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Psychedelics: No Shortcuts to Self-Knowledge

The Use and Abuse of Substances in the Pursuit of Personal Growth

The art of Alex Grey sums it up better than anything I could write.

An honest preface: I am no stranger to dabbling in psychedelic substances and have run the gamut of experimentation to realize something crucial. There are no shortcuts when it comes to our own growth and evolution.

My experiences with drugs taught me about their limitations and their power to seduce the mind into a state of repetitive seeking devoid of finding. This is a large part of what lead me to study addictions and mental health and to offer my services to people on their own paths.

I hope to provide a more balanced perspective about substance use (and abuse) that veers neither into Reefer Madness territory nor into a Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas scenario.

Middle ground perspectives are in short supply in today's world that demands that everyone pick a side. When talking about psychedelic substances, in particular, I will use my own experiences as a starting point.

Substances can provide us with glimpses and peak experiences that can give us valuable insights. They can jolt us out of our common paradigms and help us look at life in a new way.

What they can't do is grant us permanent enlightenment or freedom from suffering; that task is only accomplished by earnest inner work and true dedication to a path of self-knowledge and self-love.

Think about the first time you got drunk or high. (I won't tell your boss.) There is nothing quite like the first experience with any substance and many of us unconsciously spend countless dollars and hours trying to replicate that first experience. (I know I did.) 

I have spoken to people who swear by ayahuasca as a means of 'curing' their addiction to various substances. The irony is often lost on them as I ask why they feel the need to consistently be part of ayahuasca ceremonies and the culture surrounding it.

Even people who only dabble in cannabis may be using the substance in an unconscious manner trying to smoke their way into a blissed-out state that they remember from when they first were introduced to pot.

I myself came up against the frustration of the law of diminishing returns when it came to my marriage with marijuana.  The more I would smoke, the less high I would get, and the less of anything else I would get done.

If we look at substance use in the context of shamanism and indigenous cultures in general, we can discern a massive difference in the intent of how different psychedelics can be used.

How much does our western culture value spiritual insight and expansion into higher states of consciousness? Do we treat drugs as mere pain relief tools or are we aware of their sacred origins as part of the evolution of human consciousness? Are substances relegated into the "feel good now" category and not given a second thought? As with everything in life, our relationship with any given substance plays a crucial role in how it affects our lives.

In a nod to the evolutionary progress of the 60s, research into potential therapeutic uses of psychedelics is now making a comeback. Big pharma has held a near-monopoly on what drugs are deemed appropriate for treating mental and emotional pain. We are now finally seeing some progress towards personal sovereignty and choice over what we choose to ingest in our own bodies.

The cannabis culture is gearing up to provide people with a more natural home-grown alternative for many issues now dominated by opioids for physical pain and psychiatric drugs for emotional pain. Having taken a wide swathe of prescription medications as a young person, (with many side effects), I feel I have a vested interest in advocating for personal choice when it comes to what we choose to put into our bodies.

Having said all this, there are simply no shortcuts when it comes to our personal healing. Drugs can provide temporary experiences and symptom relief and perhaps some valuable insights along the way, but ultimately we are left with ourselves as we are. The good news is that we can naturally heal ourselves through disciplines like meditation and simply following our own inner blueprint of what makes us happy in life.

Thank you for enduring this rant, and feel free to contact me any time for confidential and down-to-Earth counseling services.


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Psychedelics: No Shortcuts to Self-Knowledge
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