The Struggle to Leave the Life: Lisa Today

Lisa. 16 Dec. 2014. Washington State.

Lisa. 16 Dec. 2014. Washington State.

Lisa was one of the key subjects in Tim Matsui’s recently released Women’s Initiative project, Leaving the Life, from which the feature film The Long Night was produced by Tim and MediaStorm.

Lisa was the girl in the robe, turned out by a pimp at the age of 13. When we meet her, Lisa is 19 years old. She still earns money through prostitution, although she says that she no longer has a pimp. In the film, we see Lisa’s struggle to leave the life. We are able to understand how Lisa’s addiction to heroin allows her to cope with the life she is living.

I’ve tried more times this year to get sober than I have in the past five years

Tim has maintained his close relationship with Lisa, and continues to follow her story. Yet his role has changed; he is trying to help her by finding and offering her options to help her leave a life of prostitution and drug addiction. This past December, Lisa was in jail. When she was released, she wanted to start anew, without addiction and without prostitution.

Tim worked to help get Lisa the resources she needed to make that start. While Lisa was in jail, Tim arranged for her to meet Eileen, a friend and outreach worker from the harm reduction program LEAD. He introduced Lisa to Noel, an advocate from the Organization for Prostitution Survivors, who promised to be her advocate forever.

To help her fight her urge to use, Tim stayed with Lisa for the five hours between when Lisa was released and when she could go be with her mom and family for the holidays. She had detoxed while in jail, and doesn’t use when she is around her family. It was a time for hope.

After spending time with her family and before she was able to enter into a residential program where she would be able to start a new life, Lisa connected with her old crew. She was returning to her old life.

Eileen, the outreach worker reassured Tim. “It’s going to be ok,” she said. “This is what they do. But now we can start providing options.”

Tim is there to help her, as he has been ever since meeting her. Tim’s dedication to her is commendable. But more commendable is Lisa and her bravery. She is the one who must struggle each day to resist the pull of the Life. She is the one who must fight her addiction and move forward in building a life she has never known.

In 2013, Lisa told Tim, “I’ve tried more times this year to get sober than I have in the past five years.”

She has begun the process. We know she will continue to fight. We look forward to the day when Lisa has left the life completely beyond, and hold her in our hearts as she struggles to leave.

There will be a special screening of The Long Night on Sunday, Jan. 18 at 7 p.m. at Seattle’s Central Cinema. The film is also available on the website, The Long Night Movie, on The Alexia Foundation website and at MediaStorm. You can also learn about Lisa’s story on a slideshow by MSNBC on the cycle of addiction and prostitution.

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