What Disillusioned Me from Psychedelics (Part 2)

The first trips are so easy. They could qualify as what the religiously-inclined might label as grace – or, an unmerited boon. Without the setting of even the simplest of intentions, each of those first psychedelic experiences is a uniquely life-changing event. I grew closer to people (in a way that lasted long after the trip, itself). I saw more possibilities in situations that previously had seemed hopeless. I even updated my love for my parents.

After I’d been turning on for a while, I began to notice something. That ‘transformation’ guarantee that I’d previously assumed was part & parcel of the psychedelic experience … was not necessarily false … it just wound up becoming a cog in a cyclical machine.

The cycle ran something like this:

Chris has gone several months without tripping 🙁 . He catches wind that there will be some acid around soon. Buys enough for self and friends who also trip. That Saturday has a real life-changer. The next Saturday, tries to replicate it. By the 3rd week, can’t help but notice the clearly diminishing returns. The week after that, the acid runs out. Goes several months without tripping. Then catches wind that there will be some acid around soon …

I intially blamed these shortcomings on my homogenous suburban environment. If psychedelics allow us contact with infinity, then surely their benefits and pleasures are neverending, right? That was my logic, then. Once I’m old enough to move to the city, and take college classes I’m interested in, in a format I like, and not have to report to parents, clergy and other authority figures – then my trips will really open up.

This was true, for a little bit. As psychedelic things tend to do – they took an unexpected turn. For a period, acid became just another drug accoutrement alongside alcohol and pot, on a special (or not) night out. Something that might help you hit all 3 of those keg-parties. A sneaking sensation creeps up – I am not utilizing this properly. With parties now crossed off my things-to-do-while-tripping list, I started tripping during the day. And by day, I mean any regular ol’ day. A Tuesday. Going to class. Working out and going running. A short shift at work. At first, it was an honest method of appraising my everyday habits for their usefulness, to see if they were still relevant, or if they were now discardable. But my trip-taking eventually turned into a game of “How many people can I trip around, without them knowing?” Teachers, classmates, other people at the gym, friends on the street, a bank teller – if nobody can tell, I win! Yay! Well, that’s a horrible risk-reward ratio. Again, a little more quickly this time, the sneaking sensation of I am not using this properly came up and the whole enterprise became kind of pathetic. It felt youth-grabby to me.

Once I finally got my bachelors’ degree and a job ‘in my field,’ I wasn’t on campus anymore. I’m not sure I would have been able to procure anything, were it not for the occasional acid-rock arena event. But to be honest, I wasn’t all that interested. My most recent psychedelic experiences kept ending up in a finiteness that was hard for me to accept. It didn’t make sense, but there it was. I’d be two hours into a trip – peaking – and my mind would say Well, now what are you going to do? What is the best thing for your tripping mind to be occupied with? And I wouldn’t be able to figure that out. The first thing that would come to me would be to either listen to music, or watch a certain video. I tried that a couple times, and always ended up in a judgmental, disappointed place. Is this the best you can do? my mind would chortle, listening to Psychick TV and staring out a window? or maybe watching something like “Beyond the Mind’s Eye”? I was underutilizing, and that embarrassed me. I tried putting something else on the turntable or VCR, but I just couldn’t come out of that funk. I didn’t know what to do. And the trip would stretch on, in that space – a long, drawn out, can’t-wait-til-it’s-over bout of disquietude.

In hindsight, I can think of several things that I could have tried; for example, those things that work for me now – creating instead of consuming, tripping with alongside other people. But I didn’t do any of those things. My last trip of that ‘youth’ era, while it shook me out of that dead-end tractor beam, also left me with zero optimism for my psychedelic future. It wasn’t particularly jarring, but it didn’t feel pleasurable, either. My partner & I had plans to see a band we both liked in a really cool setting. A few days earlier while cleaning my room, I found a couple old gel-tabs in a forgotten hiding-place, and decided that today’s event (scenic bike ride to a cool outdoor venue) would be a great event to trip for. So at 1:30, I dropped.

3:00 show on a Saturday afternoon. My partner comes over to my house a little after 2:00. Long story short – a disagreement arises. She leaves. I don’t feel like going to the show alone, so I stay home. Feeling like shit, I don’t really know how to soothe myself. The idea to play my guitar arises, but having played so rarely, that idea gets passed over. work out? go running? write? Ten minutes later, I’m not coming up with much else – and the acid is kicking in more & more by the minute. I should know what to do but I don’t know what to do. With limited enthusiasm (and a growing feeling that this whole trip is a big mistake) I dust off my guitar-case and pull out that unfamiliar shape of a guitar. Since I rarely played it (it was common to go months or even years without so much as picking it up) I didn’t even have a strap. So I sat down to play.

My strictly binary perspective on guitar-playing (you either play a note or you don’t) molted comfortably. Bent notes didn’t sound silly/wanky. Instead of sticking to one position, I was up and down the neck, often sliding notes as I went. At this point, my neck & back started to feel a little stressed from being slightly hunching for … 25 minutes?! This was already longer than I had ever played before – and it was getting good to me so I was ready for lots more. But not sitting down. Hmmm. I stood up and put a foot up on a dresser, allowing my guitar to rest on my raised leg, but that wasn’t gonna cut it. So I cleared some space and laid down on my floor, my guitar on my chest. The hollow body of the guitar was right on top of my ribcage, and soon enough my ribcage felt like another hollow-body, ripe for reverberations. So I felt for those reverberations with my ribs, and that opened things up big time. If my ribcage is a hollow-body, then my mouth might be like the soundhole on a guitar. So I opened my mouth and, by golly, my trippin’ ears could hear a ‘processed’ replica of what I heard coming out of the guitar. Could I really hear it? Who knows.

Another great WhoKnows? from that afternoon – were my downstairs neighbors really having sex? Who knows. But that’s what I heard and that’s what my guitar-playing responded to. The rhythm changed, my picking style changed. I have no problem admitting that I may have pieced ‘people having sex’ together out of random sounds I only peripherally heard – could be a psychedelic apparition. But the change that came over my guitar-playing was real in every sense. Hell, I know the erection I ended up with was certainly real.

But the coolest aspect of that trip was the longest-lasting one. I was so enriched / blown away by that afternoon’s playing, that I came back to my guitar every day, for an hour. For almost two years. I watched/heard myself progress, which is one of life’s great gifts, a divine reminder that we can do more than we think we can. I played music with other people and even performed a couple times. All from the nudge that LSD trip provided.

That nudge, however, was not remembered fondly, afterward. I was actually quite sad (or fighting off sadness) for a lot of that trip. The tear that ran down my cheek – when I couldn’t stop thinking about how I’d botched it with this girlfriend and what happens if I keep my hands on this guitar, playing, instead of wiping that tear away – was another vivid non-hallucination. It wasn’t a ‘bad trip,’ although that afternoon would certainly qualify as a bummer – tripping or not. My life was not what I wanted, and was what I didn’t want.

And I had nothing better to do but lay down and play a guitar?



About Author

Chris in Portland
42 year-old semi-practicing head; weightlifting, urban yogi who works in a special education classroom and has been watching a lot of Kevin Hart and Gabriel Iglesias stand-up with my son, lately. BA in Psychology (English Composition minor), MA candidate in Conflict Resolution, focusing on dialogue facilitation. Concentrating on drug policy reform and cultural competence (equity) in the workplace, primarily utilizing the narrative methodology of storytelling.

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