A Journey – Chemical Dependence
“I have been prone to addiction for most of my life..”
I have been prone to addiction for most of my life. I have the line around the heel of my palm which palmists recognize as the “line of addiction”, so I may have carried this tendency over from past lives. It has manifested in a variety of ways with scores of different substances over several decades. With each addiction I would suffer, struggle, stumble, get up and brush myself off, and eventually conquer the habit with sheer will and persistence. And then I would replace it with another and repeat the cycle.
Eventually, I found myself in the grip of a food addiction accompanied by an addiction to certain herbs which have stimulating properties. While lying in bed one night, feeling overstuffed and disgusted with myself for the one-thousandth time, “I have just got to do something about this,” I realized that if I struggled and overcame the overeating and herbal stimulant habits, I would certainly find some other form of addiction to replace them with, as well.
At times, in my life, I had prayed for help in overcoming particular addictions. But now I realized that what I must ask for help with was release from Addiction – with a capital “A” – all addiction – the whole addictive pattern in my personality and my life. And so I did. It was just a few days later that I picked up a magazine and read about ibogaine for the first time. I knew immediately that my prayer had been heard and answered.
It took some time to arrange for a session with ibogaine but from the time that plans started to gel and a date was set, I started to notice a shift in my consciousness. There were moments of a markedly greater sense of centeredness, a tendency to remain detached rather than get caught in the undertow of potentially negative emotion in my everyday life. I seemed to have a more natural inclination to remain steadily in a heart-space of love and a sense of connectedness to life around me, rather than splintering off into ego-reactivity. There was a greater calm, more spontaneity, a greater ease in personal interactions, and an underlying sense of “whatever happens, it’s all okay.”
All of this was subtle, and yet distinctly noticeable. My logical mind entertained the notion that it was perhaps my imagination, or merely an internal response to my anticipation of the freedom from addiction and dysfunction that I looked forward to achieving with the aid of the ibogaine. But on a deeper level I intuitively understood that this was the beginning of my initiation into the ibogaine journey. Events that followed cemented my certainty. There is now no doubt in my mind that the iboga plant is inhabited by a powerful spirit, a living intelligence, which had begun its preparatory work with me well in advance of my ingestion of the ibogaine.
Approximately one month before my session date, I wrote in my journal that I seemed to be experiencing a decreased appetite, feeling satisfied with smaller portions of food, and also cut down somewhat on the stimulating herbs. This was not accompanied by a sense of struggle and withdrawal, but rather seemed to occur spontaneously, as if I had simply “lost interest”.
About three weeks before my session date, I began to experience a good deal of apprehension and doubt about whether or not a session with ibogaine was really the right thing to do. Was I just going off “half-cocked” looking for a “quick fix” to my problems? Had this drug been tested enough? Were there possible side effects that were not yet understood? Should I call the whole thing off now, while there is still time, before purchasing the non-refundable airline ticket?…etc. I decided to do a tarot reading on the question in an attempt to clarify my perspective and help myself feel more comfortable with my decision. I went to the bookshelf upon which my tarot books and some of my cards are kept. There were some loose cards there – five cards from a deck called “The Power Deck”, which were given to me by the woman who published the deck, prior to the actual publication, when I attended one of her seminars. (Eventually I purchased the entire deck, along with the companion book, but I had never known quite what to do with these five extra cards, and they had ended up on my bookshelf.) As I pulled a few of the books off the shelf, one — only one — of the Power Cards fell off the shelf and onto the floor, face down. I stood there looking at it. I believe in synchronicity. Nothing is an accident. I knew intuitively that this card had a message for me. I picked it up and turned it over and read the following:
“Dream your passion. Fly away. Go through the hoop of your innermost fears and desires. Meet them and conquer them. What pain from childhood have you not dealt with? Move into the wound of your most secret fears, and find the seeds of wisdom that are planted there. Face what upsets you the most; it is a great teacher. Give away whatever is holding you back — insecurities, ego, fear of failure, or not being loved, fear of being alone — and be reborn into a new state of perfection.”
As soon as I saw the phrase “fly away” I knew the universe was responding to my questions and apprehension, because I was going to be flying to the location of my session, and I had been thinking that if I decided to cancel out, I had better do it before buying my ticket — and that had better be soon. I needed to decide if I was going to really commit to this or back out. But all of the rest of the statement from the card was also as if it had been tailor-made in response to my specific needs and issues. It seemed absolutely apropos on every level, from the use of the word “dream” which describes the ibogaine visions, to the references to pain from childhood (the unlocking of repressed memories that the ibogaine is noted for), to the reference to a “great teacher”, which I took to have a double meaning, and to my mind, which referred to the Iboga Spirit. The entire statement was a recapitulation of everything I had read and come to understand about the ibogaine experience. There was no doubt in my mind that that card was meant as reassurance to my wavering resolve. I never did an actual tarot reading, as there was no need for it after that.
