For the past 35 years, I have had an amazingly successful career as a musician and songwriter. I use the word “amazingly” because for thirty of those years, I was addicted to opiates; heroin first, and then methadone. I used plenty of other drugs earlier in my guitar slinger days; speed, pot, cocaine…but after a backstage hanger-on gave me my first taste of heroin, I knew I had found my ultimate drug. I was immediately, as Jerry Lee Lewis used to say, “strung out like a wild Comanche”.
For about a decade, I pulled off my addiction. I showed up for work on time, played well, and no one really knew that I was using. (This was in the San Francisco Bay Area, a region not known for its restraint in use of mind-altering substances. Perhaps others were too high to notice.) Then, in the early 1980s, I joined a band that had a giant #1 single six months after my successful audition. We toured constantly, doing 200 dates a year, doing MTV videos, American Bandstand; the full-on rock’n’roll dream. I was making well in six figures a year…and that much money buys a LOT of dope!
The monkey on my back quickly became Mighty Joe Young, and then King Kong. I ultimately lost everything; fired by the band, wife gone, basically homeless. I rebounded in the late Eighties by getting a job with a major telecommunications corporation. They frown on their salespeople coming to work smacked out, so I got on methadone maintenance. I was a corporate guy for five years, and then moved to Southern California to resume my music career. I met a gorgeous, wonderful woman, married her, and became a happily employed guitar teacher and session guitarist.
I was still going to a local methadone clinic, at first daily, then once a week, then twice a month as my “take homes “grew. I rationalized that I was “sick”, like a diabetic, and could go on like this for the rest of my life. Then…someone offered me some dope in front of the clinic one day, and I was off on a two-year run. My wife discovered my outfit…twice…and it was crisis time.
I had met Randy in front of the clinic while he was handing out pamphlets on the Ibogaine Therapy Facility. I visited the facility, and made an appointment for treatment. I had a great many fears about doing the treatment. First, I HATE psychedelics; LSD et al were not my cup of tea. Secondly, I was terrified of a painful withdrawal, and not really sure if my three-decade cycle of addition was breakable.
Wrong again….on all counts…thank God!
First…the ibogaine trip was nothing like LSD. I was made very comfortable by the doctors, and I knew exactly who and where I was the entire time. I took the test dose, put on a meditation tape, and soon my withdrawal symptoms were gone. I took three more capsules, and then the fun really began. First, a heard a high pitched whistling, and then heard the typical ibogaine “buzz”; which sounded to me like ancient African priest chanting. (This sound came back multiple times during my ibogaine experience, usually as a prelude to a particularly intense vision.) I then saw a red mist, and saw my own face coming out of it. A multi-colored curtain fell over everything, and the trip began.
For over six hours, I saw the most astonishing things imaginable. I saw myself as a child, sitting in the corner, and somehow that became a symbol of understanding for why I began to use drugs in the first place. I saw my father in his coffin (my father is very much alive) and later realized that death is a part of life, and there no reason to fear it. After that, I saw apes evolving into humans, and then super-human creatures. I saw ancient civilizations being built by advanced races, galaxies being born in other universes, and strange birds catching fish in alien oceans. I saw terrifying things…animals tearing each other apart, etc…but it was intellectually terrifying rather than emotionally terrifying, like reading a scary book or watching a horror film. Throughout the experience, I had the feeling that the visions were coming directly from my heart and soul, rather than being manufactured by a psychoactive drug. It was a truly profound spiritual awakening; and, remember, this is a cynical atheist making that statement. (Make that former atheist; Iboga made me realize that there is much to see out there.)
The next day, I was dizzy and exhausted, but as the week went on, the weakness in my body was joined by a clarity of mind that I had not had since college. My heart was ten times bigger than when I had entered the facility. I felt literally like a new person, or at least a much improved version of the old one. “If only my body would catch up to my brain”, I thought.
For three weeks, I was very weak, and sleeping only four hours a night. I was still able to go to San Francisco the week after my treatment to rehearse, and started back to a partial teaching schedule, but I was just absolutely wiped out at the end of the day. Then, on the fourth week, I slept seven hours, and everything began to change. My withdrawal symptoms…not fun, but never at any point unbearable… began to subside as I became more active. (There were indeed a couple of times during those restless, sleepless nights where I began to think about making that magic phone call the next day to feel a little better, but they were just passing thoughts that no longer held any power over me. I really deep down no longer wanted to use. )
As I write this, I am six weeks out out of treatment. I just returned from a two week working vacation in Hawaii, where I snorkeled and hiked every day. I am back at work full time, and have started to work out at a gym so my brain can begin pumping out endorphins again naturally. While I still don’t feel 100%, I am certainly close enough for rock’n’roll. My confidence level is off the charts. Food tastes better, I laugh (and cry) more, I am much more productive, and I foresee an amazing life ahead of me. I went into the Rosarito clinic feeling like a bad person who had ruined his life, and emerged as a good person who had made some mistakes that could be changed. Who said you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?
The facility itself is beautiful, the beds comfortable, and Drs. Ana and Martin are, as my wife said, like “…a couple of angels”. Wonderful, wonderful people. the rest of the staff is friendly and professional as well. (Make sure to bring those warm clothes, though; it gets chilly by the ocean !)
To sum up; no matter how long you have been addicted, there is an excellent chance that you can get your life back, better than it has been in years. No one could be more dubious than I was when I entered the program, and it has worked out incredibly well for me. As my wife said to me last night. “I got a great new husband, and I didn’t have to get a divorce or cheat.”
Music to my ears.