Let Setting Determine the Psychedelic Experience


by JRB Everyman

on August 11, 2014

Prior to my most recent experience with LSD, I had tried psychedelic substances five times. This total does not include marijuana. I had tripped four times on LSD, and once on psilocybin mushrooms. Each one has been valuable for my personal development. I do not consider myself an experienced user, and this most recent trip has taught me a valuable lesson that I would like to share with whoever cares to read on. For those that do, the story lacks the relevant personal details from my life to make full sense of certain situations. I will try to avoid an explanation of what was occurring in my thought process for each situation. I would be unable to if I tried, but I think the nature of a personal revelation only strikes the person who had it. The truth is not the image, yada yada yada…

I am 22, living in eastern Canada. Presently, I am debating whether I should finish my degree or travel. I have no money, therefore I live with my parents. I made a poor decision to try LSD while they were home. Normally they go to bed at a reasonable hour. I thought that I could bumble around the city (St. John’s, Newfoundland) until they were asleep, but that plan didn’t work out.

My friend Arnold and I bought 25 tabs the day before, enough for whoever out of our friends wanted to join. Turns out nobody was interested in tripping that Sunday night, except for us. We waited until after dinner, and walked to our friend Peter’s house. He backed out because his off-and-on girlfriend had gotten home from a trip to Florida earlier that day, and she was coming over within the hour. Arnold and I each took 3 tabs at Peter’s house, before leaving to go for a walk.

Peter lives in the downtown area, about 15-20 minutes (walking) from the harbour. Arnold and I decided to walk toward the centre of town, specifically to a well known trail next to a river. On the way, the LSD slowly set in. It was not scary, we had both been through it before. We weren’t talking much to each other, only comments about what direction we were headed in. Once we got to a place by the river, away from the trail, I sat down next to the water. The LSD was now in full effect, and I was investigating with the new perspectives and thoughts that I was having. It is difficult to explain, it is as if the focus of my awareness was easily flickering through various levels of interpretation about any subject I felt like thinking about. Normally my surroundings were the point of my focus, as I grew up in the area of town we were in. Arnold was not enjoying the loud rushing sound of the water, so he asked if we could go. I didn’t really answer him, I muttered something along the lines of “I’ll find you in a bit.”

Describing precisely what goes on in one’s mind at any time is impossible, and I won’t be able to give an exact replication of the thoughts I was having on the trip. An example would be the connection between water and consciousness. This connection has been made before in literature, however at this time it was making profound sense to me. The nature of water and it’s perpetual flow seemed to be a lesson, or discovery of sorts about my own personal nature. Water can sneak around rocks or stationary objects and proceed to flow (similar to discovering epiphanies). Each moment the river is different. I have read these analogies before, and while I may have thought I understood them, I was rediscovering the significance of the lessons all around me.

I returned to the trail to try to find Arnold. I followed the river to the nearby lake. On the way I figured if I didn’t bump into Arnold, I’d walk to Peter’s and see if he had shown up there. Arnold purposely did not take a cell phone with him, that is why I was walking around the neighbourhood with no success. Before reaching the lake, I changed my course to Peter’s because of a sudden burst of potential excitement. This decision proved to be a catalyst for what most people would call a “bad trip.”

When I got to Peter’s, his girlfriend was on the front porch having a smoke. I greeted her with a hug. Heather seemed to be a groovy person most times I was around her, and I just stood on the porch chatting with her, waiting for Peter to come out. I didn’t want to interrupt them for too long. I wanted to pop over for five minutes and if there was no news of Arnold’s whereabouts, I’d be on my way. Didn’t quite turn out the way I planned. Thirty minutes later I was fumbling out the door, with a piece of paper and a pen, displaying my black saucers in a wide eyed stare to Peter’s mother and her partner, mumbling about “love” and writing down on a sheet of paper how I left the house with parting words such as “love” and “nature.”

When the three of us went upstairs to Paddy’s room, the one thing he would not stop asking me is: “Where’s Arnold.” He would not stop repeating himself, and asking me if Arnold was alive. Peter had flicked on a video game while I had gone there to talk about some issues from the past. Peter and I have been close friends since our childhood, but for the past two years our relationship had some things that needed to be addressed. The only time it would happen is when we were drunk together, which from my experience is not helpful. Each time I would try to bring up a painful subject, Peter would divert by asking about Arnold, or commenting on my pupils. He repeatedly told me I was fucked up and he “didn’t need this shit right now.” I asked for some paper, and I began writing down every event that was happening to me. As I left I felt like I wanted to part on a peaceful note, and this is why I began mumbling about “nature” and “love.”
I continued writing my thoughts down as I walked, and I have since forgotten what I was thinking about. It seemed as if each thought was connected to the next. I proceeded down a graveyard path, and while I was coming out the other side, an ambulance drove by blazing its sirens.

Suddenly, I thought that Andrew was in that ambulance. I turned around in the graveyard, and began to run toward the way I came. Arnold’s house was less than two blocks from Peter’s. Initially I thought I’d go to his house and see if there was any activity. But as I ran, the idea thickened that he was dead, and it was because of the horrible drugs we took.

I became winded and slowed to a quick walk. Across the street were two bums, and I asked them, “my best friend just died, do you have anything to say to that?” They seemed to be looped out on something, but they never had any sage words for me. I picked up the pace, arriving at Arnold’s front porch out of breath.

Arnold’s mother Jewel opened the door to a phrase no mother wants to hear.

“Arnold is dead!” I exclaimed.

Her face contorted into pure confusion, while I panted on her porch. I’m not sure the message really hit her, but she told me to come inside.

