music

Re(Pro) #44: Tawny Lara

Tawny Lara

Name: Tawny Lara

Age: 32

Location: New York, NY

Recovery date (turning point for addiction or mental illness): 11/29/2015

Creative niche: Writing / Event Coordination

If applicable to your story, drug of choice:
Jack Daniels, but I loved anything that would help me escape reality.

Your story in a nutshell:

My sobriety began as a year-long experiment. The thought of quitting booze forever seemed overwhelming, so I committed to spending my 30th year sober and blogging about the experience. There have been many ups and downs since I quit drinking, but a sober lifestyle is definitely what works for me. I'm now able to explore my creative side with a focused, productive approach. Sobriety has helped me find my voice as writer, created the space for me to try new things, and allowed me to be more present in my existing relationships. I'm now writing a book and hosting sober socializing events in New York City. It's amazing to see what life has given me after I made the decision to stop getting drunk and high.


Top 5 Recovery/Wellness Tools:

1. Writing.
2.Yoga.
3. Meditation.
4. Support Group.
5. Friends/Family


Featured Creative Work - Fixed Up

Fixed up

Connect with Tawny.
 

sobrietea

Re(Pro) #42: Rynda Laurel

Rynda Laurel #42

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...

xo,
Laura


Name: Rynda Laurel

Age: 49

Location: Joshua Tree, CA

Recovery date (turning point for addiction or mental illness): 7/10/1992

Creative niche: 
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.

nutshell.jpeg

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.

Use code  WeAreSober  at checkout for a special Sobriety Collective discount!

Use code WeAreSober at checkout for a special Sobriety Collective discount!

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.

3-CONNECTION
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.

4-STAY CREATIVE
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. 

5-READ BOOKS
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.


Connect with Rynda.

 
VRYRynda
 

Re(Pro) #20: Shane Watson

Name: Shane Watson

Age: 41

Location: Phoenix, AZ

Recovery date (turning point for addiction or mental illness): 11/29/2011

Creative niche (art, music, writing, entrepreneurship, etc.):
Speaking engagements, cryptic interactive online art and fiction, writing, poetry/lyrics, music 

If applicable, drug of choice (or not of choice...):
Alcohol, cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, prescription drugs, excess, chaos

This is a ginormous nutshell.  FYI.

This is a ginormous nutshell.  FYI.

I got started down the road to substance abuse in middle school for a few reasons. I was a scared, awkward kid who desperately wanted to be liked, but didn’t quite fit the mold that everyone else was in. I was definitely different, and not always in a way that was seen as good. I wasn’t even remotely comfortable in my own skin. So I thought I’d win my peers’ approval and acceptance by drinking. In addition to that, I was curious to see what it was like. Finally, there were some people I looked up to who had substance abuse issues of their own, and they seemed completely happy and successful. So, while I had been told about the dangers of drugs and alcohol, what I had seen conveyed a very different message..

The first time I drank, one of the worst things that could have possibly happened did happen: nothing. I don’t mean that the alcohol didn’t affect me. I mean that there weren’t any immediate consequences, at least that I could notice. After having been told what drugs and alcohol would do to me, I was anticipating some kind of instant lightning bolt of consequence. When nothing seemed to go wrong, I thought, “There’s no price to pay for this. I just did it and I’m fine. The world didn’t end. They lied to me about this.” I’ve since learned something very important about consequences. There is a consequence for every negative decision we make, but they don’t always happen immediately and we don’t always notice them right away. Sometimes they don’t become apparent until much later, and sometimes they chase you down the road years later.

I noticed that when I drank, everything seemed to get better. My pain seemed to go away. I was dealing with bullying and feeling very out of place in junior high, and when I drank, I quit feeling the sadness from that. It seemed to allow me to finally be comfortable in my own skin. I didn’t realize that the feeling was a lie. When I got into high school, alcohol was a lot easier to get, and I started using it as a way to deal with my problems. My alcohol use became much more frequent and I started drinking larger quantities. I didn’t realize how much worse I was making things for myself. None of it seemed like a big deal at the time. Alcohol then gave way to marijuana, nitrous oxide (Whip-Its), and some initial experimentation with prescription drugs.

By the time I was a freshman in college, I was using marijuana daily and drinking frequently. Later in college I got caught in the web of opiate painkillers after a friend with a prescription gave me some oxycodone. After I started on painkillers, the floodgates opened. The feeling from opiates was a step beyond alcohol in my quest to escape my pain, disintegrating relationship, and my growing dislike for myself. Somehow I miraculously made it through college with a decent GPA and managed to get my degree. I’m still not completely sure how I managed that.

