Notes on an accidental mushroom trip

In 1988, I went on a number of mushroom trips. I did too much ‘shrooms, too quickly. The first few trips – in the woods, in my friend’s apartment, in the woods again – all were great. Filled with realizations and awareness and cognition and emotion and empathy. Those who study, and write about, psilocybin, often stress the importance of “set and setting,” by which they mean – where are you in your life, and where are you, like, in the world, and with whom.

In the Spring of 1988, my “set” was pretty fucking awful. My mom died nine months after having been diagnosed with cancer, in May 1988. If I recall correctly, at least three of my ‘shroom journeys occurred in May 1988. That’s a lot of ‘shrooms in a month. Never mind in the month of the death of a 19-year-old’s mother.

The last of those trips was with my best friend. It was, as they say, a “bad trip.” The details don’t matter, but suffice it to say, in spite of the fact that it was pretty much the worst ever five or six hours of my life, it also paid dividends in the form of new understandings of my own suffering that I spent years integrating. While I didn’t do ‘shrooms again, it wouldn’t be fair to say that I regretted those journeys, or even that last one; it was, in fact, extraordinarily powerful, generative, informative, to me, in ways that I continue to find helpful even to this day.

Fast forward to this day….

I’ve written a bit about my recent flirtations with weed. A thing about me – not necessarily a shocking thing, if you’ve been paying attention – is that, when I start something new, even if it’s a new old thing, I tend to do it pretty seriously, pretty substantially. So with weed, for a couple of years now, I’ve bought a quantum that vastly exceeds my appetite, in part, because I’m a bit like a kid in a candy store, and in part, because I’m genuinely curious about all the different independent variables there are associated with weed: delivery mechanism, strains, ratios, etc. It’s kinda infinite. So I have, in my kitchen, a veritable pharmacopia of weed products.

That’s not all my weed, by any stretch. I have bottles of tincture in my bag, in my office, and in my bedroom. This collection skews heavily toward what’s available in Massachusetts; I have some legal NY medical weed as well that you can’t see here (except for that big white tub of powder).

At my current rate of consumption – I rarely get high, I often take very small amounts – what you see here would last me, literally, years. So this is information about me. In the words of a wise man I know, “Anything worth doing is worth overdoing.”

A couple of weeks ago, I was speaking with a friend. “Are you microdosing?!?” she asked me. “Um, no….” I said.

She was microdosing, on psilocybin, and imagined I might be doing so as well because… I guess she thought she saw something in me that indicated it. T and I have been reading How to Change Your Mind, by Michael Pollan. We’ve been reading it, off and on, since it was published. Marina gave me a hard copy of it, as well. It’s fascinating, and it’s gotten me thinking, for sure, about whether there’s not a bit of psychonaut in me, waiting to be explored. Something that feels much more realistic now that T’s and my progeny is out of the house. (Yeah – that happened. I haven’t written about that, because I don’t write about family so much. But that’s a thing.)

So back to ‘shrooms: I asked my friend to hook me up and she did – with not one, but three different ‘shroom vectors. One, it seems, is a shrink who provides “mediated experiences.” Two were more conventional dealers. I’m not sure how I feel about the mediated experience. I want to think about it, and there certainly seems to be a place for it for the likes of me. But this guy’s articulation of what it is that he offers didn’t resonate so very well with what it is I seek, with where I am in life, with who I am in life. Not least because he’s purveying a sort of “curative experience,” and I’m not really looking for a cure. I got nothing broken!

The other two dealers, though, offered me… just ‘shrooms. I looked at each of their menus, and, as I’ve done with weed (see the photo above), I over-ordered. I got myself some capsules (0.1 g, they said). Some tincture (10 drops = 0.05 g, they said). And I started with the capsules. I took one. I felt nothing. I took two. I felt nothing. I took four. I felt nothing. Somewhere along the line, I placed a second order, from the second dealer: he offered something he called “Alien Chocolate Bars” – 65% dark chocolate bars in 2g and 6g sizes. I ordered one of each. So now, in my pharmacopia, I also had all this psilocybin.

And, of course, as you may have picked up, I had COVID. So I was home. Alone. (T was traveling. My symptoms had cleared. But I still owed it to the world to isolate myself.) Having canceled essentially every obligation I might possibly encounter, I thought, “I’ll just take 1 g.” I read online, on Leafly, that this was a dose that might provide “euphoria, enhanced senses.” To my mind, this sounded kinda “micro.”

I dialed up a soundtrack – the Johns Hopkins psilocybin playlist – pressed “play,” and ate myself three squares of an 18-square 6 g chocolate bar. I sat down at my computer, and continued my work.

Thirty minutes in, I had a realization (my first of a number of realizations to come): I needed to stop working, and to turn my attention to the music. I sat myself in my big red chair, grabbed a soft nubbly blanket, and sank into my journey. I kept some paper nearby, and wrote down the occasional flash of brilliance (“There’s just not that much going on!” “Mushrooms are the great anti-take-anything-for-granted drug!” And, “Meditation = body heavy; psychoanalysis = mind heavy; ‘shrooms = self heavy.”). And for the next 5-6 hours, I… well? I basically rediscovered a million things I already knew.

That makes it sound banal. Or small. It was neither. All the things I already knew were really important things, and they all were things it’s really easy to forget. They’re hard to communicate in something as mundane as “words,” but they boil down to a pretty fundamental sense of humility and appreciation.

And? I had some other realizations, too! At least one of which, I’m afraid to say, may result in my writing a bit less here. Not because I have less to say, or because I have anything against saying it here. Just because I think I might have developed an interesting new venue….

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