By Susan Stafford
How did this all start?
Like many others in the US, I grew up in a dysfunctional home. My parents divorced when I was five. My mother then remarried to an abusive alcoholic.
There were many times in my life when I could have died.
My first near-death encounter occurred when I was around the age of ten and my mother was married to my stepfather Herb. Herb was an abusive alcoholic who would chase me and my family down the hall with an axe until I was holding on for my dear life on the shingles of the roof of the house. There were many nights I would hide in my attic and lock my bedroom door with a chair behind it. Then there was another time when he had sexually abused me so badly I thought I was never going to survive until the next day.
My mother was very non-affectionate and unattached to her three children. Due to living with an alcoholic, our lives were a constant, chaotic disaster. We moved from school to school as many as three times per year. There was also a time when the court system gave my mother an ultimatum—Herb or her kids—and she chose him. So I already felt very neglected by her. I never learned how to form friendships, not even with the first female I had ever known, my own mother. That combination of emotional disasters and scars sets the stage for a volatile explosion.
It wasn’t until I was twelve that my mother finally divorced Herb. But by then, I was a pretty messed up kid myself. I started hanging out with other kids my age who were in just as bad shape (if not worse) than I was. I wanted to be accepted into their group, so I shadowed whatever they did. My friends taught me how to roll a joint of marijuana and sniff cocaine. They even introduced me to Budweiser’s and cigarettes. Truthfully, I didn’t care for the smell or taste of any of those things (I even had to practice inhaling a cigarette in my basement one day just to get used it), but I just wanted to be liked no matter what kinds of habits or drugs my friends were into, so I made myself do them. The next thing I knew, I was getting high, skipping school, and I was well on my way to being a long-term drug addict. I became sexually active and explored teenage pornography. Yeah, life was one big party.
Then one day I got raped and threatened with a knife, and just when I needed my friends most, nobody cared. Then I found myself overdosing on diet pills. I wanted desperately to have an out-of-body experience and to remain disoriented until my heart stopped. Immeasurable sorrow seemed to be my only certain destiny. Well, it didn’t take long before my mother discovered my broken state and put me in a rehab center. I straightened up while I was in the center. I thought I had done a pretty good job until I got back from a visitation with my mom. Someone drugged the grape juice I drank prior to giving me my routine drug test. Today, they have better protective policies in place before giving a drug test. Back then, they didn’t. Then I had to talk my way out of the program because no one believed me, not even my mother who was fully conscious and with me the whole time. But the physiologists had her doubting her eye sight and memories of the night we were together, and by the time I was released, I was VERY angry at my mother (for more reasons than one). I wanted to be out on my own, out of her life forever.
That same day I was released, Herb phoned and offered me a place to stay. By that time, he and my mother had been divorced for a few years, and he was clean and sober. Somewhat skeptical, I considered my other choices (which at that time were nonexistent), and I seized the opportunity and moved into his small apartment.
He offered me the perfect opportunity: a modeling job. Sounds good, right? Wrong! He told me more lies, and I believed them. My stepfather made me a prostitute.
He took very good care of me. I had it all: a fully loaded car, an expensive condo, and the best that life could afford, yet I was miserable. Miserable under the influence of my pimp, rapist, and role model stepfather—and he was making money off of my destruction. It wasn’t supposed to be that way with my stepfather, was it?
By the time I was able to free myself from his grip, I started to develop an attitude because I was sick and tired of being used by people. Everything revolved around me: MY desires. MY wants. MY life. MY pride. I remained in the escort business and also worked in a whorehouse. Many times family and friends would lovingly try to tell me that I needed to change, but I wouldn’t hear it. Not even from my husband.
Stepping over the puddles, I became pregnant and gave birth to a still-born son that was fortunate enough to be revived. I really loved him, even more than myself. I fought kicking and screaming while trying to work in the escort service to support him, but there were a lot of falls, bumps, and bruises a long the way. Eventually I ended up in the state of Illinois with my boyfriend, Craig. I had painted this naive picture in my head that we would move from Florida to Illinois and be one big happy family while I remained in the escort service. I got my son a babysitter for the evening, and the next thing I knew I ended up in jail. That wasn’t supposed to happen.
But no sweat, I thought, it was my first offense. You see, a first offense in the USA is considered a minor misdemeanor. I should have been out in four hours. I repeat: four hours. But that never happened. Four hours turned into ten, then twenty-four, then two days, then three, then four. I was given no water to drink, not even a sip! I was cold. I wasn’t given a blanket, and I slept on a hard wooden-like bench. That wasn’t supposed to happen either.
