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SINNER'S CREEDA MEMOIR
By SCOTT STAPP DAVID RITZ
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2012 Scott Stapp
All right reserved.
As a young kid I wanted to fly like Superman, so I'd put a towel around my neck and jump off the roof of my house. I thought I was indestructible. I was born with a burning desire to be a superhero.
For the longest time I thought this was confidence. Now I see it as a complex. Whatever you call it, I had a drive to be great at all things—athletics, academics, music. Everything was a competition, and I wanted to win.
My mother said that even as a baby, I was fearless. In a way, I suppose the circumstances of my life required me to be. My father left my mother, my two baby sisters, and me when I was a kid. From that moment I decided I would be my mom's protector and my family's savior.
We were dirt poor, living in a tiny two-bedroom, one-bathroom house in a low-income community. Like everyone else in our neighborhood, we lived off food stamps. I was going to save my family from poverty.
I remember when I was only about six years old and we were all in bed—Mom, my sisters, and I—and Mom started to cry.
"What's wrong?" I asked.
"I don't know how we're going to pay our utility bills," she said.
I stood up on the bed and made a declaration: "When I grow up, I'm going to be bigger than Elvis and pay all the bills and buy you a fancy house and a fancy car. I'm also going to become president of the United States like President Reagan."
"You can't be both," Mom told me.
"Yes, I can. I'll be Elvis during the week and the president on the weekends."
Mom laughed, but she saw I was serious-minded. She knew she could trust me. By age seven, I was cooking food on a stove for my two young siblings since Mom didn't get home from her job at JCPenney until 8 p.m. I loved my mother more than life itself. I'd do anything for her. I wanted to be a big boy and fix everything for her and the rest of my family.
* * *
I was born Anthony Scott Flippen on August 8, 1973, at Orlando Regional Medical Center. My biological father was Richard Flippen, whose family had emigrated from Ireland. Richard was in the printing business, and he was also a Marine. I remember him as a man's man-tall and strong, with big muscles, and very funny. Richard worked out with free weights in our carport. I wanted to be just like him, so I'd follow him around, picking up weights and saying, "I strong, Daddy."
He mentored the football players at Lake Brantley High, and he would let me watch their practices. Seeing the athletes throw and tackle, block and kick, I would constantly tell him, "I can do that. I'm tougher than that. I'm not scared, Daddy."
My memories of the man are few, but I cherish the ones I have. For those first few years of my life, my father made me feel happy and safe.
Then came the day I was sitting in my dad's lap watching a Road Runner cartoon. Dad and I were laughing and having a great time, but I wanted to get closer to the television. So I lay on the floor, as close as I could get to the screen. At one point I turned back to my father to share another laugh and say, "Wasn't that funny, Daddy?" But he was no longer in the chair.
I ran to Mom.
"He's not home."
"When's he coming home?"
"He'll be back soon, Anthony."
But he wasn't. He never came back at all.
Mom had nothing to say about Dad's disappearance. No further explanation was given.
I can't remember any fights between my parents. Mom married him when she was eighteen years old, half his age. Later I learned he had been married to someone else before Mom and had two sons. I never got to meet my half brothers. Many years later I learned that his younger son, Ricky, died after a long battle with alcohol and drugs. An overdose. For my entire life, nearly everything about my father's past was shrouded in mystery.
After Dad left, my sisters, Amanda and Amie, and I were sometimes taken to his tiny home in Clermont, Florida, not far from Orlando. We were told to watch television and not move from the couch. We watched The Gong Show while he and Mom talked in the bedroom with the door closed.
When it came to his interactions with me, Dad was distant. He didn't seem particularly enthusiastic about our visiting his place. He put up with us, but he didn't act like the dad I had loved or the dad who had once loved me. I never asked what happened between him and Mom. I just wanted Dad to move back home with us. He never did. Soon those infrequent visits stopped entirely, and just like that, he was out of my life.
With Dad gone and Mom working, I was unsupervised and free to roam the streets. I was a daredevil, and I wasn't afraid to try things other kids wouldn't do. I especially liked to impress the older kids. If one of the big kids wanted to break into a house but could only pry open a window slightly, he'd dare me to slip in. I was never one to pass on a dare. I'd sneak right in and open the front door for him.
At school, other kids made fun of me for not having a dad. They teased me for having to go to the school counselor twice a week for my misbehavior and my radically changing moods. Some of the bullies labeled me as one of the slow kids. I compensated by being the class clown who jumped on top of the desk and cracked jokes whenever the teacher left the room. I loved the attention. In my mind, the only way to win approval and acceptance from my classmates was by acting the fool.
Early on, there were divisions in my behavior—on one hand, the dutiful son wanting to please and protect, and on the other, the rebellious wild child. Even as a kid riding my bike to 7-Eleven to play Pac-Man, I thought I was the head of my household. This ego would haunt me throughout my life—an attitude that said, There's nothing I can't do; there's nothing too big for me; I can be all things to all people.
And yet, in the midst of this premature self-reliance and artificially pumped-up self-regard, I was introduced to a force far greater than myself. During this difficult period—before, during, and after my mom and dad broke up—I met God.
Excerpted from SINNER'S CREED by SCOTT STAPP DAVID RITZ Copyright © 2012 by Scott Stapp. Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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