Psychedelics have played a key part in my growth and healing past traumas.
When I have spoken about them in the past, more people have asked me about my experiences, and I finally sat down to complied a rough overview of my own journey. Along the way, I tried to sprinkle in some insights which others might find helpful in their own experiments.
First, What Didn’t Work
Me and weed never got along well. First I thought it was my inability to smoke at all. Then I blamed the nicotine. I’d just get nauseous, which is exactly what weed is not supposed to do.
So I bypassed the whole thing and tried edibles, and it was on them that I had my worst trip of all – vomiting, fearing my impending death while feeling like I wasn’t ready to die yet (not sure why), and shitting myself to top it all off.
I moved on and don’t plan on looking back.
Alcohol, that socially endorsed drug that Orthodox Judaism feels is totally fine to get 13 years olds blackout drunk on once a year, is highly overrated.
As a friend of mine aptly said, “Getting drunk is borrowing happiness from the future”.
The crowning jewel of that experience was getting way too drunk on a pub crawl of one during my last weeks in Israel. I woke up feeling terrible the next day, but refused to throw up, because I hate throwing up.
I vowed to never get that drunk again, and unlike most resolutions of this nature, I’ve actually stuck to it for the last four years.
The first shroom trip
For me, redemption has come through psychedelics and MDMA, which is not technically a psychedelic.
It started with Shrooms, Psylosybin. I was very anxious before my trip, I was worried about all those “bad trips” I had heard about. In my mind, a bad trip looked like a nightmare that you can’t wake up from.
But I had a skilled guide, who conveyed his own comfort and expertise in every moment leading up to, and during, the experience, and this made all the difference.
Experienced trippers often talk about Set and Setting – you should be in a space that is calm and where you have control, with nature being a great choice; and you should be in a positive mindset. This sets the tone for your whole trip.
People tripping in a party, surrounded by strangers, are setting themselves up for a much risker situation with a myriad of variables they can’t control, a perfect place for paranoia to sneak in and take over.
My first trip was planned for me to a T. A series of curated playlists had been planned for weeks, for three stages of a trip – liftoff, the peak, and the comedown. The music you choose to listen to can have a big impact on the type of trip you have.
I mostly fasted that day, just eating some fruit and juice. The trip was planned for sunset, an inspiring time of day, overlooking a city park from a Jerusalem rooftop.
My guide carefully weighed my dose for me, calculated based off my experience level and body weight. He himself took a larger dose, consuming most of it immediately and leaving some to take later as a “boost” to keep his trip going longer.
We set an intention for the experience – I wanted to discover new things about myself. We ate the shrooms, which don’t taste that great and which can chew on for a long time. And then I meditated for a bit to get into a good mindset.
The whispering grass
The ensuing experience is one of the most memorable of my life. Music never sounded so good. It takes you on a journey, tells you a story. If you’re tripping with another person, you can feel like you’re on a shared journey with them, simultaneously riding with them while also adding your own personal flair.
At some point we went down to the park, carrying our speaker with us. I have never seen grass that green, a neon glow in the moonlight that whispered things to me – things I did not understand, and also understood perfectly.
At time, fears emerged as well. But I let those become part of the experience. I trusted the music to take me to the next stage. This is all part of the journey. This too shall pass. And indeed it does. The ups and downs are all just part of the experience.
I was hooked, but still afraid to trip on my own. It took several more trips, first with others, then by myself, to get comfortable and more casual with the experience. I used to designate 48 hours to a trip, going camping deep in nature or to some rural Airbnbn. Now I can do it with just a few hours to spare during a workweek.
I marvel at the experience you can get for $9 worth of shrooms and a pair of headphones – why fly to another country or buy tickets to a concert, when you can travel to another dimension without leaving your couch?
Recently, I have been experimenting with micro dosing, taking tiny amounts of shrooms every few days. It’s hard to pinpoint, but it does seem to be making a difference – taking the edge off my anxiety, and making the day just a bit brighter and more energized.
I limit myself to tripping about once a month, so as not to build too much of a psychological of physiological dependency. Instead of making it purely recreational, I try to include have a personal growth component as well – escape to a more creative place, or uncover subconscious motivations and patterns I wasn’t aware of. I invite the shrooms to show me something about myself I wasn’t aware of, to share an insight with me, and they generally deliver.
Next up, Acid. I marvel how such a tiny tiny piece of paper with a drop of LSD in it can take you that far into space.
To me acid is almost clinical. If shrooms are art, acid is science. If shrooms take you on an exciting jeep ride through space, twisting and turning and exploring, acid is like strapping yourself to a rocket and watching the trip unfold from the cockpit.
Whereas with shrooms there’s always the organic variance and concern over how much you took and how potent they are, acid offers a guarantee. You will trip for 10 hours, so no need to worry about that part. It makes for a more controlled experience, but also, in my experience, a more intense one.
My first trip on acid was great. The fucking music. I listened to a bunch of psychedelic rock, to fulfill the stereotype, and it was awesome. The visual hallucinations were amazing. I was looking out a window into a woods, but I was also staring through a space portal into fractals of a distant galaxy.
