“And I will give you a new heart with new and right desires, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony heart of sin and give you a new, obedient heart.”
Not sure how or why I began searching for a place to belong. I think most of it stemmed from moving around a lot as a child. There was no abuse. I was loved deeply by my family. Although my parents separated when I was 2 and divorced when I was 8, I do not blame my family for anything.
The one thing I do wish is that they had exposed me to a full understanding of just how precious I was to God. I went to church for years, but even there I didn’t feel like I belonged. My mom was Greek Orthodox, which is where I was baptized, my dad was a Methodist (but not really), and my stepmother was Catholic. So I was confused and never really had clear understanding of God’s perfect love and value for me.
As a child moving from school to school, I always tried to find a way to fit in quickly and belong. A young kid with big eyeglasses and buck teeth didn’t have it easy in elementary school. So back then I used to play the “tough girl” role and had a hardened exterior, almost intimidating people into being my friend.
As I grew into a teenager, the need to belong was still strong. I had to fit in again. This is where it began for me. I got involved with the wrong crowd. I stayed away from the alcohol and drugs, but the people I hung out with valued nothing.
Finally, I fell in love. I lost my virginity to my first real boyfriend at the age of 16. I was young and curious. The relationship became abusive, but I continued to beg him to stay with me. He threatened my life several times, but still I felt attached to him. Finally, I moved on.
Since I was a little girl I have always loved dance. I wanted to be a ballerina. Dance was my first love and my life. At the age of 18, I was studying dance pretty seriously, and I became involved with my 34 year old dance teacher. To me he was amazing and wonderful. I looked up to him and admired his talent. I had no idea what damage this man would cause in my life.
The relationship became sexual. I agreed to do things because I wanted him to accept me. I wanted his approval so much that it led to threesomes, group sex, and abuse. I could feel the hate in him run through my veins. He manipulated my mind to believe that there was power in my sexuality and that is what defined me. He would threaten me and terrify me.
Once that ended, needless to say, my thinking was tainted, and I believed that I possessed a power: my sexuality. Now I began to use it. I manipulated men for sex. When men would become attached to me emotionally, I would break them down and leave. I thought I was so in control of the world.
While waitressing at Denny’s, every night the bouncers from the strip club up the street would come in after work. They became my friends. Eventually, they told me that I could make big money working at the club. At this point I had no value for myself; I thought of sex as a weapon, so why not use it to make money? God’s love was so far from me. I didn’t even think about him.
The following week I auditioned and was immediately hired. Everyone told me I was a natural. I began making huge money, manipulating men for thousands and thousands of dollars per night. I had no remorse. I thought of them as pathetic losers, and that it was my money in their wallet—my only job was to get it out.
I became the highest-paid, best stripper at my club. I was eventually put in charge of all of the girls and did the scheduling and counseling. Into the 2nd year, I had to take Valium to get through the night. I needed it to numb me. I saw girls shoot up heroin and freak out due to cocaine use. I stood by and watched as the police raided my club.
Sexual hunger took me over. I got involved with another loser boyfriend whom I supported financially, I had sex with women for fun, and I had three abortions, which I didn’t think twice about. I felt in control of my life. I still studied the art of dance during the day, and I was “Jade” by night—in control, or so I thought.
My exterior was so hardened that for years I was numb to it all. Being a stripper defined my life. I didn’t feel I was exploited. I felt I was doing the exploiting. God was so far at this point that I wouldn’t even entertain the idea of going into a church. Deep inside I was embarrassed. I felt horrible, and I just knew that it wasn’t a place for a person like me. I believed that I was evil, and I loved it.
I traveled the country pursuing the art of dance. All the while stripping in clubs to pay the bills. Illinois, Texas, Florida, Georgia, California. I felt like I had freedom, when in truth I was a prisoner. I didn’t realize that I was in chains and wouldn’t break free for years.
Once I got to Atlanta, the lifestyle took me over. I was fully consumed with it, and being a “club girl” was a perfectly accepted occupation in that city. I finally belonged. I was well loved (or so I thought) at my new club by the managers, the house mom, bouncers, customers, and other strippers. I was comfortable there. Other strippers even looked up to me because I had some goals and dreams, but in chains I remained for years to come.
