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Introducing the Disabilitini: For the Highs and Lows of Disability Living

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I was going to write about how hard this past week has been. Maybe something sentimental on how being a mother is an ever-changing circle of highs and lows spinning you into infinity. I was going to talk about raising a child with a disability. Maybe something about how our milestones look different and sometimes that hurts, even in the celebrating. I started to type out a list of woes and complaints, but it just ended up sounding whiny and gross and kind of boring, so… I decided to write about something else.

I want to talk about drinking.


Spirits. Liquor. Hooch.


Specifically, the kind you drink when life with a disability has got you down.

Now, I’m all for disability pride. I like to think of myself as a bit of an advocate, not just for my son but for the rights of people with disabilities in general. I want to end the stigma. I want to change the conversation. I want to bridge the gap between them and us.

But also, I want a mother flipping cocktail.

Sometimes it’s hard to be different. There’s a reason people use words like “fight” and “overcome” and “hurdle” when talking about physical health and accessibility and cultural stigma. There are things about life with a disability that aren’t fun and aren’t fair. And, in case you’re tempted to say, “Yes, yes, but life isn’t fair, so…” let me stop you right there and say — you’re absolutely right. But when you or your child or your spouse has a disability, those unfair and frustrating parts of life are not dealt out willy-nilly by the hands of fate. We can’t cross our fingers and hope they don’t happen to us. No — they are already built in to our lives. Usually, I’m cool with that. But sometimes it makes me want to tell disability to eat my shorts.

Enter, the disabilitini.

woman holding 'disabilitini' cocktail

What’s a disabilitini, you ask? Well, I can tell you – because I invented it.

Disabilitini/Dis-a-bil-i-ti-ni/noun: A beverage to imbibe when disability living has got you down – or up.


  • Who is allowed to consume disabilitinis? Technically, anyone affected by disability can enjoy a disabilitini (even underage drinkers can partake of a virgin disabilitini if they’re so inclined), but for our purposes today, I’m focusing on adults with disabilities and parents of children with disabilities.
  • But wait — are you saying we should drink alcohol to excess? Certainly not. I resent the implication. Also, how dare you. Personally, I like to take my drinks strong and slow. A single disabilitini after supper is a gracious plenty. You could also have two. You could also have three.
  • How exactly do you make a disabilitini? Referencing the definition above, you’ll notice that booze is not explicitly mentioned. Technically, anything can be a disabilitini if you drink it in the right circumstances. Iced coffee after a victorious IEP meeting? Disabilitini! Crying into a raspberry smoothie after learning you or your child needs yet another surgery? Disabilitini! Don’t worry, teetotalers. I’ve got you covered.

And now, a few examples of my favorite disabilitini pairings…

The Gimlet (2 ounces gin // 3/4 ounces Rose’s lime)
Pairs well with: IEP meetings, phone calls to the insurance company, an inaccessible workplace, or doctors with terrible bedside manner.

woman holding cocktail

The Kentucky Mule (1.5 ounces bourbon // ginger beer // splash of Rose’s lime // mint leaves)
Pairs well with: Diagnosis day, hitting that PT/OT/Speech milestone, finding shoes that fit over orthotics, or when your insurance company finally approves the sweet piece of medical equipment you’ve been needing.

woman holding cocktail

The Wine (just plain old wine)
Pairs well with: The potty. I mean literally ANYTHING having to do with the potty. Potty stuff is the worst.

woman holding cocktail

You may think disabilitinis are all about numbing pain or soothing sorrow, but that’s actually not the case. Disabilitinis aren’t about grief — they’re about celebration. They serve as a small reminder that this life isn’t so bad. There’s still sweetness, even in hard times. We are capable and we are deserving of good things. There is always a reason — however small — to say, “Cheers.

Like I said before, last week was tough around these parts. Disabilitinis (and friends and family and fellow spina bifida moms) helped me remember we have a lot to celebrate.

Drink up, my fellow travelers.


woman drinking cocktail with words 'don't mind if I do'

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Originally published: July 13, 2015
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