My second acid trip was my first “bad trip”, or as some prefer to call it, “difficult trip”. It wasn’t what I expected, and that took me by surprise. I expected nightmares, demons emerging from the walls and swallowing me whole. No. Instead, I just felt the worse I had ever felt, emotionally. I was beyond worthless. I was so flat I had no height whatsoever, no justification for existing. And the thing with trips is your sense of time is warped, so you as far as you’re concerned, you’re gonna keep feeling this way forever. Not fun.
It took me coming out of the trip to realize that that was just a bad trip, and now, moving forward, I hope to be better prepared for that flavor of “bad” as well, as unpleasant as it might still prove to be. I have no regrets about that experience, and am glad I had it. It still is a unique experience that pushed the envelope of my humanity and perception of self. It’s as if I emerged stronger and more resilient – I have been to hell and back, you cannot scare me.
That said, for now, I’ve taken a step back from acid. I prefer a more human, organic experience, which I find shrooms provide for me.
I have kept the best for last.
I went into my first MDMA (aka M, Molly, Ecstasy, “Rolling”) experience knowing of its potential to heal trauma and the clinical research that had been done in that regard. I had the official playlist from the MAPS institute playing in my ears.
Holy shit. If there is anything close to a magic wand, a mirror to hold up to your life and see reality in its truest form, to me that would be M. The clouds part, and you get absolute clarity on exactly who you are and where you stand in the world.
To me that meant validating just how much shit I had been through in my life. How many difficult situations I was still coping with every day. And within that context, every part of my life made perfect sense. All my flaws were acceptable. All my mistakes, understandable. This, to me, is the foundation of compassion: understanding that it could not have been any other way. And by it I mean everything that ever happened to, or was done by, you or anyone else. Everything just is.
It gives you the strength to power through your darkest experiences. It puts them within a context of a larger being that is you – you are so much bigger than even the worst thing that has ever happened to you.
So you power through it, and it melts away. It’s extremely painful, but you have what it takes, and on the other side you feel cleansed. You purge it, you process it, and you do it completely because for once, there is nothing to fear.
In this place, you can begin to forgive yourself. To understand and forgive others. You find the strength to deal with your darkest memories – one’s you’ve needed to completely suppress just to get through the day.So you can let it rise up and run its course. Instead of sitting there like an immobile impasse, it dissolves into the bigger you.
It’s not gone, it’s integrated.
This is why MDMA is so helpful for healing trauma.
It gives you a break from being in your problem to rising above it.
It shuts down the negative self-talk long enough for you to really accept yourself, shit and all.
I have always had crazy ideas on M, grandiose plans that are guaranteed to succeed, as far as my euphoric mind is concerned. I have since learned to distinguish between the actual ideas, which are often outlandish, and the theme that lies behind them, like an interpretation of a dream.
Do I actually have the ability to be more assertive? To drastically change my circumstances? To transform my life with a few key decisions? Great. Feel the core power of that realization and let that transform you. You don’t actually need to start your own non-profit just yet.
MDMA works by causing a major dopamine dump in your brain. So the next day you may feel hung-over, or extra down. If you’ve processed a ton of shit, you might feel drained for a few days. And research indicates that it is not healthy for your brain. There are several supplements you can take to help with side effects, like 5-HTP for brain health and mood, and Magnesium Citrate for the teeth grinding that often accompanies a trip.
Still, for health reasons, I limit my trips to once every six months, eagerly looking forward to them as turbo-charged leaps in my personal growth journey. In between, I suffice myself with shroom trips, although I always miss that feeling of traumas and limiting beliefs literally melting away.
Bringing it to others
Through my own personal experience of healing past traumas with MDMA, I have become extremely passionate about the efforts of organizations like MAPS to legalize MDMA or psilocybin for clinical applications. I cannot believe that people can easily drink themselves to death but aren’t allowed to experience the life-altering insights of a psychedelic trip.
Of course, much of this stems from the human tendency to take good things and ruin them. Partying on MDMA feels sacrilegious to me, compared to what they could accomplish in a more contemplative setting. It is a crime against humanity to ban it, and it was humanity’s crime to abuse it.
People frequently ask me how they can experience these experiences themselves. Unfortunately MAPS seems to only conducting trials with clinical PTSD cases, the usual trifling problems we face on a day to day don’t count for enough. So we’re forced to replicate these experiences alone. My general advice is to go slowly, maybe start with smaller doses of shrooms, surround yourself with supportive and more experience guides, and invest in yourself outside of the substance you’re consuming.
Also make sure you’re getting your supply from reputable sources. MDMA in particular can be mixed with all sorts of shit. You can buy testing kits to test a small sample of your batch, and if it passes, you can generally assume that the entire batch is ok.
This isn’t a magic bullet. To the degree that you have a meditation practice, for example, andare capable of experience unpleasant sensations in your body without reacting, you’ll be better able to cope with difficult emotions or memories that might arise during a trip. You’ll be able to observe them let them pass, instead of letting them consume you or take you over.
I try to approach these substances with the respect and gratitude that is becoming of gifts that have changed my life.