Sobriety of the Soul: Safe & Intentional Psychedelic Use in Recovery


Episode 235

Vanessa Crites

Vanessa Crites, founder of Sobriety of the Soul, joins Paul F. Austin to discuss the intersection of recovery and psychedelics.

Vanessa shares her personal journey of recovery and how she became interested in psychedelic medicine. She explores the intersection of recovery and psychedelics, highlighting the spiritual principles of the 12-step program and the history of psychedelics in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Vanessa unpacks her educational program, Sobriety of the Soul, which provides resources and support for individuals in recovery interested in working with psychedelics. She discusses the unique challenges faced by people in recovery, and the need to normalize the conversation around psychedelics within that group. She also emphasizes the importance of discernment when it comes to the intentional and responsible application of psychedelics in recovery.

Vanessa closes with resources and recommendations and shares her vision of sobriety of the soul as the next frontier for those in recovery.


Vanessa Crites

Vanessa Crites is a recovery strategist and educator dedicated to the thoughtful integration of psychedelics into sober living. She guides individuals towards profound healing and personal growth through mentorship and her flagship program Sobriety of the Soul. Drawing from a wealth of professional experience and personal recovery since 2005, Vanessa blends the rigor of evidence-based practices with the depth of spiritual wisdom to offer a safe and responsible pathway for those in recovery.

Rooted in 12-Step principles, Vanessa’s approach bridges the gaps between traditional recovery models and the expansive potential of psychedelics, delivering a holistic understanding that encompasses spiritual, emotional, and psychological well-being.
She is devoted to debunking misconceptions while championing harm reduction, prioritizing both personal and public well-being. Through her work, Vanessa illuminates a path beyond the confines of traditional sobriety approaches, guiding those in active recovery towards the empowerment of an awakened, authentic existence—what she calls “Soulful Sobriety.”

Podcast Highlights

  • Vanessa’s recovery journey and path to psychedelics
  • The spiritual and psychedelic origins of AA and the 12 Steps of Recovery
  • How Bill Wilson’s LSD experiences impacted his recovery
  • Vanessa’s journey incorporating psychedelics into her recovery
  • Sobriety of the Soul’s origin story and programming
  • Synthetic vs. plant medicines for recovery
  • The discernment needed to avoid reliance on psychedelic experiences
  • Normalizing conversations about psychedelics in addiction recovery communities
  • Resources for psychedelics and recovery

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Podcast Transcript

0:00:00.0 Paul F. Austin: Hey listeners, welcome back to the Psychedelic Podcast by Third Wave, where we explore how the safe and responsible use of psychedelics can catalyze individual and collective transformation. This is your host, Paul F. Austin, and today I'm speaking with Vanessa Crites, psychedelics and recovery educator and creator of Sobriety of the Soul.

0:00:24.2 Vanessa Crites: So what I created with Sobriety of the Soul is that which I wish had been available for me as a person in recovery who wanted to make a safe and informed entry into working with psychedelic medicines safely, responsibly consciously, without compromising my sobriety.

0:00:37.3 Speaker 3: Welcome to the Psychedelic Podcast by Third Wave Audio Mycelium, connecting you to the luminaries and thought leaders of the psychedelic renaissance. We bring you illuminating conversations with scientists, therapists, entrepreneurs, coaches, doctors, and shamanic practitioners, exploring how we can best use psychedelic medicine to accelerate personal healing, peak performance, and collective transformation.

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0:03:15.5 Speaker 5: This certification program covers it all from the science of transformation and behavior change to how to best prepare, advise, and integrate your clients on their psychedelic journey. To know how to consciously step into the right medicines, dosages, protocols, and experiences for your clients' goals, and to ensure your business is positioned optimally to navigate the present legal landscape. It's all included in the certification program. And best of all, certified coaches are included on Third Waves Professional directory upon graduation, so that clients around the world who are seeking nonclinical, non-medical professional help can find your business based on your geographical location. For more details and to enroll yourself now in the next certification program cohort beginning soon, please visit today. That's

0:04:10.7 Paul F. Austin: Hey listeners, this is Paul F. Austin, founder and CEO at Third Wave, and welcome back to the show. Today we're diving into the intersection of recovery and psychedelics with Vanessa Crites. Vanessa is a recovery strategist and educator dedicated to the thoughtful integration of psychedelics into sober living. She guides individuals towards profound healing and personal growth through mentorship and her flagship program, Sobriety of the Soul. Rooted in 12 step principles, Vanessa's approach bridges the gap between traditional recovery models and the expansive potential of psychedelics, delivering a holistic understanding that encompasses spiritual, emotional, and psychological wellbeing. She's devoted to debunking misconceptions while championing harm reduction, prioritizing both personal and public wellbeing. And through her work, Vanessa illuminates a path beyond the confines of traditional sobriety approaches, guiding those in active recovery towards the empowerment of an awakened authentic existence, which she calls soulful sobriety. And so in our conversation today, we dive into Vanessa's personal journey of recovery and how she became interested in psychedelics.

0:05:21.8 Paul F. Austin: We explore the relevance of psychedelics in recovery, looking at the spiritual principles of the 12 step program and the history of psychedelics and Alcoholics Anonymous. Vanessa walks us through her educational program, Sobriety of the Soul, which provides resources and support for individuals in recovery who are interested in working with psychedelics. She highlights the unique challenges that are faced by people in recovery and why it's so important to normalize the discussion around psychedelics in the recovery community. And finally, Vanessa and I also talk about the discernment needed to incorporate psychedelics into recovery safely and intentionally. As always, if you're interested in diving deeper into this episode, looking at the show notes, the transcripts, go to You can also join our community, our free community at All right, that's it for now. I hope you enjoy my conversation today with Vanessa Crites. Vanessa, welcome to the podcast.

