By Liana Jacob
MEET THE inspiring artist whose hand was SHREDDED after trying to light up a stick of DYNAMITE while he was DRUNK leading to him having his hand AMPUTATED, but he isn’t letting it stop him from making art.
Artist and muralist, Chris Rodriguez (29), from Ohio, USA, had been battling with alcohol addiction for most of his twenties and the seriousness of his condition came to a head in January 2018 when he was handling a quarter stick of dynamite.
He went into his garage, picked up a stick of dynamite left over from the previous summer and went across the street where there was a large field. He had been drinking alcohol all day and due to his condition, he didn’t realise that the dynamite didn’t have a wick, so when he tried to light it, it exploded instantly, blowing up his left hand.
He went into immediate shock and ran to his neighbour’s house where they called 999 and he collapsed in their house. Next thing he knew, he was in hospital and was told that he had to have his hand amputated as they couldn’t save any part of it.
Chris, who is a father-of-two, initially began sobriety three months before the accident but had relapsed just before. In the aftermath of losing his hand, he developed anxiety and depression which lead to him drinking again. It wasn’t until April 2018, when he realised how dangerous his addiction was and that he has a gift of art to share with the world that he decided to stay sober for once and for all.
He now says that art has helped give his life more meaning and his fine art business has boomed since he lost his hand.
“I was pretty intoxicated from alcohol and I have struggled with a serious alcohol addiction most of my twenties; so being in a bad state of mind I was in no condition to have been trying to light these fireworks,” Chris said.
“It went off instantly and completely shredded my hand which there was no saving. Waking up after surgery, I found out my hand was gone.
“I was in shock at first but honestly I knew right then that it was just another obstacle I would have to overcome.
“It made me feel extra grateful to be alive. Also, the fact that it was my non-dominant hand I lost was a blessing for the fact that I could still paint.
“I tried to look at my new situation as more of a lesson I needed to learn from. I was only in the hospital for maybe two days then I was sent home.
“The worst part was the phantom pain I had; I could still feel my finger tips and it felt like they were being crushed and on fire for about the two months after the accident, then one day I woke up and that pain was gone.
“After I got out of the hospital I had pretty bad anxiety and depression was setting in from losing my hand, so I continued to drink.
“It was April 1, 2018, when I had just gone to buy beer and was starting to drink when I had this thought that if I continued down this path, I would die, maybe not that night but eventually booze would kill me.
“I threw the rest of the beer out and I haven’t had a drink since. I did it all by myself, it was hard at first, but it’s become a lot easier.
“If anything, it’s my kids and art that really saved me this time; I realised that I have too much to give to this world to waste it away being a drunk.
“Since I was a kid I always liked to draw and be creative, but it was never nourished and through my teen years it was actually looked down upon by my aunt and uncle who I lived with.
“But during high school I got into graffiti which really sparked my interest in art. I would sneak around the city painting on buildings and train cars before I started to get into fine art.
“Losing my hand only pushed me to become a better artist. It wasn’t until my accident that I realised that I was meant to be an artist and do art for a living. Art is my gift that I share with the world.”
Chris explains that his art business had a boost after his accident as it pushed him to be the best artist he could be.
“I didn’t let the accident hold me back, if anything I used it as motivation to turn my life around completely give myself to my art,” he said.
“Oddly after the accident, business picked up and I painted more walls this past summer and autumn than I ever have.
“I’m also happy to say that I’m just over ten months sober from alcohol. In a crazy, weird way, losing my hand was exactly the life lesson I needed at that time in my life.
“I try to use my lack of hand the way I normally would have before my accident. I paint a lot of large-scale murals which require me to use ladders, lifts and scaffolding.
“That was a learning experience, trying to get used to all that with just one hand but I did it with no problems.
“I want people to know that anything is possible if you put your mind to it and have positive intentions.
“I want others who hear my story to know that you can never give up no matter what because better days are just around the corner.
“I know it can be shocking and you can easily feel like the world is over but trust me you can adapt and figure out ways to keep living. It does get easier as time goes on.”