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How I Got Clean—And Stay Clean—While Working at a Strip Club

How I Got Clean—And Stay Clean—While Working at a Strip Club: Hair and Makeup by Emma Parkes

Hair and Makeup by Emma Parkes

Welcome to The Tasteful Nude, a new series in which stripper, comedian and writer Kasey Koop gives us an unvarnished and often hilarious look at life onstage and backstage in L.A.’s strip club scene. Check back every Thursday afternoon for more.

As a sober stripper, there are very few situations I feel uncomfortable in. Nine months ago, I couldn’t stop drinking, drugging and fucking for the life of me. I went from being the party girl to the after-party girl to the girl booty calling guys at 5:00 in the morning. (As wonderful as morning sex is, few people want it from someone who is still up from the night before.) Getting clean and staying clean while working in the strip club can be a daily challenge, but it’s sure as shit more rewarding than drugs or alcohol ever were.

Achieving and maintaining sobriety in the strip club has been far from a cakewalk. Here’s how it went for me, in four wobbly steps.


SPIRALING OUT
Before getting sober, I was a carless stripper, taking the metro to work and Lyft rides home. Most of the late-night drivers behaved so creepily picking me up from the club, I may have been safer hitch-hiking. One guy even turned off his meter, saying he wouldn’t charge me for the ride if I hung out with him instead. Taking the metro was rough too, for a different reason: I would often fantasize about jumping in front of the train. The only thing holding me back was the promise of customers buying me drinks when I got to work. I was careful never to do drugs on the job, though, because using at work would mean I had a problem and having a problem would require making a change. And change is hard, so I stuck to getting hammered and screwing Tinder matches after work to assuage the beast within.

Sex addiction was the other layer of my dependence casserole. My disease latches onto anything that makes me feel different, from exercise to tattoos to shopping to social media. Then again, Twitter has never landed me in the hospital.

HITTING ROCK BOTTOM
Three months into stripping, I was rocking on the floor of a hotel room in Vegas with my heart pounding too fast for whatever pills I had taken. Surrounded by serenely sleeping friends, I had never felt so lonely or afraid. Overdosing at a bachelorette party was not how I pictured dying. I figured it’d go down a cooler way, like crashing in my private jet or collapsing under the weight of my Louis Vuitton couture gown. Chaos was so normal to me at that point that the steps leading to my bottom seemed normal—like sharing a bathtub naked with a girlfriend and a man who fed me drugs from his mouth. Being mama-birded pills was par for the course; this was actually the second time it had happened, the first time preceding an orgy with Australian rugby players.

Just one week before, I had sworn off alcohol after waking up in my own vomit in a bed I shouldn’t have been in. But addiction has a funny way of forgetting, and here I was on yet another floor, so afraid for my life that I was ready to seek help. I had finally reached my rock bottom, if I could survive it. I immediately called friends I knew who were sober. Becoming a stripper had by no means turned me into an addict—I had been daily drinking for some time—but choosing a lifestyle with almost no responsibilities expedited my much-needed bottom. Who knows how many more years I would have wasted if I had continued working at jobs where I had to hide my booze in coffee cups.

STRIPPED CLEAN
Getting sober in the strip club was not an ideal situation. It’s like cutting out carbs while working at a bakery. I knew it was possible, though, because an older stripper at work had years of sobriety under her garter belt. The first month sober was the toughest: I had numbed myself for so long that experiencing emotions was new again. I would have one week of euphoria followed by a week where I was so filled with rage that I’d pick fights with dangerous men at work. Regulars who had been drinking buddi with gave me a hard time for cleaning up, prodding, “Don’t you miss it?” between sips of beer. Well, less and less, actually. It’s hard to miss drinking when you’re babysitting a sloppy patron and even harder to miss drugs while giving constant reassurance to a strung-out guy. When I get the urge to drink, I look to the other addicts to remember how hellish it was. I’m not judging them; I just know the feeling because I lived it.

SOBRIETY TESTS
As I have accrued a bit of sober time, it has gotten easier to stay clean in the lion’s den that is the strip club. I was pleased to find that there are societies of sober strippers within most clubs. Sometimes men get uncomfortable and self-conscious about their own drinking when I tell them I abstain, but I actually prefer it when dudes drink because it loosens them up enough to be on my comfort level. Other times, I’ll order a vodka-soda that’s secretly just soda so I don’t have to go through the ordeal of explaining that putting liquor in my body sets off a chain of events that ends in doing key bumps with a car full of strangers while the sun rises.

It hasn’t always been easy. I’ve had drinks spilled on me and have even been covered in coke, but I just consider those to be tests. The Recovery Gauntlet, if you will. After I was able to move through the growing pains of getting sober, I found that dancing in my bikini onstage is a real rush. Life is full of those natural highs that won’t kill you. I’m no angel now; I still have the occasional one-night-stand with someone who doesn’t care about me and face the emotional hangover the next day. But I don’t have to be loaded to do it, and that is a miracle.


Find more installments of the Tasteful Nude here.

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