It is Never Too Late to Make a Change

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Photo: James P. Whitfield

Years ago, a friend told me to be careful what I pray for because I just might get it. A truer statement has never been spoken, but how my prayer was answered was not the way I envisioned it. In the spring of 2015, I decided to get sober. I was drinking every day and hooked on drugs. I went to rehab and was successful; I began to turn my life around.

My eyes began to open as the days went by, and my sobriety gained strength. I had a decent job, but it was no longer bringing me satisfaction. I wanted a new career to go with my new lifestyle. The company I worked for would not pay for me to go back to school because they felt I was just “too old” to invest the time and money in it at 43.

I had old student loans in default, and even though I was making payments on them, I couldn’t get financial aid to go back to school on my own. I was frustrated. I continued to work, stay sober, and pray. I had faith something good would come along. In the meantime, I had a pinched nerve in my neck and my right arm that needed surgery. It was March of 2016, and I was a year sober. This was the longest I had ever been sober since I was 12 years old, and I felt good spiritually and emotionally.

I met with the surgeon and set a date to have the routine spinal decompression surgery. This “routine” surgery changed my life and the lives of my wife and children forever. I came out of the surgery an incomplete paraplegic. I wondered, “Is this what I get for trying to do the right thing?”

After a month of staying in a rehabilitation center, I was sent home. Our house was not set up for a paraplegic, but we had to make do.The whole family was depressed, no matter how many friends tried to help. I could no longer work. I sat in my wheelchair or laid in my hospital bed in our dining room, wondering, “Why me?”

Luckily, I had disability benefits through the company I worked for. One day while talking to my disability rep, I asked if I could go back to school. I was going crazy sitting around doing nothing all day. He said if we could find a job that met requirements and a school that was local, then yes, I could. That’s how I got the opportunity to go to Cuyahoga Community College.

I am now in my third semester as a graphic design student on Metro Campus. I have gone from using my wheelchair every day to hardly ever using it on campus anymore. I am an illustrator for Jimi Izrael, an honor student, and now a star writer for The Voice. I have not let my age or disability stop me from finding out what’s around the corner.

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