After a near-death experience, the Philadelphia native defied the odds and willed himself back from the brink
By Louie Spina
Let’s start with some quick background about myself. I’m a 36-year-old from Philadelphia, and I am an addict. My parents were addicts, and they both passed away. But enough of that—let’s get right into it.
My addiction started at the age of 20 with a sports hernia operation for which they prescribed me Percocet. Two years later, I had spinal surgery for scoliosis. I then proceeded to take Percocet almost daily for the next five years. And then my mother passed away. The day my mother passed was the day I was introduced to heroin. From then on, I never picked up the pill, and it only took me about a month into my heroin addiction to start using it IV.
Things got to the point where I wasn’t even getting high—I was only getting well. Not to mention my addiction graduated from heroin to fentanyl.”
Over the next 10 years, I was in and out of rehab, jail, homelessness and everything else that comes with being in active addiction. I stole things out of my own home to sell them, I sold my clothes—you name it—and I did it all to get that next bag. I’ve lost too many friends to this disease, while a lot of people turned their backs on me. I had some runs with clean time, but they never lasted more than a month. I always went right back to that needle.
I’ve had a lot of physical, mental and emotional pain throughout my life, and I was using as a coping mechanism to not feel those feelings anymore. Things got to the point where I wasn’t even getting high—I was only getting well. Not to mention my addiction graduated from heroin to fentanyl. It’s only by the grace of God that I’m alive today.
On July 20, 2020, my life changed forever. I was rushed to the hospital with a 104 fever, and I couldn’t move any part of my body without the worst pain you could possibly imagine. Turned out I had an abscess on my spinal cord from missing a vein in my neck with a speedball. My body was shutting down because I let it go for almost a week—my blood was septic, and my organs were failing. I needed to be rushed into emergency surgery. They didn’t think I was going to make it out of surgery, but if by some chance I did, they informed me, I would be paraplegic for the rest of my life due to the severity of the abscess on my spinal cord. I was in the ICU fighting to stay alive for over a month.
They then informed me that they would be moving me to a physical rehabilitation center. I questioned why when I couldn’t move anything below my neck: There was nothing more they could do for me. They had kept me alive, and that was their job. When I went to the physical rehabilitation center, I promised myself I was going to give it 150% every single day. Not only was I going to do that, but I was also going to prove them doctors wrong. And that’s exactly what I did. I put the work in both physically and spiritually, went harder than I ever had with anything in my life. They got me moving again.
But before I knew it, my time there was over, due to insurance reasons, and I was sent to a nursing home that was literally the complete opposite of the physical rehabilitation center. There was no physical therapy, and the staff couldn’t have cared less if you lived or died. The majority of the patients were old or not in the right mindset and were pretty much on their way out if you understand what I’m saying. But that’s not me. I’m young, and I’m healing. I’m trying to be there for my kids and maybe change a life or two in the process. I dedicated myself for the next five months—no matter how I felt, no matter what was going on—to putting in the work every single day to make sure that I would no longer be paralyzed and could move my body again like a normal person.
Nothing is impossible. Never quit, never give up. Have faith in whatever your higher power might be, and know that if you put the work in, anything can be accomplished.”
As I sit here today writing this story, I have 10 months clean. And I’m no longer paraplegic, to say the least. I continue to put the work in every single day to get even better not just physically but also mentally and spiritually. I decided to document all this on TikTok. I have close to 10,000 followers and over one million views. People in recovery and not in recovery send me messages every day about how much I inspire and motivate them. And I have a very simple message for every one of them: Nothing is impossible. Never quit, never give up. Have faith in whatever your higher power might be, and know that if you put the work in, anything can be accomplished.
I am grateful to my higher power for giving me another chance at life so that I can help the next addict in need. My clean date is July 20, 2020. One day at a time.