The first sober escort I ever met was Maria. She was a spunky, sexy brunette who attended my home group. She worked a good program and still had a hard time staying sober for more than a few months at a time. Maria felt prostitution was an impediment to her sobriety and it was her wish to quit the business someday soon. I eventually lost track of her so I have no idea if she ever did quit prostitution nor do I know if she was able to sustain any long-term sobriety.
But I certainly recall the resistance I felt inside myself when some members of twelve step recovery assumed that certain professions or sexual orientations are inconsistent with a life of sobriety. For me, tradition ten, which states “we have no opinion on outside issues,” created the safety I needed in order to get sober.
Similarly, “God as we understood Him,” the central theme communicated in the twelve steps, gave me the psychic space I needed to recover. Like others in twelve step groups, I learned that forming a conscious contact with God or my Higher Power, was a deeply personal journey which was not only encouraged, but created a key distinction between twelve step programs and religion.
Yet, I often encountered judgmental and opinionated people in meetings who were not shy about sharing their version of God, their take on “sin,” and their personal preferences when it came to what constitutes “appropriate” sexual behavior. It seemed that although the program expressed “no opinion on outside issues,” members often felt free to express their opinions about all sorts of topics.
Sex in particular seemed to generate a great deal of pressure for conformity, so much so that some gay and lesbian individuals were either kicked out of a given recovery group or so thoroughly harassed for being gay that they felt they had to leave the group.
Having spent my childhood and adolescence in a conservative religious cult, I knew the damage which shame and dogma can inflict. My sobriety had to be sourced in something other than peer pressure and shame based thinking.
Therefore, I fully intended to find a God of my understanding, develop a conscious contact, work the steps, practice the principles in all my affairs and then do my best to follow where my Higher Power directed me. And I did. But I was also careful to I get a sponsor who led me through the steps while expressing no opinions on outside issues. She was all about sobriety and I appreciated her no-nonsense approach.
At four years sober, I came out as bisexual and began attending gay/lesbian meetings. I didn’t feel like I fit in but at least it was a place where I could talk about my truth without being judged too harshly. It was the early 90’s and bisexuals were not exactly accepted in the gay/lesbian community. In fact, I often heard that I “should make up my mind” whether I wanted to be “straight” or “gay” because almost no one believed there were any “true” bisexuals.
But still the level of acceptance was greater than what I encountered at the regular meetings and I knew that in order to safeguard my sobriety it was essential that I find another sober alcoholic to share my truth with.
After all, we are “only as sick as our secrets” and I didn’t want to have any secrets. Recovery had also taught me that shame would lead inevitably to another drunk so I practiced rigorous honesty in order to dispel my shame. Even then, I knew the true power of meetings is how they heal shame by affording members the opportunity to share their secrets and unburden themselves of remorse and resentments.
Soon after coming out bisexual, I began dating a woman who was working as an escort. At first I felt sorry for her, but as I got to know her it became apparent that her life was highly functional and she was not only very healthy and happy but completely drug free. Occasionally she had a glass of wine but she never finished it. I was confused. How could anyone have sex for money without using chemicals to deaden their emotional distress? And why did she appear to be happier than most of the people I knew?
Conventional thinking has it that prostitution is a degrading profession which leads inevitably to addiction and all sorts of dysfunctional behaviors. But since I was not prone to follow conventional wisdom, I allowed my curiosity and sense of adventure to lead me to question some of my own assumptions. Was it possible that I had been misinformed about prostitution? Might it be possible to work as an escort and maintain a sober lifestyle?
I was deeply dissatisfied with my current employment in corporate settings and I wondered if I might experience myself as being happier and healthier if I tried working as an escort. I began discussing the possibilities with my sober friends but not for long. My best friend in sobriety, Janise, wanted nothing to do with my musings. “How dare you talk about God and turning tricks in the same breath!” Janise yelled into the phone just before she slammed the receiver down. It would be the last time she spoke to me despite the fact that we shared the same home group and would often see each other at meetings. I loved Janise so it was a huge blow for me.
