Guides | The Importance of Integration in the Psychedelic Experience
Using integration to get the most from psychedelic experiences.
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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Chemical Collective or any associated parties. Always practice good set and setting when exploring any psychedelic compounds. We have a fantastic article looking into this subject you can read here.
It was a quiet evening at my friend’s East Los Angeles apartment one fine spring day in 2018. For the purpose of this article, I’ll call her Clare. The sun had just set in a brilliant, orange neon display not two hours ago when Clare and I ingested 2 grams each of psilocybin mushrooms.
The come-up was ending, and a tingly wave of pleasure began to wash over me. I turn to look at Clare, sitting on the couch next to me, and I am surprised to find her glowing; a radiant, silvery-white light emanates from around her entire body. “Oh my God, you look like an angel!” I blurt out. Clare laughs, and I feel a warmth blossom within me, a flower blooming. This mushroom trip is off to an excellent start.
But how did I get here? Considering the number of horror stories surrounding the dangers of psychedelics – “you’ll lose your mind!” – what would compel me to take on such a dangerous substance?
It all began with the promise of a new friendship.
Oops! Did I say this story began with a friendship? Well, actually, my story starts before that, all the way back in childhood…
I was always kind of a lonely kid – interested in the world, imaginative, creative, but lonely nonetheless. I grew up in Southern California, a middle child flanked by four siblings, born to two hardworking, god-fearing parents. Mom and Dad did their best with the information they had at the time: to follow the rules, read the bible, and keep their head down.
It was a very rigid upbringing with church twice a week to ensure the salvation of all our souls. There, I received an education on the indelible stain of sin that only the blood of Jesus could wash away. Sheltered and impressionable, pre-pubescent Olivia made every effort to play the good girl.
This detestable, goody-two-shoes behaviour continued through my public school education. I excelled academically, but socially, well, let’s just say I spent much of my free time alone in the library rather than out in the schoolyard with my peers. School was tough for me. Yes, I usually found a friend or two I could cling to each year, but it was never an easy time. I felt different from everyone else but couldn’t understand why, and not knowing made the pain so much worse. But what does this have to do with taking shrooms?
Enter Clare, the person who would introduce me to psychedelics.
I first met Clare in 2017 at a job orientation in Los Angeles, California. I was two years out of college and still grieving the sudden death of my father (with whom I’d had a tumultuous relationship) in 2015. I was living at home with a useless degree and snagging free dinners from unscrupulous Tinder dates. Suffice to say; I was still finding my way.
After this orientation, Clare and I were the only two new hires who got sent to the job’s second location for further prep. Once orientation was complete, Clare gave me a lift to the metro station so I could commute home. During our short time together, we talked about ourselves (Clare was a transplant fresh from Michigan), life in L.A., gentrification, and more. By the end of our time together, I felt a real connection that grew into a solid friendship.
Our friendship consisted of lengthy smoking sessions (I had previously tried cannabis only once or twice in college), playing music for each other, and hours-long hangouts where we talked about nothing.
Once, when she suggested we do a chi gong exercise together, little ol’ sheltered me felt exotic and a little bit dangerous.
In the past, I’ve had few friendships beyond simple activity partners or convenient alliances. But this – this was new. Clare was the type of friend you could call if you got blackout drunk at the office Christmas party and projectile vomited all over the interior of your new car, leaving you too inebriated to drive yourself home (true story!) At our first off-the-clock hangout, Clare invited me to her beautiful El Sereno apartment in East L.A. When she casually asked me how I was doing, I immediately burst into tears. Clare, bless her heart, did the most sensible thing a person could do in that situation – she made me a cup of tea, and I loved her for it.
Over time, the trust we built together encouraged me to trust myself and connect with my inner curiosity. This friendship was the so-called set and setting for my very first experience with magic mushrooms.
For months now, Clare had been poking me, saying we should trip together on mushrooms. In my high school life skills class, I learned that mushrooms could induce feelings of euphoria but could also cause psychosis, with worst-case scenarios resulting in lifelong issues with schizophrenia and mental illness.
