Maybe you’ve never tried any hallucinogens. Maybe you can only loosely speculate about the concept of a “bad trip.” Such speculation would be akin to wondering what death must feel like. You can imagine all you want, but the only way to truly know is to experience it. To have a bad trip on Shrooms is to sentence your psyche to the electric chair. So if you cannot relate, then let me tell you what it’s like to burn. And to be reborn in freedom.
This was six years ago. Edward and Darin showed up on my doorstep, freshly blown in from Colorado, with two zip-lock bags full of Shrooms. If you are not familiar with these, they are said to be a strong rival (or alternative) to Acid and LSD. I have never tried anything else, nor do I ever plan to do hallucinogens ever again. However, I have heard that Shrooms are described as more intense because the trip lasts considerably longer than the other mentioned hallucinogens.
I can believe this completely. As you will see in Level 5, one of the darkest, most hellish moments in my bad trip was reaching the point when I Just Wanted It To Stop. But it would not. It was like being strapped into a seat on an airplane free-falling down into the ocean. These are the measurements of my descent into temporary insanity.
1. Social anxiety
I had already had these issues in the past: insecurities lingering from teenage years on into my early twenties. Self-consciousness and an irrational fear of being judged by others probably should have been my first indication that I was in for a bumpy ride. In the same way that marijuana can have very polarizing effects, so too did Darin, Edward and myself have very different experiences with Shrooms. Unlike those two, I allowed my anxieties to seep into the early onset stages of my trip, and was immediately beginning to tip in the wrong direction.
However, I was only worried about my friends judging me for a little while before more cerebral things started happening. I wondered why they were staring at me so weird from the couch. They were laughing at me. In retrospect, it was surely because we were all feeling the effects, but at the time I was Goddamn certain that they were making fun of me. I had them pegged as two co-conspirators, trying to get me into an awkward position. This gripped hard at my nerves, catapulting me into anxious loops.
Finally, those present anxieties were broken in the same way an ocean wave breaks on the rocky shore of the coast.
2. The deconstruction of reality
My mind, feeling so liquid and vague, crashed down on something harder than itself. It was a manifestation of reality itself. The living room was dark and we had a movie playing on the big-screen tv. The flashing pictures on the screen began emerging from the confines of the television set. In an instant the video had turned into a 3D projection, but not in the way you see it with glasses in the theaters. It was utterly enveloping, like it was drawing me in. A castle wall in one scene was extending itself all the way around me until I was inside of the picture. I was seeing parts of the movie that probably weren’t even in the film itself.
This was an interesting kind of weird, until everything around me split off into different dimensions. There was my shared reality, with the real Edward and Darin; there was the reality of all those memories involved in my thoughts and anxieties, nesting in the back my mind; there was the reality of this castle tower in the television, and all media being reproduced on screens everywhere in the world; and then there was an overarching case, enclosing it all. One that I could barely even comprehend. This terrified me.
3.The metaphysical chasm that swallows you
As soon as I began to feel afraid, I was dropped into a black hole and the prism faded quickly out of sight. The idea of the different realities lay above me like a golden feeling that I could not hang onto. Instead, my mind was ushered down into the regions of the encasing parameter that lay in the fringes of my altered consciousness. It was quiet here, isolating and completely void.
I felt like I could see the television screen through a keyhole. Edward and Darin were moving and behaving as though they were a different species altogether. They were acting the way chimpanzees do in a zoo exhibit. Space itself imploded within my mental activity. Suddenly I was alone with my anxious feelings. I saw my past as clear as day:
The time I had been made fun of by other guys in high school when they found out I was uncircumcised. They said it looked weird, like an elephant trunk. They were here with me, making my face red again. The time my sisters picked on me because the girl I was dating had a giant, hairy mole above her eyebrow. Once again, I had a feeling of needing to separate from her, even though I cared so much for her. Everything burned with the fierceness of a newly lacerated wound. To enumerate the anxieties that surrounded me would take pages and pages to describe.
4. The desperation to run
I had had enough. I wanted it to stop. I was so sick with myself that I thought I would throw up. But through one of the pin-pricks of altered realities I saw words themselves wrap around my vision, saying to me, “If you throw up while on shrooms, you may choke on it and die.” It was yet another fear gripping in my constricted throat.
I wandered through the dark house until I found a bed. I remembered what it was like to be too drunk. If you were too drunk, you could lie down and sleep it off. You could close your eyes and the drunken stupor would be like a speedy ejection pod into feeling okay again the next day. Like time travel.
5. The absolutely terrifying realization that you cannot run
I closed my eyes, and all I saw were clearer images of all that I was feeling anxious about. It was as if more lucid versions of everything was plastered to the inside of my eyelids. I opened my eyes, and I could sense their presence in the room, like before. But only when I tried to shut down my vision did the thoughts in my mind explode into more life, more color.
I was trapped here. There is no escape from a bad trip on shrooms. I was locked in for eternity and I knew it. I could not even fathom how much time had already elapsed, but it felt like eons. Now, in retrospect, I can compare it to staring off into space and thinking hard about a memory. You lose track of time that way, because time stands still within the mind itself. But during that bad trip, time refused to do anything but stand still. Thoughts and fears were all that existed now, separate from any concept of time.
6. The breakdown and submission
I gave in. I felt like crying, but I do not believe I actually did. I accepted that I was stuck in a casket, buried alive. Only when I stopped trying to force my way out did it get better at all. That was when the world started coming back to me. I did not resist any longer, and in my restraint the world gave me the tiniest little flicker of a grin. The anxieties eased, and I was now gently floating through the universe.
My eyes were closed. I could close them now without fear. And when I did, I could see the constellations getting bigger around me. I was literally floating deeper into the universe. It was not so cold any longer.
7. The world is a pillow
Darin poked his head into my bedroom. I was snapped out of my isolated universe. He said Edward was sleeping. We looked at each other how I imagine two marines look at each other after a long, heated battle. We looked at each other the way survivors look at each other; like we were both thinking, “We made it.”
I floated after him into the living room and we poured ourselves onto the floor. The carpet was warm and fuzzy. Sun was seeping through the open blinds and it melted like honey over my skin. Darin brought forth a box of very expensive chocolates. I had almost forgotten about them. He had not eaten any because he loved the way they looked. He said the chocolates were art and before the Shroom experience I had laughed at him; judged him, really. But not now. I did not even feel that little flicker of judgment that snaps your attention to idiosyncrasies.
8. Every human being is perfect and free to be themselves. Including you!
At that moment, I was not thinking about the anxieties I had just relived. Nor was I thinking about the bisecting avenues of reality. Rather, I was there, on that carpet in being and in spirit. I was in love with the beauty of those assorted chocolates.
There was one chocolate in particular that made my eyes moist. It was perfect. Oval shaped and drizzled with a spectacular orange color. More emotions were stirred up in me than even the most moving song could have evoked. It was also then that I felt like I understood Darin in a way no human being has ever understood another. He was perfect. And I realized, thinking now of myself: I too am perfect. No one in the world is anything less than perfect, because we are all being the only self we know how to be.