0:06:22.0 Vanessa Crites: Thank you, Paul. It's an absolute privilege and honor and delight to be here with you today. So thank you for inviting me.

0:06:27.0 Paul F. Austin: Absolutely. So we connected probably two and a half years ago now, or just over two and a half years ago. And I remember I was staying in Venice at the time, I think California, not Italy. And we had a really good conversation about microdosing, about integration. I think you had at that point recently completed a coaching certification program, the Being True To You coaching program. You were or had been working with Soul Quest out of Florida and their Ayahuasca ceremony. So you had been deep in the work and deep in the medicine but that wasn't always the case necessarily. And so just as an opener for our audience, I'd love for you to take us a little bit deeper into the story of why psychedelic medicine. What turned you on to psychedelic medicine. What was the sort of path that brought you into this work?

0:07:16.8 Vanessa Crites: So I've been on a spiritual path since I was about 14 years old. I remember distinctly hearing a message, "You are being prepared." And I didn't know exactly what that meant except that it gave me some comfort. And I experienced an unbelievable amount of trauma as a child and was in the throes of a lot of that even at that time. And by the time I was 32 or so, I had embarked on a path of addiction and chronic alcoholism and like got to a place with my drinking that I... It sort of started because I loved the way that it made me feel. And then it sort of crossed a line to I was drinking to change how I felt, and then it crossed a line to drinking to not feel. And then I crossed a line from which there really is no coming back that I was drinking for oblivion.

0:08:42.2 Vanessa Crites: And so in 2005, I got sober in 12 step and my life started to improve as I was applying the spiritual principles of that program. And right at about the 12 year mark, two things were happening simultaneously and isn't that the way the universe really works. That things sort of come together. And I had a partner who had treatment resistant depression. He had been in and out of psychiatric facilities in and out of treatment centers, and we were getting ready to hospitalize him for the umpteenth time in his life and we were terrified and he was terrified. And I come from very hardcore black and white abstinence sobriety culture. So like I had no idea what was even happening in the field of psychedelic medicine. I didn't know anything about the history or psychedelics were not part of my story.

0:09:51.2 Vanessa Crites: I was a fall down blackout drunk, and that's how I soothed my condition. And I sat down and did a search for alternative treatments for treatment resistant depression. And the research that Johns Hopkins was doing came up and it sparked an interest. And so I started doing more and more research and came across MAPS and came across Third Wave and started listening to podcasts and bought, I don't even know how many books on Amazon about all the different kinds of medicines. And at that same time, and this is where the... What was happening in my personal life and in my personal experience was that I was 12 years sober. I was doing all the things that I was told to do to continue to deepen in my spiritual practice.

0:10:57.4 Vanessa Crites: And I was in service and I was leading meetings and big book studies, which is the basic text of Alcoholics Anonymous. And I was coaching client... No, I wasn't coaching yet. I was sponsoring a bunch of women and had a very high pressure corporate job. I was a sales leader in the CPG industry for 25 years. And so my life was very full and big and I had this sort of stagnancy in my growth. Like no matter what I was doing, no matter how many retreats I went to, no matter how many books I read, no matter how many modalities I tried, no matter how much more service prayer and meditation I did, there was this... I just wasn't growing anymore. And what I realized is as I was researching psychedelics for my partner, that there was silt in the folds for me that I couldn't quite get to on my own in this plane.

0:11:52.1 Vanessa Crites: And so I was called, I was called to the medicine and I started with a microdose protocol. And as a person in recovery, abstinence, sobriety culture, I had a moment where like the call was very, very clear, but I wanted to run it past my sponsor. And I went to her and I said, this is what I'm thinking about doing. And I did the James Fadiman protocol. I had a friend who is like in the ferry circus world. And so I knew he probably had access to medicine and reached out to him and he helped me develop a protocol and bless the medicine and all of that. And so that was really lovely, this like beautiful little ceremony I did in my kitchen to enter into the container of a microdose protocol. So I started beautifully in that very first entry.

0:12:52.3 Vanessa Crites: And I called my sponsor and said, this is what I'm thinking about doing. And in the most masterful sponsorship, which I will say, I'm very aware that my personal experience is not by a long shot the experience that most people in recovery when they wanna approach these modalities are in receipt of. And what she said was "I know nothing about what you're interested in, embarking on. The only thing I ask you to consider each step of the way is, is it bringing you closer to the light or away from it?" And I said, okay. And I began, and so it started with a microdose protocol, and I found a therapist in Atlanta who was willing to facilitate a macrodose experience for me. It was not the right set and setting for me, but I learned, and that was great. I'm a ceremony girl way more than a clinical experience person, I think. And I didn't know that yet, obviously. And about a year later, I sat with Grandmother Medicine and Ayahuasca's been one of my primary teachers now for almost five years.

0:14:15.6 Paul F. Austin: Wow. Well, thank you for sharing all of that. So 2005 you quit drinking.

0:14:30.8 Vanessa Crites: Yeah.

0:14:30.8 Paul F. Austin: 2017 is when you started to become open to the world of psychedelics.

0:14:34.0 Vanessa Crites: Yeah.

0:14:37.9 Paul F. Austin: And so over the last six, seven years your path has really grown and matured with these medicines as allies. And that's led to you really being not adamant necessarily, but definitely a big ally and supporter of psychedelics for people who are in recovery, which is a somewhat controversial take. And I want to get into that and why that is.

