“What the fuck was that?”- What I learned from Psychedelics
“Faith: A firm belief in something for which there is no proof.” - Merriam-Webster Dictionary
When I was 28, I was visiting my friend and her fiancé in Ohio. At the time I was tormented over a terrible break-up with a woman who I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with and I was trying to force myself to move on from the painful heartbreak. I didn’t want my friends to see me depressed, and I put on the metaphorical mask. I was feeling better until I received an email which caught me off guard.
Since I was a child, I had always wanted to become an F.B.I. Agent and I spent most of my adult life trying to achieve it. I went to college and studied Psychology so I can understand criminals, I nearly went into the Marine Corps as an Officer but the Recession caused the Marines to reject applicants because too many joined for job security. I became a police officer instead which I resigned after becoming a whistleblower. By the time I was in the application process for the F.B.I., I was working for Disney Cruise Lines as a Security Officer; a position I was slowly resenting because of the corporate politics. I had gone through a lot to get to this point to apply, but the email simply stated that I wasn’t what the F.B.I. was looking for. I told my friends what should have been heartbreaking news. Instead, what I felt wasn’t a crushing defeat but a sweet relief.
I prepared myself for years to achieve what I thought was my dream job and I felt happy that they rejected me. I knew at that moment if I felt relief and not sadness for not getting accepted, I felt free. “And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good,” a quote from John Steinbeck’s East of Eden came to me at that moment and I turned to my friends and said, “I always wanted to smoke pot.”
The following essay is about my experiences in experimenting with four psychedelics and the life-changing lessons I learned from each. Each drug presented me with a new landscape of experiences and wisdom, while one showed me terror and damnation.
The first one I tried in my journey into the ether. I remembered what happened exactly that day. My best friend, Alan (alias), had got the pot from a secret source which he asked to keep a secret. It was his friend Jason (not a pseudonym). Alan and I planned this for weeks. I was on my 2-month break from Disney Cruise Lines, and it was the day before I was going to leave for my solo backpacking trip across Europe we planned to do it. Alan told me to get some of my favorite food and have it ready; which I bought Tijuana Flats’ quesadilla with extra tortilla chips and queso. Alan got off of work, and he brought the goods. We sat outside on the patio, with my sister watching us for the humor, and I proceeded to smoke my first bowl nervously. I violently coughed as I tried to force myself to inhale the smoke but only felt the strong, hot smoke burn the back of my throat. Alan took the bowl and the lighter from me and told me to take small puffs as he held the bowl for me; which my sister sat in the corner laughing.
When I finally was able to inhale the marijuana, I noticed no difference until a few minutes later when I looked into our backyard and noticed the grass was greener, the sun brighter and the world more beautiful than I thought it could be. Alan stood in front me and asked how I felt. “Is this what it feels like not to feel no anxiety? I feel so relaxed and calm; I feel peaceful.”
Alan quipped, “This is how I feel every day.”
I then spent the rest of the day savoring each bite of my meal as the flavors were an orchestra of ecstasy with each bite. I watched Pee-Wee Herman on Netflix and then binged ate whatever was edible in the kitchen: leftover fried chicken, chocolate milk and blueberry pie. I wrote in my journal how my depression and anxiety disappeared, and how peaceful and grateful I was to be alive. I also drew a marijuana leaf surrounded encased with a heart at the end of the passage. For the next two days, as I flew to Europe for my adventure, I have felt no presence of anxiety or depression but peace and appreciation of life.
Since then, when I am able and never irresponsibly, I smoke marijuana. I have found that I have become more insightful and appreciative of life, the good parts and the bad. It has helped me get through my depression and let me see specific bad memories in a different light. It also made me appreciate the smaller moments of life we all take for granted: such as eating a pizza, listening to Al Green or making a cold shower feel refreshing and otherworldly; this drug made life more joyful.
Despite what the lawmakers say in Washington, this is not an evil drug. Even when I was a cop, I would rather deal with someone high on marijuana then drunk off of booze because there is no violence associated with it from what I experienced from being both the enforcer and the breaker of the law.
But, this drug led me to ask myself some existential questions about faith and existence. At the time, I could not find these answers from religion, but I felt I was on a path to discovery which I can not sway from, but to walk deeper into the strange woods of my mind.
