by Randy H.
My days are very different this year. For four years, I started my daily routine with a shot of dope, just to keep from getting sick. 85 mg of methadone, a gram of heroin, and a gram of cocaine a day was certainly enough to have me strung out. Now, I have shed the skin of the addict I used to be. Once again, I am able to accomplish goals as I used to before I adopted a heroin/cocaine habit.
Perhaps I should have entitled this writing, “The Upward Spiral,” a perfect explication of how my life has been since I took the ibogaine one year ago today. If you are an addict or know someone who is, then I do not have to tell you how drug dependence is a downward spiral. This is not a 12-step testimonial, so I will not go into the usual uttering of how bad (and how great) drugs were; this is an account of my life, beginning with my ibogaine experience. If you are reading this to gain awareness for your own ibogaine journey, please understand that the ibogaine experience itself is not what is important in this tale. My ibogaine trip is mine, individualized to me and will be different from anyone else’s. What is important will come later when I share what I have done to remain clean from dope, including getting involved in S.M.A.R.T. Recovery.
I had heard of ibogaine for years but had never met anyone who had done it. For me, like any other addict considering ibogaine treatment, it took a lot of courage and trust to go to another country and try this type of detox. I was more O.K. with the idea than my Mom. In fact, many people thought I was crazy to go to Mexico! They assumed that I was going to get ripped off or be treated by quack doctors. Furthermore, they believed that I was underestimating my problem by thinking that I could get off such a bad habit so quickly. But something had to be done – I couldn’t go on living the life of a junkie. With the support of my Mom, my aunt and my girlfriend, I was able to undergo treatment at the Pangea Biomedics in Mexico City.
To be honest, I thought I was going to have a good time. In my teenage years I had taken quite a bit of LSD and psilocybin. I had enjoyed myself while learning and growing from those experiences. During my pre-ibogaine session at the treatment center, the doctors warned me that ibogaine wasn’t enjoyable. I didn’t believe them. I thought they were inexperienced with psychedelics. The ibogaine pills were welcomed into my digestive system, and I was prepared to put behind me junkiehood. I wanted to never use again. I wanted to be brainwashed. I wanted to go deep within myself and find out why I was an addict. I wanted to confront it and wake up feeling like a new million-dollar-man.
Lying in bed, listening to a meditation tape, put me into a state of peaceful relaxation as the ibogaine began to take its effect. The first waves of psychedelia came on very pleasantly. I dreamt I was a child in the house where I grew up. My Mom, Dad, and brother were there – we were all standing around in the dining room laughing.
In a matter of seconds, my trip went from cheery to chaotic. African tribesman howling in my ears. My vision was encompassed with swirls – orange, red, yellow and brown dark spirals. Faces of gods, gods of our ancestors, came to greet me. They spiraled from afar to press their noses against mine. They danced and cackled. They stuck their tongue out at me.
Small dots appeared in the distance. The dots grew into a still life picture. A picture of my brother, Dad and I holding hands 15 years ago manifested. The picture floated nearby and then passed over my shoulder to make way for the next image. I saw my mom when she was young with long hair. Why was she crying? She was heart-broken. Dad was having a mid-life crisis. Married life was not turning out to be what Dad expected. They were getting a divorce. Mom was upset. She grew up believing in love. She thought of my dad as her knight who was going to carry her off into the sunset. The sunset wasn’t a rosy sunset; it was a bloody sunset.
I envisioned the Bwiti tribesman in a desolate jungle vomiting up iboga. I vomited. I saw the young women in a hotel in Amsterdam who died by mixing ibogaine and heroin. I saw it again. And again. And again.
Brainwashing: this is what I wanted, this is what I needed. But what is brainwashing and how does it work? I tried to brainwash myself. Over and over, I repeated to myself: “I don’t want to be an addict! I don’t want to be an addict! I don’t want to be an addict!”
I traveled back in time eighty thousand years. I was in Africa, hunting. I held a spear in my hand. If only I could be alive in this prehistoric time. Before hypodermic syringes. Before powder cocaine. Before heroin. I would be happy. I would be a great warrior-hunter. City life is so hard on my constitution. I can’t find god between the skyscrapers. God is buried somewhere in the concrete. The city dwellers are full of venom. They step on the struggling flower that tries so diligently to grow between the cracks in the sidewalk.
The ibogaine was noisy and intense. Then as suddenly as it had become unpleasant, the chaos suddenly stopped. The faces disappeared. The spirals vanished. The buzzing in my ears decreased. And there I was lying in a bed in Mexico City. I was thankful that the chaos in my mind had ceased, but the trip wasn’t what I had expected. Did I find out why I was an addict? I couldn’t tell. I didn’t feel any real epiphany.
