Special thanks to our guest author.  It was an honour to treat you.  xo

I don’t know how long I’d been procrastinating on having my own personal experience with ibogaine. Maybe two years, maybe five. I’ve worked with a private ibogaine detox facility for several years, providing medical and addiction medicine consultation to scores of patients who went on to have the therapy to help with opiate addiction. The therapists kept encouraging me to “have a handshake” with the medicine. So why now? Perhaps because we’ve published a paper on it, perhaps after a couple of years of somewhat circuitous therapy for what turned out to be PTSD, perhaps because I finally had a week off work…

I’d been warned ahead of the therapy to stop eating solids around 2 pm, and to hydrate liberally with electrolyte-rich fluids such as coconut water and vitamin drinks. I’d also had a pre-treatment ECG to ensure that my heart’s QT interval was normal in length. A prolonged QT interval can lead to serious cardiac arrhythmia and I didn’t really want to go there. I was on no medications that might affect the heart, and I was not detoxing from any substances, so was not at risk of poor nutrition, electrolyte imbalances etc.

The rationale for limiting solid intake is that ibogaine is often associated with nausea and it’s best to have an empty stomach prior to the ceremony.

What the therapists didn’t count on, although I did warn them, is that I’m a puker. Not only that, but a super-puker. My system is exquisitely sensitive to toxins of any kind, and violently rejects them from both ends. My first recollection of this was eating some daffodils on a dare at age 7. This flower contains very toxic plant alkaloids and fortunately I brought them right back up. The experience continued as I discovered I can’t drink hard liquor, homemade wine or sherry; and predictably occurred with other plant alkaloids such as mescaline and psilocybin. I went on to develop migraines in my middle age, which were accompanied by prolonged bouts of stomach cramps and violent, intractable retching. No medication ever helped once the vomiting was established. Oh, and did I mention I vomited while I was in labour? Awesome.

Anyway, I don’t want to dwell on the emesis part of the experience. Suffice to say that the most intense part of the experience, which lasted about 5 hours, was like a combination of being so drunk that I was sick and unable to stand up, and being on mushrooms with constant intense visual hallucinations. I remember lying curled up clutching my bucket, and seeing amazing scarlet-on-black patterns of a most intricate nature, pulsing to the music…

Oh yes, the music. This is an integral part of the ceremony. It’s the music of the Bwiti religion of Gabon, from whence this sacred plant Ibogaine originates. It’s played with a special kind of harp and various percussion instruments, and is played extremely quickly I would say nearly 200 bpm. A simple pattern is set up on the harp, and the percussion instruments tap very rapidly in polyrhythmic fashion. Some of the tapping is very regular and some is random; at one point in my journey I thought someone was sitting at my bedside typing on a laptop, but I looked up and no-one was there: it was part of the music. There is also singing and chanting with various voices, mostly in French. I did hear “Frere Jacques” at one point. The whole effect is mesmerizing and all encompassing.

I found the music irritating at first, but as the medicine began to take effect, I could totally see the point of it. As the therapist explained to us, ibogaine acts like a “tuning fork”: it sets up a resonance and re-sets the vibrational level of our physical and light bodies.

The medicine is highly agitating, and the intense frenetic music organizes that agitated energy and contains it in a series of tight circles that somehow wrap themselves around the body and provide a container. I found myself just lying very quietly and surrendering to the medicine and the music, letting it enter my body, vibrations pulsing through me and re-tuning me and setting things right. I felt that I wanted to physically vibrate my body in time to the music but any movement intensified the nausea.

The intensity and variety of visual hallucinations during the “flood” was incredible. I have had experience with hallucinogens before but this was unlike no other. It was mostly about the music; the colours varied with the tune, and swirled around in time with the music. This synesthetic experience with sound and images is not new to me, as I’ve experienced it with deep meditative states as well as with cannabis.

I recall a few fragments: a rose-pink background with varicoloured numbers and letters moving across it; shapes of dancers in black and red swirling around; and one particularly exquisite vine of intense translucent green, its hanging leaves and tendrils pulsing to the music.

It occurred to me at some point that the vines might have been my dendrites resonating.

Prior to the ceremony, we are instructed to create an intention to carry with us through the experience, so that we may ask guidance from the spirit of Ibogaine on our journey. My intention was to release those habits that no longer serve me. I was thinking of tobacco, with a minor in caffeine, sugar and alcohol; but not sure about letting go of cannabis. Mainly however, my intention was to let go of my toxic emotional habits.

I found it very difficult to hold my intention during the flood part of the experience, what with the recurrent episodes of escalating abdominal pain and prolonged retching. I found the hallucinations to be a bit of a distraction as well, as one might when one is an initiate into meditation and gets hung up on some of the visual or sensory manifestations of entering an altered state. I do remember a few things however.

The first was when the medicine really hit and I began to throw up. I was sitting on the toilet hanging over the bucket and watching un-absorbed Ibogaine capsules come up. At that point, I suspected I’d had a little too much and my body just did not want to absorb any more. I was hoping that was just a one-off episode and I’d be ok after that. I remember asking “Are you done with me yet, Grandmother Ibogaine?”

