Before dropping me off in the dark, dank sewer water of my bottom, my addiction took me to a variety of fun places. My friends and I went to the best bars and parties, snuggled up with people who presumably were very good-looking when they weren’t so strung out, yelled “woo” a lot, and posed for pictures in which we appeared to be mid-head bang. It was my addiction, not historically the best decision-maker, which led me to the sex industry.
To a repressed fundamentalist Christian girl from a small town, prostitution sounded like a dream career—you get to have sex, sweet forbidden sex, and you get paid for it? To an alcoholic and addict, it just seemed like a good lifestyle fit. Flexible hours, enough untaxed income to spend indiscriminately in blackouts and very little in the way of actual skills—or even coherence—required.
So when I moved to New York in fall of 2001, I let addiction guide me right past the used futons and apartments in undesirable sections of Brooklyn to the Casual Encounters section of Craigslist.com.
There was something narcotic about posting, corresponding with potential clients, and scheduling appointments, especially when I did it in eight-hour blocks, zombie-eyed and slumped over my laptop. And the high of actually knocking on a strange door was unparalleled—the heart-thumping adrenaline, the fear of social consequence or physical harm, the dizzying rush of play-acting a fantasy for the hungry soul in 3B or 2A.
Because what is the sex industry but a place where we do our best to use each other like drugs—me filling my yawning hole with the money and twisted affection I got from men trying to fill their own empty souls with my decades-younger body?
And if nothing else, the sex industry is a great place to party. Just the act of inviting a hooker over is like a little party in itself—a human ice cream cake, bought to provide a little treat, to celebrate. My 19-year-old body in itself was an excuse to pop a cork or lay down a fat line. Since the confluence of my addictions was such that my perfect evening consisted of a never-ending vodka bottle, a fat baggie full of cocaine and a steady stream of sexual attention, I never hesitated to accept a cocktail or a thick, banker-or-lawyer-rolled spliff.
I fell down a lot—the combination of alcoholism and cheap hooker heels led to lots of unsightly bruises which never seemed to lower my market value. I hooked until I had enough money for necessities and then I kept hooking, until I had money to fritter away, money I spent just because I had it on things I didn’t need. I met nice guys, and assholes and guys who made no impression whatsoever, who I wouldn’t recognize on the street. I saw inside lots of apartments, got to know New York. Even today, when visiting an unfamiliar section of the city, I sometimes get a shiver of deja vu, realizing I’ve been there before.
But what people really want to know is what happened inside those rooms—what script I followed, how we negotiated sex as a transaction. Truthfully, I pretended I was on a date. I found something to love about the person and focused on that as I did my best to please them with my body. I tried to give them their money’s worth. I performed. I faked confidence. I disassociated.
More straightforwardly, I gave pornographic blowjobs with lots of moaning and drooling, held my ankles while they pounded the mattress askew, said cheesy things like “You’re so big,” and “Tell me how to make you feel good.”
People also want to know how I crossed that boundary that’s drawn so thick for so many and became a woman who has sold her body for money—no takebacks, forever and ever amen. The truth is, I never even saw the line that I was stepping over, crossed it as casually as a quiet street with no traffic, realizing only as I got to the other side that there was no way back.
Today I’m in recovery for both alcoholism and sex addiction. I’ve met a few other double winners like me, but the sex addicts in my life tend to be male, or females who fall more into the love and relationship addiction camp. Sometimes I wonder where all the female sex addicts are, but I figure they’re still out there getting paid handsomely to use their drug of choice. After all, if crack addicts got paid to smoke rock, a lot fewer of them would quit.
Even though I know that drinking and prostitution wouldn’t work for me today, sometimes hooking looks as good as a sweating bottle of wine. The temptation is there to make a quick buck when I’m short one month, or when I got laid off from my job this year. But what’s kind of cute at 20 just gets sad at 30, and there’s more in my life today to risk. So I try to remember that the highs came at a heavy emotional cost. For every dollar I made, there was another price I just can’t afford today.