This is the story of my first experience with ibogaine. I wasn’t “successful” (in the traditional sense), this first time, so I chose to go through another ibogaine experience about a year later, which I’ll write about soon.
I’m going to have to give a little background here first, on both what Ibogaine is and about my own history, but it will be brief. I will go into detail about some of these events in other posts for sure though.
What is Ibogaine anyways?
Ibogaine is a psychoactive substance derived from the iboga plant. It’s basically a very strong psychedelic, found in the root bark of the iboga tree in Central Africa. Originally used by the Pygmy tribes, who passed the knowledge of its use to the Bwiti tribe of Gabon. The Bwiti tribe use this substance in some of their rituals, like when becoming an adult. It was discovered to have some very interesting effects beyond the visual hallucinations and dissociative properties. One being that it took opiate withdrawal away, almost completely, without the week long withdrawal symptoms you would normally go through. Since this discovery, it has been used in several countries to help heroin addicts end their addiction to opiates, including Mexico.
So the idea is if you’re physically addicted to opiates, and can’t stop because the withdrawal is so bad, you could take this ibogaine. You will trip out for a couple days, but your dependence to opiates would be lifted.
Keep in mind, this is called the father or grandfather (of sacred plants). Ayahuasca is considered the mother or grandmother. Ayahuasca is another very strong psychedelic, and despite it being one of the more powerful substances on the planet, its considered the more gentle grandmother. Where as Ibogaine is considered the tougher grandfather, just to give you an idea of how strong this substance is.
So when I say “You will trip out for a couple days”, that’s not to be taken lightly. It’s not something you’ll want to do again really, unless you had to (for the most part). And traditionally, it’s not used more than once in a lifetime. Even the shamans that would facilitate these rituals, would only take the substance usually no more than about six times in their lifetime. I am stubborn though. I had to go through this process twice in 2 years. But both times were life changing.
Recap on my personal history
I don’t think I’ve gone through most of my story yet in this blog, so I’ll have to go through some highlights just to get you up to speed. Like how I ended up on a beach in Rosarita, Mexico, with a Mexican shaman, smoking toad venom from a glass pipe (which is where my journey with ibogaine begins). Just fyi: the toad venom is secreted from the Bufo Alvarius toad, and contains the molecule 5-MeO-DMT (another incredibly strong psychedelic – possibly the strongest).
So like I’ve mentioned before, I’ve struggled with addiction my whole life. It was who I was. When I was a teenager, I experimented with any and all drugs I could get my hand on. I loved that I could change how I felt instantly with many of these substances. I loved learning about drugs, reading about drugs, the whole counter culture, and everything else related to drugs. But once I was introduced to heroin, it changed from a love of drugs, to just not wanting to be sick. I didn’t care about drugs, I didn’t care about people, I didn’t care about myself, other than just not wanting to be sick. I used to daydream about the day I didn’t need something to make me feel better (I’m living that dream today!).
Growing up in rehabs…
Needless to say, I needed help in a bad way. And because my family and friends always loved me, they helped me get into numerous treatment facilities over many years (we’ll get into all this in another post).
Long story short, after some stints in a few jails, and getting kicked out of my last rehab, I started another dope habit almost immediately after (like usual). But one day, and I don’t really remember what triggered this, I woke up and was just so tired. Tired of myself. I wanted to return me and get a new me. Another chance.. Anything. God, please. So I got back on Methadone for the last time – and haven’t touched heroin since that last day I woke up tired, some 20 years ago. Since then, I moved from Illinois to Wisconsin, I got married, had two daughters, got divorced, and had been tapering my methadone dose down for years now. I got down to 25mg a day and couldn’t bear to go lower. The withdrawal was horrid after taking methadone for 10 years.
So I switched to Suboxone. A similar treatment but a little easier to taper down further (I thought). After several more years, I eventually got my Suboxone dose down to 1.5mg a day I think. However by now, I’d been on opiates for over 20 years now, the withdrawal was horrifying to go any lower on my dose. But I had to do something. Something was wrong with me. I couldn’t feel anything.
When I was angry, I wouldn’t even say anything. Wouldn’t argue or prove any point. It didn’t matter. Nothing mattered. I was dead inside. And that’s not who I am (I’ve only recently been finding this out).
So that’s when a friend of mine began helping me look into ways to get off Suboxone and we came upon Ibogaine and started looking into how I could get treated. I had two little girls that depend on me, so I couldn’t just go off on a “retreat” for 4 months trying to get my head clear. I needed something more abrupt and thats what Ibogaine was offering. Couple days and boom you’re all better. Obviously, it’s not that simple.
Nothing is ever simple, is it? This was about 3 years ago. By then, I was 4 years into a hefty meth amphetamine habit that I brought with me from Wisconsin. Well, you’re told not to do ibogaine while taking meth amphetamines because ibogaine can raise your heart rate, just as meth amphetamines will, and it could be problematic. I didn’t realize this fully, until the morning of the actual treatment but by then, I was already in Mexico, and have prepared to go through all this ordeal and I wasn’t turning back.