Magic Mushrooms, a wonderful drug, if you can even classify it as a drug once you research the different hypothesis of how it fits into humanities development. I haven’t taken the Heroic Dose (5 grams in one sitting), yet, but I have come close to it. At the writing of this passage, I have only used psilocybin three times but each time has profoundly affected me. Each time I had an incredible need to be outside with nature. I never hallucinated, as I never saw things which were not there, but whatever I gazed upon became more vivid, and its details flourished with its colors.
I once sat under a tree for an hour and saw it from a different perspective, an otherworldly perspective. I saw the tree as a whole then I would see each branch and combinations of each as something in of itself. Each one had a place in existence, and it did not matter how small it was or insignificant it appeared, it existed.
In the same trip, I walked to a nearby park which should have taken 30 minutes but ended up taking me 2 hours because I kept stopping and noticing the trees and how beautiful it was to exist. I was listening to my iPod with my favorite songs playing and it seemed as if each song was in sync with my journey to the park. Memories of the good and bad came to me, but I was not overwhelmed. Each memory was explored and dissected as the good memories became greater, and the bad memories became lessons to be grateful for.
A quarter-mile before I came to the park, I stopped at a crosswalk and waited for a car to drive onto the main road. I looked up and noticed the brilliant-bright-white light of the full moon and I began to giggle with amusement and amazement. I looked at the driver and started laughing, and she started laughing. We were both laughing at the moon, but I suddenly realized I never said a word to her. What were we laughing at together? Was she laughing at me for laughing at the moon?
Each of the trips made me notice both the small and the grand things in life; why the good things that happen to me were special and why I shouldn’t be sad experiencing the bad things.
Despite what Psilocybin had to offer me, there was something still missing. The existential mystery was again calling me, and I knew I had to search deeper. But, I did not heed the warning signs of the road I was on; in the search for God, be prepared to meet the Devil first.
Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD)
The one drug I wanted to try since college and I when I was a cop was LSD. I should have been careful about what I wished for. It wasn’t difficult to buy since I bought it from the darknet and had it shipped to me under an alias. I was afraid to try it on my own, so this shady acquaintance and I decided to do it at his house; which in hindsight wasn’t a good idea. Nothing happened for the first half hour. But then I started to panic and needed to go for a walk. From then on my concept of reality was drastically altered into the bizarre and the nightmarish. The perception of size and distance became extremely altered as a small dog grew into a giant and a corner we were walking to look liked it was a mile away instead of 50 yards.
What was genuinely nightmarish was the concept of not knowing what was real. I had to ask the guy I was with if he was real because I thought he was a part of my hallucination. Imagine right now, as you read this that you did not know if you genuinely did exist or the world was real. How terrifying a concept is that? But that wasn’t the worst of it.
When we made it back to his house, and I laid on the couch while engulfed in chaos. I believe I had symptoms of Synesthesia because sounds became images and vice versa. I saw all my memories form in front of me with each one eating and morphing into each other. I saw people I loved and cherished memories disappear as I was losing my identity. It became to intense to handle, and I vomited a rainbow on the carpet. I begged for it to end for I thought I was in hell. But, despite the chaos and loss of self; I have found that there was something inside me that was immovable, centered in the hellish storm the LSD unleashed in my mind. I was able to focus through the chaos and help keep myself from plunging into insanity.
After 10 hours the chaos was over, but I was left shaken and distraught for days. A few weeks went by, and I thought I was over the incident until I was on a date and I began to have a massive anxiety attack and began questioning reality again. I have suffered from anxiety and depression for a good part of my adult life, and I thought I had a handle on it until LSD “uncoiled the dragon” from within. A week after the date and I had constant intruding thoughts about death, the afterlife and the existence of God. Then I watched the first season of Netflix’s Iron Fist, and I genuinely believe there was no God after that shitty show.
My depression and anxiety worsened to the point where I had to go to the hospital because I couldn’t control them anymore; I was in a hell created by my mind. Fortunately, I was put back on my anti-depressants and was able to function again and seek therapy. But, I had lost faith in the idea of God and became nihilistic. What was the point of living and do I have a purpose? Is there something beyond us in this in-comprehensively massive universe?
