Opinion | The Many Faces of the Self
Lilith Andromeda shares her experiences with mental health and psychedelics.
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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.
My journeys have taken me to some crazy places. I’ve been hugged by a purple goddess made of ethereal mist, existed as a piece of shimmering cosmic machinery in a factory where matter was apparently imbued with souls and felt my consciousness swirled into countless mandelbrot constructs; my awareness continually overwhelmed by the infinite nature of it all.
There were a couple of problems though. Firstly, this new interdimensional escapism was becoming addictive in its own right. Every weekend was breakthrough time. I had perfected the art of the ritual and was sharing the experience with everyone who was willing and prepared, but every time I was taking people through the experience, I was indulging myself – sometimes breaking through multiple times in one night. Secondly, the partying was still going; maybe not to the same insane extent, but not far off. On the other hand, I felt some real and definite changes within myself – I had gained a new measure of compassion and felt my ego begin to dissolve. In all honesty, I was still a hedonistic asshole but at least I was moving in the right direction.
LSD trips had now become an almost weekly event. Having acquired a bottle of (supposed) needlepoint liquid, my fridge was packed with dripped sugar cubes. Psychedelic parties became the new norm. One of the more interesting ones came when the Ken Loach movie adaption of the play, Beats, filmed some scenes for the movie in Glasgow – in particular, the rave scenes. My brother was running a club at the time which happened to be attached to an enormous empty warehouse. Because he made the producers aware of this venue, we were guestlisted for the party. It turned out to be beyond surreal.
The movie is a coming-of-age story based around 90s rave culture in Scotland, so to make the rave scenes as authentic as possible they were throwing a good ol’ fashion warehouse rave in the centre of Glasgow. As we walked towards the warehouse, the streets were packed with people dressed in 90s sportswear, pupils enlarged. My significant other and I decided to drop some sugar cubes before heading out, so by the time we heard the throbbing bass emanating from the dingy-looking factory, things started to get interesting.
Stepping inside was like going through a wormhole to another time. Everything was curated to look like the 90s and besides the odd camera rig and person with a clipboard, it felt like a genuine party from the time period. Rave anthems were pumping from the walls of speakers, everyone was wearing Kappa, Adidas, Fila and Ellesse and even the beer cans had been labelled with retro branding. Me and the Mrs looked at each other because we were both thinking the same thing – it felt like we had time travelled!
Things got stranger after that. We saw an altercation between two guys that seemed to resolve itself very quickly, then we saw the exact same altercation happen again and again. They were obviously filming a scene but on acid, it felt like we were caught in a loop. Then at one point, someone blew a whistle and a bunch of people left the dance floor in sync. We realised later that these were extras being instructed by the production manager but again, on acid this was fucking with our minds. Everything else about the place felt like a genuine warehouse rave. I remember the track Anthem by Njoi being played and the place erupted. Having all been fans of that genre of music we were absolutely loving it.
I remember wandering away from the crowds to a corner of the warehouse and just observing the madness from a distance. LSD was bombarding my brain at this point and watching from the outside in, in a sense, amplified the realisation that setting was so significant when having these experiences. I smiled to myself and rejoined the dancefloor.
The trip that broke me occurred not long after that. At the height of a potent needlepoint trip, I decided to break through on DMT. We were pretty much in the midst of a full-blown acid party in the flat, with people everywhere. I set up the pipe in the middle of the living room and blasted off. Unlike previously, I didn’t have to try very hard to leave my body. A couple of puffs and the familiar but scary vibrational force ripped me from physicality.
Some detailed memories of that trip remained with me after- but not much in comparison to what I witnessed. I remember shifting to different realities countless times. I met, spoke with and became numerous other entities and constructs, shifting every split second before I could take anything in. Something was telepathically asking me thousands of questions simultaneously but I couldn’t understand any of them, and then everything calmed down. I was faced with a sprawling multicoloured ‘city’ (the word city is the closest approximation I can think of but it was vastly more bizarre) stretching endlessly into the distance, an array of towering, fractal constructs – countless in diversity and numbers, but I just existed as a single point of completely disembodied awareness. All memories of planet earth and being a human were completely gone. Somehow I knew this ‘city’ was waiting for me to ask questions. So, as ridiculous as it sounds, I did – despite my lack of any physical body.
“What is this place?” I asked. The crystalline city shifted and rotated, folded and warped in synchronised fractal perfection, to form a new landscape. Somehow, this shift answered my question perfectly. Logically, I had no new information but in hyperspace, the movement of this cityscape satisfied my curiosity in a more meaningful way than any verbal answer ever had. It was preposterous but profound at the same time. I know I asked some other questions and each time the city would rotate, fold and reemerge as a freshly unimaginable structure. Each time I felt extreme satisfaction that my question had been answered. Still to this day I don’t know what I asked.
