PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Brian Rizzo’s life completely changed 5 years ago when a stranger shot him in the head, nearly ending his life.
But against all odds, Rizzo survived — and now, he wants his story to inspire hope in others.
Rizzo was working as a bouncer at Mystic Gentleman’s Club in Southeast Portland on the night of Jan. 11, 2014.
At some point during his shift, he turned away 43-year-old Thomas Hjelmeland, but he returned to the club a short time later with a gun and opened fire.
Another bouncer at the club shot and killed Hjelmeland — but not before Rizzo took a bullet to the head.
Rizzo spent the next month in a medically-induced coma at a hospital, followed by 3 weeks in rehab.
Last week, Rizzo uploaded a video to YouTube in which he details his experience and encourages others to not give up on life.
“There’s a lot of people that go through something similar to what I went through where they had some kind of injury or event in their life that changes everything that they had before,” Rizzo said.
He explained how he wished to have his old life back but knew things would never be the same.
Instead, he turned to exercise.
“You have to find something positive to do with your time,” Rizzo said. “All I wanted to do was get back in the gym.”
Rizzo found his strength — literally and figuratively — in powerlifting.
“It’s both physically and mentally and emotionally relieving; just the chemicals you get from exercising. Lifting brought joy back.”
Even though Rizzo said his balance is still off and walking can be difficult, he’s come to believe that he lived through his experience for a reason.
“I truly believe that God has a plan for me, he has to,” Rizzo said in his video. “He has to be the reason why I lived through this. Not only did I live, but I was unbelievably blessed with the ability to still do the things that I can still do.”
He added that everyone has a reason for being alive but finding the meaning is a personal journey that requires positivity.
“What was the point? I guess it doesn’t really matter… Maybe the whole point of it was for me to sit here and make this video to help people find inspiration and find a way to deal with problems that they have.”
Rizzo hopes other people experiencing trauma take encouragement from his story and find peace and positive motivation.
“Terrible things can happen to you in your life, but you can find ways to get past it.”