This series on the psychedelic treatment of addiction is written by Benjamin Taub from psychedelicsforaddiction.com. Previously, part one gave an overview of the potential of psychedelics in treating addiction; part two explained how best to prepare for psychedelic therapy; and part three described the session itself and what you can expect to encounter. Here, the final part guides you through the integration that is crucial in cementing the effectiveness of psychedelic therapy.
As mentioned in part three, the ego-dissolution that typically occurs during psychedelic experiences facilitates healing by temporarily transforming inner narratives of isolation and negativity into feelings of connectedness, belonging, and self-acceptance. This is often hugely therapeutic as it enables people to let down their defence mechanisms and fearlessly confront their inner pain, resulting in a greater awareness of the blind spots within their psyche that have been driving their addictive thoughts and behaviors.
Yet this effect will not last forever, which is why it is so important to integrate and develop these insights in order to avoid slipping back into one’s previous mode of thinking and acting. Or as psychiatrist Roger Walsh puts it, integration ensures that psychedelic wisdom is upgraded “from state to trait,” becoming a permanent feature of the psyche rather than a momentary experience.
Get some breathing space
People struggling with addiction often lead chaotic lives that bring them into contact with stressful situations and toxic influences, all of which serve to activate the subconscious pain and negative mental chatter that derail their ability to make good decisions. Psychedelic therapy provides an opportunity to transform this inner narrative, but this can’t occur in an environment that continually reinforces it.
For this reason, it is highly beneficial to spend some time away from home immediately after treatment, gaining some space in which to allow new neuronal pathways to form that alter the way one relates to life. Establishing these neural connections will provide the tools that are needed to remain grounded when confronted with difficult situations after returning home.
This is best achieved by immersing oneself in nature during this hiatus from daily life. Activities like swimming in rivers, hiking through the forest or sleeping out under the stars all help to reinforce a sense of oneness with the universe, and prolong the experience of being part of something profound and permanent that transcends one’s daily struggles. As a consequence, challenging situations become easier to navigate, as they no longer generate a sense of shame, inadequacy, or isolation.
This task is made easier by the lingering serotonin regulation that occurs throughout the psychedelic afterglow period, leading to an elevation in mood and positive emotion. Yet it is essential to make the most of this opportunity by engaging in activities that generate natural endorphins, rewiring the brain and imprinting a lasting connection to a sense of value in life.
Keep the channels open
Obviously it is not possible to spend one’s whole life running from reality, and it is necessary to return to one’s home environment after a period of time. Hopefully the insights and self-awareness gained by now will provide protection against the triggers that await, creating the freedom to start implementing certain lifestyle changes.
Yet as each day brings new and unexpected challenges, it is important to remain aware of how novel events and scenarios threaten one’s recovery by triggering unconscious modes of thinking and acting. Developing self-awareness on an ongoing basis is essential in order to continue making conscious decisions without falling back into the clutches of negative mental chatter. Practices that promote mindfulness are therefore hugely beneficial as they help people remain tuned into their psychological blind spots and recognize when subconscious pain or inauthentic narratives are driving their thoughts, feelings, and actions.
Meditation, yoga, and microdosing are all excellent practices that can help to bolster self-awareness, and at least one such activity should be incorporated into a strategy for integrating the experience of psychedelic treatment for addiction.
Get a support network
Whether they like it or not, those closest to a person undergoing psychedelic treatment for addiction play an integral role in the recovery process and need to understand how their actions contribute to the final outcome. Recruiting their support or finding a community of people that are equipped to facilitate one’s growth is therefore essential. This support network may be made up of family and friends, psychedelic mentors, or a counselling group.
First and foremost, the function of this group is to encourage the person in recovery to explore and discover their true self without reigniting old narratives by passing judgment or making demands. Very often, the relatives of a person undergoing ibogaine treatment expect recovery to occur automatically once withdrawals have been removed, and are somewhat disappointed when that person requires more time to fully find his or herself and develop the awareness that is needed to start making better choices in all areas of life. These expectations can be extremely damaging as they deny a person ownership of their own recovery; as soon as that person feels pressure to recover on someone else’s terms, they become driven by the shame of not living up to expectations. When this occurs, they lose the capacity for conscious decision-making as their thoughts, feelings, and actions are now dictated by the subconscious pain associated with letting family members down and the negative self-image attached to this.
Ultimately, integration is all about learning to live in freedom from the conditioned narratives that mobilize the pain behind addictive behaviours, and any people, places, or situations that impede this are detrimental to the chances of recovery. Surrounding oneself with people who are able to comprehend and support this process is therefore essential. This may involve educating one’s friends and family about the role they play in the recovery process or contacting an experienced psychedelic counsellor who can advise on how to refine one’s immediate social environment.
To learn more about using psychedelics to bring about recovery from addiction, visit www.psychedelicsforaddiction.com.