Saturday, September 17, 2016

Just Say No?

I came across this article, yesterday, about a woman who group-takes ayahuasca, and I was rather entertained. I was also ever more committed to my "Seriously, people. Don't take hallucinogens!" stance. In full disclosure, I did try them (psychedelic mushrooms), once in my nervy youth, let's say legally, in Amsterdam. It was one of the worst experiences of my life. I felt like I was trapped in a Gaudi building, and not in a good way. The bright walls were melting. Time stood still. It was the longest 6 hours of my life (other than labour, it's own kind of hallucinogenic trip) and made me understand I am not the appropriate candidate to divorce my consciousness from reality as I know it.

I do find it hilarious when conservatives speak about the gateway nature of psychoactive drugs, as if every human being is predestined to fall under the thrall of being high*. Because I really don't believe that most people want to hallucinate. Anyone who's ever had a panic attack knows that it's profoundly wretched to be removed from oneself - to be fundamentally depersonalized

The idea of going to a new-agey vomit-fest, replete with ladies known as "helper-angels", and no stand-by medical assistance goes against every grain of my pragmatism. At least at that TIFF party, if you overdo it with coke, there's probably a doctor from Mount Sinai on hand.

But I know it takes all types and that, for every traumatized psycho-active drug taker there's another one who finds the meaning of existence. (Note: I feel utterly confident you can do that with a spectacular meal, but then I have access.**)

Chelsea Handler, not a public personality I generally recommend, did a vaguely interesting show about taking this drug, all the more interesting because she regularly indulges in all the drugs and has a noteworthy high-tolerance. Moreover, she's a human Venn diagram representation of the intersection of crassness and honesty, which is intriguing in this context, if not in most others. I'm sure you can find the episode on Netflix.

*Please note that I distinguish this experience from being stoned.

** OMG - I'm addicted to spectacular meals. Scaramouche, in my teenaged years, was a total gateway!


  1. My daughter's friend and her partner did fairly prolonged group therapy involving ayahuasca, and they claimed it transformed their lives -- but now they're ultra-urban-hippie-hipsters who toy with anti-vax between mason jars so . . .
    I have to admit that I'm already too sensitive to what's potentially behind, well, almost everything, that I'm not keen to enhance that ability. Even with alcohol and the occasional toke, I really want to be with people I trust before I take the drink that drops the inhibitions very far...Not saying Control 'R' Us, but not saying it's not. ;-)

  2. Fascinating! Lots of my friends have had those life changing experiences with hallucinogens - but in the context of being together with those that they have known and loved (and trusted) for many years.

    You've put it very well... I am too sensitive to look behind all of the boulders that ground me cuz I've landscaped this self carefully :-)

    Even just the idea of throwing up in front of others (which I did, regrettably, when I was pregnant) is so horrible. And to watch others vomit would totally cause a corollary response in me. Ugh.

    PS: I so wish that hippies and hipsters and everyone else would vaccinate their freakin' kids. The thought of one unvaccinated (but sturdy) child bringing home serious and preventable, perhaps mortal, illness to another is so possible. Even if the antivaxers don't worry about the immunosuppressed (or unlucky) amongst us, they don't vax because they are misguidedly afraid of the risks to their children. What happens when one hardy, school aged kid brings home germs that kill the baby in the family???

  3. When I was in Peru years ago I spoke with our guide in the Amazon about ayahuasca. I remember her saying that it is very important that there is a shaman there to help you through your journey and that in order to do it right you must prepare for it about a month before. If you do it properly she said it can give you a different outlook on your life but if it is not done properly you could have terrible side effects. She said she knew someone who took it and then saw spirits in trees a month after taking ayahuasca. Another friend of hers who took it had his dead father encourage him to follow him but the shaman pulled him back. With ayahuasca you have diarrhea and are vomiting. Doesn't sound like a lot of fun.

    1. I totally believe that having a shaman (an expert, a leader, a "doctor" of sorts) is de rigeur. But I wonder if you don't have to have some kind of pre-existing relationship with that person to condition the experience.

      Also, there's some statistical complement of ayahuasca-takers who are bound to mess up their brain chemistries. Lord knows, sugar can throw some sensitive people over the edge and that's baby stuff by comparison. I'd be very worried to find myself in that category. And I suppose those who worry as I do should definitely avoid these drugs, given mind over matter and all.

  4. interesting... Took my share of psychadelics back in the hippie 60's. Had some wonderful experiences and a couple of terrible ones. But after I got into meditation, I stopped wanting to get high at all. It took a while, years.

    1. Really - Did you find that the meditation accomplished the same state of awareness? Do you feel that the psychedelics brought you to a mental/spiritual place that allowed for the meditation to take over?

      Also curious to know, when you had the bad experiences, how did you avoid being so traumatized that you ever tried them again?

    2. That's an interesting question. I hope I can answer it in a way that makes sense. The overly simple answer, is No, my meditation experiences were not like the psychedelic experiences, although every now and then (very rarely) I would have some incredible vision or insight that I liked better than the drug hallucinations, because it was "clean". By clean, I mean there was no outside substance coursing through my blood or brain.

      Mostly, I would sit down to meditate, and I would just think and worry through most of the hour. I felt that I was no good at meditating, but I stuck to it. I felt that it "cleaned" my mind on a daily basis, eventually reducing my anxiety, negativity, etc. over a long period of time (years). So that would sum up a big benefit of my meditation practice. LOL! Just writing about this, makes me realize I really should get back into it.

      After a long time, feeling mentally or spiritually "cleaner" - I got to the point where I didn't really like chemicals in my blood interfering with my natural state. That's what I meant when I said I lost my taste for drugs.

      To answer the second part of your question - why didn't the negative psychedelic experiences keep me from taking drugs again, all I can say is I was a young idiot and influenced by who I was hanging out with, too. Honestly, I can't believe some of the risky behavior I did back then. My life is very tame now and that's the way I like it.

      :-) Chris

    3. I love this reply Chris! Thanks so much for sharing your experiences. And man, who amongst us hasn't been a young idiot influenced by others :-)