoking is bad for you. I am not a smoker, but obviously, smoking has been shown to have devastating health consequences. Even more importantly, very few people are "social smokers." You don't often meet someone who has a cigarette once a week, or month for that matter. In other words, if you are a smoker, you probably smoke a number of cigarettes per day which is what makes the habit dangerous.
On the other hand, I am a passionate coffee-drinker and a committed social drinker. No, I do not hide whiskey under my mattress and slip a swig before heading out to work or class in the morning. "It's Five-O-Clock Somewhere" isn't quite reassuring enough for me to rationalize morning drinking. I usually max out at two coffee cups per day. But I must have my coffee in the morning to get me off to the right start, and I find there is nothing better than a nice glass of wine in the evening--or for that matter, a couple of cocktails with my friends on the weekends. These things make me happy.
I do not think that drinking coffee or alcohol demonstrates, as Mark says, a "my body is already struggling, so what's one more issue matter?” attitude. Nor do I think I am "so wrapped up in self-pity and dysfunction" that I don't care that I'm moving my own neck "closer to the buzz saw with nonsense like unbridled tobacco and alcohol consumption when [I] know darn well that it all dramatically exacerbates [my] condition, literally making [me] more disabled." What?!?!? My love of coffee and wine has nothing to do with my disability. It has to do with the fact that I enjoy coffee and wine, and my life is better with these things than without.
On the other hand, I have known other young people with disabilities whose lives are so regimented that they've never experienced the pure bliss of laughing hysterically with their friends at a bar over a mediocre joke or a cheesy pickup line. They don't ever sit in the sleepy morning with a steamy cup of bitter-smooth roasted coffee, feeling the warmth energize their bodies and minds from the inside out. I guess my question is, unless there is some other unique health risk that these things pose to a person, why not enjoy a little vice once in awhile? Studies have shown that in moderation, coffee can be good for the digestive system and has no measurable health risks. Similarly, the health effects of red wine have been studied for years, and while the conclusions vary, it seems that there may be at least some benefit to moderate drinking.
I'm not trying to sound like a drug pusher here, and as I said, if you simply don't drink alcohol or coffee, I respect that. But please respect my choice to partake in my morning and evening beverages. In my opinion, my french fry vice is much more dangerous than my drink choices. The most dangerous activity that we wheelchair-users--myself heartily included--partake in is probably overeating and inactivity. I feel one million times more guilty and abusive of my body when I eat fatty foods and don't exercise than when I drink coffee or wine.
With that, I hereby proclaim that I will continue to drink alcohol and coffee, and I will not feel guilty for doing so. It's not my fault these vices feel so good.