Walking the Walk: The Spiritual Testimony of Daniel P. O’Rourke
Where do I begin? This is going to be long winded…I guess I would like to start by saying that the person in the Bible that I identify with the most is Paul the Apostle, who was once Saul, a hunter and murderer of Christians, who God struck blind on the road to Damascus, Syria, and who God told in that moment that he was to become Paul and the Lord’s greatest Apostle and testament to God’s power to change people. Paul also went on to write 2/3 of the New Testament. While I cannot claim to have written anything that amazing, or say that I am anywhere near Paul’s status, something I have in common with Paul other than that I used to be a violent and hard man is the fact that even after I was saved, I am brash, opinionated, and in your face. I used to not be able to stand Paul’s attitude in the Bible sometimes. Knowing myself, I understand that when I do not like that quality in someone, it is because it reminds me of myself. Well, I guess I better get started on my testimony and stop beating around the bush. Here it goes…
I was born on the Marine Corps Logistics Base in Barstow, California. For those of you who are not familiar with the area, it is smack-dab in the middle of the Mojave Desert, you know, Death Valley? Anyway, it is a hot, miserable little place with not only the heat to contend with, but rattlesnakes, tarantulas, scorpions, and all manner of things that creepeth and crawleth across the land.
My mom did not like it there. On top of that, she was only 19 when she got pregnant with me and was a young bride to my father who was much older than my mom, and a man who had joined the Marine Corps late in life (28 is old to go through Marine Corps Boot Camp). My mother did not like the desert, did not like the heat, and did not like the boring life of a new mother and house wife to a Marine that lived a very structured life. She informed my father that she was leaving with me when I was three months old to move to my grandmother’s house in the San Francisco Bay Area. My dad did not put up much of a fight and we moved.
My parents were divorced when I was two years old. My Daddy still wrote me almost everyday and came and saw me when he could on leave. My mom was not done sowing her wild oats, so she left me with my grandma and aunt most of the time, while she got into the Biker Lifestyle and drug, and bar scene in the 80′s era of California’s most violent time in modern history. While my mom was out doing her thing and I did not see her for months at a time, I was being sexually molested by my grandfather. My grandmother knew what my grandfather was doing, but she looked the other way just like she had done with her daughters a generation before.
Sometimes, my mom would come and get me and take me into these crazy situations in the Biker World that she was involved in (not all bikers are bad people and I just want to note that here), and I do not remember much but some flashes and glimpses of craziness. Anyway, my mother got involved with my father’s old friend, and was married to him by the time I was three. He was a Vietnam Veteran of the 101st Airborne, having spent his time in the Mekong Delta. He was now a long-haired Biker, with a Cocaine habit and a drinking problem, on top of severe PTSD. I remember flashes of my early childhood with them. Some good, some bad, the most memorable was my step-father chasing my mother around a truck in the middle of the night with a knife, the blade flashing in the moonlight, my mother yelling at me not to unlock the doors no matter what. I do not remember what happened, but apparently, no one got killed.
Then my real dad got shot and killed in an accident in the middle of the Mojave Desert’s Owl Canyon Area. He succumbed to a single gunshot would to the base of the spine from a .22 Long Rifle that ricocheted and came out the top of his head. His last words as he put his hand to the top of his head and then looked at his hand covered in blood was, “Oh, shit. I’ve been shot.” Then, for all intents and purposes, he died. I have been told that his body fought to live for hours, but that he was brain-dead almost immediately. The San Bernardino County Sheriffs did not keep very accurate records back then as it was all paper. He was still in the Corps, but it happened off base, so it was wrapped up as an accidental shooting. I have never gotten the whole story and probably never will. But that is not the end of it.