0:15:11.3 Vanessa Crites: Yeah.

0:15:16.5 Paul F. Austin: In a little bit. But before we do, you mentioned something about the spiritual principles of the 12 step program, and I'd love for you to just sort of... First of all, what is the 12 step program? What are the 12 steps and what are the spiritual principles of AA and the 12 step program?

0:15:36.5 Vanessa Crites: Yeah that's a really great question. So taking the lid off the pot... Well, first of all, I wanna say that some people misunderstand 12 step to be a religion. It is not, it is foundationed in spiritual principles drawn from all philosophies, ideologies and some religious belief. It originated actually the tenets of the 12 steps originated out of the Oxford Groups, which was a fundamental Christian group at the time. And it's founded by Bill Wilson, who is a co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. And what people don't know... I mean, I think people know because it's written in his story in our basic text, that when he was in Towns Hospital for his third and final stay to treat alcoholism and Towns Hospital was a hospital specializing in drug and alcohol addiction and treatment. And he was under the care of Dr. William D Silkworth.

0:16:46.9 Vanessa Crites: He was administered the Belladonna treatment and Belladonna... And then there's another medicine that they used, a plant medicine that they use in conjunction with that to bring about an experience. And he talks about this white light experience that he has where he's standing on the mountaintop and the sunlight of the spirit is just pouring through him. And it was in that experience that he had the vision of one alcoholic helping another alcoholic to bring about permanent recovery. And so I wanna start this by saying that AA was born literally out of a psychedelic trip. So that's the foundation that nobody really wants to talk about. Now, the 12 steps are a design for living, the first 164 pages of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. The book is called "Alcoholics Anonymous Inside of the Fellowship" we affectionately refer to it as the big book, because it's literally a really big book.

0:17:51.5 Vanessa Crites: But the first 164 pages outline specifically with clear cut directions, how to recover from alcoholism. And to take the lid off the pot, those steps are intended to bring about a spiritual awakening, significant enough to bring about permanent recovery. So they're to get you to God, and I use the word God for simplicity and familiarity. And even in the book, it refers to a God of your own understanding, higher power, creator of the universe, whatever is higher, bigger, and more powerful than you. And it is a process of dismantling and really, really and truly, not unlike a psychedelic experience that is ordeal in nature in my experience. So the very first step is that we admit we are powerless over alcohol. And the 12 steps have since mushroomed out to a wide variety of compulsions and addictions. And there are 12 step fellowships for gamblers and overeaters and cannabis and narcotics and nicotine and under earners, so many 12 steps where they have taken these foundational principles and the program. And the powerlessness is...

0:19:29.0 Vanessa Crites: In that step specifically, is that I am powerless over the effect that alcohol has on me. So for the alcoholic, when you put alcohol in your body, it triggers an allergy, which manifests itself in the form of craving. That ensures that when I put alcohol in my body, I have to drink and drink and drink and drink and drink to satisfy that craving, to overcome that craving. And that is beyond my control. The second piece to the first step is that our lives have become unmanageable. And some people think that, that means I lost my house, or I've lost my family, or I'm living under a bridge. And that's not what that means. What it means is that when I honestly want to not drink, I can't not drink. And so the very first step is about surrender. And if you weave that into the work with psychedelics, like that's the very moment.

0:20:25.5 Vanessa Crites: When we surrender into what... We can let go and surrender and admit that I can't... I'm not in charge of this ride. And the steps proceed with coming to believe that a power greater than myself can restore me to sanity. That I turn my will and my life over to the care of this higher power that I may not even understand, but I'm at least willing to try. And the third step is particularly I love so much because the wording is we turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understand him. And I know that AA at Global is a world services, is in the process of evaluating the language to make it more inclusive and bring that up to date.

0:21:24.5 Vanessa Crites: So I'm quoting as it's written now. And a disclaimer is that that's not necessarily my personal belief, but I'm speaking to it as it's written. And I believe that the care for the alcoholic is actually the 12 steps. So what we're doing when we're turning our will and our lives over is we're following through with the rest of the steps. Step four is an inventory where I go deep into where I was at fault, where I was wrong, the mistakes that I made. I start to unravel that and unpack it. I'm sort of like digging to the bottom of the barrel in all of the ways that my way of being in the world has impacted those around me. Step five is where I admit to another person what I have done. And so literally like one through five is deep medicine work.

0:22:19.4 Vanessa Crites: Like I do that on the mat when I sit. And so it's a beautiful way for me to deepen into my process of step work. And in turn take this idea of ceremony and deep inquiry into that step work. Six and seven are the integration steps. This is where I take what I learned because once you can never not know again. And do you see the similarity with sitting with medicine, it's like unbelievable to me how the symbiotic nature of the two. And so six and seven are about where I take everything that I know, because once I know, I can never not know again. So what is my choice to be? And so here I get to change my behavior based on what I now see about myself. And eight and nine are about amends.

0:23:15.1 Vanessa Crites: Step 10 is the walking around step where I have all this awareness, and now I'm noticing ways in which I am judgmental or resentful or whatever the defects of character or the things that block me from you and the realm of the spirit and connecting with myself, like when those pop up a plan of action to address those immediately. And step 11, and this is where psychedelic medicine it is so at the core of my heart, and the step for me is that it is that step where we deepen into our conscious contact with the realm of the spirit. And so like with practical application. And so it is psychedelic medicine for me as a person in recovery is literally my 11th step where through prayer and meditation and other spiritual practices, I'm deepening in that relationship. And then finally, step 12 is being of service to others and taking everything that we have learned and practicing these principles in all of our affairs. So those are are the 12 steps.