One more thing…
So ibogaine is typically used for people taking heroin or any other fast acting opiate. But methadone and Suboxone are both very long lasting opiates. Their half life is 24 hours or something like that.. Whereas heroin’s half life is 4 hours. Basically, that means it takes a lot longer for the Suboxone to leave my system, then it would heroin. And because of that, ibogaine won’t work the same.
You have to get off Suboxone before attempting to use ibogaine. And to do that, you replace it with a fast acting opiate like morphine. At first, it seems counterproductive but it does make sense. It’s much easier to quit using heroin or morphine than methadone (because of how long it stays in your body). At least, the withdrawals aren’t as severe or for as nearly as long as methadone withdrawal.
However, there is a doctor that does take people directly from Suboxone to the ibogaine treatment, but I didn’t attempt that. I’ve been a guinea pig before, for treatment purposes – going from Methadone to an “Ultra Rapid Opiate Detox” or UROD. It was a treatment they did at University of Chicago Hospital many years ago. I hope they aren’t anymore because it’s horrible. I’ve never felt that bad in withdrawal as I did when I woke up after that treatment. I ended up calling a friend to pick me up and take us to the dope spot immediately to get better. The next morning, I overdosed for the first of many more times to come. Needless to say, I was hesitant on doing a treatment claiming to work directly from long acting opiates. It’s just very difficult in my experience.
This brings us to Mexico….
My friend, at the time, was helping me coordinate all this. He drove us down to Rosarita, Mexico to obtain the necessary morphine pills so I could stop taking Suboxone. You have to take the pills for at least a few weeks but I did for a month because I had been on opiates for almost my entire life by this point and wanted to make sure the Suboxone was out of my system. But I don’t recommend taking a substitute like morphine for much longer than that. Because you will build a tolerance to the morphine fairly quickly. I went from taking 1 pill a day, to taking several a day by the end of the month.
So we’re at the doctors’ office (it was a small house a block from the beach), and his assistant was helping us with the morphine pills. He mentioned he had Bufo as well, and my friend administers it sometimes so he bought some, and the assistant asked if I have ever tried it. I said no, and he asked if I wanted to. I said, sure why not. I’ll try anything that could help at this point. He grabs a blanket and off we go, walking to a quiet part of the beach (most of the beach was quiet honestly). I don’t know if any of you have been to Rosarita, Mexico, but it’s a pretty little town, along the coast, south of Tijuana. But there’s parts that were never finished, buildings not fully built, etc., so some areas look like a demilitarized zone.
So we arrive at a spot on the sandy beach, next to a building. He then lays a blanket down on the sand and tells me to sit down. He puts on some music he had ready, and tells me to take a few deep breaths.
The glass pipe (that resembled a meth pipe) was getting heated with a butane torch. It starts crackling in the pipe and he tells me to inhale slowly but fully. It’s a pretty harsh smoke, and almost feels like you’re inhaling poison.
I was told to hold it in for as long as I can. But the longer I hold it, the darker everything was getting and it felt like I was going unconscious. But then as I exhale and lay my head back down on the blanket – I have this tremendous fear that I can’t breathe, and that I’m dying.
I get shot through space kinda, with fear, and excitement, and I remember hoping I’m not pissing in my pants. I start gripping nothing while holding on to my sanity but it was making me more scared. It wasn’t working. Then I remember to tell myself I’m okay, I need to let go. It will be easier if I let go. Just let go damn it.
I needed to trust where I was, in life, and who was around me. I needed to believe the ppl around me, loved me. Trust that this was supposed to be happening, at that very second. And then it’s like releasing from the top of a very scary waterslide for the first time and shooting down this dark tube.
All this happens within about one second. And then something magical happens but I don’t know what. It’s dark until I start seeing that I was on planet Earth again.
It felt like I was waking up from being washed up ashore and marooned on some remote island in the middle of the ocean. I could hear something talking.. It wasn’t English. Not at first. My brain just couldn’t understand the sounds that were coming out of this alien or creature’s mouth. They were blurry, too far for me to see what they looked like really.
What was really going on was that I was squinting because the sun was setting but was still bright and I had my eyes closed for about 20 minutes they said. The aliens/creatures were my friend and the Mexican guy that gave me the 5-MeO-DMT, and the language they were speaking was english. I just couldn’t process what I was hearing or seeing very well. Not right away. But that only lasted a few seconds also (it felt much longer).
Everything was new again.
I remember my face was still on the blanket and I was rubbing my hands all over the blanket. Like it was the first time I’d ever touched a blanket, or the ground for that matter. Opening my eyes was like, as if they had been shut for 20 years. It feels like you are finally back home after being gone so long. The colors are a little brighter. The people truer, and more kind. You have more empathy for everything. And patience. The tacos I ate afterwards were incredible. And you can’t wait to see your loved ones. You have a deeper sense of appreciation for everything.
It’s a life changing experience in and of itself. And this wasn’t the intention of this trip to Mexico. Originally I was just going to pick up the morphine pills I was going to use, to get the Suboxone out of my system, so I could take ibogaine the next month. But this is just how the universe works I’ve learned. It was just meant to be.
Read the second part of this post here: First experience with ibogaine (cont’d)