Though my dad died when I was 4, I was lied to about it, and for whatever reason, my entire family took it upon themselves to keep the truth of his death from me in a deliberate effort to conceal it from me until I was 8-years old. I was systematically lied to about my father’s death for four years. I was not sat down and told about it in the traditional fashion, either. One day, my mom had come home to my grandmother’s to get a reprieve from her lifestyle. My mom was drinking whiskey from the bottle and we were playing dominoes. I asked when my Daddy was coming home. She looked me square in the eye and very resentfully asked, “You know he’s dead, don’t you?” I lied and played tough saying that is what I figured. She said she did not feel like playing dominoes anymore. I said I didn’t either, but held my mug and went to my room, locked the door, and proceeded to lose my young mind. I remember I started by breaking all my toys and then screaming and crying uncontrollably. I blacked out and do not remember much after that until one of my uncle’s kicked down the door to my room.
My grandmother eventually divorced my grandfather and moved us all to the Sierra Nevada Mountains, not far from Lake Tahoe. My mom would come back and claim me every now and then, and would take me back down to the Bay Area, as well as moving us around other parts of the country. By the time I was 7, I had a little brother and a first cousin that was like a brother that went through most of this with me. My mom had divorced my Vietnam Veteran Step-Father and the years between 2 and 7 for me are an overlapping, confusing blur of moving, running, bouncing back and forth between my mom and grandmother, both equally, but completely different dysfunctional situations, where I was exposed to sexual, physical, mental and emotional abuse by both men and women.
When I was 7-years old, the real nightmare began. My mother became involved with another Biker Dude, this one a special kind of sociopath. I will only refer to him as “Bob.” To make a very long and difficult story short, I will share just one experience with you, all of which turned into an almost weekly occurrence until I was 16-years old, not counting the time that I spent running wild in the streets and the woods, often on my own and without supervision. Anyway, “Bob” was extremely violent and the psychological abuse that went on for over a decade is with me to this day, though God is healing me a little at a time. So, back to the one and only example I am going to share about life with this man, which will encompass the years with him in a nutshell.
One day, when I was about 14-years old or so, “Bob” came home after being high on Meth and drunk on Whiskey for a few days, and decided that I, my brothers, and my mom had to all go sit in the front room with him. We did as we were told as he had a .38 Special in his hand. His instructions were these: my brothers and I had to sit and watch television and not cry or make eye contact with him. If we were hungry or needed to use the bathroom, we had to go alone with the understanding that if we tried to run or escape, our siblings and mother would be shot. My mom had to sit across the room from him in another chair and never break eye contact with him or say a word, only watch him do all the dope and drink all the booze as her punishment because she was an addict, too. If she disobeyed, we all died. This went on for days. People knocked on the door, friends, family, neighbors, some that knew something was wrong, the police even came once, but we were at gun point and instructed with a look not to make a sound.
Eventually, he passed out, we made our escape, but as always in that lifestyle, we had to keep our mouths shut. Later that year, I got a hold of that same pistol that my second Step-Father had held on us in just that one example I shared with you. The first time I got my hands on it, I stood over “Bob” and my mother as they slept after a few days of hard partying, thinking I should kill them both and set me and my brothers free. I was only 14. But, I thought about my brothers and the fact that I still loved my mother after all of this, and I decided against what I was thinking. Later that year, I threw that .38 Pistol down a gutter drain. I had to hide for two weeks in the streets until “Bob’s” anger subsided, but I and my family still paid dearly for it. Later that same year, I got in an argument with my mother and was kicked out of the house for the first time. I was still only 14 and was out on the streets, a drop out, and angry. I started drinking and hanging around some rough people of my own finding. I ended getting jumped by gangs, beat up, and one time, I got beat up and had cigarettes put out on my face. Eventually, and this is really ugly, but it is the truth, I was hanging out with a bunch of other wayward kids, and an older guy came a long that someone “knew” and he bought us beer and pot. Another long story short, he got us drunk, drugged me, and I woke up raped by another man.
When I could get up and had what was left of my wits about me, I ran. I decided that if I was going to be abused, then it was better to be abused by people I knew and went back “Home.” At least I was not getting drugged and raped at my mom’s house.
More of the same I described before in this testimonial took place over the next two years. At 16, I got my GED and entered the delayed entry program with a local Marine Corps recruiter in Tacoma, Washington. They would not take just a GED, so I enrolled in college for the first time at 16-years old, got my own apartment, and got 16 college credits at 101 level and above as specified by my recruiter. A couple of months after I turned 18, I joined the United States Marine Corps.