I also reminded myself that I had been led to ibogaine through prayer, and because of that I felt I could trust it to be a beneficial experience. I went ahead and purchased my ticket.
A little more than two weeks before my session date the whole process was greatly intensified. My energy level began to rise, and I began to need much less sleep than usual. I was literally forced to cut down on the stimulating herbs because I couldn’t stay asleep for more than four or five hours a night. I was conditioned to believe that I needed more sleep than that to function well. Since my mind saw this as a problem of insomnia, I attempted to resolve it by halving all of my doses of herbal stimulants. I was amazed to find that it didn’t seem to matter. I still had a tremendously high energy level, and continued to need much less sleep than I considered “normal”. So, after several days at the lower doses, I halved all of the doses again. Simultaneously, I began to notice a rather low-grade, constant feeling of anxiety — “the butterflies in the stomach” syndrome. This was accompanied by diarrhea every morning during the two week period. Yet, I did not feel ill. To the contrary, I felt extremely well. Once again, I suspected that this purging was preparatory to the core ibogaine experience and moreover, that the purging on the physical level was only a reflection of the purging that was occurring on the emotional, mental, and spiritual levels.
On both of the two nights prior to the actual ingestion of the ibogaine I averaged between two and three hours of sleep. And yet, although I had by now cut my stimulants to 1/4 my usual dose, I was not tired. This was so contrary to what I had come to expect from my previous experiences of cutting down or cutting out stimulating agents that I was utterly amazed.
At about this time, there was another synchronistic experience — one that I felt had a great significance, which I am still attempting to fully assimilate. It occurred in the airport just shortly after my plane had landed in the city in which my session was to take place. While walking along in the airport with the man was to be the facilitator for my session, my eye was caught by the sight of the most incredibly beautiful child I have ever seen in my life. She had very dark hair and dark eyes, and looked to be possibly of east Indian heritage. She was dressed to perfection in a darling outfit that had just a hint of Indian flavor to it, and she positively glowed. She was holding her father’s hand and they were both walking toward the facilitator and me. Her body looked to be about three years old, but it was quite clearly inhabited by an ancient soul. The awareness level was evident in her eyes and the incongruity was stunning. As she passed by us she looked up directly into my eyes and beamed the brightest smile at me. There was an instant sense of connection. I felt clearly that she knew me and recognized me, consciously, and was acknowledging that with her glance and her smile. And I also felt as if I knew her on some level of my being, but could not quite recollect the details in my conscious mind. I had the sense that there was some message in her presence there and in the fact that she was sharing her presence and her energy with me at just that time, while I was on my final approach to my core experience with Iboga. The feeling was so subtle that I hesitate to try to verbalize it. But it was as if she was rewarding me with her presence, for my courage in setting aside my fears and diving headlong into the Iboga God’s teaching. On another level, it was as if she were always with me, but that it was by my coming into a higher state of light and energy, by virtue of the ibogaine, that I was able to become consciously aware of her and experience her physical manifestation. My facilitator had also noticed her, and something that he said a while later made it clear to me that he had experienced her glance as directed at him, which I also thought was rather strange and interesting. How did she do that? I definitely consider her to be connected to and a significant feature of my ibogaine journey. Though it may seem fantastical to some who read this, the impact that this brief encounter had on my inner being is undeniable.
During the remainder of the time before I ingested the ibogaine my anxiety level was steadily intensifying. Some of this, I reasoned, was quite natural. After all, ibogaine was a Big Unknown to me. Yet I had taken other drugs, of the consciousness-expanding genre before. So, why all the anxiety over this one? I was later to understand this more clearly.
On the day that I was to take the ibogaine, during the few waking hours preceding the session my anxiety had increased to a fairly fevered pitch. I swallowed the capsule shortly before 2:00 p.m. I felt nothing for 40-45 minutes. Then it began.
At first there was simply the sensation of a vibration or a slight electrical charge running through me. It began to build and intensify very rapidly. I began to feel a sort of drowsy feeling that made me want to close my eyes. I had been sitting up on the bed with my back propped against the wall. Soon I wanted just to lie down perfectly flat, and did so. It was becoming a bit awkward to maneuver my body. I felt a bit detached from it.
