Ayahuasca and Addiction

In this, the third blog about my Ayahuasca experience, there will continue to be no talk of swirly psychedelic images or seeing the faces of one’s ancestors. People writing about Ayahuasca often claim such things happen, and all I can say is… whatever, dude. Neither I nor anyone else I talked to from my ceremony had such experiences. People have, however, reported relief from things like PTSD and addiction, me included, so let’s get to the good stuff.

Ayahuasca and the jigsaw puzzle of the mind

The way the ceremony is supposed to go is that you take spoonfuls of the medicine at regular intervals, a few hours apart, and you lie there and stuff happens in your mind. Later, you share about what happened in there, and then you go home and contemplate it all for however long you feel the need. For me, the medicine wasn’t hitting me much, so I took a lot of it, over time, until finally my brain was racing a mile a minute to the point where I realized I could only make it stop by keeping my eyes open.

So, while everyone else was sleeping it off, snoozing away on their mats, I was lying there bug-eyed seriously wondering if my brain would ever slow down to the point where I could take advantage of any of these “brilliant” racing thoughts. Foolishly, I thought my thoughts during the ceremony were important. They weren’t. They were just random fireworks being shot off by a mind that had just been taken apart, much like disassembling a jigsaw puzzle.

It’s a distraction from what’s really going on

I didn’t sleep all night, so that’s how I know there was absolutely no pause between the process of disassembling the jigsaw puzzle of my mind and reassembling it to form a completely new picture. This reassembly process started that night/morning while I stared out at the sky, wondering when I’d ever be able to shut my eyes again. I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I was communing with my brain. Well, to be honest, I was doing what I always do, which is already writing the story of the Ayahuasca ceremony, even while it was happening, thinking of how to phrase everything the best way. However, I also knew this was a distraction from something deeper going on.

One thing I knew for certain, though, was that I needed to go home, because I had a lot more thinking to do (plus, sleeping). In doing so, I did, actually, fall asleep at the wheel for a second, so that was scary. Anyway, I got home and for the next couple of days felt quite actively that my mind was putting the jigsaw puzzle back together to form a completely different picture.

Ayahuasca and “intention”

Before the ceremony, people say you should “set an intention,” meaning decide what you want to work on. For me, I was trying to get rid of physical pain that I felt was psychosomatic. I did get rid of that, by the way. That part was so easy, I don’t even have anything to say about it. I stretched a bit during the first part of the ceremony, and eventually the pain just vanished, but (in the long run) it didn’t solve the larger problem of muscle aches (from whiplash from a car accident). It just took the top layer off the pain, so I’m still getting physical therapy for it. Still, though, it’s a big improvement.

Brain-on-brain violence

I had a second intention though, that, honestly, I felt silly setting as an intention because it seemed like a totally incurable thing. Frankly, I thought it was too big an ask. The thing is that I have this stupid rage loop that goes around in my head. I’ll focus on some offensive thing someone said or did to me at some point way in the past and just grind away at it, making myself angrier and angrier, wondering, “why would that person do that to me?” There are a few incidents that recur in this, mostly, but new ones get added all the time. I have never sought psychotherapy for it because I already know it’s dumb and I don’t need anyone to tell me so. I certainly don’t do it on purpose. A part of my brain does it to another part of my brain without permission. It’s brain-on-brain violence.

It reminds me of that scene in Cool Hand Luke, where Luke has to dig a huge hole, then fill it in again, then dig it again, then fill it in again and the drill sargent keeps saying, “Why did you take the dirt out of my hole? Put it back in!” and then “Who put all this dirt in my hole? Dig it out!” Just an endless repeating of something with no end. (Or the myth of Sisyphous. Or you could always go with the hamster wheel metaphor.)

Rage addiction, binge watching, and the unquiet mind

So now we’re getting to what I hope you will consider the good stuff. As the jigsaw puzzle reassembled, I saw very clearly how this rage is an addiction. Why? Because, deep in my heart, I wanted it, the way an alcoholic wants a drink. I realized it was like scratching one of those really bad mosquito bites where the pleasure and the pain are all mixed up together. I realized that, before the ceremony, there was a big part of me that wanted that rage. Maybe it made me feel powerful or something. The rage would come knocking at the door and I’d open the door and say “come on in!” But after the ceremony I felt that whatever empty place inside me was being filled by that rage was now filled with something else. Something good. Something I didn’t want to disturb or uproot.

I’m not, by the way, a person prone to the typical types of addictions like drugs, alcohol, or even social media. But, typically, I go to great lengths to drown out this rageful voice in my head. For instance, I’ll watch two video things simultaneously or read a book while also watching a movie. I’m not paying attention to either thing, I’m just trying to make my brain too busy to indulge in the brain-on-brain violence. So (I began to see) my rage addiction has spawned additional addictions, like screens, especially shows and movies, which I don’t really enjoy. I just need a distraction to drown out the brain-on-brain violence. “Binge watching” is a common phenomenon people joke about, but, at least for me, I realized it’s actually a disturbing sign of an unquiet mind.

After Ayahuasca: the new protocol

I’m not saying that after the ceremony my rage issue vanished magically into the ether. Come on folks, nothing is magical like that. Everything takes effort. One thing I also experienced during the ceremony was the enormity of the effort of willpower and how much work it actually is to make yourself do something that will benefit you in the long run. I remembered that as the rage came knocking on the door many times in the next week or so. I would indulge it a while and then remember I used to want this, but I don’t want it anymore. To me, it was key to acknowledge that, yes, I used to want it. Because I never realized that before. And now, I genuinely don’t want it. This was extremely present and clear for me in the next couple of days after the ceremony, then, as the DMT left my system, I stopped thinking about it, so I was glad I wrote it down, because I could easily forget.

Nearly two weeks later

I don’t want to make any radical claims, as it has been less than two weeks since the ceremony, and I don’t know how much this is going to help me with this particular problem going forward, but it was a lot just to see that all these habits we have–rage, depression, anything that repeats in your brain–are addictions based upon the fact that a part of us WANTS it. One has to find the part of the subconscious mind that wants it and give it something better. What’s better? You know, love and stuff. People (in particular most of the ceremony facilitators) claim Ayahuasca helped them overcome addictions and depression, and I believe it, because I have seen how the puzzle gets put together differently when the desire for self destruction is eliminated. I like writing this blog because I like reminding myself of these things. What I learned is already drifting out of my brain, but I feel like its lodged in there pretty deep, below where the actual thinking takes place.

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