We all have a story and aside from a few Instagram posts over the years, I’ve never really come forward with mine.
However, I’ve learned there is great power in sharing our stories, in letting our Soul’s speak and relating to others. Today, I share my story with you, so that you can see where I have come from and see that, no matter what your life circumstance, anything is possible.
So, without further adieu, here is my story…
Once upon a time, a young girl named Gillian stumbled and fell into a deep dark hole, only to find herself as she found her way out.
While the picture above isn’t me, it is the very place where my spiritual journey began…yes, the strip club. This may seem hard to believe, it may be hard to picture me there, selling my soul for tips, but I can assure you, it happened.
According to the rumour mill in my hometown, I was on stage flashing everyone the money shot, But the reality was, I was the bartender of the infamous Champagne Room, you know, the place where “all the magic happens”. I can’t tell you how many hours I spent, waiting there, listening to cheesy slow jams and the sound of giggles, clunky heels and asses being slapped. Yes, 3 long years, steeped in the perverse world of drugs, sex, and alcohol. A highly stigmatized and controversial place, the strip clubs are often the local hangout for lonely hearts and lost souls. Despite its dark side, I must say it was that a fun and interesting chapter in my life.
Perhaps, you are wondering how I went to such an extreme…So let’s rewind for a moment, to my teens, which is undoubtedly a challenging time of life for most, but mine was especially challenging because I was entangled in a toxic relationship. Today, from a place of ownership and forgiveness, I see that it was an essential part of my story but it doesn’t make up for the fact that I endured years of DAILY emotional abuse and manipulation throughout some of the most important years of self-development… all because I thought it was ‘love’.
This quote seems to encapsulate my experience, and that of many others: “We accept the love that we think we deserve”. Basically, I stayed because I thought I deserved it and was afraid to lose it because I would never be ‘loved’ ever again. Needless to say, my sense of worthiness was non-existent. The sad truth is, that I, like many, was desperate to be loved and accepted and didn’t know it was possible to have love without pain.
After that relationship ended, I was completely lost and depressed. Massively insecure and struggling with my inner demons, I used my interest in nutrition to mask my eating disorder. Being ‘a healthy vegetarian’ gave me an excuse to be different and say no to a social pressure and temptation. But in a silent struggle, I swung between severe restriction and downing laxatives to feel better after eating. It was my little secret and a cycle that was out of my control like everything else in my life. I see now, it was my way of feeling powerful where I otherwise felt totally powerless.
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Fast forward to my 2nd year in University, where most of my friends were playing beer pong in someone’s garage, I found myself, inadvertently memorizing the ideal naked body under the glow of a red light. After 3 years, I could practically predict what dance move, song or sexy outfit was coming next. Without a doubt, being at the club that much was the equivalent of pouring jet fuel on the fire of my already raging insecurities. One moment, I would feel that I was better than the dancers for not taking my clothes off and then the next, I was back to comparing myself and not feeling skinny or pretty enough. I must admit that my judgment and my insecurities where probably the only thing that prevented me from giving into the endless stream of tempting deals made by the Devil.
Strip clubs attract the most interesting characters including the desperate, lonely man who would come and sit at my bar for hours in hopes of catching a free glimpse of peep show, happening just behind the velvet curtains. Due to the nature of my job, I put on a mask and laughed at the demeaning sexually charged jokes even though a deeper part of me was screaming for me to stand up for myself. Some of these characters were hellbent on buying me, convinced that with enough persistence, I would give in. As you can imagine, despite trying to laugh it off, over time, this really wore down my, already hurting, sense of self.
Because of my relationship at the time (I was dating the club owner’s son), I quickly became deeply involved in the ins and outs of the family-run strip club business. Each of us coping in our own dysfunctional ways, we lived and breathed the business of sex, substances, and corruption.
Looking hot, partying and making money was my life, and unfortunately, my only source of power. But when the party was over and the glory of the high was coming down, came the inevitable visit to the lowest lows. Underneath all the makeup and fake hair, I was drowning in my own self-loathing and anxiety about getting old and ugly. I was hypercritical and fearful of changes in my appearance because, at that point, my power and thus, my life depended on it.
I was well on my way to marrying into the family and becoming a self-medicating strip club wife when yoga entered the picture. Thanks to a power far greater than me, yoga came in at the right and perfect time. I quickly became obsessed with it and as yoga does, experienced the subtle transformation and shifts in consciousness that come part in parcel with regular practice. Despite not even wanting to become a teacher, enrolling in the training and having the support of the group was a MASSIVE catalyst for my growth. I quickly became aware of my dual life and the guilt of the contrast weighed heavily on me until I just couldn’t hold it anymore.
Fast forward, through some pivotal moments of self-realization and fated events, and by some miracle, I was able to leave the facade of comfort, safety, and power. I began to wake up to the fact that the strip club life wasn’t everything and despite my fears, I could make it on my own. So, I ran away and moved on to the next chapter of my life in downtown Toronto, where I had the chance to reinvent myself and start fresh.
I’m not going to lie, it has taken me years to unpack and integrate the strip club experience and I still catch waves of the wounds created during that time. Yet, despite the darkness; lying, cheating, secrets, addictions, power loss and toxic shame, I have NO regrets. This is an essential part of my story and has helped me to become who I am today.
Here’s the replay from my first ever LIVE share about my not so humble beginnings:
Over time, I have been able to painstakingly release the many layers of ego attachment that kept me locked in the pretty tower of prescription painkillers, sex swings and plastic surgery. And, thankfully, as I have shed the skin of the wild and out of control but highly edited version of me, The Real Gillian B has slowly emerged. My self-love journey has been a long and gradual process, with its fair share of struggles and repeating patterns, especially related to money, sexuality, and relationships, but as I come up on the 10th anniversary of the day I first stepped foot there, I can proudly and honestly say that I LOVE MYSELF for and because of it all.
Naturally, there’s so much more to the story, much of which I will share in my series of future books and blogs, but would like to leave you with this: if I can go and climb my way out of a hypersexed, drug and alcohol-fueled, deep dark hole, and find a sense of inner peace, love, and happiness, that I didn’t even know was possible, SO CAN YOU!
If you can relate, leave me some love in the comments box below, I would love to hear from you.