0:24:34.8 Paul F. Austin: Comprehensive.

0:24:35.9 Vanessa Crites: Yes. Absolutely.

0:24:37.3 Paul F. Austin: Very comprehensive.

0:24:40.6 Vanessa Crites: Absolutely.

0:24:44.4 Paul F. Austin: I heard that Bill Wilson, who was the founder of AA, and you hinted at this already in telling the Belladonna story, wanted psychedelics to be a part of this sort of step process. A, is that true? B, if it is true, why didn't it happen? In other words, what was the sort of rationale or reason why it wasn't actually woven into this 12 step process?

0:25:08.5 Vanessa Crites: So I'll share from the place of what I know, and I don't know, like super comprehensively exactly what went down with the trusted servants and sort of... And there's no leadership in AA, but like the founding members and how that whole conversation happened. But I'll share what I know. There was no talk about psychedelics for the first 20 years of Bill's sobriety. So we are now in the 1950s and psychedelic research is happening. Specifically, there were two doctors in Canada who were doing LSD research on the treatment of alcoholism and schizophrenia. I know nothing about what happened with schizophrenia, but I'll speak to the piece about alcoholism. At that time, Bill Wilson had become close friends with Gerald Heard, and Gerald Heard was close friends with Aldous Huxley and Gerald and Bill became sort of spiritual mentors to one another.

0:26:12.4 Vanessa Crites: They wrote very long letters to each other and sort of were... They had clinical depression in common. One thing that Bill suffered with his entire life well not his entire life, maybe until the '50s. It was debilitating clinical depressive disorder that plagued him, his life. He was sober. He got sober, he recovered from alcoholism. He never drank again after the 1930s. And, but he was still plagued with clinical depression. And so as these conversations are happening, and Gerald and Aldous are telling him about the good work that these doctors are doing in Canada, at first Bill was... According to the letters that are accessible to read, is Bill was skeptical and a little bit hesitant about it, like a drug to treat alcoholism. It just didn't align for him.

0:27:10.0 Vanessa Crites: But the more they talked about the results that were coming out of that research, the more Bill's curiosity was peaked. And in 1956, Bill went to the Los Angeles VA hospital and participated in an LSD experiment there. And those experiments for Bill, we know when it started, it started in August of 1956. We're not sure exactly when it ended, but based on the letters, we suspect it probably lasted about six to eight years. And he actually took the experiments back to New York and sat with LSD, and I don't know if it was in a clinical setting or not. But did like LSD experiments with some of the names that many people know in AA including Marty M who was the first notable, first woman recovered alcoholic, his wife. There were a couple of priests who were spiritual mentors and also active members in AA who also participated in those experiments.

0:28:31.0 Vanessa Crites: And Bill is noted for saying that the LSD experiments helped him very, very much. He is certain is the word he used. And Bill was an amazing writer and very careful about... And intentional about the words that he used. And he said, I am certain that the LSD experiments helped me very much. And he talks about how his experience of the world where his joy and the brightness of colors and his experience of being here came alive for him in a way that elements of his humanity that were nearly destroyed by his years of depression. And Bill never drank again. And he did these experiments for six to eight years. And while he's noted for saying that there were certain low spots through the balance of his life, he was never again, clinically depressed.

0:29:51.8 Vanessa Crites: And so to the second part of your question is why did it not become a part of of AA? And my understanding is that there was a lot of... Which continues today, a lot of misunderstanding and stigma and judgment around that first. And secondly, that it's an outside issue. And one of the traditions of AA tradition 10 is that we have no opinion on outside issues. And how we seek outside help for outside issues is beyond the scope of the fellowship. And so whatever you do to treat whatever ailment you have... And the book actually tells you, the instruction manual, the text says that God has created a wealth of resources and practitioners to aid and guide you on your healing path. Seek them, seek these experts for things that are beyond the scope of the steps. And that was Bill's experience. And it is my understanding that because of the judgment that he was faced with, he did end up stopping the LSD experiments that he was doing personally. And another...

0:31:29.2 Paul F. Austin: And...

0:31:29.3 Vanessa Crites: Go ahead.

0:31:29.4 Paul F. Austin: I was gonna say it probably became illegal too at that point. 'cause if he started in 1956 and he went for up to eight years, that's 1964, that was totally legal. 1966, it becomes illegal. So I imagine that also may have played a role in cutting them out.

0:31:42.5 Vanessa Crites: Yeah. And one more thing I wanna say about what happened during that time is that not only was he relieved of his depression, but what came out of Bill in that time was unbelievable. He wrote some 50 letters to the Grapevine that is AA's newsletter, some 50 letters that were profound and deep and definitely next level experience. And there's one in particular letter that he wrote that is my favorite piece of writing from Bill, and it is called The Next Frontier Emotional Sobriety. And he wrote that during that period of time a year and a half after he started the LSD experiments and the concepts of World Service came out of Bill. How AA can survive in the world and be in service to the world came out of Bill in that time during the LSD experiments. It opened him up in a way that he had never experienced before at great benefit to us, those of us who are in the fellowship.

