There was a time in my life when I used sex to feel safe.
I wasn’t aware of the unconscious brilliance that had led me to such behavior at the time; almost seven years later, I can reflect on this time with a deeper understanding.
Allow me to explain.
My life, before the age of 23, was almost always in a turbulent state; I was overworked, disconnected, and riddled with fear that lived just beneath the surface.
Though on the surface, I appeared happy—often with a big smile plastered across my face. This was a mask I wore in order to lie to myself, for I wasn’t ready to face the truth of my emotional dis-ease.
I discovered the power of my sexuality at a slumber party when I was 12. An older girl initiated some late-night touching and kissing, and from then, on she swooned. Even at such a young age, I couldn’t help but notice that my sexuality had an effect on that girl at the slumber party. With no specific intentions in mind, I began innocently experimenting as the years went on.
I learned that with a single glance, I could bring a man to his knees. I found that with a single shake of my body, I could hold a man’s gaze all night. It became clear that—with a single, sexy tease—a once liberated man would pursue me until he got me.
I knew how to make them want me, and I felt powerful.
For a moment, I felt in control, and that illusionary control made me feel safe for a fleeting moment. When I used my sexuality to bring a man further out of touch with his power, I tasted the sensation of being in control.
This exchange came at a great cost—I had turned my relationship with sex into an abusive one. I kept men in close reach, never letting them fully in (true intimacy was too risky), but close enough so that someone was always there to satiate my thirst for control.
It was simple, really. I would have an experience that led me to feel unsafe; this could’ve been anything from a scarcity fear to an experience of rejection in a flirty moment.
It wasn’t uncommon during that time, as my body had learned to reside in a feeling of danger, the default state of my body since childhood. I would go into a mild sympathetic nervous system response, and unconsciously I would seek out an experience that made me feel in control. This led me to feel stable, safe, and not so vulnerable at the mercy of life’s ever-changing circumstances. (Of course, today, I understand that life is an everlasting reel of uncertain moments and events and that learning to feel safe in the uncertainty is where the medicine lies).
I had lots of sex with lots of men. I even found myself in a number of industries that assured me I would be the pearl of man’s adoring gaze. I dressed up and danced in a spotlight, assuring myself new admirers each time I performed. I was also a bartender who served drinks and listened to men venting about the challenges in their home and work lives.
I had more than one stalker in those days, and deep down, I liked it.
For a while, it all worked—I didn’t have to face the roots of my deep disconnection or trauma. I was able to sidestep healing by satisfying my deep yearning for wholeness through connection with and control of another.
It worked well for a while; until the truth of my false safety was revealed when life handed me a tragedy so painful that even sex couldn’t bandage the wound—nothing could.
In 2016, when I was 23 years old, I received a phone call from a dear friend informing me that my momma was found on the floor of her apartment. I flew across the country to be by her side for nine painful days in the hospital. For nine painful days, while my mom lay unconscious next to me, my emotions ran wild from hopeful to suicidal.
On the ninth day, I held my sweet momma in my arms as she breathed her final breath, and I watched my only living parent die of “unknown causes.” I finally had to face myself, for real. I’ve never experienced a time more emotionally and physically painful than after her death. I was heartbroken, shattered, and desperate for an explanation as to why such a tragedy could happen to me and my sisters again.
And still, that deeply grieving and dark time in my life opened up the opportunity for a healing journey I never once considered before then—life cracked me wide the f*ck open.
Every wounded part of me spilled out. I fall on my knees in gratitude every day for what was once labeled as the worst day of my life.
I had a choice: collapse into my old vices or rise into real healing.
For the first time in my life, I surrendered. Dark parts of me spilled onto the floor that I’d never seen before. I decided to rise through the trenches, as slow and turbulent as the process was.
And, herein, began the first page of a healing journey that never ends.