I eventually started dating a big drug dealer in Atlanta whom I met at my club. He treated me like a princess, took me places, and pampered me. I felt wonderful. He was so supportive of my dream of coming to Hollywood to pursue the art of dance. He even told me that he would support me and pay all my expenses so that I could just concentrate on my career and not have to strip in LA. I was ecstatic!!!!!!! Finally I could go to Hollywood and pursue the dream I had to become a professional dancer. It was too good to be true.
The night before I left, it turned ugly. We had a big going away party at my club, spending about $20,000 in cash. He was so drunk, and I became angry and told him to take care of himself. I wanted nothing to do with his drunkenness. This angered him and he hit me. Then he threw about $3000 at me on the bed and sprayed me with champagne. I had never felt so low in my life. I could not believe what was happening. After somehow getting him out, I called a girlfriend to pick me up. As we were leaving the hotel, I saw 3 of my boyfriend’s “thugs” pull up and go into the hotel. He had sent them there to hurt me—I just knew it. After all of that, I still went back to him when he apologized and blamed it on the alcohol. He gave me the $3000, and I moved to LA.
In the months to follow, I was still in incredible pain. All of my stripper friends would call me and give reports that he was with other women. I was dying inside. He was still telling me he loved me. Eventually I discovered that he was, in fact, married. This news sent me into a severe depression, but being resilient and revenge oriented, I made a plan to ruin him. My heart was hard. My thoughts were clouded. I wanted him to feel the pain. I eventually went back to Atlanta and exposed some information to his contacts, and he was run out of the city. I felt great. I left satisfied.
The years in Hollywood were hard, trying to fit in again in a new world. Being a struggling artist was difficult for me. I had always had money to do everything I wanted. At the age of 24, I started partying and doing drugs and alcohol to fit in. Every weekend, I would fly back to Atlanta and work at the strip club. Eventually, I found a club in LA to work at too.
In time, my professional dance career took off, and I was out of the clubs for good. But being very sexual is what defined me and launched my career. I worked nonstop being the token “sexy girl.” People were amazed at the explicitly sexual dancing that I was willing to do. But it booked me jobs—it was my gimmick. I traveled the world, sometimes because of my talent, sometimes because I exuded sex on stage. This is when God began to work in my life.
On one of my jobs, I met some girls who were Christians. They began to talk to me about God. Something in me started to listen. I would attend church with them sometimes, and the spirit inside me began to awaken. I was so hurt that no one could heal me but God. I had been broken down emotionally. I had nowhere else to turn but into God’s open arms. I pressed into him.
People ridiculed me. They would say, “What is this I hear about YOU going to church?” Despite their opinions of me, I continued my journey. In the midst of this, God led me to the man who would become my husband. I had known him for years, but I was so hardened that I wasn’t able to see what was right before my eyes.
When my husband came into my life, everything started to change. He broke my “tough girl” exterior, helped me to laugh again, helped me to understand just how precious I was, brought me to Oasis Church, and showed me what it was to be loved—the right way.
We were baptized together January of 2005. My life now is amazing. I love God and my husband abundantly. I have learned that sex is not a weapon, nor is it a tool to get what we want. It is a precious gift that God has given us to share with the one person God has for us. I never knew that before. I am learning every day. My journey has been a tough one, but one thing I do know is that God never wastes a hurt. He will take everything we have gone through and turn it around for good if we let him.
I am a living example of someone who has been saved from the enemy’s tight grip. God came into my heart and said, “I love you no matter what.” I still struggle with my thoughts; sometimes I think I miss the lifestyle. But I know that is just the enemy trying to tempt me back, so I ask God to come into my mind and my heart and fill them with his love. This assures me that everything I think I’m “missing” can be filled up with him. I never again want to know the pain I felt when I tried to fill the emptiness with that lifestyle.
Ed. Note: Beautiful Tiffanie passed away in May of 2009 after a battle with cancer. Before she died, she shared that one of her desires was that she would have more of an opportunity to share her story. We are so honored to be able to share her legacy. Her desire to see her story shared is being fulfilled. Thank you for reading it.