0:33:02.2 Paul F. Austin: Right. And have benefited from the 12 step process. Yeah. What's the... Okay, so I want to fast forward a little bit. So in the last few years, NYU in particular has done quite a bit of clinical research on psilocybin for alcoholism. I believe it's this guy, Michael Bogenschutz or something like that, who's done quite a bit of clinical research showing that psilocybin can be incredibly efficacious at treating alcoholism. So I'd love to just sort of fast forward to there. What do we know about sort of modern clinical research when it comes to psychedelics and alcoholism, whether that's psilocybin within these clinical trials? I believe there may have been some research done with ayahuasca as well, though I'm not completely certain around that. Give us a little bit of the taste of what you know what does the evidence say for how psychedelics can help with treating alcoholism. And from your understanding, how does that efficacy relate to the efficacy of just AA, the 12 step process in and of itself?

0:34:05.3 Vanessa Crites: So I don't know a lot about the science, so I can't really speak to that. And I did not get sober using psychedelics. So unfortunately, I really can't speak to that. What I can speak to is how the two work together when you are already sober. Like that's my area of expertise is how do we weave these powerful and transformative tools and allies into an already established recovery.

0:34:50.4 Paul F. Austin: And that's where your program came from, Sobriety of the Soul, which you've been working on for some time. It's a 12 week transformational program on how to responsibly apply psychedelics to addiction recovery. And I want to get into that because I want to hear more about the 12 weeks. What are some of the fundamentals of it? Before I get into that, I wanna talk a little bit about, sort of from a modern context, when did the conversation start about psychedelics in recovery? What type of groups have been working on this, if any? And when did you come to realize that maybe you weren't the only one who was interested in this, but that there were a community of people who were in recovery and working with psychedelics?

0:35:39.0 Vanessa Crites: Yeah. Thank you for that. And I've changed the format, Paul, of how the course is available. It's not 12 weeks anymore. I'm making it evergreen and lifetime access. So they can go through it. But so to speak to like how psychedelics and recovery sort of came alive for me is I was alone, I was an active member in Alcoholics Anonymous, in good standing. I was a co-chair for a national women's conference that I helped find... I founded... I co-founded. I was leading big book studies. I was sponsoring women and doing all the things. So this is like this part of my life. And over here I am sitting with ayahuasca and I'm studying with Being True to You. And I am volunteering and I am beginning my process of learning how to work with the medicine, with the people and facilitation and over here.

0:36:34.4 Vanessa Crites: And I was about a year and a half in, and I didn't feel like there was any conflict in what I was doing, but I had two sober sisters who were all up in arms because two of their sponsees who had double digit years, who were active members were using cannabis in a way that sounded medicinal to me. And so I called my sponsor and this is the message that they gave. "They're not sober. They have no business being in AA, they have no business being in service. They're not sober." One of them was using it for a pain condition. And I'm not sure about the other one. Maybe to help with anxiety or sleep or something. And so I called my sponsor and I asked her, "am I sober?" 'cause that was the resounding message. They're not sober. And here I am doing all of this stuff. And she said to me, again, in the most masterful sponsorship, "Vanessa, I know nothing about this path that you're on. Is it bringing you closer to the light or away from it?" And I said, "It's bringing me closer to the light Polly." And she said, "How you find God is an outside issue. And are you sober? More sober than you've ever been, baby girl?" And it was like in that moment that who I was in...

0:38:08.0 Vanessa Crites: In my medicine world and who I was in my fellowship integrated for me. And it was around the time of that conversation that I sat down and did a search for psychedelics in recovery, 'cause there was no... I didn't know anybody else who was on this path, and I didn't speak about it in meetings 'cause it's an outside issue, and I'm respectful of the traditions of that fellowship. I spoke in great length about what I was learning about myself and these awakenings I was having but not mentioning psychedelics specifically. But I had nobody to talk to because there was nobody else that I knew of, and I came across an article, and I don't remember the publication it was in, but an article where Kevin Franciotti, who co-founded Psychedelics in Recovery.

0:39:00.4 Vanessa Crites: An article about him, and I reached out, I reached... I found him and did a search for Psychedelics in Recovery and Psychedelics in Recovery is a 12-step fellowship, it's foundationed in the 12 steps of people from all paths recovery, not just 12 step, but all paths recovering, no matter how you've got sober or clean or stopped the compulsive behavior, overcame that or whatever. It's a place, no matter what you are dealing with, where you can come and talk openly about your work with psychedelic medicines as it relates to your spiritually-oriented program. And in that fellowship, it was like coming home. We talk a lot about spirituality in other arenas, but I had never met a group of people who were so deeply dedicated to personal development and higher consciousness and connection with spirit and overcoming this ailment or compulsion or some people consider it a disease, some people don't believe in the disease model, whatever your belief structure is... But this unbelievably desperate and lonely isolating place where you can come and be in a community of people who are recovering, who also consciously, responsibly and intentionally apply psychedelic medicine to their program of recovery to bring about healing.

0:40:55.4 Paul F. Austin: And so what did you learn from that program and how, like what are I guess some of... When you think about this from a teaching and educational perspective, what is in the core or fundamental aspects of people who are in recovery who potentially might wanna work with psychedelics, what should they be aware of? What should they be mindful of? What should they... How might they approach that process, whether that's with higher doses, like working with ayahuasca, psilocybin, whether that's with microdoses with psilocybin. Also, what about MDMA? What about ketamine? Kinda talk us a little bit about... Talk us through a little bit of that context as well.

0:41:38.2 Vanessa Crites: Yeah, so that fellowship is not an educational platform, it's a group of people who come together to share experience, strength and hope. And so there's no guidance on what you should do or how you should do it, that's really outside the scope of that fellowship. This is really a place where we can come for peer support and to share our experiences and our challenges and seek support. But what I did learn, and ultimately foundationed, the work that I do with Sobriety of the Soul is really seeing that there was a gap in an educational model specifically for people who were in recovery. And I learned about sober identity, personally defining what sobriety means to me, what and how to apply the 12 steps with psychedelic work, how to intersect the two, that really came alive for me in that fellowship.