I had always sworn that I would never be like the people I was exposed to as a child and that I was going to be a Marine like my dad before me, and use that to save my mom and brothers. That didn’t happen. Instead, I started drinking heavily on the weekends, and then almost daily. The following paragraphs coming up that I am going to share with you is from part of an article I wrote for Yahoo! about a year ago.
Let me tell you a short story about my experience in the Marine Corps. I was gung-ho, a hard charger, and ready to single-handedly destroy the enemies of America by my own hand with nothing but my M-16 A2, my ability to adapt and overcome, and training. I made it through Boot Camp having been in one of the toughest battalions and series in history, India Company 3047 3rdBattalion, Trail Series.
I was then sent off to the School of Infantry. While waiting to drop into the School of Infantry (which I will refer to as SOI from now on) we were in what is known as “The Bubble” which has many parts to it, but I went to Guard School and spent two months guarding different armories at Camp Pendleton while waiting to go to SOI. Everything was still good, except let me advise to future Marines that you exercise daily while in “The Bubble” and do not eat junk food and get fat, because you will get you ass kicked and be in serious pain when you finally go onto the School of Infantry. Do not believe that the hard part is over when you graduate Boot Camp, either. That is not the truth.
Long story short, I finally went to SOI. We were granted weekend liberty (time off) and while on liberty, I began going with other Marines to strip clubs, engaged in heavy drinking, using drugs, and partying to put it mildly. I got in trouble and I got hurt. I got in more trouble, and kept drinking anyway. The Marine Corps kept me around and tried to persuade me to change my ways. This went on for a couple of years. I eventually became a permanent fixture and part of the Headquarters and Support Battalion, SOI, Camp Pendleton, Area #52, San Onofre. I was used for many things like posing as an “Aggressor” against guys in infantry training, supply duty, and keeping the other misfits, trouble makers, and “bad marines” in line as a platoon leader of legal platoon. Trust me, you do not want that title, or to put it on a resume.
Though they kept me around, I was also deemed unfit for service in the fleet because of substance abuse problems, discipline problems, and mental health issues from my substance abuse. One thing I will say against the military, is that they never did attempt to help me get mental health screenings/substance abuse counseling, and they kept me in service because my individual group of leadership, including my Commanding Officer, Executive Officer, First Sergeant, and Gunnery Sergeant, were all afraid of the way I and others under their command would reflect on their lack of leadership. Still, I made my own choices.
The final words I want to leave with any young men or women reading this article, or any service member that has served or is serving, is this; though I earned the title of a United States Marine, though no one can take that from me, and though “Once a Marine, always a Marine” I squandered my opportunity and my service because of my own bad decisions. I am lucky I made it out with an other than honorable/general discharge, and not a bad conduct or dishonorable discharge.
In my life, as I look back, I do not regret anything, but one part, and that is how I began and ended my service to this great nation and the Marine Corps. I regret it every day, and while it does not hurt as bad as it used to, it still does, and always will. I ask that you please think before you act, make sure you are ready and doing this for the right reasons, and then once you get there, stay focused on what you swore to do and stay away from the negative influences that you are exposed to. There are written and unwritten codes in the military. It is your job, duty, and honor to find a balance, do the right thing, and remember the oath you took.
At the end of the day, you have to decide which orders to follow, which to disregard, and when to use your chain of command to seek help if need be. You can’t blame anyone but yourself for your failures most of the time, and blaming yourself is what you will do every day for the rest of your life if you follow the path I chose while serving. Still I say, Semper Fi and God Bless America, the United States Marine Corps, the men and women that serve, and the military in general. – Yahoo!
When I got out of the Marine Corps, I continued to struggle with drugs and alcohol for years, as well as not getting any help or counseling for my issues and problems that had gone completely un-addressed. Between 1999 and 2005, there is too much history, pain, hurt, and loss for me to talk about now. I am not ready, but in 2005, God decided to help me with this situation the hard way.