I remember asking Ibogaine a few questions, such as “What is the nature of my emotional toxicity?” I got a very clear reply, “You reject people too easily”. This was not an external voice, it was not judgmental, just very matter of fact. Actually it might have been my mum’s voice.

I asked what is my worst Deadly Sin. The answer was “Pride”. I was also told that Pride is the opposite of Forgiveness.

Fortunately, after the chaos of the initial experience comes another 24 hours or so when one is clearly under the influence of Ibogaine yet not incapacitated. It is a strange state, the body is weak and exhausted yet the mind is agitated and one cannot sleep or eat. In this state the mind is still very open to dialogue with Ibogaine. The best thing to do is lie comfortably in bed, cocooned in warm blankets, sip at coconut water, close your eyes and continue the experience.

Without the distractions of music, hallucinations and vomiting, I was able to ask Ibogaine a few more things.

One thing that had intrigued me was that a therapist had expressed surprise that I perceived Ibogaine as feminine (“Grandmother Ibogaine”); apparently it is generally perceived as highly masculine in nature. I concede that I may be excessively gynocentric in my perception of deity. Yet my visual hallucinations were very heavy on plants, flowers, dancers, and lots of pinks and purples in the fractals.

In my slightly more lucid post-flood state, I was able to go back and ask and I had a very clear picture of Ibogaine as a wizened grandmother, black, so old her skin was grey, sagging skin and breasts, and a bit of a wicked sense of humour. She reminded me of Rafiki, the baboon-shaman in the Lion King, only female.

I asked this being if she was male or female and she replied, “I am neither and I am both”.

We talked more about pride and forgiveness and being more humble. We discussed which people I need to forgive and how. I experienced a sudden bout of intense sobbing when I thought about my ex-husband and how much I hurt him when I

couldn’t speak to him for months after our separation. I had flash after flash of how my false pride has destroyed relationships and cut people out of my life. In my efforts to avoid conflict, I go to extremes and end up narrowing and limiting my life.

I tried to think of my daughter and ask questions about her but somehow I couldn’t. My son kept coming to mind and a lot of guilt and regret about how I raised him.

But Ibogaine is very forgiving, she allowed my to forgive myself for all these things.

Apart from my brief vision of Grandmother Ibogaine, I don’t recall seeing any other distinct human figures, familiar or fantastic, except for some dancers were more like silhouettes. I did not have any impression of entering a different world. Also I did not see any images that were frightening to me.

Ibogaine also showed me the correlations between the Chakras and the Seven Deadly Sins. The Seven Deadly Sins occur when the Chakras are not guided by Love.

When the Crown Chakra is corrupt, there is Envy rather than Joy.

When the Third Eye Chakra is corrupt, there is Pride not Forgiveness.

When the Throat Chakra is corrupt, there is Sloth rather than alignment with Divine Will.

When the Heart Chakra is corrupt, there is Anger rather than Compassion.

When the Gut Chakra is corrupt, there is Gluttony rather than Mindful Moderation.

When the Sacral Chakra is corrupt, there is Lust rather than Sacred Union.

When the Root Chakra is corrupt, there is Greed rather than Generosity.

The other Deadly Sin, which was referred to by Plato as well as in the Old Testament, but does not form part of our modern listing, is “the sowing of discord among men”. This is something I need to be mindful of. Adopting a collaborative attitude and avoidance of triangulation and trash talking are important measures in this regard. ‘Tis better to be a compassionate generative subversive…

I pondered as well the significance of the violent purging which accompanied my experience. Someone had suggested that this occurred because I expected it to, but the truth is I had hoped I would get away without vomiting but was not surprised when it happened. At a simple level it would seem to be a typical response to a toxic plant alkaloid. But at a symbolic level, it could represent a purging of the Third Chakra, which after all is the seat of ego. I did have the intention of releasing habits that no longer serve me, and perhaps this was how my body chose to do it. I remember that at times the retching was relatively quiet, at other times I was seized by violent spasms and there were very primal and guttural noises; this may have been a way of releasing anger, guilt, frustration and shame.

I believe that Ibogaine is reminding me to do more Third Chakra work, releasing the ego and honouring the Self. Meditation, Yoga, chanting, bodywork…these are all modalities which will support and continue the healing process.

I did some chanting post-flood and found that my heart was much more open and I was able to access a deeper and more resonant tone to my voice.

As I write this, I’m still in the post-flood state. This will last another few days, and the medicine will be with me for about three months, as it has entered my fat stores and will be released slowly after time. I received 14 mg/kg for a total of nearly 1.0 gram dose.

The flood part is over and will forever be imprinted my memory as have all my other experiences with hallucinogens. But the peace and open-ness I have found will be with me for some time, I think.

I am so grateful to the wonderful people at Ibogaine House who have made this experience possible for me: therapists Trevor and Star, RN Patrick. I felt very safe and cared for. I think part of the experience was to surrender myself completely with absolute trust. And a humbling experience indeed, to be cared for by someone who has been my patient.

I have no fear, only Love.