At the height of my addiction in 2018, I began to sell my body two to three times a day to ensure I had enough money for heroin, crack, and cigarettes until the following afternoon.  

Upon becoming sober, I wondered if selling myself was something I regretted. Ashamed of it, sure. But regret? If I hadn’t, I would’ve been in heroin withdrawals quite often. I rarely endured the dreaded torture of phantom pains, hot and cold sweats, heightened anxiety, sneezing, eyes tearing, restless leg syndrome, and all the misery that one experiences as opiates detox from their system. Even with this awareness, I knew I would’ve never been a sex worker if I was only abusing heroin. During those last few months of my addiction, crack temporarily stole my soul. Selling sex certainly supported my heroin habit but I cannot deny the fact that the sole reason I traded my body, as if it were rice or canned goods, was to satiate the lingering desire for more hits off of a glass pipe. In order to work in the sex industry as an active addict, I had to be shameless, have the ability to disassociate mentally from situations I found traumatizing, and always expect the unexpected. It was necessary to learn the basic do’s and don’ts through trial and error in order to be financially successful, not be taken advantage of, and ultimately to survive.  

In early recovery, having sexual encounters with my significant other was problematic. Memories would come barreling back into the forefront of my mind — which resulted in me feeling uncomfortable. I’d forgotten the important role sex can play in a relationship. Intercourse that was paid for had to have no emotion other than falsified ones, making it meaningless. The intimacy and romance that takes place while making love appeared to have vacated my brain. I had always viewed sex with someone you love as embracing their mind, body, and soul. It is an act of being as physically and emotionally close to another person as humanly possible. I listen for subtle cues from my lover that inform me of what he finds most pleasing all while utilizing one another’s bodies to induce a state of sexual satisfaction and euphoria. In short, sex is one of the most beautiful encounters I’ve experienced… but it became trickier after being a sex worker.

After active addiction, I had learn to enjoy sex after being an escort. The truth is that it took many sexual attempts, ongoing therapy, tears, and moments of self-hatred to begin to accept my past. I can say with confidence that there were four coping techniques that genuinely helped me to clear the horrid memories from my cluttered mind and once again bask in the glory of being sexually aroused.  

1. Sticky Notes on Mirrors

It may sound silly but I promise you, over time, this was a helpful tool. Since I was suffering from immense self-contempt, writing positive affirmations on sticky notes and placing them on mirrors was suggested to me. 

At first, I only had three stuck to my bathroom mirror. Now pretty much every mirror in my house is covered. Each time I thought of an admirable quality that I possess, I’d jot it down and post it (no pun intended!) onto a mirror. When I couldn’t think of anything nice to say, I wrote things I wished to one day like about myself. Reading these affirmations and kind words several times a day as I apply makeup and brush my teeth became an ongoing ritual. My boyfriend has even sporadically written down qualities he adores about me, which is always a pleasant surprise to find. The more I read these words, I naturally began to acknowledge their rightfulness. 

2. Having a Supportive and Patient Significant Other

It was vital for me to have a significant other who was supportive and patient while I went through the initial stages of not wanting to be touched sensually, and then actually having sex but not truly reveling in it. My loved one never made me feel pressured. He let me work out the issues of my past on my own terms but supported me in the process. He assured me that I wasn’t disgusting or unlovable as I believed myself to be. It took months before I allowed him to go down on me because I was humiliated and afraid that I’d be dirty and “used up.”

I remember the day I finally, yet hesitantly, allowed him to perform oral sex on me. I was so anxious that words can’t even begin to describe. Yet somehow everything about his body language and light moans confirmed that all the things I had been self-conscious about had been in my head all along. My self-loathing had simply been the result of my fears but they held no weight. That day I took a big step in moving forward with my sex life.

3. Therapy 

I’ve been attending weekly therapy sessions since I stopped using drugs a little over a year ago. While my sessions consisted of many things, my sex life (or lack thereof) was one of the more spoken about topics in the beginning. Now we focus more on my day to day dilemmas, anxiety, ADHD symptoms, medication management, struggles with anorexia nervosa, and so on.

After making the commitment to better myself, I recall habitually venting to the therapist about my feelings of worthlessness and shame… along with my strong waves of apprehension regarding physically connecting with my boyfriend. Her and I established that feelings aren’t facts. In essence, just because I feel a certain way about myself does not mean it is accurate. The simple concept of “feelings versus facts“ encouraged me to challenge my negative thinking. All thanks to therapy. 

4. Yoga 

I attend yoga classes five to six mornings a week at a local studio. I began my yogic lifestyle eight months a go and I consider this a form of therapy. It has taught me mindfulness, and it should be prescribed to anyone in need of a tune-up to their mind, body, or soul.

Yoga has aided me in loving and appreciating myself for who I am, as well as accepting where I am presently on an emotional and physical plane. I’ve discovered every single thing in life (feelings, too!) is impermanent. Even us human beings are constantly changing; ever-evolving. Embracing and practicing the five Yamas (the moral, ethical, and societal guidelines for the practicing yogi) is beneficial for creating authentic, intimate, compassionate, and sustainable healthy relationships. What once was a pathological use of energy in the drug world is now a joyful expression of a yogis journey towards peace. 

A year into recovery and beginning to reclaim my sexual intimacy, I’m a work in progress and I think I always will be. I’ve come to terms with that, though. I have had many breakthroughs and I’ve worked rather hard towards my substantial growth. I don’t consider myself worthless, disgusting, or unlovable. I accept my body the way it is, after all, it is simply housing for my soul. I’m able to think logically now, recognizing that prostituting myself did not change my body and, more importantly, it didn’t change who I am as a person. Anything in this life is possible for me, as I am no longer a prisoner of my past.