I continued to question why I was entertaining such a controversial career choice. It seemed like a dark direction. Here I was four years clean and sober, establishing a new life based upon honesty, accountability and a spiritual path. How on earth could working in the sex industry be harmonious with a life based upon these principles?
But no matter how many doubts I entertained and no matter how many powerful messages I got from people and from the dominant culture that this would be a horrible choice, the guidance I received from my Higher Power was positive and embracing.
I eventually got the nerve to ask my girlfriend if she would teach me to do what she did for a living. At first she refused. She didn’t want the responsibility. But when I made it clear that I would try to do it on my own even if she didn’t teach me, she finally agreed to share what she knew.
Getting paid for sex was different than I imagined.
Actually, my feelings reminded me of those I experienced the first time I made love with a woman when I was in college. I woke up the next morning and ran to the mirror to see if I looked any different, as if sex with a woman would magically make me look like a “lesbian,” whatever that meant to my naive brain.
Getting paid for sex made me question if I was a good person or a bad person. I wondered if I would ever be considered love-able or acceptable to men who were not my clients. I felt as if I had crossed some invisible line where once I was a “good girl” and now I was a “bad girl.”
But no part of me felt like doing drugs or drinking.
Most people imagine that sex for money would repulse them to such a degree that they would need to leave their body or suppress their true feelings. But that was not true for me. I brought my emotions and my conscious contact with my Higher Power to escorting just as I did for every other facet of my life.
As part of my interpretation of what it meant to be an escort, I incorporated my spiritual journey into my professional pursuits, learning ways to heal and love my clients. This involved helping them to release repressed emotions and express their truth in a shame-free setting.
Even though my path was shocking to many, it was empowering for me.
Why was I so happy? Why was it such a good experience for me? My work as an escort was sourced in my spiritual life more than any profession I had before.
I prayed constantly to be of service to all my clients, whether they were highly successful and powerful men who paid me $15,000 a date, or men who lived with severe disabilities and had a limited income. What gave me joy was the opportunity to be a healing influence in the lives of others. Because of this, I enjoyed a very successful fourteen years in the profession while maintaining my sobriety.
It was also fulfilling to become an international voice for the sex worker rights movement, and to be afforded the opportunity to speak out for women’s sexual freedoms on major media such as CNN and The New York Times.
The public perception is that escorting is a soulless pursuit, but it was not that way for me. Much to my surprise, the greatest spiritual gift which came to me was learning to trust the guidance of my intuition and my conscious contact with my Higher Power. I had been raised to rely upon logic for decision making and prayer for penitence. But I learned to use prayer in every facet of my life, especially when earning money.
However, I never have felt comfortable talking about my past profession at 12-step meetings. That has always been a source of sadness for me. Even now that I have been retired from escorting since 2004, having successfully transitioned into being a Relationship Coach who specializes in anger management, sexuality and communication; I don’t share my truth as a former sober escort at 12-step meetings.
However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot of sober sex workers in meetings. There are. But like me they don’t talk about their profession. The fear of being labeled or ostracized is too potent for most people.
Not only are there plenty of sober escorts, there are even more sober clients of escorts. I was completely oblivious to that fact before I entered the profession, but I found that many of my clients were sober too.
Today I have been blessed with 35 years of continuous sobriety.
And yet, despite the fact that I maintained an excellent program of sobriety during the fourteen years I worked as a high-end escort, my friend Janise’s parting words to me still sting all these decades later.
I often hesitate to tell anyone in the 12 step groups that I attend, about my former profession. I can still feel fearful that they will judge me and misunderstand me. But over time, I am learning that not everyone in 12 step recovery is as judgmental as my friend Janise was. It’s even possible that she doesn’t feel that way today. After all, we were in early sobriety and her judgments were really just an expression of her fear.
Today I do speak about God and prostitution in the same breath. Maybe not in 12-step meetings but certainly here and other online platforms.
I realize that by sharing my truth, some people might be afraid I am trying to convince others to follow in my footsteps. I am not.
But for any of my readers who attend 12 step meetings, I want you to know that a sober escort might be holding your hand when you say the closing prayer at your meeting. Perhaps now that you have read my story, you will find it easier to accept her or him if they ever take the risk of sharing their truth with you.