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She Continues to Prostitute Herself

Candles at church

tinasananes struggles to accept her daughter’s dangerous choices. She has shown some signs of progress but seems to fall back on prostituting even when she is not using. Thoughts about this consume her and it feels impossible to let them go.

© S. Hermann & F. Richter via Pixabay

I can't seem to let it all go. My daughter is finally in a treatment center for dual diagnosis/mental health track right now. Which is great. Over the last five months or so, she was going in and out of quite a few rehabs doing IOP and living in their housing, which I was suspicious of being pretty shady. They use medical marijuana in their treatment program and would provide the clients there with it even if they did not have their medical card (we are in FL and medical marijuana is legal here). I was not in agreement with any of this, but my daughter is 25 and I had been trying to stay out of her way and let her make her own decisions with her attempts at recovery. These attempts were not going well at all. She would be able to go about 3-5 weeks and then would either leave the place or get kicked out of the place. She would be missing/on streets for a couple of days and then end up in another one of these places. Read tinasananes’ full comment here.

Your daughter is in early recovery. She gets into programs, lasts for a while, and then leaves. You know that she has prostituted herself while on the street, and just recently learned that she was continuing to do so even while in a sober house.

You are understandably very upset. You are questioning what she has told you about having been raped and trafficked. Is returning to prostitution a separate problem, one possibly related to her mental health condition?

There is no way for either of us to know. Your daughter has been supporting herself with prostitution. She is looking to be a dancer in a strip club. The lure of these pursuits is strong. She is young, attractive, and there are few alternatives in the street that can earn you that kind of money. It is also a milieu where drugs are plentiful. Prostituting and using drugs is likely a longstanding “pattern,” it is part of her street high.

We suggest you continue to focus first and foremost on keeping her in treatment for the addiction. One thing that is almost certain is that she will continue to prostitute herself as long as she is using drugs. So from our perspective, addressing the Substance Use Disorder is still the top priority.

As she stays abstinent and in recovery environments, my hunch is that the prostitution will drop away. She will learn to care for herself, and to value herself more. This is often a painstaking process, yet an integral one along the path of recovery. It is up to her to work her way out of this and she will if she stays abstinent.

Right now your daughter is in that very early period of sobriety, essentially trying on these treatments and homes. She says she needs “real help.” Believe her.

Can you find a way to tune into other thoughts when you begin to be consumed by the incredible pain you feel for what your daughter is doing to herself? When you see yourself becoming stuck in that anger and uncertainty about all the unknowns you have spoken of, can you see a way to put it all down?

Find a new habit to actively insert when you feel yourself triggered into this path of thinking. Picture yourself physically putting this pain/ anger/ frustration down, like a load of bricks or a heavy suitcase you don’t need to carry around any more. Picture yourself leaving this behind. Switch to a different “channel” or “station” in your mind, or turn down the volume… settle on a symbolic gesture or gestures like these that work for you and practice it. Repeatedly. It will take practice. Those thought patterns are well worn. Essentially you need to retrain your brain to give yourself a chance to let these thoughts subside and clear new space. We are absolutely capable of changing our mental landscapes. It’s rarely easy, but when we do, our external worlds shift in kind.

It is wise of you to identify these painful struggles you are facing and reach out for guidance. Knowing what one “should” do and actually following through are very different things, as we all well know. You’re right that you need to put aside the judgement, the anger, etc. But first you must accept whatever you feel. You are human. Show yourself some compassion. What you are grappling with is excruciatingly difficult. Both you and your daughter have our deep and heartfelt compassion.

Self-care is such a pivotal part of our approach. So clearing these painful feelings you speak of is essential. It is essential for your health and well-being not to be flooded with anger and frustration. It is essential to free up your energy in order to help – and truly connect and be present with your daughter – when those often fleeting opportunities present themselves. And it is essential for your being able to light the path for her when she needs help finding her way out of the dark.

Prostituting and dancing are part of a culture that includes quick money and quick drugs. It draws her back. Early recovery has plenty of pitfalls which look different for each individual. The lines are jagged, not straight. These activities will wane when she gets more sure footing in recovery.

She is not out of the woods yet. But she is trying. This doesn’t look exactly how you want it to. But that doesn’t mean the wins you have described are any less valid. You have occasionally taken your daughter to eat and to church. Nicely done! This is significant.


