Looking for Serenity, Tripping in Sequoia

By: Gus Tovar

Suicide is the tenth leading causes of death in our country. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, there is a total of 42,773 Americans that die by their own hand each year. This is an alarming number of suicides; it is a number that rises each year. The main psychological disorders that lead to suicide are depression and PTSD.

Something that San Diegans specifically must understand is that here are heavy numbers of untreated military veterans suffering from PTSD. In most recent campaigns, the number of soldiers to die via combat situations is less than the amount of veterans that have taken their lives due to untreated, or maltreated PTSD symptoms.

Many countries still do not recognize depression or other mental health issues as legitimate medical conditions. Mental health issues are oftentimes seen as more of a mood or “funk” that one can get over. In America, we have managed to drastically capitalize from those who are desperate for relief from the empty voids of depression. Psychoactive medications aim to make mental health issues manageable for patients but can be accompanied by a slew of negative side-effects. We are currently seeing the effects of a debilitating epidemic in Benzodiazepine, Opioid, and Alprazolam (Xanax) addiction running rampant in the mental health community.

Most mainstream doctors tend to think that the solution to someone’s trauma or depression is to simply sedate them. We constantly see clients who have been addicted to pills due to their doctor’s misunderstanding of the mental condition afflicting the patient. While Xanax can be a fantastic way to not know what is going on in your life, and live in a constant dysfunctional “I don’t care about anything” blur, it is not the solution to the problem.

Please be very careful of conventional mental health professionals and their methods of treatment. Always do your research before committing to any drug regimen. Just because your doctor has an awesome certificate from UCSD or USD hanging on his wall, does not mean they should be trusted. You must remember most of these guys are drowning in debt from school bills, and the best way to get money in the medical field is by pushing new drugs for the Pharmaceutical Industry. Know that a pill pushing Doc’s interests lie elsewhere, not in your recovery.

Psychedelic Assisted Therapy is an alternative to “normal” treatments of psychoactive medications. During my time in the field of Psychedelic Assisted Therapy, I have been fortunate enough to work with amazing people who simply needed a quick mental reset to get back on track. I have treated veterans, friends, people with PTSD, and sufferers of depression, to name a few. Along with meeting so many people, I have experienced quite a few life changing trips. One adventure in particular sticks with me; the impact I saw in my friend solidified my belief that Psychedelic Assisted Therapy is a non-detrimental solution for sufferers of mental health issues.

So, this impressive trip was a two-person trip. It included three days and two nights in the Sequoia National Park. My friend, let’s call her Lucy, was suffering from deep depression and experiencing suicidal thoughts. Lucy had become a bit lost in her own mind, her ADHD and anxiety disorder was beginning to win the battle over her sanity. While this was not her first run-in with psychedelics, it was definitely the first time that she would have someone to guide her through the complex and beautiful experience.

   Our first day was spent buying trail and route maps. There is zero cell phone service once you enter the wilderness, so driving routes and trails routes must all be predetermined. A physical form of directional orientation is pretty much required. It is a very nice throwback to a time where we had to be self-reliant, and could not simply depend on our pocket computers to lead the way. Taking someone out of  her usual environment is a great supplement in leading them to a breakthrough moment.

It was our first time in this specific part of the forest. We explored the areas near where we would be staying, got acclimated with the environment, and planned our next day. We decided to visit the Crystal Caves bright and early, then hit the Giant Forest where we would consume our Lysergic acid diethylamide and go on a life-changing hike. After a few delicious cured live resin dabs, some good music, and star gazing, we went to bed. We couldn’t wait for the day ahead of us.

The morning started fantastically, we were greeted by the smells and sounds of the forest. It is truly something indescribable; the smells, which are carried in the air, are simply magnificent. The forest has a pure and crisp, resin like smell, which can only be produced by the purest oxygen and a multitude of trees and herbs giving off their essence. After some wake and bake dabs, and a light breakfast, we packed our gear and headed off on the two-hour drive through the mountain roads to the Crystal Caves. This was my second time in a cave of such magnitude, but my first time seeing a cave full of natural crystal formations. The glimmer was simply beautiful, and thinking about how the environment naturally created all of this through the millennia, really put our place on the cosmic timeline into perspective.

After the amazing time in the cave, it was time to head to the Giant Forest to do what we came here to do. After an hour drive, we parked, checked our gear, and made final preparations for the long trippy hike ahead of us.  It was about 10 am when we had everything ready to go. Lucy consumed 100 micrograms of Lysergic acid diethylamide, which is about 40 micrograms above the effect threshold. Ego death and heavier visuals start to become a possibility at this dosage. I consumed my preferred dose of 150 micrograms and we headed into the forest.

The best thing about a trippy hike is that you get to hike and see beautiful things as you wait for the molecules to take full effect. Typically, people can experience a difficult “come-up” of psychedelic drugs. Low purity chemicals and bad trip settings, which simply are not suitable for a psychedelic experience, are the main cause of this. Being in the forest makes it quite easy to transition into the psychedelic headspace and visual beauty.

After hiking for an hour and a half, the peak of the experience began to take over. Luckily, we had made it to a very majestic tree that goes by the name of Chief Sequoyah. This tree was blessed by the last Native American Tribal Chief of the Sequoia Forest, and has been left unharmed and intact in his honor.

We stopped at Chief Sequoyah to set up and do a bit of meditation. At this point, Lucy noted that she was experiencing overwhelming closed eye visuals.  I saw her begin to tear up a bit, so I left her to her meditation. After about an hour of contemplation and closed eye visual beauty, Lucy pulled me aside and begun to try to explain what she had just seen, where she had just been.

This was her first instance of true ego-death; she had seen what could only be described as “love”. I knew she was still quite heavily under the effects, so I asked her to please not try to make sense of it at the moment. I reminded her to enjoy the moments, that we would discuss it all at a later time.

We continued to walk around the forest as we began to go into the  “come down” phase of the experience. We discussed our experiences and most importantly talked about why she was feeling so depressed. We tried to find the true root of her problems. The ego-death that she had just experienced allowed her ego to not take a role in the discussion of her problems. She was able to identify her problematic issues, as well as be honest about her responsibility and role in these issues. Most people live their lives with their ego walls set up to the highest possible point and cannot find solutions to our pain and problems. Sometimes, all we need is a bit of ego-death to fully be able to master our own lives.

The night was then spent star gazing and taking in the sights of the forest, Lucy once again described that what she felt when ego-death occurred was like seeing and feeling “love”. She described it as a going back to the place we all came from before we had been born. This is a very common description, and one of the main reasons Lysergic acid diethylamide and other psychedelics are so good at helping with depression and in cases in which a client might need to accept a bad situation. The feeling of “dying” is in many ways liberating, as it allows one to loose anxiety over the things, which are not in our control, forces us to face those things, which we can do something to fix. But most importantly helps us shrug off the “small stuff”.  Once you allow the ego to die it truly does generate a sort of mental reset, which can bring many people out of a rut.

The next few days we spent making sense of the experience and just enjoying the many sights and sounds of the park. Since this trip, Lucy has found a new coping mechanism for her anxieties. She is able to recall the feeling of serenity and bliss at the moment of ego-death. This has also helped her in her meditation practices, as she can now access the meditative states of mind in a much easier and more intense way. A few months after the experience, she mentioned feeling much better overall and without a single thought of wanting to end her life. She is still having some issues finding her true path in life, but that’s something that a bit of meditation and contemplation will help her find.