Soon, I began to feel as though a locomotive was roaring right through me, thundering through my bloodstream. I felt that I could hear it, though not with my physical ears. I felt overwhelmed by it, totally absorbed by it (some time after this session, while recalling this experience, I suddenly thought of a phrase found in the book of Revelation; “the sound of many waters”, which fairly aptly approaches a description of this “sound” in so far as is verbally possible).
Shortly, what I had been referring to as anxiety became more accurately labeled fear, and then fear bordered on terror. I felt an electricity around my entire body about 1/2 inch thickness out from my skin. It was palpable, and I identified this as the physical manifestation of my fear. Later, it occurred to me that I may have placed this “shield” of electricity/fear around me with the idea of protecting myself but that it was simultaneously acting as a barrier, which prevented meaningful connections and true intimacy.
I began to feel that I had made a big mistake. This did not feel good. “What have I done? I’ve really gone and done it now. Oh, God, just let me hang on and get through this.” I was terrified. I wasn’t sure at the time whether the anxiety which had been with me for weeks had progressed to fear and then the fear to terror, or whether the terror had always been there and I had only progressed from a lesser awareness of it to a more complete awareness. On another level, it was almost as if the fear was a living presence, which could at times be removed from me and at other times move in more closely. During the first part of my ibogaine session it moved right in and enveloped me and I moved, so to speak, right into the center of it. Perhaps the Iboga Spirit was leading me, as one of my facilitators had predicted, to the place that was most in need of healing, like water relentlessly seeking the lowest level.
Toward the beginning of the session, I thought I heard my facilitators discussing how they would arrange their breaks. There was some confusion around this in my mind, and I am not sure that I understood their statements accurately. I almost felt as though I might have hallucinated hearing the exact thing that I was most fearful of — to be left alone. I wanted to object and ask that someone be with me throughout, as I was experiencing so much fear, but I’m not sure whether or not I verbalized that. Verbalization was beginning to feel like a lot of work. My attention wanted to turn to what was happening internally.
Earlier, I had asked my facilitators to keep a written record of anything I said, to help me later recall any insights gained. As close as I was able to get to a verbal summation of my first insight was this: “The only thing that has ever really terrified me is being left alone.” It was stimulated by the idea of being left alone while under the influence of ibogaine, which then led me into a reverie about a thought process that had taken place when I was about nine or ten years old. I had been trying to imagine what Hell was like. Whatever I imagined, no matter how painful, or whatever, nothing seemed truly unbearable until I came up with the thought of having to endure it completely alone. “If I end up not being good enough to make it to Heaven”, I thought, “and have to go to Hell, I can bear it as long as there is someone else there with me. But if I am there alone, that would be incomprehensibly unbearable. So that must be what Hell is,” I concluded, “to be completely and eternally alone and separate.” This was a memory which had been accessible to my conscious mind before taking the ibogaine, but somehow the combination of experiencing the intense fear on a very primal emotional level, along with the thought pictures that were parading past my mind’s eye now in rapid succession, enabled me to put this all together in such a way that I was able to identify the core of at least part of my fear. As one of the facilitators said, being able to define a problem — to “name” it — is actually the first step in being able to resolve it. I believe this is one of the functions of ibogaine. It seems to lend the clarity required to clearly define the cause and structure of the neurosis.
As soon as I made the statement, “The only thing that ever really terrified me is being alone”, one of the facilitators, who had a considerable expertise in Neuro-Linguistic Programming, said to me, “add an ‘L’ to ‘alone’.” I thought about that for a moment and realized that adding an ‘L’ transformed it into ‘all one’. Then he asked me, “What does the ‘L’ stand for?” I immediately replied, “Love”. Somehow this brought a sense of completion and a bit of peace to this whole cycle of realization, and I then laid back down, closed my eyes and continued my psychic journey with Iboga.
By now the mental pictures were flooding my mind’s eye. Dozens and hundreds of picture fragments floated up before me that were reminiscent of a pile of fragments of torn up photographs. Most of them have faded from memory. The only two that I distinctly remember are these: one in which I was lying in a grave looking up into the rectangle of sky above. Within that rectangle of blue light, there was a huge, fear inspiring form of a man/monster. He was holding what seemed to be a spear-like instrument in one of his hands and it was clear that he was preparing to impale me with it. I felt powerless and terrified. Then my rational mind seemed to get into the act and say, “No, this is a grave you are lying in, therefore the instrument in his hand must be a shovel.” And the vision instantly changed to a picture of him shoveling dirt on me. This seemed to me analytical mind to be a picture/symbol relating to a real life situation in which I had been the subject of gossip. It had been painful, and like a little death to my ego-self. The other picture that I recall is one of some alien faces, exactly like the ones that we are seeing more and more of in the media now – like on the cover of Whitley Streiber’s book, Communion. I just saw the faces before my mind’s eye, more or less motionless, like a photograph. So, whether this is a memory of an encounter or just a memory of the pictures I’ve seen is not clear. I only know that it is one of the two pictures that made it back into my conscious mind/memory.