About a year before the night of July 17th, 2006, I had gotten back in touch with an old friend from my childhood. Her mom and mine, as well as the mother of my best friend, had been “Road Dogs” when we were kids. We all had spent quite a lot of dysfunctional time in each other’s lives. Anyway, another very long story short, this woman and I, who I will refer to as “Linda” out of respect to her and for her privacy from this point on, had never had a romantic relationship as children or teenagers. We had not spoken in years, but reconnected as adults and decided, though we both had substance abuse issues at the time, that we knew each other, our pasts, and what we had been through, and decided to get involved romantically. We should have known better, and while there we some very good times, and we did love each other the best we knew how, it was rough and volatile.
I had never been in trouble with the law seriously and only had gotten some tickets. It took me only 7 short months to start my downward spiral to rock bottom, where I crashed and burned after God Pile-Drove me. In December of 2005, shortly before Christmas, I got a DUI. In February or 2006, two months later, I got a DWP, and then in July of 2006, just five months later, while celebrating the fact that I had not gone to jail for my DUI charge, I decided to drink a case of Natural Ice high alcohol content beer, a bottle of Captain Morgan, topped of with Zoloft.
I ingested this in about 5 hours. As are a lot of things for me, much of that night was a blur, if not a total blackout. “Linda” and I got into an argument about something, began pushing each other, and from there it turned into a wrestling match. I ended up choking her and nearly killing her. I make no excuse for what I did. It was my responsibility, and my choice to stop drinking and to walk away from a dysfunctional relationship. I did neither of those things and I take responsibility for what I did.
I went to jail and “Linda” went to the hospital. I woke up in jail and at first, I was not sure what had happened. I was severely hung over and physically and mentally beat up. Then, everything came crashing down in bits and pieces, in flashes of what I had done that night, and then all the other stuff in my life before that, and I was literally crushed to the floor by an unseen weight, on my face,on a cold concrete floor in a jail cell, sobbing, crying out to God in front of other grown and imprisoned men.
I asked God if He would just give me one chance to get away from the booze and get help, if He would let me try to make this right, I would do everything humanly possible to never let alcohol or drugs enter my body again, and that I would never put my hands on another human being in anger ever again unless my life or those of my loved ones depended on it. I said to God that I knew He would do his part, and that I would do all that I could to do mine, but that I needed His help. You see, I have always believed in God, even though I was not raised with Him or in faith, but I obviously did not always walk in His ways.
One of the guys that I was in the cell with helped me up after some time and told me about a man named “Pastor T” who ran a faith-based recovery program and men’s house for recovery alcoholics and addicts, and for those getting out of jail and prison. He gave me his address and told me that if I managed to bond out and/or not go to prison, that he could help me if I was serious.
I did manage to bond out and get in touch with “Pastor T” of the Victory in Christ Recovery Program. I went into the in-patient men’s home, started going to church and participating in counseling and activities 5 days a week. I lost everything materially, not that I had much, but gained freedom from alcohol and a new relationship with God. I got a lawyer and I stayed out of trouble.
Let me be blunt, we all thought I was a goner and was headed to prison, and knew that only a miracle from God himself would save me. And that is exactly what happened. On December 21st, 2006, a little over a year after I got my first DUI and started my downward spiral, I plead guilty to the felony charge of Attempted Strangulation. That morning, before court, I opened my Bible randomly and was presented with the Scripture that God would give me the necessary words when I needed them. I have opened my Bible randomly almost everyday since then when I read it.
Not only did I not go to prison, the judge told me he did not think I was a criminal and that incarceration was not the place for me. He did say that I had to stop drinking cold-turkey, and that he was going to give me one chance. He put me on felony probation and said that he was going to issue a withheld judgement, and if I finished my probation, he would reduce it to a misdemeanor, if not, he would send me to prison for as long as he decided within the laws statutes. “Linda” also testified on my behalf by phone and letter to the court explaining that I was not an habitually abusive man, which I was not, and that we both had a part in it. I am eternally grateful for that. I took the chance that I was given and the hand of God, and never looked back.