0:42:52.2 Paul F. Austin: So let's then transition into the course that you put together, because from what I understand, that is educational. So what are some of the core educational precepts, topics, foundational elements that you cover for people who are in recovery and potentially interested in working with psychedelics? And how do you contextualize the difference between plant medicines and synthetic psychedelics like MDMA, ketamine, LSD, even things like TCP, to put a little nuance in that?

0:43:26.0 Vanessa Crites: Great, so Sobriety of... So what I realized and in this moment now, this was birthed after I dismantled my entire life, exited corporate America and had no idea what was next for me. And it sort of came to me, and I believe that I had to become no thing, I had to release all attachment of everything for what was about to come forth from me to come forth. And it was 20 minutes after I exited corporate America, I gave my notice, and 20 minutes later... And I didn't have a name for it. And I have a story to tell you about the name, which we can do in a little bit. That there is a ton of information about psychedelic education and harm reduction, and...

0:44:29.8 Vanessa Crites: How to navigate that and how to do it safely and responsibly and intentionally. And Third Wave is like the gold standard in that information and as an educational platform, and I have deep admiration for the work that you have done and refer people there often. And there's a ton of information and different paths to recover from whatever is ailing you, but there was no bridge. And so what I created with Sobriety of the Soul is that which I wish had been available for me as a person in recovery who wanted to make a safe and informed entry into working with psychedelic medicines safely, responsibly consciously...

0:45:25.4 Vanessa Crites: Without compromising my sobriety. And so what we cover, and I'll just kind of go through the modules that we cover in this course, which is an evergreen course. The very first thing that we do is workshop sober identity, getting really clear about what sobriety or recovery means to us, what are... We workshop it, what are our limitations? What are core beliefs? How do we come into right relationship with ourself around moving into this work? And we cover a very high level 101 on the nature of psychedelics, and I cover plant medicines and synthetics, and I... In my resources guide for deeper information, I send them to you.

0:46:30.5 Paul F. Austin: Nice, thank you.

0:46:30.8 Vanessa Crites: Because I'm not an expert in that. Yeah, absolutely, I'm not an expert in that, but I can sort of top level, this is what the medicine is, these are the risks and benefits, here's the application, here's the history of it, but in a... Just one-on-one, high level, we cover clinical versus ceremonial experiences, dosing, microdoses versus macrodoses and the doses in between, and indigenous culture and sacred ceremony and honoring indigenous culture. We talk about preparation, navigating the psychedelic arc, ancillary and complementary resources.

0:47:18.4 Vanessa Crites: We do an intention setting, we workshop intention setting, we cover integration... I'm talking about integration the entire time like from the very beginning, we're talking about integration and preparation and conscious, intentional, safe application. And then I also have bonus material for my beloved 12 steppers, where we cover psychedelic history and Bill Wilson, we cover the symbiotic nature of the 12 steps and psychedelics. And that module is entitled The Ceremony of the 12 steps, and we look at how do we apply psychedelics to our 12 step work to do deeper dives, and how do we bring ceremony into having a new relationship to the 12 steps. And then I also cover an appendix that's in the back of the big book called Spiritual Experience. I dive deep into that. And the truth that our spiritual quest is not in conflict with conscious, responsible and intentional application of psychedelic medicines in the interest of therapeutic and spiritual aid. This is not about using or getting high or whatever, and then we also cover trauma healing, and so that's to contextualize the material, and there's also a...

0:48:54.8 Vanessa Crites: It's on an online classroom platform, we have a discussion group, we have group coaching, and really comprehensive resource guide, so that people aren't fumbling around. Because what's happening in recovery communities is that people are dealing with things that are beyond the scope of the steps, they're dealing with depression, anxiety, unresolved trauma, a lot of the issues that cause addiction to begin with, and the steps are not designed... Those fellowships are not designed to address those things. And so here we are people in recovery in a very taboo, black and white abstinence sobriety culture with stigma and judgement and misinformation and ignorance, where we're faced with judgment and criticism, and in some cases, many cases, ostrasization, when the truth is, is that we are actually doing what the literature says and continuing to seek healing.

0:50:04.6 Paul F. Austin: And that, I think, is going back to what your mentor, your sponsor emphasized right, what's the intention are you going towards the light or away from the light? And I think rooting in that and having that as a foundational question or element is also a great way to navigate, 'cause I know you briefly touch on it, but even this idea of synthetics versus non synthetics. Because we know psilocybin is anti-addictive, we know psilocybin is one of the safest substances available. We also know that the efficacy of ketamine is great for trauma healing and that it does have a more addictive component.

0:50:54.0 Vanessa Crites: Yes.

0:50:58.2 Paul F. Austin: I suppose... Do you draw a line there? Do you have a hard line where you're like only natural plant medicines, absolutely no synthetics because of the potential for addiction, or are you able to go beyond that and treat them as all medicines and instead root it in the intention that it's coming from? Bring us a little bit more into that nuance because I think it's a very important nuance for this conversation.

