Growing up in a home with alcohol abuse had quite an impact on me. As a child I saw the demons my father struggled with on nearly a daily basis. I watched as alcoholism slowly turned my loving, caring and compassionate father into a monster to be feared. His rage was terrifying. It often lasted for days on end and I can remember monitoring his every move when he was home. The same home that kept me safe was often the place I feared the most.
Throughout my childhood I always felt alone. I was often bullied in school and had very few friends. Both at school and at home I learned stay out of the way. I learned that I couldn’t trust others, even the ones I loved. I learned failure, humiliation, rejection, worthlessness, and disgrace.
I started drinking in high school. Drinking allowed me, for the very first time, to feel normal. It took away the insecurities, the shame, guilt and the way I thought about myself. I felt energy, I felt control, and for that fleeting moment the void inside me disappeared. For me it was the only way I knew how to cope and I soon developed a habit of self-medicating four nights a week.
After I graduated high school and continued into college my habits progressed. Not only did my drinking continue but I learned to fill the void in other ways. I used women and sex to fill the void; I smoked cigarettes, slept very little and had obsessive and compulsive tendencies.
My breaking point came shortly after college ended and an emotionally abusive relationship sent me spiraling into a psychological breakdown. Unknown at the time, the relationship triggered a lot of past emotional issues buried deep within my psyche. What followed were months of a debilitating depression and thoughts of suicide. After experiencing multiple anxiety attacks, I learned that I suffered from Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) relating to my early childhood experiences.
Therapy really changed my life. It helped me begin to untangle the psychological mess I was left with from childhood and understand the disease of alcoholism and addiction. Alcoholism is a disease, more specifically, a family disease — and just like my father, I had a side of myself that I could not control.
Therapy also helped me understand my PTSD related to intimate relationships. I learned that I could be triggered into a state of severe anxiety by something as simple as typical disagreement. My PTSD left me struggling with severe depression and feelings of worthlessness, insomnia, lack of appetite and thoughts of suicide.
For the next year I continued therapy and joined support groups such as ACOA (Adult Children of Alcoholics) and Al-Anon (for friends and family affected by drinking). The grieving and depression continued as many years of suppressed emotions came bubbling to the surface.
Through therapy, the anger, sadness, shame, and guilt poured out from the deepest parts of my wounded soul, and with every story and every tear came a new found freedom from the burdens of my past.
As much as therapy helped me, it still didn’t address my neurochemical problems brought on by PTSD and depression. I still coped with relationship anxiety and psychological triggers that would send me back to my deep seated childhood fears of abandonment and abuse.
I tried breath work, yoga, meditation, and countless other techniques, but none could fix the way I felt about myself at the core. Nothing could help eradicate the feelings of fear and shame I learned so long ago. My soul was sick and nothing I tried seemed to alleviate the emptiness I felt inside.
As I started doing research I was both fascinated and frightened by what I read about ayahuasca and its potential to heal. But as I read people’s remarkable stories of personal transformation and relief from the grips of addiction and despair, I heard Aya’s calling. Deep down, I believed that ayahuasca had the potential to heal the deepest part of me, but at the time I simply couldn’t afford to venture to Peru for a week long ayahuasca ceremony.
I needed something else. Something I could do closer to home.
My friend turned me on to doing magic mushrooms, suggesting I try a more subtle psychedelic to get acquainted before ayahuasca. He had a point, and having never done a psychedelic I was frightened by what I could uncover. I feared for my sanity, and I figured it was better to lose my sanity here than three thousand miles away in the jungle.
As my first trip began, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but as it progressed it developed into an incredibly profound and healing experience.
Initially the medicine created a beautiful euphoria of a drug high but it allowed me a safe place to explore the inner workings of my mind like never before. It allowed me to detach myself from my past and evaluate it without triggering the deep emotional upheaval that accompanied my painful memories. As the trip continued new sensations and realizations came about.
In therapy I had been working through some deep abandonment issues and without fail the medicine took me directly to the root of my pain. It showed me related memories and trauma like sequences of a film. The loneliness I felt got heavier and heavier until I began to cry. My tears brought on an incredible feeling of reconciliation and what followed was a vision of my mother and father. This vision created a warm sensation that took over my body. It was the feeling of pure love and at that moment I could feel the eternal loneliness I had carried for so long disappear. I felt complete and perfectly whole and as the experience drew to a close I felt as if something changed. Something clicked.
In the weeks that followed I could tell that the experience changed me. The world seemed much more beautiful — colors were brighter and more vivid. I felt recharged and energized and my depression began to vanish.
As I entered back into a romantic relationship however, I still battled with emotional triggers that would send me back to childhood pain. The PTSD was still there. It wasn’t the same though; I still slipped into despair yet it was softer and not nearly as painful as before. It was then that I realized how well psilocybin really healed me and I knew I had more work to do.
As I continued therapy and working on my PTSD, each subsequent session with psilocybin relieved more and more of my pain, slowly peeling back the layers of trauma. With each session I found a new relief — my symptoms minimized.
Ego Death And Rebirth
I had done three sessions with psilocybin, and each one was as powerful and healing as the last. With each one my PTSD and depression lessened. My symptoms had all but been relieved, but there was still the old me, the dysfunctional me, a little piece that had yet to be healed.
Psilocybin had done wonders. The emotional triggers and fears that before had such a powerful effect on my psyche were all but gone. Upon an argument or disagreement the fear of abandonment still left me in a small pit for a day long recovery where I would experience a loss of appetite, an episode of insomnia, and racing thoughts. I knew one more session with psilocybin was in order.
As I started my fourth trip I immediately felt sick. I held back the need to vomit initially and what followed was five hours of hell and insanity. Confused and disoriented I struggled through one of the toughest nights of my life as I tumbled into a dark psychological abyss.
Upon wakening the next morning, I was still in a state of confusion. I didn’t understand what went wrong or why I had the traditional “bad trip.” As I went on with daily life, normal everyday things seemed new and unfamiliar. It was as if I was re-experiencing life again for the first time.
As the months went by I began to realize what had happened. I was no longer being triggered by my past, my PTSD had completely gone away. Arguments or disagreements no longer caused anxiety or flashbacks. The old me had completely died, and along with it had gone my past psychological triggers and depression.
I realized that what I perceived to be the worst experience of my life was actually the best, most healing night of my life.
What I Learned
Psilocybin gave me back what was taken so long ago. It gave me back the ability to be vulnerable, and the ability to love and experience life with grace, faith and acceptance. It helped me come back to myself, the real me, deep down, underneath all the fear and hurt. Since my time with psilocybin, I have made some incredible life changes and I am now committed to telling people my story of healing.