Recovery, Psychedelics, Meditation and Spirituality: Lessons Learned from Hallucinogens.
As person with over 20 years of recovery from alcohol and drug addiction, I know at my core that mood and mind alternating substances ultimately led me to “pitiful and incomprehensible demoralization” — a hell to which I never wish to return. I also know that what I was seeking when I discovered drugs and alcohol was meaningful and valid.
I always sensed that there was more to life than was on the surface. I felt the truths — both harsh and beautiful — that lay just beneath the carefully constructed pictures, and I wanted to see them, expose them, experience them, embrace them. My soul could not handle playing with the superficial for long — it craved depth. While alcohol and most drugs only numbed me so that I could deal with life the way I was expected to play it, hallucinogens really pointed to this reality beyond the surface that I was seeking. After watching the recent documentary on Netflix, Have a Good Trip, I started doing some reminiscing.
The first time I tried hallucinogens, I was blown away. I had returned from Kalamazoo College for a weekend at home in Detroit. I went to hang with some friends, who had acquired a bag full of “magic mushrooms”. We split them up and ate them and sat around talking and wondering if they would work. I remember the moment the table shifted from horizontal to vertical before my eyes, and I realized that reality was only based on our perception; that our mind made reality. I spent the evening seeing everything in a heightened light — the beautiful bright spirits in my friends, the warmth of a hair dryer we took turns blowing it at each other, the sparkle and breath that seemed to fill the cold Michigan snow as I squished it under my bare feet. I felt my face melting and wondered, “what even is a face?” I got lost in the colors of the painting on his wall. I had a scary image at one point of snakes writhing on the carpet and had to remind myself it wasn’t real as I walked across to the couch. I ended the night wrapped in a friend’s arms listening to Miles Davis’s Jack Johnson album. I had been changed.
I was never the type of person to have complete fearless abandon with hallucinogens. The loss of control scared me, and I wouldn’t be the type to take ten hits of acid, or to take acid daily. But I was impressed by the complete ability to alter reality and how the experience seemed to direct itself once you ingested something of this nature. It is called a “trip” for a reason.
For the next couple of years, I took acid, mescaline, and mushrooms all several times. Each time, the trip led me to unexpected places and the experiences seemed destined for me in that moment. It always felt like I was in the flow of life, right where I was supposed to be, being carried to what was meant to come next. Once, I was at the Dally in the Alley in the Cass Corridor (back when this was a small neighborhood gathering), and I had the distinct sense that these people were all my kind of people — people who needed to see beyond the status quo. I felt that connection and camaraderie, and the night air was alive with the idea that I was not alone. Once, I was in Philadelphia with a girl friend, and we watched skateboarders in the park. We were suddenly famished, and we were discussing how we didn’t feel we could deal with a restaurant, when a truck pulled up and started handing out cheese sandwiches to everyone in the park. We felt taken care of by the universe. Once, I was camping, feeling the trees breathe, and the stars all had halos and tracers and as I watched my friend telling a story, I realized I was in love with him.
One of the last times I remember tripping was when I went to meet up with some old friends in Kalamazoo, and someone had brought mushrooms. My friend Chris and I were discussing our drug use, and he said, “I think maybe we are trying to find God, and we are looking for a shortcut in these drugs, but there really isn’t one.”
Shortly after this experience, my use of hard drugs picked up, and I became a full-blown heroin addict. I could no longer use anything else, or it would send me into some kind of panic. I eventually got clean and sober for good in April of 2000. It turned out, I needed to stop looking for shortcuts, and find a real God of my understanding that could help me let go of my compulsion to use drugs and alcohol, because I was powerless to do so on my own.
In recovery, I have changed my perspective on a lot of things. However, one thing has remained true is who I was at my core (which drove me to drugs in the first place). I am a person who seeks to connect with life beyond the surface. I still feel the truths — both harsh and beautiful — that lay just beneath the carefully constructed pictures, and I must examine them, experience them, and embrace them.
Today, I do this with meditation and prayer and sharing with like-minded people. When I meditate, I tap into the connection to pure consciousness, the part of me that is connected to the divine and to all of you. My spiritual connection allows me the courage to face the truths that are hard to face, to feel whatever feelings I must feel, and to trust that the essence of who I am will be okay — in fact, is already okay. It allows me compassion for others as they do the surface dancing, because it’s so hard to stay rooted in the deep truth of who we are. I talk about my experiences with other people who also are seeking and experiencing life beyond this dimension. Receiving validation that it is natural to look for more, that more does exist, and that we do experience it in moments — is imperative to me living life without substances. I don’t wish to numb myself today in order to live in the world. And I won’t use hallucinogens today, but I can take the lessons from them with me.
- Reality is based on our perceptions; it’s not fixed; it can change
- We are all connected — to each other and to a living, breathing planet
- Go with the flow; let the universe guide; it is bringing the exact right experience for you
- People are beautiful light beings — love them