Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Ayahuasca and Marijuana, Part 1

Among some in the medicine world, I have noticed a certain taboo surrounding marijuana. I know that when I went to my first workshop, all participants were urged not to smoke for several weeks prior. I know that Graham Hancock has spoken repeatedly about being freed from a decades-long abusive relationship with it by his experiences with ayahuasca. I know that a good friend of mine, a man who is undergoing a true shamanic apprenticeship in the Shipibo tradition, casts a dim eye on its use.

All of this is easy enough for me to understand. Marijuana abuse was inextricably tied to my own bottoming out with alcohol almost 14 years ago. I smoked all day every day, and it was pretty debilitating. It also combined with alcohol in a way that was truly dangerous for me, and led to an alarming number of vomiting, blackout drunks.

So I get it. In contrast to most of my ayahuasca experiences, marijuana is physically pleasurable. Her spirit is also undeniably beautiful and feminine and seductive, and very good at pulling me in past my best interests. I have never, not even remotely, felt an addictive pull towards ayahuasca. But with marijuana, the potential is there.

So I get it.

And for the first year of my journey into the medicine world, I was content to leave her be. Anything else would have been inconceivable to me. After a dozen years sober in AA, just drinking ayahuasca was an enormous step for me. I had literally been programmed - conditioned to think in a way that was not my own. I had to work through this down in Peru. After the 2nd ceremony I broke down in terror and in tears, stricken over the fact that it felt like I had just given up 12 years of hard-won sobriety. I could almost taste the alcohol on my tongue again.

The facilitators explained to me that my body was letting go of the trauma I'd inflicted on myself with years of drug and alcohol abuse. They explained that ayahuasca was not an intoxicant, that she actually was cleaning my body of impurities, not adding them. One of them was a medical doctor. I believed them. I began to formulate a new conceptual category, distinct from booze and dope - medicine. Plant medicine.

As I continued to drink ayahuasca with my community here in the States, I became more and more comfortable with this new category. And, as categories will do, it seeks new members. Recently it found one.

I first began to reconsider my attitude towards marijuana when I learned that a number of people in my church use it as a sacrament as well, in addition to ayahuasca. As I've said, for a long time I closed it off as an option. It simply felt too dangerous, too much like a real relapse.

And then something funny happened - I began to get messages from ayahuasca herself to resume smoking. I didn't want to listen to them at first, but gradually they became clearer and more compelling. There were two main factors that created my need for this additional plant medicine:

1. The volume of trauma ayahuasca brought up in me was becoming overwhelming - seriously re-traumatizing itself and ultimately unsustainable.

2. I was experiencing a return of major depression and becoming unable to function. It got so bad that I actually tried to get back on the same SSRI I had used for years - and couldn't, because of the side effects.  Apparently ayahuasca has re-wired me so that those drugs will no longer work on my organism.

I italicize the word "need" deliberately. Any successfully programmed AA member will react to this word the same way I used to - with disdain; proof that it's just another addiction. There is no arguing with this mindset, and I won't try. All I can relate is that my experience with marijuana today is completely different than what it was like many years ago when it was tied to active alcoholism.

Because, obviously, that is where all of this is heading - my experience with marijuana today. But that can wait for the next post.

God bless you, whoever you are.

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