Paul B. is back with the second installment of this four-part series, all on the topic of addiction, in conjunction with the release of NakedSword’s Addict. Today, he has a frank interview with porn star and recovering meth addict Shay Michaels, who, as it happens once did a scene with last week’s interviewee, Adam Herst.
Paul: So how’s the porn thing going?
Shay: It was fun in the beginning. Exciting. It’s gotten to be a job but it’s entertaining.
There are two good reasons for doing porn. One is to make money and the other is to have fun.
My reason is money. I was on the verge of bankruptcy. I used to work in finance and real estate but I lost my job and couldn’t find work, and Bruno Bond, a friend of mine on Big Muscle, kept asking me to do porn. To keep bankruptcy at bay I said yes. There are those in porn who are in it for status and prestige, and there are those who are in it for money, and you can tell who’s who on set. Porn stars in it for money tend to be agreeable and do what the director tells them. Those who are in it for prestige and attention tend to have prima donna attitudes.
Talking to Adam Herst it was interesting to discuss how porn stars tend to be either low or high when it comes to self-esteem.
Yeah, and there are two types of directors too. There are directors who have high demands who will tell you to suck in your stomach. And there are directors, mostly for bareback studios, who tend to pick up guys with low self-confidence and give them validation. I’ve been doing this for three years and I know what types of situations I thrive in so I try to work with studios who will let me pick and choose.
You mean you get to veto potential co-stars? I don’t know many porn stars who manage to swing that.
I don’t nix co-stars but I’ll cancel if I don’t like my scene-partner.
I’m surprised you can get away with that.
Well I’ve been trying to build a reputation as a performer who can make a good scene and who cares for the viewer and can drive sales. And I don’t want to do porn that will be embarrassing when I’m 50. I recently just worked with Tyler Reed. It was going to be with two other porn stars but I said no to them.
So you turned a foursome into a twosome. Are you that guy at the bathhouse who’s like, “You. Come in. Not you. You. Not you.”?
I’m not a bathhouse kind of guy.
But I thought you were a tweaker.
I did it at people’s houses.
Ah, I see. Well I myself was both a Private Residence Tweaker and a Bathhouse Tweaker.
The problem with a bathhouse is that it’s so easy to accidentally lock eyes with someone, just because they’re in your line of sight, and then all of a sudden you have someone on your hands who’s expecting to get into your ass.
It’s a dance.
I don’t like to dance.
Congratulations on being sober.
I have nine months.
Me too! Hopefully we won’t relapse. So tell me about your big rock bottom.
I got arrested for my 2nd DUI…
Oh my god I have two DUIs too! I was smoking so much meth at the time that I had forgotten to smoke meth, and I was on Day 4 and I fell asleep behind the wheel and totaled three cars.
My DUI got dropped because my attorney and I busted the cop for targeting gay boys from gay bars, because over 70% of his arrests were gay men, even though gay bars only represented 2% of his surveillance properties.
Couldn’t that just mean that faggots are big drunk drivers? Either way, sounds like a pretty good attorney.
Yeah it was expensive. Cost me $10,000 but I won. At that point I started to get sober on my own.
That doesn’t work so well.
No it doesn’t. I ended up meeting my ex-partner, Brian Davilla and moving with him to Portland. I was no longer near my family and since I wasn’t accountable to anyone it just exploded from there. I met someone from Scruff who slammed. He came over and it started again. I tried getting sober on my own a couple more times but it didn’t work.
You weren’t desperate enough yet.
Right. I still had all my teeth and a car. Eventually though things got really bad. I overdosed at one point but didn’t go to a hospital. I was convulsing for twelve hours, I lost ten pounds over-night from all the vomiting etc. I waited it out in my hotel room. A day and a half went by. Then I started using again. That’s how bad I was addicted. By the time I was ready to get sober, I was living with a dealer, homeless, going blind, had lost 30 pounds, hadn’t urinated in a day and a half and was close to death. So I reached out to a drug counselor and he told me to go to a meeting. This time, instead of hearing what I wanted to hear, I listened with an open ear, did what I was told, curbed my expectations, and went. The people were happy and laughing and didn’t look like skeletor.