Witness with me the power and might of the Lord Jesus Christ. I have been delivered from alcohol and everything else for over 7 years now, not a sip, nothing. And while “Linda” and I are not best friends that hang out all the time, I was able to speak with her, make an amends, and was granted forgiveness from her. We chat on occasion through emails and pm’s. Her life made a turn around as well. She is living out her dreams and is healthy. Her and I made peace and that is the most important part of this story.
In the last 7 years, I have accomplished a lot. I have remained faithful to God, and though my walk and relationship with Jesus Christ goes through the ebb-and-flow of growth that we all go through in our journey with The Father, I have never given up and kept up my end of the deal. Obviously, God is always going to keep His. I have remained delivered from alcohol and everything else for these 7 years, and I have not put my hands on anybody in anger or violence.
I became a firefighter to serve my country and community, and was both a structural and wild land firefighter for 4 years until my knees gave out on me. I went back to school and am closing in on my Bachelors in psychology at the University of Idaho, and will be starting in on the pursuit of my Masters in about a year. I might even go for a doctorate.
I started writing for Yahoo! and other online news sources for non-fiction articles and op/eds, and I am also a published author of fiction of a book of horror stories with a moral, and am close to publishing my second book and first full-length novel of fiction.
I am the father of four awesome boys that are my heart and soul, ages 15, 5-year old twins, and a little guy that is almost 3, a step-daughter to a beautiful little girl of 6, and with my sweet Tabi who is too good for me and out of my league, and other than being flirty and too verbally friendly with other women on occasion, I have never done her wrong and never will, because she is my saving grace sent by God. She is patient with me and helping me to be the man God intended me to be.
I have not always been good at relationships even after I got sober as the mothers’ (plural) of my children will tell you, but we all get a long, and our patch work family, while colorful and far from white picket fences and perfection, is all together, everyone gets a long for the most part, and we are healthy and love one another. My mother, through all this, has been able to maintain a relationship with me, my kids, and my brothers, and got away from abusive men and drugs over 12 years ago, and married an awesome man who takes good care of her as she goes back to school to become a nurse as a middle-aged recovering addict. Of my three little brothers, two got saved by the Lord Jesus, but sadly one is still out there, a hard-core Atheist that will not talk to us, but I pray for him, love him, and ache for a relationship with him everyday.
I am living my dream, though I am poor, of being a writer and working with clients as a developmental therapist for adults and children with all spectrum’s of developmental disabilities and neurological disorders, and mental illness. Soon, I will begin to get into psycho-social rehabilitation. My goal once I get my Masters is to open up a free clinic for all, with a focus on at risk youth and veterans with PTSD and substance abuse problems, and let God take care of the rest. I hope to create a charity through Christian Patriots United eventually for the needy, but that will happen much later when we are much bigger.
This is some of it, not all of it, but the bulk and important parts of my personal testimony about the power and love of Jesus Christ and His Holy Spirit. God is real.
When I was a little boy of about 4 or 5, one of my clearest and earliest memories was standing on the cracked stone porch of my grandmother’s house and looking up at the sky through the low and clogged California Bay Area power lines, up at the blue sky and knowing that there was a God. I just knew there was and I cannot explain why I have always believed, though not always followed His paths, but I have. I was not taught about him at home and we did not read the Bible. I did read it later in life at 9 or 10. That was the first time I picked up a Bible and read on my own. I thought you were supposed to read it like a regular book, so I started at the beginning and read it to the end in one Summer. Needless to say, I was a bit confused and had more questions than answers, but it stuck, even though many more mistakes were in my future.
God is real. I have walked out of too many spiritual, emotional, mental, physical, and legal wars in this life virtually unscathed, but sometimes severely wounded, but some how able to survive and alive. Thank you for listening. Try not to judge me and let my story be an example of one of God’s modern-day miracles. Today, in the present, the Lord has led me to be a Patriot once again despite my past, my flaws, and my short-comings. I am still far from perfect and fall far short his glory on a daily basis, but I am striving to do my very best.
God Bless You All.
Daniel P. O’Rourke
(Note: pictures of my three youngest sons and of my step-daughter where omitted from this article at the requests of the mothers’ and for security reasons.)