I was babbling on about Arnold being dead while Jewel and Martin (Arnold’s father) tried to sort out a plan of attack. Martin left the house to try and look for Arnold while Jewel sat me down, gave me some water, and called my father. Arnold had told her we were at our friends for a few beers. I assured here that this was a lie, and in fact we took some acid by the river. While I was in a state of heavy breathing, no longer out of breath from running, but in a self-induced panic over my missing friend.

While I was blabbering to Jewel, I was also writing on my sheet of computer paper I took from Peter’s. I made connections in my head about things like Jewel being a manifestation of the Divine Mother. Jewel giving me water was a sure sign that all life had spawn from water, and I ought to look into water myths for more answers. This seems outlandish, all I can say is that at the time I was having revelations at the speed of light, but I understood none of them because I lacked the proper information. The whole time I sincerely thought Arnold was dead and that I was about to undergo profound sadness at his funeral. I was thinking in my head that my role in this story was to provide narrative guidance for the community about the travesty that was Arnold’s death. It was as if I was living in a story that I was going to write about when it was all over. And every single thing that seemed significant, no matter what level I was thinking about it on, must be wrote down.

I wanted to reference the Beatles, so I wrote down Jewel’s name and drew arrows to Lennon and McCartney, and mumbled something to Jewel about her beauty and how the Beatles knew it, and wrote a song about her (at this idea she gave me a look that was even more bizarre then when she heard her son was dead).

At one point I wanted to smash my phone, but I couldn’t open the back door. I had an impulse that my phone was not very helpful to me. The list of conversations were all irrelevant to the state of mind I was in. I struggled to identify with the person who was sending these messages.

I went into the living room and sat down on the couch. My father came in and wanted to know where Arnold was. I said he was dead, which made my Dad frown. We talked about something or other, then I had had enough. I stood up and said I was leaving. Dad said no, “John, have a seat.” I responded by removing all my clothes.

Dad blocked my exit, so I went into the adjacent room, and turned the corner. Now I was in the hallway leading to the front door.
Jewel said, “honey, you said you would listen to me,” (in my stammering about the Divine Mother I murmured that Jewel was wise, and I should listen to her) “here, put on your clothes.” She held out my sweatpants with the underwear inside so I could step in. I took them from her, and put them on myself. Then I tried for the door, which my father would not let happen. I went around the corner, back to the end of the hall, and took a run at the door. My father and I both fell to the floor. After he sat up, I was upset because I had not wanted to be violent.

“Violence is not the answer, violence is not the answer,” I continued to mumble. I then grabbed my dad by the head, kissed his cheek and mumbled an apology, confirming to him that I knew “violence is not the answer.” I then spun for the door, and he grabbed the bottom of my sweatpants. I shook out of them, and was free at last; naked in the streets.

I broke out into a jog, though no one followed me. I slowed to a walk once I was back on Peter’s street. I laughed to myself because I had become one of the neighbourhood lunes. It was a common occurrence to see someone in rags or incoherently mumbling to themselves in that neighbourhood, and now it was my turn. I began yelling at the top of my lungs. Nothing in particular. Then I began singing woo-hoo’s. The woo-hoo’s turned into elongated aaoowwwww’s. And then I started sing-shouting with cracks at the high notes as if I were a soul singer. For most of my attempts I was painfully out of key.

I walked on a path between a grocery store and a rink, pausing to note the memories I had playing hockey there. Then I walked into a network of small streets with row-housing.

I eventually came to a group of wealthier houses and hopped another fence into a back yard. I came up to a door and tried to smash it in. Thankfully, I failed. I also realized what a stupid idea this was, and I did not actually want to break into the house. There were dogs inside and they started barking. The owner came to the window with a phone to his ear, and said “go away,” in a stereotypically flamboyant tone.
I just looked at him, shrugged my shoulders and said “come on.” I then sat on a rubbermaid container, and waited.
While I was on the container, the dogs were looking at me through the glass doors, barking. I began to howl. After I was howling I started to bang on the container to create a beat and howled some more. The dogs stopped barking, and looked curious. I shouted to the owner to let a dog out because I was lonely. Or to at least give me a glass of water. Neither request was granted.

After roughly ten minutes, a cop poked his head over the fence and asked what I was doing.

I hopped over the fence into the hands of three officers, who handcuffed me. I was put in a car and there was another group of 4-5 officers looking on. One came to the window and asked me what drug I was on and I told them. Another brought a bright yellow “caution” divider, to put on my lap. I said that I didn’t care I was naked. To which he responded, “but some people who have to look at you do care.”

After some time they gave me to the paramedics. I had an ambulance ride to the hospital. My father came in, and sat with me. Concerned about Arnold’s whereabouts. The day before, he had found the 25 hits. This resulted in a 4-5 hour discussion about life with my parents. LSD opened up my family indirectly, while none of use were actually tripping on it. However, that is irrelevant for now.

On the surface this story may seem like a bad experience. I can say the next day I was extremely embarrassed, and I apologized to Arnold’s parents. Although the more time that passes, the more lessons I take from what happened. It could have been avoided if I had remembered some of Richard Alpert’s lectures I have listened to. He has explained the likelihood of the behaviour I displayed when there are less than ideal circumstances for a LSD trip.

I’ve known Peter since we were 11, but not everyone wants to open up on the spot about what really bothers them. When I left his house I was a character in a story. I was living out the fears of Peter, my parents, and the general opinion about LSD being a dangerous, destructive drug. My friend had died because of them, I thought.

Before this experience, I would look forward to the next LSD trip, because it is not easily found in my city. Now, I know better. I would only want to try it again if the setting was appropriate.

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