Updated: Jul 22
I've been making chocolate despite my disability for half a decade. It is extremely difficult. I struggle everyday. I wanted to share my struggle with the hope it helps, or provides insight for other disabled entrepreneurs or folks with debilitating conditions who want to start a business. Maybe if you are physical able it will benefit you too! Let me know in the comments. To make it possible I only work in 2 hour shifts. Usually just one a day and I have help. I DO NOT work 7 days a week.
Island Sharks is a black-owned AND disabled-owned business. My business partner and apprentice have been indispensable. They support my health and well-being by filling-in and jumping in when standing or sitting becomes too hard. That's every shift.
What I am working on healing is my cervical spine from number C7 to vertebrae C3. Thats my neck. Close to the base of my neck the tears in the discs are leaking and the fluid is pressing on my spinal nerves. It pains me greatly from my neck down to my finger tips. Just on the right side. Sometimes I can't move my right arm. Warning. lots more complaining to follow. Oh and, google says its incurable...
I can't move my right arm and it is basically paralyzed when pushed to work beyond 2 hours. I am right handed and a lot of chocolate work requires both hands. I have to shift to using my left hand dominantly. Even when I'm typing. I can't explain how I survive the 2 hours without taking my multiple medications. Here's is a list:
Tramadol Kratom Medical Marajuana Wellbutrin
Ice Packs There used to be more. And soon, I'll be getting facet injections in my neck.
Usually after work I can't move my arm very well the rest of the day. Luckily chocolate making is mostly running machines. The hardest parts are lifting huge sacs of beans, washing the dishes and sitting waiting for beans to roast. Also waiting for bars to temper can be the straw that breaks the "Shark's" back. Why is sitting hard do you ask? I have broken my lower back as well. There are herniated vertebral discs from the top of my hips to the 3 above it. Closest to my hips the situation is exactly like my neck -- the leaking fluid from the torn discs is pressing on my spinal nerve. When I sit, even on the job, it puts too much pressure on on wound I cannot bare it for many minutes. It hasn't healed in 10 years. While lying down, my right leg goes numb. The word for this condition in my neck and lower back is stenosis. It is chronic and severe. I usually only sit when we are roasting beans since there is no hurry. We usually multi-task in the kitchen but always seem to just relax during roasting. You can't rush the roaster anyway. I do stand the rest of the time. All the work is on a table at a convenient height.
Computer work is easy because I can sit leaning back but standing work is the worst. I have had fallen arches for decades and plantar fasciitis at least for one. I can barely stand and my feet unbearably burn at the end of the day. Its, a lot.
The chocolate is a medication and meditation too. I have to eat some and drink some. Sometimes a lot, just to get going. The meds slow me down and make me drowsy. The chocolate stimulates me and cleans me inside and out. It helps me breathe better, relax and gives me my daily dose of many vitamins and minerals. I sit deeply with the cacao in my cup very first thing in the morning. I couldn't make chocolate without cacao. After taking meds all day long, everyday I almost cannot remember making the chocolate for the 2 hours earlier. Sometimes the pain overwhelms me and so I try to block out all the past memories. Everything gets dark. It would be worse if I did nothing all day. Making chocolate requires a lot of skills like patience, sensory analysis and objective thinking. Its low impact. All skills are appreciated, even my writing. Chocolate making takes a lot. Blog-writing too! Oh, and on all the social media, thats me too. It's painless. The thing that takes the most is focusing, while pouring chocolate. Every single chocolate bar gets one on one attention while being created. Each one gets poured individually to the exact amount of 1.76 oz by hand. It is easy to go over and pour too much chocolate in one of the mould's cavities. Focusing on pouring chocolate makes me forget about my chronic pain.
Above I focus and pour Hawai'i Chocolate . The chocolate itself keeps me going. I just have to eat it. Or drink it daily. I make chocolate for my health and the health of others! Thats the real secret of how I do what I do.
This is what I drink everyday that allows me to perform despite me disability. Who else consumes cacao or chocolate daily for health? Do you use cacao to make it through the day?