As a child of addiction and a recovering party-girl myself, I have often said I suffer from arrested development. This is an abnormal state in which development has stopped prematurely – usually around the age when those mind-altering chemicals take over the brain. I don’t use the term lightly (side note: Arrested Development is one of my favorite television shows), but more as a barometer for my maturity. A reminder to be gentle on my heart when life throws lessons my way. It takes a lot to overcome addiction and even more strength to grow up. We are all still learning, still growing. Some of us just take a little longer to get caught up.
I started taking drugs when I was fourteen. By my late twenties I was so burned out I decided to make a drastic change. Part of me always knew I would leave home but unlike most people my age, I was not leaving for higher education or a promising career, I simply wanted escape.
The last two years I spent in my home town of O'ahu were surreal. I knew I wanted to get off the island, and to do so I needed more money. I moved back in with my parents. I got a job waiting tables at California Pizza Kitchen (“CPK”). I started to think about what having a normal life away from stripping would be like and it scared the hell out of me. Who was I, if not the party girl? How would I feel beautiful if not on stage? I wanted no part of the life I knew before stripping, so what was my life to become if not being called Freddy Kruger in high school or The Stripper in my 20’s? Working at the restaurant helped me realize those were not my only options.
For the first time in my young adult life I was making friends away from the club. The people I grew to love as my restaurant family welcomed me in to their lives with no judgment or agenda. They simply loved me for who I was. The work wasn’t always easy (every person should wait tables at one time in their life) but the rewards were richer than I ever expected.
At CPK I spoke of stripping, and at the club, invited the other girls to restaurant parties. Blending my two worlds made the idea of leaving one behind seem easier. When it came time to walk away from the nightlife, it was.
It’s been nearly fifteen years since I left Hawaii and I have often thought about my friends from the restaurant. I wonder if they will ever know how much they helped change my life. Thanks to Facebook, I have recently re-connected with a few. I found this photo on one of their pages and instantly started to cry. It was like seeing a part of myself for the first time - nothing to cloud my memory.
My friends from the restaurant were my life raft in a stormy sea of my own uncertainty and fear. I am eternally grateful for knowing them, loving them and the reminder that true Ohana (family) transcends space and time.
"People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel"