Samantha X’s escort ‘exit plan’
Many people imagine the life of an escort to be one of constant indulgence and parties: sipping champagne in fancy hotel suites and being wined and dined at only the most exclusive establishments.
For most of us, that's a rarity rather than a reality, but for Samantha X, one of Australia's highest-paid and most visible sex workers, it's probably a lot more commonplace.
With an incredibly successful career as an escort, two best-selling memoirs - Hooked and Back on Top - under her belt and an agency of her own to run, Samantha was hardly running out of things to do.
But after doing "enough partying to last a lifetime", the luxuries she used to enjoy began to lose their lustre.
"I decided to stop drinking after I hit my own rock bottom at the end of last year," she told me, in an exclusive interview with news.com.au.
"I had stopped using alcohol as something fun and social and started to use it as an emotional painkiller. I tried to stop years ago and couldn't manage it, but this time I knew it was time."
"I was never a huge drinker, but it crept up on me over the years. I can see how alcoholism is a progressive disease and I knew if I didn't catch myself in time, there wasn't going to be a happy ending."
The snapshots of life that Samantha shares on social media no longer show bottles of champagne or glasses of red wine, but pots of tea and bouquets of flowers gifted to her by clients.
Her late nights out have been swapped for early-morning sunrises and an ongoing struggle with alcohol has been replaced by sobriety, taken one day at a time.
"I used to think excitement was something only kids felt and adults grew out of. I hadn't felt joy for years. I've spent most of my life feeling disconnected, feeling that I never really fit in, and I think that I did a great job of masking that," she admits.
"The dark cloud of depression and anxiety that was constantly looming has lifted and I wake up at 5:30 every morning with excitement for another day, and [feeling] grateful for my family, my home, my friends, and my sobriety."
Her brand-new outlook on life has come with a career change, too.
After realising that many of her escorting clients were starting to book her just to ask her advice, she began offering relationship coaching sessions: fully-clothed, intimate chats with clients of any gender who wanted her input on how they could spice up their stale sex lives, revive a failing relationship, or work up the courage to get out on to the dating scene.
"I've always said being an escort is like being an overpaid psychologist. I figured I've spent the best part of seven years listening to the woes of CEOs with their clothes off, and now it's time to do it clothes-on."
"I don't want to make the massive mistake again of announcing to the world I am retiring, like I did eighteen months ago, only to go back six months later. But with sobriety comes clarity and change, and I am slowly evolving.
"This time, it's not because someone is putting pressure on me to quit, but because I want to. It's not going to happen overnight, I still have a house to run and bills to pay, but I have an exit plan and I am working towards it. I love the healing and guiding aspect of escorting: to me that has purpose and meaning, and that's where I want to go."
From single women to single men and even married couples, it seems people of almost every walk of life have come to Samantha seeking advice.
"I have coached lots of single women who are sick to death of being ghosted or used by men, or who worry they will never meet someone who wants to settle down. I even had an ex-pat call me from abroad to say his marriage has broken down, he has no friends, and no one to talk to. It is a great feeling knowing they feel safe with me."
"The most common issue I hear [from couples] is, 'how can we jazz up our sex lives without looking elsewhere?' The attraction is still there for each other, the love certainly is, and neither of them want to cheat."
While visiting an escort to ask for help staying monogamous might seem a little odd, if there's anyone who's practically unshockable when it comes to matters of the heart (and other vital organs), it's a sex worker.
"The obvious advice I would give to couples is to actually talk to each other. I've lost count of the amount of times I've sat in hotel rooms listening to men and women complaining about their relationships and their partner: they list all the issues they have with them, and when I ask, "Have you talked to him or her about it?", the answer is mostly always no!"
"One other thing I would say," she adds, "is that life is too precious and short to stay in a relationship that is making you unhappy."
"Never stay because you worry the grass isn't greener. Because sometimes, it is."
Kate Iselin is a writer and a sex worker. Continue the conversation on Twitter @kateiselin