That sounds like a turning point: going blind.
Yeah. I had optic nerve damage. I smoked 24/7. I wouldn’t put it down.
I was probably sleeping 15 hours a week the last year of my use.
The longest I was up was 4 days. That’s when the paranoia kicks in and the voices start. I would hear people talking and think they were talking about me. It was an awful feeling. Even though I knew it was just the drugs, it wouldn’t stop.
Not to one-up you, but my record for days up is 7.
That’s pretty bad.
I started Thursday morning and went to bed on Thursday morning. I went with my buddy Steve to Palm Springs. He’s been at the drug 17 years now. He’s walking off into the sunset.
Walking off into the sunset?
Yeah, because on meth you don’t die right away like you do on heroin. Instead you’re dying slowly, the entire time.
It’s like drinking that way, a slow process. Things start to fail. You’re right that it’s a slow death. My drinking started showing consequences little by little, but when I started using meth on a daily basis that cycle sped up. That’s what brought me to my knees. It brought me down so fast.
I feel like without meth I wouldn’t be sober. I’d still be drinking.
I was a black-out drinker. Coke helped. Meth was better. Coke is a 20 minute high, meth is 12 hours. It’s pretty simple to trade one for another.
So you would meet guys online?
For me meth was always hyper-sexualized. It was all about sex. I went from house to house in West Hollywood. It got really bad. And then it stopped being about sex and became just about being high. I’d look for certain things in profiles that relate to drugs.
And filter for drug use where before you were filtering for looks.
Exactly. And that’s when it hit me. I was an addict.That’s when it hit you? It wasn’t the blindness?
No, I convinced myself that was from tanning. Rather, I was online and a hot guy wanted sex but didn’t have drugs and I wasn’t interested. Instead I started hooking up with guys who were below my standards because they had T. At that moment I stopped myself, I was in a hotel room, and I realized I was an addict. I kept going anyway, but I remembered that moment.
The thing that’s so interesting to me in life is that you can’t un-have that realization. There’s no going back. You can’t have it. Like time, realizations move in one direction.
And the thing is when you get sober and relapse, you aren’t going to have fun like you did before. That fun factor is gone forever, even if you start using again. It’s always going to be something that’s catastrophic instead.
Working the program kills your buzz, in other words.
Now when I think about the drug, I don’t think about good things. I think about losing Marcos, career, family, friends, everything. So that initial thought of picking up the pipe is replaced by the thought of everything I have to lose.
The gift of desperation.
That’s the point of the program. The longer you stay sober, the more you accumulate and the more you have to lose.
Don’t quit before the miracles happen.
Are you going to be talking in bumper stickers the rest of the time?
Nine months is a good chunk of time.
At six months I was counting my days. Now I’m not. Also, I want to share my advice that differs from the standard advice in the program. People are told not to have sex for a year. I say that’s bullshit. When I got sober, the fear of sober sex hit me. I’d been relying on T for sex so heavily that I was worried about all the complexities of sober sex that I kept hearing about. And to me, as an escort and a porn star, it was really important to figure this out. It’s my livelihood. So I tried sex the first few weeks, and it didn’t work, but I kept at it, and then it got fine. So my advice to newcomers in the program is to go find a sober buddy and practice, practice, practice.
I was also told I couldn’t do it, keep my sex work jobs and stay sober. I got sober with other porn star escorts and every single one has relapsed. I’ve stayed sober. I’ve been through a lot. I used to be anorexic.
Yeah, I almost got diabetes.
Now you’re manorexic.
Now I’m fabulous! But yeah, I’ve had it tough. I was also raped. I was home-schooled.
Which was worse? Being raped or being home-schooled?
Paul B. was a previous editor of The Sword from 2008 to 2010.
Watch Shay Michaels on NakedSword.