We can speak our truth

Precious-Mills-PDEC, We can speak our truth, News & Views
“Born in Oakland and raised in the streets, at 40, I know exactly who I am – and who I used to be,” says Precious Mills.

by Precious Mills

As a former sex worker and drug user facing social stigma, even telling my story is the most courageous thing I have ever done. I’m like a nonchalant person, and people be talking about me, and I’d be like, “Okay, go with it. Fine. Sure.” But I see now that it can get out of control. 

So, I feel like I want to just take control of my own narrative, take control of my own storytelling and tell it from me. My story is about vulnerability, trials, triumphs and recovery. My story is about learning to choose respect and self-worth. I represent humanity. 

Born in Oakland and raised in the streets, at 40, I know exactly who I am – and who I used to be. I refer to myself as outgoing, but I don’t like attention on me and then I get nervous, because that’s just who I am. Growing up I didn’t see myself. I felt like a visitor. My childhood was so far removed from Blackish or That’s So Raven, it was more like P-Valley. I am comfortable with the chaos since that’s my comfort zone.

I became a product of my environment, from a trap house to worse situations as a child. After moving around with aunties in Atlanta and back to California, I learned early not to have attachments, go with the flow. I’ve moved around so much in my life I never stayed around to get any friends. 

I have never been taught and I’ve been winging it my whole life. By 16 I was in juvenile detention for three years. And, by 25, I was in prison, serving six years in California at Valley State Prison, Chowchilla, finishing out my time at Fire Camp in Malibu.

In my early 20s, in between and after the incarcerations, I began the sex work. At the time, coming from a troubled background characterized by neglect and a dysfunctional home numbed me to my own feelings of self-worth. Without direction, I was lured by the money, the fancy clothes, the cars – the material things. 

I worked in many cities; selling dope, flying in and out of state and doing sex work. It took me to a lot of places; Hawaii, Boston, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Miami, Las Vegas and Phoenix. The lifestyle is not glamorous like a tourist, but seeing the inside of a hotel room. 

There’s a huge misconception to think sex workers are out there because we are huge nymphomaniacs. But it’s all about the money. And drugs. I was young, alone, in need of money and misdirected. Sex work, drug addiction, lack of finances plus low self-esteem; these are some of the reasons that kept me in the business even when I was not happy with myself. I considered the occupation the only thing I could do with my life, and this mindset drove me to believe I was less important than other people.

It took me years to learn I am a person with feelings, who wants to be treated as a person not a sexual object. 

For me, the sex work led to heroin addiction. The drugs to deal with emotional and physical stress. I was just getting high at first, then getting high increased and I got addicted. My addiction got out of control. Once my addiction took hold, the jobs became secondary. I ended up losing everything and my life became unmanageable and I couldn’t maintain. I sold so much of myself for so little. 

Feeling worthless spilled over to my relationships. These built-up feelings came from being objectified and demeaned over time. The domestic abuse, emotional trauma, and shame kept me isolated. Every relationship was abusive. What started off as a celebration with champagne ended up with me being chased with a machete. I ended up with 171 stitches trying to get away. He went to prison. It took me years to learn I am a person with feelings, who wants to be treated as a person not a sexual object. 

The trauma and adversity are heavy. I was angry for so long because I had a hard life, and that showed up as me being mean and nasty to other people. Finding a way out was very difficult due to the psychological and financial effects it had on me, like so many others.

I have four children between the ages of four and 21. My mother raised the older ones. My youngest child is in foster care. She was four years old when she was taken away from me. Not raising my other children, and trying to parent the youngest one was difficult. I saw it coming, but refused to ask for help, until it was too late and Child Protective Services was knocking on the door. This was a huge part of me recognizing I needed to stop using drugs.

I entered a substance abuse prevention program in 2019 and that didn’t work. I tried it again and went to Walden House on Sept. 23, 2021, for a 90-day program, and ended up at Positive Directions Equals Change. I won’t let my story get in the way of my struggle. My story can change every day, so what I’m focused on is how to stay clean since there are no days off in recovery. Next month, God willing, I’ll have one year clean and sober.

What I have now is support in my recovery. And, stable and safe housing, mental health resources, parenting classes, women-centered support groups, mixed support groups, one-on-one therapy, access to educational opportunities and so much more. I want to thank Rena Wade, Lisa Wood-Oliver, Cedric Akbar, Cregg Johnson, Ron Thomas, Steve Clark, Traci Watson and Tatem Davis for helping me be the best version of me.

My recovery comes first. I plan to stay around Positive Directions to hold on to my seat and be okay with myself. Now I am learning to bounce stuff off others to make wholesome choices. I no longer look for validation from men. I have a legitimate career path and goals for the future. I’m not that broken little girl who needs money and I don’t cat off and put the man in front of what I need to do for me and my future. I seek stability, no longer chaos.

PDEC-Zoom-Recovery-Network-0922, We can speak our truth, News & Views

If you or someone you know needs help for addiction or co-occurring disorder issues, please give us a call. Positive Directions Equals Change, a community-based organization in the Bayview, offers classes and support groups each day of the week. If we aren’t the best fit for you or your loved one, we will take the necessary time to work with you to find a treatment center or provider that better fits your needs. Please give us a call at 415-401-0199 or email our team at recoverycorner@pd4life.org. The schedule is below and all are welcome.