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11-Apr-2018 12:06

The apartment I lived in, which I found out had formerly been a storage unit, had no heat and was overrun with mice. Sobriety, I was taught, meant that I would have to learn to pass up instant gratification in exchange for the dreams and ambitions I had tossed aside.

It was an opportunity to become just one person, versus two—the unlovable person I feared I was on the inside, and the “I don’t give a fuck” person I presented to others.

Using sex to check out, I was not present with my partners. In many ways, I didn’t do it for the money: I did it to get high.

Outside of paid encounters, it must also be said, my sexual behavior was incredibly risky, for the reasons academics suggest: by engaging in unprotected anal sex, for example, with a boyfriend or potential boyfriend—something I would not do with a client because I defined the one interaction as "personal" and the other as "professional." My standard, by the way, for what constituted a “boyfriend” at that time was reduced to anyone that was non-paying (no matter for how briefly or how little I knew the man).

Inside, I felt used up and financially strapped by useless degrees. They say all addictions stem from a desire for intimacy. All I wanted was security, a sense of self, and love.

Unemployed and unemployable, I had long ago stopped writing. In recovery, I was offered an opportunity to live by a new set of principles.

If I was going to do it anyway, I reasoned with myself, why not get paid?

Though not true of all sex workers, for me, having sex for money was demonstrative of a total lack of self-concern.

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If I didn’t like the guy, a couple drinks would soften the disappointment. Eventually, the humiliation of online dating led to sex for money.The knowledge that I was on the wrong side of 25 melted into the relieving feeling of pleasure when I fucked.It became so that I could not pass up any opportunity to have sex.One night, after a meeting, he took me out for dessert. I hadn’t experienced courtesy since I’d been with my ex. Staying in that moment of not knowing—when it comes to sex, and life—is sobriety.

It took every ounce of self-restraint to not to fuck him right there—not because I was attracted to him (although I was) or because we got along so well (we did)—but because, prior to recovery, that’s what I’d do. He stayed with me and, together, we slept in my bed and still, we didn’t have sex. Five years later, I’m still sober—and he and I are still together. A fellow in recovery, he went above and beyond what friends might do. Melissa Petro writes for Salon, Daily Beast, The Huffington Post, and elsewhere. Growing up, I had heavily invested in an image of myself as the good, achieving daughter.

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