I think we all experience moments in our lives that changes them forever. Probably 1 -5 times in our lives, the glass shatters and we’re forever changed.
One such moment happened to me twenty years ago. It took my childhood, or what was left of it, away from me. The glass shattered and the broken pieces cut me to my soul.
I thought I was going to die on April 11th, 1999. By God’s grace, I didn’t, but man it seemed like it was going to happen.
Maybe I should back up a couple of days. April 9th, 1999 I was at the Warrior Skate Center for someone’s birthday party. The skating rink was the hot spot for teens and preteens back in the late 90’s. It was our Facebook now that I’m thinking about it. (Author’s Note: I know I sound like an old man, but if the walking cane fits) As the party was winding down, my mom came to pick me up. As soon as I got in the car, I realized something was off. Mom was messed up, she had probably used the hours I wasn’t home to take a few pills as she oft to do. Then she realized she had to come get me, and decided she was okay enough to drive.
Okay, here’s the thing: I’ve often written about my Mom’s “demons”. This might have been the worst stretch of them all. As someone who suffered from bipolar disorder, especially at a time when no one really knew what that meant, Mom relied on self-medication to help her keep balanced. Oftentimes, she would take it too far, and situations like the one you’re reading occurred. My mother was a wonderful lady, but she was sick, and unfortunately we didn’t know how to help her.
As we were swerving around the road, Mom didn’t properly get on the off-ramp and went into the median between the off-ramp and the interstate. Realizing what she did, she quickly slammed her brakes. I shot into the dash, and basically used my left arm to brace myself. My wrist went into the dash, and I heard a slight “pop” come from it. Thankfully, we made it home without something serious happening. My wrist hurt, but I was thankful to be home. Sadly in those days, I would just wait for my mom to pass out so I could watch movies or old wrestling tapes. That was my normal.
Fast forward to the 11th, and my wrist was still hurting. I had broken my wrist before in fourth grade, and was afraid that it had happened again. Mom drove me to the emergency room to get x-rays. While we were at the emergency room, Mom decided to take 7 somas. Now, I don’t know if you know anything about somas, but they are a high-powered, and highly addictive, pain pill. As a matter of fact, you’re only supposed to take them for at the most 2-3 weeks. By this point, Mom had been on them for years. 1 should usually knock you on your ass, so you can imagine what 7 did to her. Within minutes, her eyes were glassy, her words were slurred, and she could hardly stand up. When the x-ray tech brought her my paperwork to sign my release, she could hardly write. The x-ray tech was a friend of Moms from high school, and even though he could tell something was wrong, he still allowed us to leave. By this point, I’m carrying Mom out of the emergency room. At this point, this was my job. I knew my role, but was becoming more and more sick of it. We got to the car, and even though I had never been behind the wheel of a car at this point, I tried to convince Mom to let me drive home. We lived maybe 5 minutes away in a rent-controlled apartment behind the high school, surely I could get us home. Hell, I had to have been a better choice than her, right? Mom wouldn’t hear it. “I’m fine”, she slurred, sounding like Ross in that episode of Friends where he has Rachel and Joey over for FAJITAS! (Sorry, I had to bring a little levity to this). As I’m pleading with her to let me call someone or let me drive, she backhanded me in the mouth, told me to shut up, and she’d be fine.
She then backed right into the on-call doctor’s car.
You think that would have stopped her, but it didn’t. She put the car into drive, hit another parked car, and somehow got us on the road. I remember it like it was yesterday. I could see my short life flashing before my eyes as my mom was swerving all over the road. She came within inches of hitting a light pole on my side before she corrected herself and got back on the road. I sat in the passenger seat silently praying that God protect us.
I forgot to mention, she wasn’t headed for home – she was headed to Rite-Aid to fill my prescription. In that moment, nothing mattered to her more than getting those pain pills so she could take them.
As we approached the pharmacy, she rear ended another lady’s car. This poor woman followed my mom into the Rite-Aid parking lot, yelling at my mom that she shouldn’t be driving. Mom was so gone, she waved at her, thinking she was an old friend from high school.
Mom wanted the pills as quickly as possible, so she decided to go through the drive-thru. As we turned the corner, there was someone already at the window getting their medication. I instantly knew we were either going to rear-end this person, or we were headed into the Rite-Aid wall. Within seconds, my prediction came true as we ran smack into the stone wall of the Rite-Aid building. (I was in Sparta earlier this week, and drive around the Rite-Aid building and maybe it’s my eyes playing tricks, but I could still see the imprint from the car.
Guess who went back into the dashboard? I remember thinking, “Well, damn, if my wrist wasn’t broken before (it wasn’t btw – just badly sprained) it’s gotta be now. Quick as a hiccup, a police officer was there. Mom’s first word? “Oopsie” (Amused Author’s Note: She and I later laughed about this. I honestly laughed typing it out. I’ll never forget the look on her face. She honestly looked like she let a fart slip). Of course the cop arrested her and off to jail she went.
Only there was one small problem – I was still at Rite-Aid! Now, I’m stranded. Think about it – I’m thirteen, mom just went to jail, and I’m there with no one. My grandmother was in Florida. My uncles were in Nashville. My youth pastor was at a dc Talk concert (weird the things you remember) with the rest of my youth group. I didn’t know what to do. I went into Rite-Aid and I crumpled into a ball and cried. I wept. I was scared, I was angry, I was alone.
My glass had been shattered.
I always knew that Mom had issues. But they had never been this bad and caused us this much pain until that day. My aunts and uncles used to warn me about how much medication my mom would take, but I didn’t think anything about it. I just thought Mom was in pain; I didn’t realize just how sick she was.
Everything changed that day. My relationship with my mother never fully recovered. I wound up moving in with my youth pastor for a while, then going to live with my grandma, before ultimately going back home for a few months. Then, it got bad again. And I left again. This time, I moved in with an aunt and uncle, but that didn’t last long either. It was a vicious cycle. I would leave, she’d clean up, I’d go back, she’d fall hard, and I would leave. This pattern continued until I was 16. I never went home again. Less than two years later and my mom would be gone.
Why write about such bad times? Because that day changed me. It broke me, and I came out of it different.
But the biggest thing was that I came out of it.
We all have those moments like I wrote at the beginning. You can take those moments and let them consume you and destroy you. Or you can get back up and keep moving.
That day I made a vow to myself that I would never end up like that. I made a promise to myself that I would never break the hearts of the people I love like Mom did mine. Most of all I made a promise to myself keep fighting and to achieve all the things I wanted to achieve.
13 year old Derik would be so jealous of all the cool stuff 33 year old Derik has done, and the cool stuff I continually get to do. Back then, it felt like a far-fetched dream. With hard work, determination, and a little luck, I’ve turned my dreams into realities. I’m proud of who I am, and what I’ve overcome to get here.
Maybe you’re dealing with a “glass shattering” moment right now in your own life. Maybe you’re dealing with an event that leaves you crying, wondering why someone you loved could do this to you, maybe even why you yourself continue to do this to the ones you love. All I can tell you is to endure, to stay the course, and to overcome. You’re not alone, you have people who love you and want to see you happy and healthy. Lean on them during these times. But most importantly, don’t give up.
I almost died on April 11th, 1999
I lost my innocence on that day
But out of that loss, I learned who I was and what I was made of.
Stay the course
Rooting for you