Although I don’t recall most of the picture, visions specifically, I do seem to recall the process that was taking place. What seemed to happen is that suddenly one of these picture fragments would light up, as if it had been suddenly targeted by a spotlight. Simultaneously, this lighted picture fragment would move forward and center where I could focus on it for a moment. Then it would quickly recede or dissolve and another picture-fragment would take its place. With each picture that was highlighted, there was some sort of thought of significance occurring simultaneously. There would be a chain of pictures accompanied by meanings, with a significance that is difficult, now, to recall and verbalize. But at the end of each chain there would be a realization or a conclusion of some sort, at which point I would verbalize to my facilitator the “concluding thought in a nutshell,” and ask him to write it down.
The last statement, “adrenaline makes me breathe,” was interesting in its origins. I was in a state of superconscious awareness as to what was going on inside my body at various points during the session. Periodically I noted that when I had my eyes closed, which was most of the time, my eyes would be automatically rolled back into my head and locked into my sixth chakra (third eye).
The visions I was focusing on as a result of the ibogaine were obviously connected to perception through this chakra. My eyes and attention were quite literally riveted there. While I was focused on the visions, my breath became totally still. I simply stopped breathing for long periods during which I was completely absorbed. Then, suddenly, I would feel a rush of adrenaline (accompanied by, or, I suppose, caused by anxiety/fear and just moments after I felt the adrenaline being released I would heave a big deep sigh, which had the effect of disturbing my focus on the visions and bringing me back into my body, as it were. During one of these cycles I became aware that this whole syndrome was somehow connected to the fact that I had not really wanted to incarnate. I got in touch, in a way that I can only vaguely recall now, with my pre-birth intentions and feelings. Obviously some part of me wanted to incarnate or I wouldn’t be here now, but there were huge chunks of me that were very reluctant and resistant. Somehow, I saw that if it weren’t for the adrenaline rushes, I would probably just naturally ‘float off’ into the world from which these visions were originating and just stay there, abandoning my body.
There is another interesting connection in regard to the insights about adrenaline and fear. I was asthmatic as a child and adolescent. Whenever I had a particularly intense episode of asthma which would not respond to my ordinary medication and I had to go to the hospital on an emergency basis, the treatment always included an injection of ACTH, one of the hormones manufactured by the adrenal glands. This would always restore my breathing to normal.
The “peak period” — the first four hours or so — was indescribably intense and arduous on a psychological/psychic level. Iboga was making me work in a way that seems impossible to explain.
Part of me knew that I had no choice now but to go along. Part of me really wanted it to be over. I was gritting my mental teeth and just hanging on. I remember opening my eyes on several occasions during this period. I would glance around the room to see who was there, or whatever, and always look at the clock and do a brief mental calculation of how much longer I had to go. I remember figuring I was about half way through the peak period and thinking, “Good. If I can make it through the first half, I can make it through the second half.”
During approximately the second half of the peak period, I began to feel a concern for my facilitator, who had been in the room each time I had opened my eyes. Because the ibogaine had drastically altered my perception of time, the few hours that had passed seemed almost interminable. I felt responsible for having “stuck him” (by my proclamations about fear of being alone) with what felt to me like an almost intolerably lengthy and boring task. At around 6:30 or so (after being either unable or unwilling to speak for the past couple of hours ‘real’ time) I remember beginning to feel as though I was emerging, somewhat, from the ibogaine induced dreamtime and feeling allright about being alone. Anxious that my facilitator’s ordeal not be any more prolonged than necessary, I managed to string a few words together, “It’s OK, you can take a break now.” He replied that, actually, he had taken a break about a half hour earlier. I had not noticed. I think I re-entered the dreamtime then, for a short while, but still not satisfied that my facilitator’s patience was not being painfully taxed, I sat up and said, “I feel bad that you have to stay here for such a long time.” He looked up from his book and stated with great calm and clarity, “I don’t have to.” I was then relieved of my worry. He was there by choice, of course, which immediately made it allright. I think that I was also becoming cognizant that I had been experiencing time quite differently than he had been during my odyssey, and therefore my concern was unrealistic. About a half hour later I “awoke” to both my facilitators standing over me trying to get my attention to tell me that they would be leaving now for a few hours to have dinner. By this time I felt perfectly OK about being alone. I knew I had made it through the rough part.
