I'm beyond stoked to bring you our #42 (meaning of the universe) on pi (π) day, Ms. Rynda (rhymes with "Linda") Laurel.
I feel like I've known this amazing woman forever *and* when I think about it, it's only been less than a year. Last July, I saw Rynda's face on Ryan Hampton's Twitter feed, sharing her 25 year sobriety anniversary. So immediately I was like, what skin care products does this gal use and where can I get some because unless she stopped using substances when she was 10, I was NOT believing that she could celebrate a quarter century of recovery. As it turns out, she was 24 when she got sober (same age as me) and in July (also same as me). I come to find out her birthday is May 18th (same as ME!). Then we got to talking about depression; I was struggling terribly after being the victim of an elaborate emotional scam (will write about this soon) and wasn't sure if my feelings were just situational (to be expected, duh) or part of larger feelings of sadness and general blasé. Rynda told me about amino acids and what worked for her own depression and thus began our friendship and professional collaboration/partnership. There's so much more I want to say but you have a lot to read, my friends. So get started and I'll sign off in 3...2...1...
Name: Rynda Laurel
Location: Joshua Tree, CA
Recovery date (turning point for addiction or mental illness): 7/10/1992
I've been working with musicians, artists and writers as a creative executive in development, management and marketing for most of my life! I'm also a traditional film photographer, sometimes writer, and entrepreneur.
If applicable, drug of choice:
Depends on the year! Alcohol, stimulants & opiates.
Recovery story in a nutshell:
My RecoVRY story -- Rynda here, figured it was about time I told my story.
I was born 9 months after the Summer of Love in San Francisco so I guess I’m lucky my name isn’t Starchild or Moonbeam - Rynda is just fine by me! One of my favorite childhood tales is that my music loving young Mom went to see The Doors at the Fillmore while she was pregnant with me. I always joke that it explains everything as I’ve spent most of my personal and professional life in clubs watching incredible bands with an iconic frontman.
My late teens and early twenties were a whirlwind of great times, booze, drugs and a career in the music business that allowed my addictions to flourish without much repercussion. From Punk Rock Fullerton with Jack, Jim and Crystal (that’s whiskey and crystal-meth-amphetamine) to cocaine laced Hollywood Burning Tree soup on the Sunset Strip to New York downtown on Avenue A copping dope, it was a cornucopia of wild adventures. At first I just wanted to have fun and to drink and snort my courage, because deep down I had feelings of inadequacy and fear, then I didn’t want to feel the shame and heartbreaks, and then I simply just didn’t want to feel - anything. Heroin can do that, make all those pesky feelings go away, for a little while anyway. It also caused me to become an empty shell of a person. Worst of all, at some point it just STOPPED WORKING and by that time I simply could not stop.
I’d make every resolve, try every trick and I WANTED it with every cell in my body and I’d still find myself down in the avenues seeking relief. At 24, I was wondering around in a grey world, stuck between complete darkness and seeking the light. I was miserable and I felt broken and hopeless. I had hit bottom. I had the number of a detox memorized from an advertisement in the subway that said “When You’re Ready, Call Us.” I can’t tell you what made that particular night the night, but I picked up the phone and made the call. I dialed each number with desperate intention. A man picked up the phone: “My name is Albert - how can I help you?” In a moment of clarity, I heard myself say, “I’m Rynda, I need help.” I could almost hear Albert smile on the other end of the line and he simply said, “It’s time for you to surrender, Rynda.” Open the floodgates, years of trying to do it on my own simply didn’t work and at that moment I knew intuitively that there was a ray of hope in the darkness.
The next morning I checked myself into detox. After a few weeks clean, a move back to California facilitated by some insightful gentleman in the music business, some bumps and emotional bruises and a “one more time” with a head full of 12 step, I got high for the last time and finally did surrender. That was July 10, 1992. Instead of running away from people and places I went in full steam ahead and stayed in the music business. I was in clubs and bars nightly for my work during my first 15 years of sobriety - for me I needed do know I could still have fun and have a LIFE. I built a strong support system in my 12 step program and I was lucky enough to find a group of musicians and friends that were on the path of recovery as well - many of them still sober to this day. That was what I was searching for all along, to have great friends and to feel alive.
Even though I was highly functioning in my career, for many years behind the scenes I still struggled with deep periods of depression. Desperate after about 3 years sober, I went on doctor prescribed medication. I share this because it so common to still have mental health issues in recovery that I believe no amount of spiritual work and community support can remedy if your body and brain are not functioning properly. Meds did the trick for a bit (after the laborious process of finding the right one!) but like many drugs they stopped working and I wasn’t willing to up the dose. Also, the more I learned about pharmaceuticals and how many actually stop the brain’s normal function, the more I wanted to get off of them.
I started doing research, A LOT of research, years in fact. I read gazillions of books on nutrition, neuroscience, and biochemistry, took multiple online courses, attended workshops, worked with functional medicine doctors and tried a myriad of healing modalities. I was constantly searching for an answer to feel better. The utter fear of crashing and rebound depression crippled me for a long time, but after all of the work I did I knew I just had to support my entire body and it would be ok. Three years ago I was house sitting at a recording studio in Joshua Tree and I made the decision that it was time. I followed a specific nutrition and supplement plan that I had devised through my research that would replace and support the function of the exact medication I was on. Guess what, IT WORKED. The doctor says “clinical depression in full remission”; I say I’m simply not depressed like that anymore!
Today, I continue to do all the things that kept me clean and sober in the first place - 12-step meetings, community and spiritual connection. I focus on staying mindful with a lot of cognitive self talk to keep me in check and some meditative breath work. Just as important is the addition of light exercise, a fine-tuned nutrition plan and mood balancing supplements that was a game changer for my mental health. It was so life changing in fact - that became the spark for my new company VRYeveryday and its support site Supplement Your Recovery. Now, my entire mission is to help other people struggling with addiction and mental health issues find real relief with natural remedies, because I know they can work. It’s hard to condense 25+ years of recovery into a short story, but let’s just say compared to the grey cold world of addiction, recovery is in vivid Technicolor! Even with bouts of depression and life’s roller-coaster ride it’s worth every single moment.
My name is Rynda, I surrendered. I went from a life of addiction to recovery to Happy, Joyous, and Free - and so can you.
Top 5 Recovery Tools
1-BUILD A FOUNDATION
I built a solid foundation in 12 step work and circles. It is still my main source and basic staple for recovery. Meetings help with the connection and community necessary for recovery.
2-PHYSICAL SELF CARE
Physical self-care, nutrition and supplements were a game changer for me. If I'm not supporting my body and brain in a healthy manner depression and anxiety creep up and I isolate and that takes me farther away from the path of recovery. Also, newest level up practice is using the Pranayama breath-work ios app by Saagara.
My close circle of friends and sober sisters. I've really worked hard to cultivate deep and lasting friendships, people that I can count on, and can count on me. That has meant letting some people out of my life as well.
Stay creative. It's imperative for me to stay creative, even if I'm working on a project that doesn't seem "creative" I approach it creatively. I also try to go to community events and engage with creativity in all that I do - part of that is spiritual.
There are many books that have helped me along the way, I often go back and read chapters out of them when I need to be reminded or need more insight. I have a partial list here.