But my brilliant, well-educated friend (who is no stranger to mental health struggles herself) insisted that this substance could also create beautiful and joyful experiences. She had also tripped on shrooms several times before with few negative experiences. Clare suggested we read Breaking Open the Head by Daniel Pinchbeck together to prepare mentally. I, ever the bookworm, relented. Intrigued by the author’s encounters with the transformational potential of psychedelics, I knew I needed to satisfy my curiosity with Clare as my intrepid guide.
Soon after, I procured our mushrooms from a trusted source – 4 grams of Psilocybe cubensis. The plan was to consume 2 grams each after work at Clare’s apartment. My friend’s husband, our trip sitter, would be a shout away in their bedroom while we tripped in the living room.
Clare told me that ingesting the shrooms themselves would be a gnarly process and that the tough little mushrooms probably wouldn’t go down easy. So, duly warned, we divided the lot between the two of us and choked down the musty-tasting fungus between mouthfuls of sour skittles. Then, we waited. Clare suggested we settle down on her sofa for the come-up as this could be a somewhat uncomfortable experience. She named intestinal discomfort, nausea, and diarrhoea as possible side effects – but not to worry, this was all a part of the process! “Drugs are hard work,” Clare remarked knowingly. “In school, they make it sound like it’s easy, but they’re hard work.”
Nausea did come. We sipped sparkling water and let out mushroomy burps as our fungal friends made their way through the digestive tract and into the circulatory system. It may sound strange to describe it this way, but I swear at the time, I could actually feel the mushrooms travelling through my body. “It’s not a bad feeling,” I remarked. “No,” Clare responded, “It feels weird but not bad.”
As the come-up progressed, I began to feel a strange sensation, almost as if I needed to vomit, but as I relaxed into it, I realized this feeling had nothing to do with an upset stomach. It was strange, pleasant even, like a bubbling brook spilling over within me. I looked over at Clare, who was staring at the ceiling, and I could tell she was feeling it too. We felt the need to eliminate and took turns journeying to the restroom down the hall – a trip in itself! The bathroom was a completely different vibe; the cool-blue patterned linoleum glimmered like holographic paper. I looked in the mirror and considered my mortality. Once I relieved myself, I felt lighter and refreshed. And with that, the come-up was complete!
Now we were free to move around and enjoy the experience of our altered perception. Clare saw iridescent, geometric patterns – reminiscent of Islamic and Chinese art – overlaid on the surfaces of the objects around the room. To me, everything seemed to radiate wavy, Day-Glo lines. If you’ve ever seen psychedelic-inspired art, then you know what I’m talking about. Clare’s hair was already wavy. Now, under the influence of the shrooms, the waves appeared to emanate from her hair like some sort of psychedelic halo. “Oh my God, you look like an angel,” I said, entranced by her silvery aura. When I later asked Clare how I appeared to her, she said I had looked like some humanoid alien insect queen. Umm, thanks?
The evening continued with more conversation, us trying (and failing) to put on a music playlist and closely studying various objet d’art around the room. Overall, we didn’t do much or go on any crazy adventures. We simply enjoyed each other’s company and allowed the experience to permeate our senses completely. For the comedown, we smoked a bowl and watched an old VHS tape of an Irish Riverdance competition, followed by Disney’s Fantasia. A perfect ending to a perfect trip. We fell asleep exhausted just as the sun began to rise.
So that was my very first time with psilocybin mushrooms! I didn’t lose my mind, I didn’t try to jump out of a window, and I didn’t see any grotesque visions of demons or dragons. In fact, I felt like some space had been cleared out in my brain – like someone had come in and swept out some mental cobwebs. That isn’t to say that some folks won’t have a challenging time with magic mushrooms. However, responsible use in a safe environment and with a trusted friend was the set and setting that allowed me to have such an enjoyable trip. And that’s how a good girl became acquainted with a certain psychedelic mushroom.
Soulivia | Community Blogger at Chemical Collective
Soulivia is one of our community bloggers here at Chemical Collective. If you’re interested in joining our blogging team and getting paid to write about subjects you’re passionate about, please reach out to Matt via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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