Things started to speed up again and I was being shown unfathomably intricate scenes of huge cosmic machinery at work, and countless other scenarios I couldn’t comprehend. It was so intense that fear crept in and because I was on the way back down, bodily feelings came back to me – including panic. DMT alone had always been gentle as it wore off, in my experience, but combined with the acid, this time was different. The feeling of fear made me open my eyes. I’ve never before witnessed such insane real-world hallucinations as I did at that moment.
My Mrs looked like some kind of beautiful mermaid/octopus crossbreed with 20 eyes and an array of smiling mouths. She was levitating, with scaly, glittering tentacles writhing around her as she moved. Everyone in the room looked similarly bizarre and the corners of my living room looked like multicoloured lego bricks, collapsing and rebuilding themselves before my open eyes. I realised that the effects of the large dose of acid I had taken had been multiplied to a ridiculous level, and far from the tranquil afterglow I usually felt after DMT, I felt like my mind had been shattered and was extremely unsettled. I took quite a while to calm down. It started to dawn on me at this time that I had been tripping too frequently, and intensely and as such, I was barely integrating my experiences.
At that moment I took my pipe and the remaining DMT I had and locked it in a box and hid it away. A futile gesture, I know, but a symbolic one as well. This one was just too much for my mind to handle. I remember repeating, “I’m done, I’m done, I’m done,” over and over again, and was pretty quiet for the next few hours. I always liked to discuss my trips in detail when I returned but not that time. It just hit me too hard.
The flashbacks were intense and I kept coming back to the shifting city that was ‘answering’ my ‘questions’. Something about it just felt significant but I never gained much more obvious clarity on the events that transpired during that particular moment in hyperspace. However, that was the catalyst for real change within me – for some unquantifiable reason – as my significant other can attest. Something in my consciousness changed after that. Desperate for answers that would help me integrate what I had gone through, I started reading Terrence Mckenna and various other works down that particular rabbit hole, but the one that really affected me was My Big TOE (Theory Of Everything) by Tom Campbell. His model of reality and his descriptions of his out-of-body experiences completely shattered the foundation of my core beliefs and made me see the world around me in an entirely different way. He is a respected physicist and incorporated theoretical data into his model, which really spoke to me.
I was just…different after that. Less angry, less judgemental and more accepting of all beliefs. Cocaine was no longer the same substance to me. Now, I will make no such claims that I became some kind of saint – far from it – but I saw coke as just another substance that had its place in the pantheon of substances we used. I started rejecting it regularly, having whole nights out without it, and managing to keep bits in my house for weeks without being tempted (something previously impossible). It felt pretty amazing to be honest. In the years since, there have been relapses but nothing compared to my old ways, and always short-lived.
Depression was still a part of my life. All that coke had severely screwed with my dopamine regulation, and I clearly had serotonin issues as well. I was far from balanced and chemical escapism beckoned often. Not to mention that remnants of the old life still existed. People still turned up at the weekend expecting madness but it was no longer the no-holds-barred funhouse it had been.
Then we made some new friends – amazing people who are well-known DJs on the Glasgow scene. As we got closer, they invited us to their house for a mushroom trip – my first ever mushroom trip – and they had the perfect setting. Their house was beautiful but the garden was really special. After ingesting our shrooms (I think they were Mckennaii strain but I can’t be sure) we sat on their patio outside the back door, with a big fire pit in the middle. This was all surrounded by beautifully kept, but mature and wild plant life; all the different colours and textures intermingling. As the psilocybin started to come on, I looked around in wonder and seeing all the greenery gave me such a peaceful feeling – every time I exhaled I seemed to expel tension from my mind and body, and the crowd we were with was so welcoming and chilled. This was different to acid, it just felt more natural, more personal and wave-like in its intensity. Just when you thought it was getting too much, it would subside slightly, almost like the trip was responding to my emotions and looking out for me.
Then, all of a sudden, our new friends revealed what I can only describe as a hidden staircase, which led to a whole other section of their garden. Our hosts led us up the stairs and we felt like Alice entering Wonderland. The raised part of the garden was as beautiful as the rest – overgrown but well kept at the same time, giving it a wondrous, ancient feel. Every blade of grass and leaf felt like it had a story to tell and as I slumped down beside a tree, in awe of the visuals, I felt the strong sense of connection to nature I had heard so much about. Everyone joined us and we discussed our experiences. Don’t get me wrong, it was not a serious hippie love-in, we ended up rolling about the grass in hysterics for one reason or another. It was incredibly fun.
