Many years ago, maybe twenty-seven years ago, I worked for a man named Glen, here in Fort Worth, Texas. Glen was a good man, a nice man, very professional in the work place, and he had given a woman like me, with a sordid past, the opportunity to work. The office was a hodge-podge of good, but troubled folk who came from varying backgrounds that simply needed to find their footing in life while earning a living. Well, not quite a living. But, I enjoyed working for Glen, and it was because of him, and his character reference that I was able to move on and become a file clerk with the City of Fort Worth even though I was a convicted felon. Several years after leaving Glen’s business my life fell apart, as it had always done, and I found myself working the streets of the Southside of Fort Worth to support my crack addiction. I never saw Glen again, but he had never left my heart, my mind, as a person who had given me a chance. In 2008 I moved away from Fort Worth. I moved away because being there kept me too close to the painful realities of my addiction and I needed to go away and heal.
In August of 2020 I moved back to Fort Worth to reconnect with my daughter, whom I had lost custody of in 2003, and to begin a Doctor of Ministry degree at Brite Divinity School. I came back to this city a different woman, and my intention was, and remains, to do the work of walking with women like me, wherever they are. The Dallas-Fort Worth area feels like the appropriate place for me to open a drop-in center for women who are active in their addiction and living complex lifestyles to support it. Over the years I had done the work of engaging the physical abuse, addiction, and sexual abuse of my childhood, as well as the physical, spiritual and psychological trauma of being a drug-addicted prostitute for much of my adult life. But the work of engaging trauma, and turning it over to become fodder for something better, is an ongoing labor of self-love and self-preservation that embodies one’s self-worth. I have always known that different parts of my story could resurface at any time—not to serve me, but to shame me, re-traumatize me, and undermine my progress. I believe that is the nature of trauma, resolved or not. I write this story in light of that revelation because one day I will be able to share my journey with women like me, and perhaps this will bring awareness to the snares that arise from the residue of trauma lingering in the spirit, the mind, as well as the body.
Several weeks after arriving in Fort Worth I drove past many of the places where my addiction and life as a prostitute played out. I always want to be mindful of where I have been, and who I have been, because it centers my life in purpose and gratitude. I also know it is important, at least for me, to see the spaces I have been and to sit with whatever feelings they provoke in me because suppressing memories, no matter how painful, only creates dormant pockets of unresolved issues or pain that can circumvent my healing. These dormant pockets, if untreated, create space within me for toxicity to quietly carry on within me, and though it may not seem to be aggressively exacting anything from me it compromises my overall health in subtle but vital ways. There is nothing worse, for a person in recovery, to face triggering difficulties only to find their health is only as deep as the masks they wear, and are now lacking the integrity, or the spiritual or emotional equilibrium, to maintain their sobriety. It’s not a good time to find out that termites have consumed the foundation of a home during a storm; it’s best to know, and do the work of repair in advance.
So, one day, as I was moving through the city, I passed by Glen’s place. It was all boarded up. I pulled over and sat there reminiscing about all that had transpired since my days in that office. I felt a beautiful wash of nostalgia cascade over my memories, and I sat there smiling with tears in my eyes. As I pulled away I wondered whatever happened to Glen…
Six months later, in March of 2021, I was driving through Arlington, and stopped for gas. I walked into the gas station and to my surprise, Glen was in line at the register. I couldn’t believe it. I called out, “Glen?!” He turned and stared at me, obviously trying to put a name with the face. “Oh my God! Yevette? Girl. Is that you?” We hugged, and laughed, repeating the improbability of running into each other after all those years. I was so happy to see him, and there was so much to be said so we exchanged numbers and promised to catch up. The next day I began receiving calls from Glen. For several weeks the conversations were good, and then they became intense. After catching up on the details of our lives and families, Glen let me know that he had been in love with me since I worked for him all those years ago, and that he believed God had brought me back into his life in response to that love. At first I didn’t take his words to heart. We had never been romantically involved, and he didn’t know me to love me. But then he began to profess his love, repeatedly, with tears, pleading with me not to leave him again. He told me that he had been unhappy in his marriage for decades, but now, because I was back, he felt empowered to make some hard decisions. I could sense that he was being earnest, at least in his own mind he was, and it’s important to note that his heartfelt confession did settle in around the gratitude I had for his kindness to me those many years ago. I care about Glen deeply, platonically, so his tears caused me to feel empathy for what his heart longed for, but no other passion in me was quickened.
Not wanting to be mean, or disconnect from Glen altogether, I took another call. Again, the call ended with him crying, and professing his love, and I had a thought: “You should just let him hold you. You should go and comfort him.” This thought shook me to my core. It was as if some other woman had entered my headspace and was making this wildly inappropriate suggestion. Why would I think such a thing? Why would I consider offering him my body? For what? Although I know this thought, in part, arose from the ways women have been groomed, and called upon to exhaust themselves in nurturing and serving others, especially men, I knew for me those thoughts emerged from a much more personal space of embodied trauma, and the emotional history that gave voice to it. For years I had used my body to earn money, to please men, to address their emotional needs and sexual appetites. Even in relationship I learned that the way to calm a man was to offer him my body; it was easier than dealing with his tantrums. Hearing Glen cry and profess his love triggered me; his words, his grief settled in around my gratitude towards him and attempted to manipulate me into betraying my own sense of well-being and self-worth. This is why the work of healing and self-actualization is never done.
There would have been a time that I would have been moved in my mind and body to satisfy his love for me, his desire for me, but that woman is dead. No matter the commitment, or how good a man has been to me, I don’t owe him, or any other man, anything—not even a conversation.
Glen did not ask me to comfort him physically. My triggers were my own embedded beliefs and trauma, but, as sad as it is, I must release Glen to fade away, again. Not because he is a temptation, but because he has set a course with me that will not end amiably. As a woman in recovery, this is a vital lesson. The inability to spot a trigger sets in motion additional triggers. The inability to hear old voices makes it easier to entertain them and ultimately be lured away from one’s path of recovery into familiar but deadly terrain. If those thoughts, “You should just let him hold you. You should go and comfort him,” hadn’t hit me as strange, I could’ve shifted into a dangerous space. How? Because addiction is clever, almost as if it has a personality with a specific agenda, and if I walk away from the parameters of care I have set for my body, then the addiction senses I’ve become comfortable in relaxing my efforts at integrity. There’s no pressure, and there’s no fear, because fear is not life-giving, but I do live with an awareness that has been groomed by my spiritual moral compass. The work of engaging trauma never ends, and for me, as an ex-prostitute, there is a depth to this truth that must take root in my body. One, so that I can be healed and experience a loving, healthy sexual relationship with my future partner, and two, so that I honor the inherent worth of my body and resist it becoming abused, objectified and marketed again. I cannot live my life in a bubble. There will always be triggering moments that tempt me to betray myself, and so I remain engaged, doing the work of developing the wisdom, and clarity of my new voice.