Shortly after college, I got into ecstasy and cocaine. I developed a huge cocaine habit that eventually led me to getting into meth, once the cocaine ceased being effective. Right around the same time, my painkiller addiction led to heroin after it became impossible to get legitimate prescriptions and expensive to buy illicit opiate pharmaceuticals. Alcohol was there all along, in ridiculously excessive quantities. Eventually, I became willing to use just about any substance that happened to cross my path. When someone asked what my drug of choice was, I laughingly quoted the Alice in Chains song “Junkhead.” “What’s my drug of choice? Well, what have you got?”

My life was a mess. I lost jobs due to absenteeism, quit other jobs due to an inability to focus, and eventually stopped trying to get jobs. I drained a $10,000 bank account on my addiction. I had nothing to show for it but increasing health problems. There was alcohol poisoning. There were overdoses. There was one particular overdose involving a combination of cocaine, meth, alcohol, and fentanyl (a powerful synthetic opioid) that was absolutely hellish and insane. To this day, it surprises me that I made it through that one. My behavior was erratic and I became angry and unpredictable. At one point, coke and meth made me a 130lb skeleton. At a later point, alcohol made me a 215lb slug.

This went on for years. I wasted my 20’s and the better part of my 30’s. I wanted to stop but was so caught up in it all. I was making all kinds of bad decisions. I’m responsible for my own choices, but addiction and the damaged thinking that comes with it makes it a whole lot easier to make bad choices. Eventually I was no longer using to feel good, but to not feel horrible. I was drinking and using purely out of addiction and the need to avoid withdrawal. Guilt and shame kept me running back to drugs and alcohol, which led to behavior that caused me guilt and shame. It was an endless cycle.

.I ended up jobless for a long time, and thousands of dollars in debt. My thinking and brain chemistry were so overwhelmed by the substances to which I was a slave. I came to a point where I hated myself and said, “I’m never coming back from this. I’ve done too much damage. I’m going to ride this train until it crashes.” The last night I drank and used, I went on a rampage. I hurt people who didn’t deserve it, smashed up my own house, and eventually attempted to end my own life. I was arrested and charged with multiple felonies. If I had been convicted of everything I was charged with, I was looking at the possibility of a doing few years in the Arizona Department of Corrections.

That’s what led to me serving time in Durango Jail, part of Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s notorious Maricopa County Jail system. While in jail, I went through hellish withdrawals. The extent of the jail’s acknowledgement of my withdrawal consisted of giving me a bottom bunk, so I would be less likely to get a concussion if my withdrawals led to a seizure that ended up with me falling out of bed. I suffered horrible insomnia and only managed to occasionally sleep for about 15 minutes at a time. It was less like sleeping and more like passing out. I genuinely felt like I was going insane. I went through a combination of the worst physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual pain I’ve ever felt. I genuinely believed that I had lost everyone and everything I loved and cared about. I found myself at a nearly unbearable low point.

I became willing to do anything to repair the damage I had done, but wasn’t sure that such repair would even be possible. While in the midst of this, I somehow found a tiny bit of sanity, which allowed me to make myself a promise to make my faith, my family, and my sobriety my priorities. A fellow inmate named Troy gave me a Bible, which I started reading. It was a welcome escape and was the only thing that gave me any kind of hope in those moments. I latched on to that Higher Power and never let go.

I eventually bailed out while my case was pending, and I moved into a place called the Phoenix Dream Center. It’s a live-in facility where people who have had substance abuse issues, people who have been in jail and prison, people who have been homeless, former gang members, and victims of human trafficking can move in and get their lives back together. A lot of good growth and healing started for me there, but it wasn’t easy.

In a lot of ways, the Dream Center is harder than jail. Our days started at 4 a.m. and ended at 11 p.m. Every moment was scheduled for us and included intense morning workouts (run by a former pro rugby star), classes, janitorial work, maintenance work, labor, homeless outreach, church, etc. We were run ragged, but the discipline, structure, and purpose were what I (and the others there) needed as part of a successful recovery.

While in the Dream Center, I poured myself back into my faith, which remains a key component of my recovery today. I started communicating again, instead of trying to run from my problems. I made exercise and nutrition a big part of my life. I started creating art and writing again. I started to laugh again. I gained back my self-respect and others’ trust. As a result of the changes that began there, I was able to restore my marriage; something I hoped would happen but didn’t know was possible.

In court, the prosecutor was seeking 90 days of jail time for me, and the Probation Presentence Writer wanted me to do six months. I didn’t want either to happen, as they could delay the good work that had begun in my marriage, and in my growth as a person. I accepted a plea deal. Based on what I said and others said at my sentencing, the judge said that he didn’t see any benefit to me serving additional time. To this day, I am grateful he listened to me and to the others who spoke. I was sentenced to two years supervised probation. I was assigned 46 weeks of one type of counseling and 15 weeks of another. I was given a permanent (“designated”) felony and lost my rights as an American citizen. I paid thousands of dollars in court fines and fees. I was given a 10 p.m. curfew. I was randomly drug tested.