0:51:38.0 Vanessa Crites: Yes, it is incredibly important, and I personally do not draw that line that's for each individual to determine for themselves. And because these medicines, whether a synthetic or plant have very different... We, each and every one of us have different experiences with the medicines that we are working with, different biology and physiology and set and setting really matter. And so each person decides for themselves what they're going to approach and why, because each of these medicines too have different treatment protocols and are addressing different things. So I have friends who are in ketamine-assisted therapy because they have a clinical depressive disorder or a chronic pain condition. I was not in a place... When I approached psychedelic medicines, I was not in a place of deep suffering or trauma healing, I had done that work, I had no idea how... You get on a mat with ayahuasca and some things show up. There was a lot more work for me to do. So it's like, so why are you coming to these medicines? And it's very, very important to check in with ourselves and our community, because there is a fine line, it's like, where is that line when I am approaching these experiences intentionally, responsibly and consciously versus escapism or to numb escape or avoid.

0:53:24.4 Vanessa Crites: And that is my line. What are we looking to accomplish here? And am I just trying to run? Because there have been times that I have been particularly activated about something and the idea will come, I need another ceremony. Do I? Maybe what is coming up for me is an opportunity to further integrate experiences I've already had, and to integrate the experience I'm actually having now. And so this is where community is so, so important, is to be able to have people to talk through this with. And so that's my line, is my intention to numb, escape or avoid, and if that is the case, then I don't approach the medicine at that time.

0:54:25.0 Paul F. Austin: And that's a difficult check-in in some ways, because there is a tendency... There can be a tendency to trick ourselves and still go into ceremony or working with high doses. So I think that discernment that you're talking about requires an awareness or a skill set that's developed to navigate the nuance. And that's probably why a program like 12 steps or even certain religions, they have very strict structures because they realize... Especially for people who are brand new to this. This is where it's like, what's the relationship between having scaffolding in place, I even think about this with microdosing...

0:55:21.2 Vanessa Crites: Yeah.

0:55:21.6 Paul F. Austin: Just do the James Fadiman protocol versus intuitive dosing. In the beginning stages, it can help to have certain parameters. So for example, if I do, and I'm not saying anyone should follow these specific examples, but these are just kind of thoughts, so if I start to work with plant medicine, I'll do one ceremony every three months for the first year, and I'm gonna stick to that and honor that. Even if I feel like I gotta go back the next week and the next week, and I'm gonna stick to that and honor that, or I'm gonna microdose.

0:55:52.9 Paul F. Austin: I'm gonna microdose twice a week for three months, and then I'm gonna give it a break for three months to sit there and re-evaluate and see how that happens. I feel like having some of those guard rails in place, especially for folks who may have more of a tendency to numb or to disassociate can be helpful because you and I both know people who... They've sat with ayahuasca potentially hundreds of times, and you would never guess because a lot of the work has not been necessarily integrated all the way. And so it's a fine line, and I think that's why I love... When you talk about rooting it in the sober identity, getting back to these foundational elements, we can numb, we can disassociate through anything, drug, medicine, psychedelic plants, tv...

0:56:50.5 Vanessa Crites: Sex, phones...

0:56:50.9 Paul F. Austin: Sex, food, sugar, it's... And what is sort of the core important aspect is that we learn how to come home and be present in that without any sort of desire or craving to distract or not.

0:57:10.0 Vanessa Crites: Right. And especially mindful people who are in recovery, because it is our nature to have an affinity for altered states of consciousness. And so even though ordeal medicine is... You don't sit with ayahuasca to have a good time. Like, you don't, you're going in and it's deep, really big work. And this is where community is so important and fellowships like Psychedelics in Recovery and the community that my course provides with personalized group coaching where, okay, let's have these conversations. How do we hold ourselves accountable to be responsible in our application? What are the lines for us? Because there are some people who are like, cannabis absolutely not. Like that's a hard line. And so part of the sober identity workshopping is what are those things that you know now already have... You have a history with that may potentially compromise you and determining there at the beginning that I'm gonna choose to not explore these.

0:58:35.2 Vanessa Crites: I'm going to... Like you said, I'm gonna only do two ceremonies a year or something like that. And really give ourselves, and I talk about this, really giving ourselves the time to integrate, to make whole, to connect the dots, everything that happened in that experience. Because one experience after another after another just compounds the teachings and makes it very, very difficult to integrate into a holistic framework and into your life. And so coming to these medicines as teachers in a respectful, reverent way and learning the skill and mastery of working with them. And people who are brand new to this work, it is dangerous to try to go it alone, which is why I created SOS. Foundationally, it's about harm reduction and personal and public safety within recovery communities. Let's create a place where you can come and learn to step out of the shadows and your Google searches and hiding your seeking for healing in this area. Because you don't want anybody to judge you or get kicked outta your group. Come and be seen and learn and be held in a space where you can learn how to and begin to apply these teachings from within a recovery framework.

1:00:20.6 Paul F. Austin: How many people are in recovery? Do you have any sense what that statistic is?

1:00:25.2 Vanessa Crites: Oh, millions.

1:00:27.4 Paul F. Austin: Millions.

1:00:28.3 Vanessa Crites: Yeah, for sure.

1:00:31.1 Paul F. Austin: Wow.

1:00:31.6 Vanessa Crites: Globally.

1:00:33.1 Paul F. Austin: And how prominent do you think psychedelics could become in the recovery community? What are just sort of what you're noticing and what your observations are like. Is it like 2% of people now are looking at it and... Or is it a little bit more relevant now in the states, and particularly in the United States where a lot of the research is and the awareness is.

1:00:55.9 Vanessa Crites: Yeah, I think it's more relevant here in the US, and I have no idea what the percentage is of people in recovery who could... Would be interested in approaching psychedelics because it is such a taboo subject. So many people are exploring this underground and they think that they're alone. They don't know anybody else who's doing this. And they're scared to talk to their sponsors or their other fellows. And I can't tell you... And this is what I'm about to share, is heartbreaking for me. First, in my 18 years of sobriety, I've been to more funerals of active sober members who took their lives by suicide than I have been to funerals of people who died in active addiction or by overdose.