As darkness fell, we watched the stars in amazement, saw some unexplained lights in the sky and got excited, then retreated to the fire as the cold descended. The whole day was magical and I fell in love with psilocybin that day and felt like I made some friends for life. Honourable mention here, our hosts are some of the best track selectors in the business and their tripping playlist opened my mind to so much new music that I still listen to when tripping to this day.
As you may have noticed, for better or worse, I have a somewhat obsessive personality. Mushrooms became my new obsession. I learned everything I could – all the different strains, the history of their use, stoned ape theory, and most importantly – that they could be cultivated fairly easily. This became my new mission. Despite the progress I had made with my addiction issues, I was far from immune to relapse. Then I read about microdosing and thought this had the potential for maintaining the changes in my brain long-term. I had to try.
This article is not the place to delve into the process of cultivating mushrooms but let’s just say, after much trial and error, I made it happen. My first few weeks of taking microdoses were difficult – all the reading I had done did not really prepare me for that. Gratefulness, contentment and joy were adjectives I heard a lot reading people’s reports and while I would eventually get there, this was certainly not the start of my journey. Some days when I was dosing I found myself fixating on things I felt guilty about or wished were different – not quite what I was expecting but then I realised. Psilocybin wasn’t going to mask all that; like many antidepressants seem to do, they were bringing them to the forefront of my awareness. Front and centre, and saying ‘deal with this, or you’ll carry it forever’.
Not what I expected but definitely what I needed. I’d had my fill of escapism (pretty much) and it was time for a new approach. I had some painful days that almost made me quit but perseverance paid off. One day, I randomly realised a huge sense of gratefulness had descended on me. I felt so lucky to have a nice home, a good family and the simple necessities in life – I mean, I smiled from ear to ear thinking about it and that became a regular thing, even on days when I wasn’t dosing. This was one of the biggest revelations I had from all my psychedelic journeys – gratefulness was the key to happiness – for me at least. It’s the constant desire for things to be different than they are, or to stay exactly the same, that had brought about so much anguish for me.
Just being grateful for the way things are is a powerful ability. Now I know that sounds like some self-help book bullshit, but when it’s shown to you, in real time, through the power of psychedelic compounds, rather than just seen written; in some blog, for instance, it can have quite an impact. Such a simple concept in theory, but not an easy thing to truly integrate into your life daily. This lesson, along with many other lessons learned through years of carefully (and some not so carefully) managed, micro and macro trips eventually led me to leave pharmaceutical antidepressants behind and never look back. I now eat a plant-based diet as well, and I know I’d never have reached that point without my trips.
Now I hope I have not made readers think that I have become a teetotal monk through this process, because, as much as that would have been the fairytale ending where I start wearing white linen shirts and become a life coach, that is far from the truth. In all honesty, I am still a polydrug user. The difference is; I’m in control. I enjoy drugs and I think I always will, but every substance has a time and a place, and being in control is everything.
I also don’t want to give the impression that my cocaine addiction simply disappeared because life is rarely that simple. There is still a part of my brain that activates occasionally, the part that wants me to make that call or send that text to my darknet contact, the part that wants to go through the ritual of cutting outlines, the part that can justify taking coke at any time. The difference now is that those thoughts used to only ever end one way. These days, I can entertain that temptation and have the ability to turn it away – that is not to say that I abstain from cocaine altogether, I don’t. The difference is, I am in control of my consumption. In my opinion, the drug, like all others, can be enjoyed responsibly but there is a flip side to that of course.
Drugs like opiates can be dangerous to play around with, as I have allowed myself to discover recently. I tapered off and used psychedelics again to ease the process. The journey never ends.
Over the years I realised that I am far from alone in my struggles with mental health. Many of my friends and family have had to deal with their own demons and I have been fortunate enough to be able to help some of them process things and change their perspectives.
The world around us has become something of a circus. I have no intentions of getting political here but one of the real tragedies that have emerged in the last few years is the decline in mental health everywhere you look. I have seen and heard of psilocybin helping many people through the hard times, some finding lasting peace after years of anxiety, depression and addiction. Fortunately, these compounds are entering the mainstream again after decades of scientific neglect, and soon, many more people will have access to these medicines. I for one think the world will be a better place for it. They certainly changed my life, and I truly believe many people out there, suffering right now, could benefit from their misunderstood properties. If you’ve stayed with me this far, thanks for reading my story and please feel free to reach out with any questions or feedback you have in the comments. Happy trails!
Dev | Community Blogger at Chemical Collective
Dev 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 email@example.com
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