It is only because the grace of God that I am still here—alive, walking and breathing. I was born in Los Angeles and raised in the South Bay, Torrance. I grew up in an upper middle class family, and I had every material thing that a child could want. But all I really wanted was my parents’ acceptance. I am Japanese and Filipino, and my parents were very strict. I believe that was part of their culture. My father was very much a disciplinarian and physically abusive. By the time I was in Jr. High School, most of my friends at school were drinking and smoking. I didn’t care to participate in the things they were doing. I wanted to be different. I was a pretty obedient teenager until my parents sent me to Catholic High School, which I thought was a punishment.
My parents suddenly got religious, making me go to church and get baptized and take Holy Communion. When I was growing up, I was angry but still obedient, still wanted to please my parents. When I went to Catholic school, I became openly rebellious. The first time I ever drank, smoked, and even did cocaine was in Catholic school. I had met a lot of kids at school who were from Carson, and many of them ran with some gang members. When I was 16 and still a virgin, I was raped by a ‘boyfriend.’ I was devastated and ashamed and became very promiscuous. I began running with a Filipino gang, stopped going to school, stole a couple of cars, saw a bunch of people shot, even killed, and was institutionalized for seven months. Once I got out, I went back to hang out with my gang friends and was married to one of the leaders, at 17 years old. By the age of 20, I had been shot in a drive-by shooting with a 38-caliber pistol—at (of all places) a Catholic church—a rival gang was at the church having a wedding reception; the bullet went through my left arm, side, liver, lung and diaphragm. Drugs had already become a priority in my life, so I picked up where I left off before getting shot. I found a way to leave the gang, got a divorce, and was hanging out in Hollywood, dealing and doing drugs. I got pregnant from a drug deal and began trying to get an abortion. When I was five months pregnant, I got saved! I had a real conversion—I grew in my relationship with Jesus, and I loved Him with all my heart.
God showed me that I had been trying to kill a child—not only by trying to abort it, but also by drinking vinegar and punching myself in the stomach. I decided to go to an adoption agency, and went through with the pregnancy. Soon after, I was married again to another man, went to beauty school and got my cosmetology license. I got a job as a stylist at a great salon in Santa Monica, built up my clientele and found out I was pregnant again. I was upset; my career had just started to get off of the ground! (I was SELFISH.) But I had my son and loved him so much. After I had him, I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, and my doctor prescribed me narcotic pain pills, Vicodin and Soma (a muscle relaxant) because after I had my son I was in continual pain. Of course, I began to abuse the pills, hustling the doctor, having about five doctors after a while and pharmacies all over town. I didn’t know what the word ‘compromise’ meant back then, and I was definitely compromising.
For some reason I also had a way of ‘separating’ Jesus from the Father God. I thought of Jesus as a loving, forgiving friend—and God as a mean old man with a stick, waiting to beat me whenever I made a mistake. I lived with a lot of condemnation and judgment whenever I thought I ‘failed’ as a Christian. I also started to judge other Christians. I had a bad case of ‘log eye’!!! I became bitter and resentful toward other Christians and stopped going to church unless I was loaded on pills. I started hanging out with some of my co-workers from the salon, going to the bar, drinking along with the pills. One night, my husband told me that he was leaving me and taking my son with him. I was sometimes so drunk when I came home, he’d practically have to carry me to bed. I didn’t blame him for leaving me.
I left that night, went to a cocaine dealer’s house and stayed with him for a while. Before long, I started doing heroin and got strung out (totally dependent on heroin and would get sick if I didn’t do it). I stayed up doing dope, smoking crack one night and had to go to work dope sick (I didn’t save a “wake up” for the morning), and my boss fired me because he could tell I was on drugs. My world had turned upside-down. I was in so much pain; emotional, physical and spiritual; I didn’t know how to deal with my circumstances and hated myself for leaving my son. I could not stand being sober for even a few hours. I began to prostitute to support my habit. I had already tried to commit suicide by slicing my wrists and overdosing, ending up in the hospital too many times to count, on a 5150—a psychiatric, 72-hour hold. Finally, I decided that if I could get up the guts to jump off of the roof of my eight-story apartment building, it would be a sure thing to end my pain. I was already on anti-depressants, diagnosed bi-polar, suicidal, depressed, etc.—pills and even the dope weren’t working anymore.
One night, about nine years ago now, I took 15 Klonapins, shot a bunch of speedballs, and jumped off the roof of the eight-story apartment building. I hit a tree before I hit the ground, which broke my fall. But I still landed on my head and cracked my skull in three places. I was brain damaged; it took 3 years for me to learn how to read and write again. The hospital had me on methadone while I was there, so I was still strung out when I got released. I didn’t have an ID, so I wasn’t able to get methadone at the clinic. I just ended up getting dope, like I was used to. I tried to kick my habit again by going to a women’s home in Pasadena. While kicking, I started hearing voices telling me to jump because I was stupid and didn’t deserve to live, and before I knew it, I jumped out of a second-story bedroom window. I broke my back and was in the hospital again. By the time I was released, I couldn’t prostitute anymore, with a full body cast (well, I could have—but it would’ve been pretty awkward, lol). And I jumped one more time off the second tier when I was in jail and re-broke my back. For a couple years after that I pan-handled money on Wilshire Boulevard, and eventually, I ended up on Skid Row, downtown. That’s where I came to the reality that I would die there if I didn’t do something drastic.
I remember exactly where I was staying when the Lord spoke to me, firm and clear: “Laurie, you are going to die a junkie out here—anonymously—if you don’t turn around and serve me.” When I heard “anonymously,” I checked my pockets, and realized that I didn’t have my ID on me and panicked. I ended up going to a women’s home in OC that I had learned about when they came to the drop-in center to feed a hot meal to the homeless. I got clean there, and after 8 months, I went to the LA Dream center, where I went through the BADD (Born Again Delivered Disciples) discipleship program for 14 months.
I stayed at the Dream Center for about 3 more years, where I served and led the prostitute ministry there. My life since then has been crazy; serving Jesus is nothing short of an adventure. There has been a lot of spiritual opposition and trials since I’ve been in ministry. Even though I took a break to write my memoir, “I’d Rather Be Dead Than Dope Sick,” I still haven’t completed it because of yet another big situation—which turned my world upside-down. April 6, 2011, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. After having a double mastectomy, being diagnosed with a chronic pain condition, Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD), and already diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, a benign tumor on my pituitary gland, Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Hepatitis C and regular migraines—I applied for SSI and was denied twice! I am still appealing. I am so grateful for my Pastor, Matthew Barnett, and the LA Dream Center supporting me since my cancer diagnosis with $1000 a month (my rent is $1090) and extended support throughout 2012!!! Praise God. I’ve been able to survive with help and donations from a few Christian friends.
I have recently completed cancer treatment (radiation, thankfully I didn’t have to have chemo), and I still have another surgery on Feb. 29th 2012 and one more surgery, three months after that.
I have realized that bitterness kills—not those people I hate—but it kills ME, inside. Forgiveness is a beautiful thing, and it’s for ME. Forgiving other people sets ME free. Forgiveness is also a commandment. Luke 6:37 says, “Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”
Now I strive to love others. God has been so good to me; I have received much love from God, The LA Dream Center, groups like Treasures and the Body of Christ. I want to share His love with those around me!
What I love about Treasures is Harmony and the girls of Treasures! They have such a willingness to help other women who were trapped in the sex industry, whether that be sex-trafficking, porn, stripping, prostitution. They are sincere in showing love to women—not just with words, but by their actions as well.