This was definitely not a pleasure trip for me, but I also know that much, if not all, of the reason for the fact was the fear that I had become aware of and experienced so intensely during the course of my session. And I knew somehow that this whole process was instrumental in the true healing and transforming of my fear. By early to mid evening I was able to get up and walk around a bit. On a trip back from the bathroom I remember thinking that I felt somehow “poisoned”, and it occurred to me that perhaps the ibogaine had some toxicity. But almost as fast as that thought occurred to me it was replaced by the realization that fear itself has a toxic effect, and at the intensity that I was experiencing it, and with my heightened awareness, it was no wonder that I was able to sense that toxicity manifesting all the way down to the physical level. In the solitude of the several hours following the ibogaine peak hours I was still deeply internalized and reflective, wanting only to lie quietly embracing insight after insight. I realized during this period that I wanted/needed to do two things to continue with my healing. One: I needed to pray for release from fear. And Two: to facilitate the healing process it occurred to me that it would be very helpful to use the Bach Flower Remedies — all of those that address various forms of fear. It was definitely coming clear to me that fear was the overriding issue that the Iboga spirit was presenting to me as needing healing first and foremost in my life. Although it had been a very rough day on certain levels, and I had sworn to myself more than once that I would never take ibogaine again, by the time my facilitators returned in the later evening, I was beginning to see past the difficulty of the ibogaine work into the glimmering of a purpose and plan. My facilitator and I then began working on a more verbally oriented psycho/spiritual/awareness work while I was in the completely open state of the post peak period. I had many insights into my “case” as it were. But even more significant than that was having the experience of the state of being that followed. It’s difficult to describe, but I felt completely open to anything and everything. I was completely without defenses or the need for them, which made “seeing the truth” possible in ways that it was not before. More than that, though, there was the experience of being connected to and a part of everyone and everything around me. The sense of separate, ego competitiveness; the inclination to compare and judge, was dissolved — gone. In its place was sense of oneness and unity. A feeling of being a part of everything. This was the experience that I had been having in its less intense form for the previous couple of months, but in the post-peak period, it was complete, in a way that it had not been before. Over the months since I took the ibogaine (13, now) much of the experience has gradually faded. But some of the changes, I feel, are permanent. I allow myself to be who I am more now, without editing or censoring or holding back so much. My typically introverted and reserved personality is more outgoing than it formerly was.
Some very difficult relationships in my work environment and my personal life have been completely transformed, from really awful to comfortable and enjoyable. I can see clearly that this has taken place in response to my having a different awareness of the situation and a different response to it. It really has been nothing short of a miracle for me.
Before ibogaine, I had troublesome phobia of driving on freeways in areas that I was not completely familiar with, and particularly in the San Francisco area. I generally got to where I needed to go but often with great stress and wear and tear on my nerves. Less than a week after I took the ibogaine, I had an appointment in that area and had to make the drive. A friend drove with me, and I kept commenting to her during the trip that I couldn’t believe how relaxed I felt. I made several subsequent trips alone, and was pleasantly surprised to find that they were also much less stressful and more enjoyable than had been the case pre-ibogaine.
My job also became less stressful. I handle customers over the phone — hundreds in a day. Some can be rude, obnoxious and irritating. But I found that after my ibogaine session, things did not get under my skin the way they sometimes did before. Nothing seemed worthy of getting upset over.
My sweet tooth completely disappeared and stayed gone for many months following my session. My appetite, in general, was virtually nil for days, but gradually returned. However, the eating is far less compulsive than it used to be. The different and more loving way that I relate to the world around me, as well as to myself, is a much more fundamental and valued effect of my ibogaine journey. And I believe that this new way of perceiving and relating is and will continue to be fundamental to my release from all tendency toward addictive behavior. I feel as though several layers of the “neurosis onion” have been peeled away permanently. Moreover, I have been given a glimpse into what it must be like to live without any of those layers covering and interfering with the expression of my true nature. I feel that I have now integrated most of the changes that have taken place as a result of my first ibogaine session., and I hope to have other opportunities to do more work with Iboga — to peel away more of those layers — in the future.