N, N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT)
“The Spirit Molecule,” this drug is the most potent and mysterious of psychedelics. Before I go into my experience, I think you should take the time to watch DMT: The Spirit Molecule on Netflix or listen to a Joe Rogan’s podcast so you may gain insight on why this drug indeed borders on science and the mystical. The scientific studies done by Dr. Rick Strassman (who wrote the book that the Netflix documentary of the same name is based on) had found that a majority of his volunteers had similar, profound religious experiences which they met otherworldly beings. That may sound crazy to you but think about it; how many people believe in seeing angels, saints and demons? Most people want to believe in the latter, but it is sinful and wrong to take a drug to have a spiritual experience.
I digress. My experience with DMT was life-changing. After all of the trauma I suffered through life, the burden of depression and anxiety, and now my existential crisis; I felt close to getting some comfort to the thought that we are part of something bigger.
I sat in my patio on a rainy day and inhaled the burning, viscous yellow tinted smoke from a glass pipe I got at my local smoke store; which I ensured them that it wasn’t for smoking crack. It was hard to inhale, but the effects were immediate as I felt like I got punched in the chest followed by my body going limp. I then felt like I was leaving my body and I became afraid until I accepted the journey and gave in. The world around me changed as if reality unveiled itself to me and I saw the trees and plants somehow come to life with a kaleidoscope of beautiful geometric shapes, one of which I swore I was looking at a tesseract unfold in the distance.
I then hear a stark voice. I had not only heard a voice but felt its presence. I turned my head to the left and saw a black void. The void itself caused an emotional upheaval within me as I felt great despair coming from it. The kind voice told me that the void represented evil. It represented sadness, shame, fear; loneliness, and regret. “This is evil, and you have it in you,” the kind voice said. I looked to my right, and it felt like I was peacefully underwater with the sun’s rays gentle breaking through the surface in a blueish hue. I never in my life felt so much at peace and calm, until the voice spoke and said, “This is love, you can become this.” What I felt at that moment transcended a good feeling. It felt like I was truly loved and unequivocally welcomed into life; it was untamed hope.
When I became sober again, I looked at my watch and saw only 10 minutes went by, but it felt like I had come back from a long journey. I had to get out of the house and go clear my mind because what I experienced could not be tangibly proven, but it still didn’t change the fact on how real it felt. I was left with the question, was this all part of a hallucination my mind created or did I experience something otherworldly?
A few weeks later, my friend came over, and we did it together. He had a similar experience, but he met with someone he associated as a Native American who was telling him about life. I smoked it again and went through the same visually brilliant kaleidoscope of geometric shapes and the trees coming to life, but this time I was shown the Earth and how old it was compared to how young I am. I was shown a man from a time long since past, worried about work and searching for a purpose; the same anxieties I was going through. The kind, maternal voice spoke again and comforted me by telling me that we are all in this life together and it will work out in the end. Suddenly, I had a memory of my ex-girlfriend as I remembered holding her naked and looking into her eyes, feeling joy in loving her. The memory was then tarnished by overwhelming sadness from the breakup. The kind and maternal voice spoke to me again and said, “You will love again.”
Woe turned to joy as despair receded and hope became victorious; I will love again.
I know, what I wrote sounds like some hippie bullshit but I wrote it honestly and objectively. I felt like these drugs helped me take big leaps forward in maturity, spiritually and psychologically. They did not give me the answers but helped me search for them. I know there are people who read this and use my words on why drugs are immoral, and pot is a gateway drug; but in reality, anything is a gateway drug to the curious and maladjusted mind.
To the person reading this who is contemplating going on the same path, I caution you. Do no go into this blindly and halfheartedly. Do your due diligence and understand the dangers of what you are subjecting yourself to. “Beware of unearned wisdom,” Carl Jung once stated. The journey into the mind at times will be chaotic and horrifying but also joyful, worthy and enlightening; for if you use psychedelics as a tool for maturity and growth, then they will indeed help you reap those rewards. But, like the LSD incident with me, they can quickly drive you into madness.
For my spiritual experiences with my questions on faith and God. The Psilocybin made me realize that we are all connected to each other, the planet and the universe. Again, sorry if this sounds like some hippie bullshit but isn’t that what religion has been trying to teach humanity? We are all part of something beyond us. The DMT made me experience first hand of something that I considered borders on reality and the mystical. To be objective, I do not know if what I perceived was a higher power or even real; it could have all been a hallucination. Or, it could have been profoundly real. Either way, this is where faith comes in.