How Psilocybin Beat My Addictions
A new life begins with a “massive spiritual awakening.”
Illustration Credit: Oh Boy by Stasia Burrington
My last, soul-fragmenting, “fall from grace” memory was of smoking crack cocaine with a woman in a seedy motel in the Watts district of Los Angeles at 7:00 a.m., with porn playing in the background. I had previously taken several Ambiens, which made me zombie-like, so I recall little between taking the sleeping pills and ending up in the motel with the woman. But I remember her crying, and when I asked why, she said she was five months pregnant. I left that motel and found my way back onto the freeway to head home to Malibu. I had only a couple of days to regroup before informing my boss about the relapse. I took a large dose of niacin at the gym and must have sat in the sauna for an hour, with toxins of crack cocaine streaming from my pores. I couldn’t go on. What was I going to do?
For some reason I visualized myself high up on a mountain trail in Sedona, Arizona, surrounded by the vast red rock country, with red-tail hawks soaring in the bluest of skies. I thought of shamanism, and “magic mushrooms” came to mind—something I took many times in college, but as a “fun drug” in which any sacredness, healing benefits, or entheogen-like experiences were obliterated by beer, marijuana, and whomever I was partying with. In the sauna, however, I felt as though something outside myself was giving me a very specific set of instructions. And what happened was this: I got rest, asked for a psilocybin mushroom from a “sober” friend from AA, drove out into the desert, put on a pack, filled up the Camelback with water, and set off up a mountain. After a while I deviated off the main trail, lay on a rock, ingested the mushroom, closed my eyes, and allowed myself to think about everything I had lost in my life—despite the best efforts of fancy rehabs, AA, and psychiatry.
I thought of a woman I’d met in New York during a brief time when life had became warm and fuzzy. I told her that I was taking Amtrak to Boston to visit my friends and family, but that when I returned, we would be together. I boarded the train the following day for Boston and stayed with my parents that first night, but then came the obligatory night out with my buddies when I credulously bought something I thought was crack cocaine. Exhaling the smoke, I tasted something horribly acrid and chemical-like, before my lights went out and my face hit the curb. The ambulance took me to Mass General and I had to move back into my parents’ house for a year while my face was reconstructed. I never saw the woman again.
My thoughts got worse, a life unfolding as a bad trip. Then the psilocybin kicked in—and I got better.
What happened was a massive spiritual awakening. I was reminded that we are all vibratory beings, in essence, and that our rates of vibrations are based on our attitudes, our earthbound attachments, and our propensity for honesty and love. I learned that despite the insane, violent acts of individuals, there is no separateness; we are all connected, we are all one love, we all swim in the same spiritual ocean, and there are those who have simply forgotten and have lost their way, as a result of buying into an illusion. I was informed of the need to stay vigilant and not to do or think things that would block me from the light.
The mushroom breathed into my consciousness that I must pulverize fear immediately when it arises, concurring with the AA cofounder and my personal hero, Bill Wilson, who once wrote that “fear is an evil and corrosive thread.” Wilson also wrote, “When the spiritual malady is overcome, we straighten out mentally and physically.” For some years, during his sobriety, Wilson used LSD in the hopes that it would break him out of his depression and possibly help him recapture the spiritual fervor he had felt from his original “white light” experience. Although he was chastised by some AA members, Wilson believed the LSD was beneficial. In “The Big Book” of Alcoholics Anonymous, Dr. William Silkworth says this about people in my position: “unless this person can experience an entire psychic change, there is very little hope for his recovery.” That’s true.
Now I am a popular, well-respected drug and alcohol counselor in Malibu, laboring on the front lines of the addiction and mental illness epidemic. I have worked with literally thousand of souls suffering from often-inexorable demons. Paramount to my own wellness is the ability to stay honest with myself. Where have I been dishonest? Where did I lie, cheat, steal, or backstab? Where have I omitted the truth? And as my kick-ass AA sponsor used to have me ask myself, “Where did I fail to see the truth about a particular person or situation, when it was staring me right in the face?”
I don’t want to lambaste psychiatry, as I’ve had beneficial relationships with some of the best in that profession. They do good work, and often it is necessary work. However, we need to keep in mind the sacred and natural medicines. There is a good reason more people are flying down to Brazil to use ayahuasca, or going to Mexico to use ibogaine to kick opiates. Getting these natural healing substances legalized for medicinal reasons in the U.S. may seem quixotic, yet I’m hopeful. I feel that many people, especially the addiction prone, as well as sufferers of various mental disorders, are in dire need of finding something sacred within themselves.