Under really interesting circumstances, I ran into a guy who overheard part of my story and told me I should apply to be a substance abuse Peer Educator at a local nonprofit called notMYkid. I did. In January of 2013, I started there as a part-time youth Peer Educator and worked as hard as I could. I spoke in schools across Arizona, sharing the experience and knowledge I learned during my journey with students in 6th through 12th grade. I decided to be as open and honest as I could about my past in order to help prevent others from taking the same path. I did everything I was asked to do and took on additional duties. I was relentless and determined in my efforts. Within the first three months, they made me full time. Four months later, I was given a staff position, and became the organization’s first Communications Coordinator.

I was then promoted to Manager of Parent and Faculty Education for the organization and eventually became a Prevention Specialist. I research several behavioral health topics and create presentations for parents, school faculty members, after school program mentors, and camp counselors. I have also recruited, hired, trained, and managed several Parent and Faculty Educators, who are primarily behavioral health professionals and current or former law enforcement officers. I do parent, student, and school faculty presentations on substance abuse, and I do parent and faculty presentations on bullying, depression/self-injury/suicide, and Internet safety. I also do TV, radio, web, and print interviews as the organization’s representative. I’ve done approximately 75 interviews in the last few years.

From "215lb slug" to 5 years sober.

From "215lb slug" to 5 years sober.

I currently travel around Arizona doing speaking engagements, sharing my personal story intertwined with teachable keys to behavioral health. I’ve had the opportunity to share my story with students and government officials in Boston, and students and parents in California. I’ve spoken to groups as small as five people and as large as 1,000. I’ve done as many as seven one-hour presentations back-to-back. I’ve had the chance to address the Pinal County Drug Court, sharing my story and thoughts on the way government and the courts view addiction. I’ve presented at Grand Canyon University, Arizona State University, Paradise Valley Community College, and a number of corporations, Including American Express, Cox, and Insight. As of December 1st, 2016, I’ve done 270 presentations to an audience of over 16,000 people. Approximately half of my presentations have been given to students, and the other half to adults.

I also had the opportunity to do interviews for a historic documentary called “Hooked: Tracking Heroin’s Hold on Arizona,” which was simulcast on every TV station (and most radio stations) in Arizona on January 13th, 2015. Additionally, I was appointed to the Recovery and Response Subcommittee responsible for developing, staffing, and overseeing the crisis line phone bank taking calls during and after the airing of the documentary.

In October of 2015, I had the chance to become an ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) trainer. As a registered trainer, I now have the honor of facilitating two-day suicide intervention workshops, and teaching genuinely lifesaving intervention skills to people around the state of Arizona. It has allowed me to combine my personal experience with the topic, and my passion for helping others, with the well-designed material that has become the industry standard (crisis lines, military, fire departments, police departments) for suicide intervention.

Most importantly, sobriety has allowed me the opportunity to become the type of husband I should have been all along and has given me the chance to be a very good dad to an amazing daughter who was born shortly after my one-year sober date. I give thanks every day for the fact that I got clean and sober before having a child. I owe it to her and my wife to have my act together. Every moment with my daughter is a gift that I never thought I would get. If you had told me when I was in jail that my life would be like this right now, I wouldn’t have believed you though I would have desperately wanted to.

I’m thankful for every chance I get to help other people, to let individuals who are struggling know that they’re not alone, and to destroy the stigma and stereotypes surrounding addiction and recovery. I take every opportunity I get to help people understand that addiction is not a failure of morality, but a behavioral health issue.

If you are struggling, please speak up. Find a trusted, caring, non-judgmental, willing, and ready person and let them know what’s going on. Things can get better, but not until you make the choice to change and move forward. Get connected with local professional resources that can assist you in your recovery. If the situation calls for it, detox correctly and go through residential treatment. If not, consider an intensive outpatient program, or at least 12-step meetings.

Find what works for you, and do it. Surround yourself with positive and caring people who are mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually healthy. Create a support network. Fill your phone with the phone numbers of those on whom you can call when you’re struggling– even if it’s two in the morning. Practice intentional and consistent self-care that includes healthy coping skills and positive outlets. It’s not enough to just NOT use drugs and alcohol, but it’s important to figure out what to replace them with. For me, that includes things like music, writing, art, exercise, hiking, serving others, laughter, meeting new people, and experiencing new things. Find your recipe for success and then make a point to put those pieces in place every single day.

November 29th, 2016 marked five years of sobriety for me. I’m grateful to even be alive and amazed at the wonderful opportunities I’ve been given. Every morning when I wake up, I give thanks for the tremendous amount of grace I’ve been shown. I’m astounded at how much my life has managed to change for the better in that short amount of time. It makes me excited to see what’s next.

Thank you for taking the time to allow me to share my story with you. I hope it benefits you in some way.

-Shane

Top 5 Recovery Tools

1. Faith

2. Love

3. Purpose

4. Positive outlets (music, exercise, writing, etc.)

5. Serving others

 


Connect with Shane.