September 18, 2014

Send the demons spinning

by Jennifer Storm

The slogan Live to Ride, Ride to Live isn’t just for Harley Davidson fans anymore—not since Andrea Lawent, a recovering addict, opened the doors to Made in L.A. in 2008. Made in L.A. is a wellness center that provides everything from chiropractic care to physical therapy, personalized training, Yoga, Pilates and Lawent’s famous The Ride experience. The Ride is Lawent’s version of your average spin class, but it’s anything but average. She calls it rock-and-roll meditation, and it’s a name well-earned as she is the only fitness instructor ever to grace the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine.

Renew spoke with Lawent over the phone at her home in L.A. to hear more about her spin on active recovery.

Renew: Your webpage has a quote from you saying “You’ve never heard change and comfortable in the same sentence.” When did things become so uncomfortable for you that you knew you needed to change?

Lawent: I had been uncomfortable at times but was able to be functional using heroin. I put together a few years of clean time once, but when my then-husband came off the road from touring with a crack pipe in his hand, the relationship ended and I slipped. I had back injuries from my years as a dancer and the doctor prescribed me Vicodin; I was taking 70 to100 pills per day and eventually wound up shooting heroin again.

A friend carried me in his arms to my first meeting. I managed to put together a year, but went back out to do more research for about four months hard. I overdosed in front of my 11-year-old daughter, but still, I didn’t go easily. A full-blown intervention was held and I was told to get in the car or they were taking my kids away. I went kicking.

Renew: How is your daughter now?

Lawent: She is 22 and she’s amazing. I had so many people around me who swooped me up and cared for my children while I was in treatment. Service work isn’t easy sometimes; my sponsor stepped up when I needed her most. I was a strong single mom. I have a son too, but he was so little and didn’t really know what was happening. To this day my kids and I are very close. They were raised by people in AA; they know their limits. You raise kids with boundaries and then they know they are safe to explore life.

Renew: Congratulations on 10 years of recovery, what keeps you focused on not picking up each day?

Lawent: I don’t have a daily struggle to use. I am not a fan of having any drugs in my system, legal or illegal. I consult with my sponsor and if I need to utilize medication I do so in a supervised environment. Addiction is insidious and sneaky. I do not have conscious thoughts, but I have no doubt that my addiction is lying in wait.

I attend AA meetings regularly and I even host a women’s meeting at my home on Saturday mornings. I sponsor people and I have a sponsor. I am not an easy sponsor; I am not there for your boyfriend problems or to spoon feed your recovery. That is not my understanding of recovery.

Renew: Was exercise something you immediately discovered as an outlet for your recovery? How did you come upon it?

Lawent: I have always been a professional dancer. I was a choreographer and I worked a lot, I was out on tour with Whitney Houston for her last two tours. When I became single and was directing my first show in New York, I came home to find that my son had taken his first steps without me. I realized I didn’t have children to have someone else raise them. I had always loved spinning; it cleared my head and made me feel great, so I started to teach it. I was not clean but I realized that a lot of my attendees were sober. They felt I was giving them what they got in AA.

Steve Jones from the Sex Pistols got me into treatment. Steve use to ride with me; he was sober but he knew I wasn’t. He looked at me one day and knew I was high, and he’s the one who led my intervention.

As I began to get clean, it was all about the endorphins. When I got rid of the drugs and alcohol my brain was a little f—ed up and I knew I had to change up the shit in my brain, which for me was my endorphin levels. I had to get moving. Sometimes three minutes of kicking your addiction can feel like hours, so anything to change my brain chemistry helped and spinning did that for me.

Renew: You opened the doors to Made in La in 2008, how did that come about?

Lawent: In 2006, I was approached by these guys who were opening another project and wanted to add a gym. It was a horrible experience and I knew I couldn’t stay with them. A very wealthy businessman liked what I did and he helped me find my location. I took all my clients and built it out in 26 days, I renovated the hell out of the place. I didn’t know how I was going to pay anyone, but told my clients I would honor their agreements and opened up my gym with $40,000 in debt. Somehow I knew it would be okay.

Renew: Do you think your rides are a “new” meeting of sorts for people in recovery who may not find everything they need in the rooms?

Lawent: Yes, absolutely. My idea of a class is to get everyone to check out for 45 minutes, which is tough to get an addict to shut their mind down for that long. But that’s the idea of The Ride. I make a hell of a CD for my rides. I am known for my music and particularly one song where no one looks up the whole time. This gym is probably 70-percent sober and people come from all over with all sorts of recovery issues.

Renew: How has opening Made in L.A. assisted in your own recovery?

Lawent: I am here and I’m in it, I have a purpose. I am self-supporting through my own contributions. I get to support a lot of people. For my own personal headspace it has taken my recovery to a whole new level of faith. Not to have faith in fear, but faith in abundance. I get to watch people do some cool shit.

Renew: Do you find that your clientele are more committed to stay active in exercises because of the recovery component that you offer?

Lawent: Yes, absolutely. It’s like Cheers; it’s the island of broken cool toys.

Renew: Do you have any tips or advice for anyone who is not engaging exercise as a part of their overall recovery?

Lawent: You gotta go do it. Find something you like. It’s a bad neighborhood up there in our heads, get out of it, get active, do something, walk, anything. Don’t overcommit and say you’ll hit the gym three times a week. Just go do something today!

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