With the CRAFT approach, the world divides in two: is she using or is she not using? Put down the other things for now. Focus on the drug use.

Put down the rest – even the prostitution and the sting of the information about her activities while receiving support in sober living. Put down the doubts about the traumas she endured. Women are in particular danger of being assaulted and of selling sex in the streets when addicted to drugs. Your daughter’s most recent and perhaps longstanding world is intimately tied up with sex for money. Perhaps you also put down the question of why she continues to return to this. There will be a time for her to face those questions herself when she is further down the path of recovery. She will need expert counseling and support to unravel this. Now is not yet the time to unpack it all.

I would say, given her patterns of use and her history, your daughter doesn’t have sufficient free will yet to cleanly step out of that world. Give her some time.

You are handling things right. Your daughter is trying, treatment after treatment… it is horribly bumpy but this is movement forward for you and for her.

If you have your daughter come home, please read through our other posts about living arrangements.  Clear some mental and emotional space. Allow yourself to envision and implement a plan that you can honestly get behind. Be reasonable with yourself and stay open and creative. Envision an ideal and have a plan of action to ground you if things don't go as you are hoping. You might do as we suggest in many posts: keep it temporary, perhaps even implement the daybed and locker system, explain that there cannot be use in the house.

You might say – with the most compassion and grace you can muster – that you are aware of the sex for money continuing into her early sobriety. Ask her what she needs so that she doesn’t do this even if she relapses. Can you ask this without allowing the judgment to seep in? Without holding on to the anger you have felt about it? Above all, use your CRAFT communication skills when you bring up the plan with her. Even as you discuss the plan for what might happen if things don't go smoothly. Don't hang on to past wounds or get stuck in negativity. Brainstorm with her about options. Be honest and candid and ask for her input.

Set yourself up as a partner in her recovery. As you shift your identity along these lines, she will learn to keep seeing you differently, bit by bit, and it will propel your relationship along to the place of strength and resilience we strive for. Ask what she needs and listen with an open heart. Accept her responses, limited as they may be, and keep practicing the communication skills we teach every chance you get. It doesn’t mean you embrace all that she has done. You just ground your responses by drawing the lines around use and non-use as CRAFT would have you do, and let the rest be. Practice being compassionate, grounded and neutral. Start fresh every day.

Keep up the church attendance together and a meal. Perhaps you suggest exploring together other churches and self help groups… make it light. If she cancels, she cancels. Take care of yourself so that you can model openness and resilience as you navigate the daily ins and outs.

CRAFT teaches families a stance to take in the face of a Loved One’s active addiction. So put a bend in your knees, and ready yourself. You are there to partner with her, provide assistance getting any and all kinds of help set up. Stay flexible and focused on the addiction for now. The prostitution will end as she emerges from the drug world into the sober world.

Your daughter will want to work through trauma and the PTSD, and this will clearly be an integral part of her healing. But first she needs day-to-day skills that will reduce and hopefully eliminate the substance use. The main skills are learning to cope with stress, craving, extreme emotions, and building a daily life that PROTECTS from relapse.

The pain you feel about your daughter’s behavior is understandable. No one wants this for their child. The anger about her activities despite all of your good-will gestures and efforts is something many family members can relate to. Write about it in your journal, find your own way to navigate this and come back to your center. This is your work, and the very real work that so many family members on this site grapple with so fiercely. These feelings are not your daughter’s burden to bear; she has plenty of her own. Address the addiction first, this is the quickest way to make the rest of it go away.

How can you redouble your efforts to truly take care of your self and your peace of mind? The thought of your daughter’s plight, and the anger and uncertainty around this all is devastating you. Perhaps you get a good therapist to help you through this period. You can’t stop the prostitution, it will stop on its own as your daughter gets abstinent, so you need to find a way to hang on and not let these using behaviors overcome you.

The progress you share with us is heartening. You are still in the thick of it, and we feel for you in this raw time. But you are doing a great job, and there is light at the end of the tunnel. We are rooting for you, and we are all here for you. Lean on the site heavily. Stay open to inspiration wherever it comes to you. You are doing such important work. Wishing you peace and strength.



In your comments, please show respect for each other and do not give advice. Please consider that your choice of words has the power to reduce stigma and change opinions (ie, "person struggling with substance use" vs. "addict", "use" vs. "abuse"...)