Old Dog, Different Tricks: The Memoir of a hooker, addict & now author

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The walls of the MetLife building in New York resonated the voice of a man who is trying to find his way in the world. After a life of abuse, addiction, prostitution and even more abuse, Justin Hernandez is finding the best outlet on his road to recovery – writing. His new book, Inside the Vortex, Hernandez recounts his fight with addiction, prostitution and abusive relationships.

After moving back to New York after a turbulent and enlightening stint in Los Angeles, Hernandez started to wonder if his life would ever get where he wanted it to be. Writing became therapy for him. His Naked in New York City blog was his first outlet to share his experiences and release his stress.

“I wanted to share my experiences about living in one of the most exciting cities in the world,” he said. “Most of the entries were about my dating life, mixed up with commentaries about gay culture and other fun stuff. As I continued to write about my current life, I began to allude to my past and how it has affected, and still affects, the choices that I make.”

Fans of his blog encouraged Hernandez to write his whole story in a memoir. Realizing he had come to terms with everything from his past, he agreed to do it.

A product of a single mother, Hernandez was born and raised in the Bronx. A “Hard Knock Life” pales in comparison to what Hernandez went suffered from growing up. At age 11, he was mentally, physically and sexually abused by his stepfather. Hernandez came out at age 17, something his mother never took to well to.

“She was very unhappy about it,” he said. “She didn’t want to hear about anything gay related. There was a lack of support from her which was upsetting because I lost the person I wanted to turn to the most.”

The lack of love and support drove him to become angry and needy. The only place he could seem to find happiness was in his developing addictions. As for love, Hernandez went looking for it in all the wrong places. Men used, and again abused, the young man. In his mind, Hernandez thought he deserved it.

“I went through my teenage years believing I was this broken person who didn’t deserve to be treated well,” he said. “I carried that mentality into my twenties and most of my thirties.”

Off To L.A.

To escape the proverbial hell he was living in, Hernandez fled to Los Angeles. With high hopes of becoming a pop music dancer, Tinseltown promised the glitz and glamour that Hernandez wanted. He landed a few gigs here and there – nothing serious – and eventually Hernandez turned from legitimate dancing, to stripping. Stripping led to escorting.

“When there is unhappiness in your heart, it will follow you wherever you go,” he recalled. “I thought things would be different because I was in a new city. But I didn’t even blink an eye when I was approached with selling my body.”

Hernandez admits to sleeping with more than 500 men. Even though he was becoming complacent and unemotional towards sex, he never equated his lifestyle with addiction. He kept it up because the money was good. Even when shopping, he would have sex with the clerks in the dressing room.

“I didn’t know how to stop. It was fun, but only because of the conditions that surrounded the encounters,” Hernandez said. “And when I was paid for it, the money was the real aphrodisiac, not the men.”

Late nights and strange men took their toll on Hernandez. Alcohol and recreational drugs fueled a couple of moments that he called “wakeup calls.”

“In the book I talk about that life being too much for me and I walked away,” Hernandez said. “I worked in an office and tried to correct my life.”

That correction didn’t last long. Because of his family’s rejection, Hernandez sought out the company of men, saying that’s why it was so easy for him to escort. Another relationship with another abusive man pulled him away from his upward turn, continuing his “dysfunctional cycle.”

Downward Spiral

“The emptiness I felt was filled with keeping company with me,” Hernandez said. “They make me happy. It was a natural progression of validation and with the money it was win-win.”

As things got crazier and more out of control, Hernandez said his behavioral patterns started to change. He became sleep deprived from all the thoughts in his head and he relied on just one main crutch – alcohol.

“This was Los Angeles so there was no taking the train home at the end of the night,” he admits. “I drove, and there were more than a few times when I really shouldn’t have been behind the wheel.”

With a downward spiral starting and his relationship becoming worse, Hernandez finally snapped out of it and made a change. He ended things with the man that was currently using and abusing him and started weekly therapy sessions. Those sessions were a “true wakeup call” for him.

“There were issues I wasn’t dealing with and it took time for me to be healed,” he said. “It was still trial and error after therapy.”

The trial and error came from Hernandez still having the fear of being alone in life, ironically equating himself to a child, a child that had never had a grasp of self-worth or appreciation. Even though he suffered a few setbacks, the search for validation through escorting and stripping was over.

Vindication

“I’m so happy to be back in New York, I’m so happy to be home,” Hernandez said. “The energy of this city is in my blood.”

Getting back home was just what the doctor ordered for Hernandez. The first day back he said he got up and just kept going as if he never left. The void in his life from the ending of his dance career needed to be filled. Hernandez started to write to fill those gaps and help with his spiritual growth.

“I like the path my life and personal growth is on now,” Hernandez said. “I realize I spent a large portion of my life neglecting myself and now I have to figure out what I can do to make myself happy again.”

To do that, Hernandez said he will continue writing and working on his second book. He said he does want a healthy relationship with a guy, but right now the one he needs to focus on is himself.

“I’m finally getting my footing back and mastering that,” he said. “Until then I’ll be there for myself.”

Hernandez said relapsing is easy, but he has no plans to go back. With his chin held high, and the deck stacked against him, he hopes there is a bright future ahead.

“No matter what you’re dealing with, no matter how crappy your hand, you have the ability to change yourself if you’re willing to do the work,” he said. “I counted myself out.  They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but I’m living proof that’s not true. “You have to be willing to work for your life and want it in order to succeed.”


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