I will never forget that third night. You see, by the time that night came, I really believed that I was never going to get out, and I thought I was going to die from dehydration. I knew something wrong was going on behind the system, but there was obviously nothing that I could do about it. For four frantic days, all I knew was that my son was at the babysitters. All I could I do was feel completely hopeless over my situation. I just wanted to hold him one more time and tell him how sorry I was for being such a horrible mother.
I thought that was where my life had ended. But that was where my life began.
God knew what it would take to break me finally and bring me to my knees with my eyes lifted up toward Heaven. I chose the road that led me into that jail. God chose the road that led me out. While God could forgive me, my journey was far from over. That situation, the lifestyle, and my inability to make mature decisions is what eventually led to my worst fear: My son was just four months old when I gave up the fight and placed him to adoption.
I didn’t want to give him up, but I didn’t want to stay in a lifestyle of prostitution either. This was 18 years ago. I had no help from my mother. The only person that was eager to help me was the last standing person on earth which was his babysitter who was very eager to adopt him. She told me that he would always remain a part of my life, so I agreed to let the adoption take place.
But nothing in my life could ever prepare me for the days ahead. I went home to an empty crib and had to pack up all of his clothes. I had nightmares every night. Often times, I would hear him crying only to wake up from a bad dream. I cried for years on end and even to this day, I still suffer in silence. I NEVER stopped loving him!! He has forgotten about me, but I have never forgotten about him.
Why did I choose that lifestyle to begin with?
I stayed in the business because I felt that I was never loved. I first filled that void with the affirmation of drugs, and then I filled it with the affirmation of men. And that became the infection of the next seven years of my life. It’s called DESTINATION DISEASE. That was fourteen years ago, and I have never gone back to that lifestyle since. NEVER! I’m not going to tell you that it’s been a rose garden since. I’ve been through a lot of peaks and valleys.
So, my dear friend, how have I changed?
Now I have a relationship with God, and I have a testimony to tell you. Fourteen years later, God has transformed the way I think. That, in a nutshell, is a miracle. I was very stubborn! It has now been twenty-three years since I have had any involvement with drugs, sixteen years since I’ve been out of the escort service, fourteen years since I told my side client that it was over for good, and nine years since I’ve quit smoking! I have been married for thirteen years to a Christian man. God blessed me with three more beautiful children that I now home school. (Wow, what a difference it is to be able to raise children while knowing who the father really is and without worrying about the lifestyle of prostitution.)
I’ve worked legitimate jobs ever since leaving the sex industry, and I have amassed a stable work history in the past, even receiving promotions into other departments. I am also now a published author of three books. One of my great previous titles was Pumping Breast Milk Successfully. Imagine that? A former prostitute who once couldn’t even care for her son, let alone cook, matures to eventually breastfeed for 28 months and inspires thousands of breastfeeding mothers in the process. Jesus was the one who made me want to change, He’s the one who set me free! It’s been an exciting journey!
It’s now 18 years later. My obsession with money, men, and pride has been replaced by humility and a commitment to a life of service. I now have a 501c3 non-profit ministry that witnesses to escorts at www.susanstafford.com. Ministering and making a difference in the lives of others suits me much better than having the luxury of all that life could afford in the escort service. And I much prefer helping prostitutes over having a smelly, heavy drunk pounding on top of my body any day.
When I reflect back, I can’t believe that other person was me. But it WAS me! God took the drugs, the pain, the broken dreams and dead end streets and turned them into rainbows. If God could forgive me and take me from where I came from, he could do it for you to. If you bring all your trash to Jesus, He’ll take it and turn it into something good. It doesn’t matter how bad you think your trash smells, whatever you’ve done, or whether you think you deserve it or not, He’ll clean it up and give you a whole new life.
The Bible says that “all of us have sinned and fall short of God’s glory. Because Jesus came as our sacrifice, He freely accepts us and sets us free from our sins” (Romans 3:23-24 CEM).
The Bible also says that “if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9 NIV).
Jesus says, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes through the father except through me.”
I wouldn’t trade my experiences for the world! In fact, I’m grateful for them. I’d rather be broken and healed than selfish and doomed for Hell. Jesus is the real thing, the only thing. Just give it up: the pride, the games—you won’t surprise Him. The Bible clearly states that God has plenty of mercy for everyone. Psalms 86:5 says, ” O, Lord, you are so good, so ready to forgive, so full of unfailing love for all who ask your aid.” You’ve seen a small glimpse of His forgiveness in me, and that doesn’t even scratch the surface. Let him turn your life into a life worth living. All you have to do—all you have to do— is ask.