1:02:03.7 Vanessa Crites: And they chose to take their lives because they were suffering from depression, anxiety, unresolved trauma. And so if we don't normalize these conversations and that there is a... That psychedelic medicines can be a potential resource and are accessible also to people in recovery, and normalize that conversation. So that what is currently happening in so many groups is that when somebody says, "Hey." And then build up an entire life in this community of support to find yourself... "I've been sober a while and there are some things that I need to work on to go a little bit deeper. And I've heard about this good work that's being done, and I'm thinking about doing this." And then they're kicked out by the people. It's not AA I wanna be clear. 'cause AA doesn't do that. These are the people in certain groups that are exiting ostracizing members where they find themselves just as isolated as they were when they walked in the door to begin with. And what a travesty that is. What an absolute disservice that is.

1:03:33.4 Vanessa Crites: And as the traditions say that our common welfare should come first, and personal recovery depends upon AA unity. If that is true, why are you sending us away? Because what I'm also called to do is seek to heal, to deepen into my spiritual path, to perfect and enlarge my spiritual life. And if psychedelics are helping me do that, who are you to say that I don't belong? Not you, Paul, but the people who are being all judgy about it. It's like, let's have an open mind, which the fellowships talk about. Open-mindedness and willingness are like the foundations to have an open mind.

1:04:31.0 Paul F. Austin: Well, thank you. Thank you for sharing from the heart. The challenges that people in recovery are facing, the ones that you just mentioned, I think that is in many ways what so many of us who have been working with psychedelics have been subject to for years and years and years. And that's why all of the progress, especially the last three, four, five years has been so phenomenal to see. 'Cause at the core of this, it really is about de-stigmatization and education. So folks really come to understand what's really going on. And that's why I wanted to bring you onto the podcast. We really haven't had anyone to talk about psychedelics in recovery, and especially with the program that you've put together, Sobriety of the Soul. For any listeners who may know someone who's in recovery, who is interested in working with psychedelics, I would highly recommend sharing Vanessa's program with them that And we'll also have a link in the show notes for you. Vanessa any other places that you think... Or resources or assets that would be helpful to point our audience to as we wrap up the conversation today?

1:06:02.2 Vanessa Crites: Well, the conversation is so new within recovery communities and from an educational perspective, the Third Wave is the place to be.

1:06:14.7 Paul F. Austin: Oh, thanks.

1:06:16.2 Vanessa Crites: When it comes to recovery go to and you can sign up for their newsletter. There are meetings, most of the meetings are virtual. There are in-person meetings sort of mushrooming up across the country. But there are meetings every single day in a virtual space where you can come and be in community with other people who are in recovery, who are also on this path. And it's so this conversation is so new. There are other resources, White Bison and The Wellbriety Movement is foundationed in Native American principles. And that may be a resource and Sobriety of the Soul. It's like, I created it because there wasn't one.

1:07:14.3 Paul F. Austin: Right.

1:07:14.3 Vanessa Crites: And I wanna say this, Paul, is that I do not advocate for psychedelics in recovery. However, for those people who are interested in making that entry, to have a place where they can come and be seen and be heard, and ask their questions and learn to see if it is something that is a right fit for them in a place that is rich with education and community. That's why I created the program. And I have a little story for you if you wanna hear.

1:07:52.3 Paul F. Austin: Sure.

1:07:52.7 Vanessa Crites: About how I came up with the name. So I had just gotten to Roanoke last year. We had messaged back and forth a little bit and I had just quit the job and I think you and I had like, just messaged back and forth earlier. And so I was thinking about you and The Third Wave and how you came up with that name and the waves of psychedelic medicine.

1:08:21.9 Vanessa Crites: And that we're in the third wave now. And that just happened to be on my mind as I was exploring names for this course. And I pulled up the article I mentioned earlier that Bill Wilson wrote to the grapevine in 1958, the next Frontier Emotional Sobriety. And it's my favorite piece of literature. And I'll even send you the link to that if you wanna put that in the show notes. 'Cause it's beautiful. It is so, so beautiful. And he'd been working with LSD for a year and a half when he wrote it. And it shows. And I was thinking, well, if, kind of in line with... And so you inspired me here kind of in line with how you named Third Wave. I was thinking that if the first frontier is sobriety from the drink and the next frontier is sobriety of our emotional natures, what's next after next? And that's Sobriety of the Soul.

1:09:34.7 Paul F. Austin: That's beautiful.

1:09:36.2 Vanessa Crites: Thanks.

1:09:37.6 Paul F. Austin: To the deepest essence of who we are. And that's psychedelics illuminate that back to what your sponsor talked about. They bring us or can bring us into the light. And the way that it helps to illuminate the soul and heal that soul sickness can be profoundly life changing. So thank you for coming on the podcast today, Vanessa. Just for everyone, if you wanna learn more about that offering. And it was really a pleasure to have you on.

1:10:18.3 Vanessa Crites: It was such a pleasure to be here. Thank you, Paul.

1:10:23.4 Paul F. Austin: Hey, listeners, Paul here. I hope you enjoyed our episode today with Vanessa Crites. If you know someone who might benefit from this conversation, please share it with them. You can also leave the psychedelic podcast a review wherever you're tuning in. This helps more people find the show. Thanks for your support and interest in the safe and responsible use of psychedelic substances, and we will see you next week.

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