When I was given the ibogaine, Dr. Lorenzo had told me to ask myself any question and I would find the answer. So I asked “why am I an addict.” Yeah, I found an answer, but it was a disappointing answer. I was an addict because I came from a broken home. I was a latch-key kid, my mother wasn’t a strong disciplinarian, and my father was only around on the weekends – not enough to be a strong father figure. That’s it? I was hoping for more. This was no epiphany; I had already known this. But now this information was brought to the surface for me to contemplate. And I contemplated all this information, not only for the next twenty hours, but for the next three weeks.
The first several weeks after my ibogaine detox was probably the most magical time of my life. My first weeks clean were when I started to develop new behaviors. To reiterate, my ibogaine trip did not include an epiphany. Even though I tried my hardest to brainwash myself I didn’t feel brainwashed. There was a voice in my head still urging me to use drugs. The ibogaine relieved me of the need to use heroin or methadone without the nastiness of narcotic withdrawal. But I certainly didn’t feel like a million-dollar-man. Instead I felt like a weak little boy, stifled with apathy. And I was stricken with insomnia. The first few nights I didn’t sleep at all. Then I started sleeping an hour or so. Each night I slept a little bit more. Over three weeks passed before I had an entire restful night’s sleep. The funny thing was when my sleep pattern returned to normal, it was unwelcome. I had become so adjusted to staying up at night, watching movies that I was disappointed to have to sleep. Readjusting to my body was difficult and uncomfortable. There were times when I really wanted to get high and be comfortable. Moreover, I didn’t know what to without drugs. Being a junkie had been all encompassing and now I was left jobless (I had been fired from my job a few days before I went to Mexico) and confused. How do I fill this time? What do I do for fun?
An epiphany came on slowly, as I began to realize that there is life after dope. I steadily learned that I was capable of being someone other than a junkie. The ibogaine must have done something to help defeat my desire to use, because I never gave in. But I wanted to give in, believe me, I really wanted to. I wanted to get just a little bit of dope to get the edge off. In fact, one time I snuck away from my girlfriend and called my dealer. But when he answered the phone, guess what came out of my mouth? “I just got back from Mexico,” I said. “The ibogaine worked.” A few months later both of my dealers (both junkies) called me to see if I could help them get clean with ibogaine, but they disappeared into the void (probably dead or in prison).
I was inclined to return to Alcoholics Anonymous because I once had a few good months of sobriety there. Fortunately I happened upon an alternative called S.M.A.R.T. Recovery. Participating in S.M.A.R.T was one of the most important pieces of my recovery process. At the meetings and in the literature I learned many skills to assist my battle against the desire to use drugs. I learned how to separate my true thoughts from my addictive thoughts. I continued to find the motivation to stay clean. I was taught tools for coping with my urges. I realized that urges were just a trap. You can say no one thousand times but as soon as you say yes once, you’ve falling in the trap. So I practiced vigilantly saying no to urges. Sometimes it was easy to say no. Sometimes it took a lot of effort, punching my fist into my hands and screaming. A piece of drywall or even a family heirloom is less valuable than given in to the addictive voice. I learned about neuro-linguistic programming. The words you use to describe yourself affect what you believe about yourself. So I discontinued calling myself an addict. If anything I would say “I used to abuse hard drugs, now I longer use them.”
Most people who quit destructive drug habits quit on their own without going to 12-step meetings. At S.M.A.R.T, I learned the skills those individuals had learned on their own. I caution anyone who is searching for a program of recovery to stay away from the 12-step groups. They are cults; they separate you from other people, set you up for relapse and are only effective for about four percent of people who try them. I don’t fear substances. I drink socially and have taking a few entheogens this past year. Using these drugs has not led me back to doing heroin or cocaine.
Today I have completed the lifestyle change necessary to continue to live without abusing drugs. I work hard, I eat healthy, and I gave up smoking cigarettes (about one month after ibogaine). I exercise hard through surfing and yoga. Yoga has given me strength, endurance, flexibility and peace of mind. When I walk out of yoga class I feel awesome. Sometimes while holding a demanding yoga position, I even get these secretions in my mouth that reminds me of shooting speedballs. This doesn’t bother me- it feels good. I have recently become the coordinator of a S.M.A.R.T meeting.
Does ibogaine reset your brain to a pre-addictive state? Before I started doing dope, I was in college, on the track to being a successful and productive person. I was honest and a good friend. Dope took these things away from me. Today I have them back. I am honest, I have good friends who care about me, I am on fabulous terms with my family, including my Dad, and I have an important job helping to run a business. I am certain that I behave as if I never had done dope.