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Reflections on an ibogaine experience

INTASH International Addict Self-Help

The following article was written in 1990, six months after I underwent treatment with ibogaine in an attempt to curtail my heroin use. I was born and raised in Amsterdam and was 26 years old at the time.

I heard about ibogaine from a friend in New York and then contacted the International Coalition for Addict Self-Help (ICASH) to request treatment for me and my boyfriend. We were the first people to be treated in Holland. My ibogaine treatment took place on October 25, 1989, in a hotel room in Amsterdam. My boyfriend had been succesfully treated the day before.

The night before my treatment I was given a small oral dose of 100 mg of ibogaine to see if I would have an allergic reaction, which I didn't have. After an hour, I had strong memories of my childhood. I was walking through the house I was raised in. This kind of memory was a new experience in the sense that I actually viewed the interior of the house at the visual height of a child at age four. While walking, I recalled all kinds of details in the house which I never expected relevant. I experienced how my parents must have seen me when I was a child.

Before the treatment I was told that, like in a movie, I would re-live certain events in my life and I would experience repressed memories. In my experience, it didn't happen in a chronological way. At ten o'clock in the morning I take 1200mg of ibogaine in capsule form with some tea on an empty stomach.

I wait for a flow of memories. Twelve hours have passed since I took my last dose of heroin, therefore I am experiencing withdrawal symptoms.

After about an hour, I start visualizing pink diamond shapes. My body feels quite heavy, but I am still able to coordinate my functioning. For about an hour I am being checked on by the person who is guiding me through the treatment. To me, his appearance now resembles a pygmy. He wants to see if I start walking wobbly, one of the symptoms that ibogaine is taking effect. I am told to walk through the room several times. This request bothers me, I don't want to be disturbed. Eventhough the ibogaine is effecting my coordination I keep walking straight lines. I want to show that through willpower, no drug has to influence you if you don't want it to. Through this experience I realise that the same goes for all the other drugs you can take. There is one eternal aspect in yourself that is unchangeably present. My conclusion was; "why take drugs to suppress this state of consciousness?" I also realized the enormous possibilities of a mind that is crystal-clear.

In the following four hours stroboscopical flashes of remembrance happen to me in visions and sounds. Sounds are particularly irritating to me because they echo back loudly in an oscillating way. There is a constant zooming in the room, as if there is a gigantic fly in the top corner of the room behind me. It makes me think of the writer Carlos Castaneda when he described the fly as a guard "between two worlds". I resent the idea of experiencing "this older world." In the meantime I have already reached it's vast planes.

I see several rolls of film unfold from my head through the room, displaying cartoons. I notice that the humor in these cartoons is mostly based on violent interaction and realise that these are the first imprints in the mind of a twentieth century child like myself.

There are sounds in the back of my head. The more I concentrate, the louder they become. There are sounds of African drums and immediately I have visions of walking through the jungle of dark Africa. I hear a neighboring village transmit a message on hollow tree-trunks and I play them a message back. It's like the rythms have always been in my head, they just needed to be relived. Totally realistically, I'm walking barefoot through the jungle and dew from the leaves drops on my skin. I'm scared of the possibility of getting attacked by wild animals or stepping on a snake. This is why the visions of Africa make me uncomfortable. For the first time in my life I am grateful to be born white in the 20th century in Northern Europe. I realise the enormous comfort and technological possibilities I am able to enjoy in my current life.

I sit on my bed and bend my hands in front of my mouth, blowing through them as if it is a large tube or pipe directed to the ground. I am producing vibrating tunes and hear wailing sounds in the back of my head, but I don't understand why. -Months after the treatment, while on a trip in India, I met a German man in Delhi, who played an Australian instrument called a "Didjeridoo." This is the first time I learned of the existence of such an instrument. It's a tube-like branch of a tree, six feet long, that is hollowed out by termites and rubbed with beeswax. The instrument is played by putting the top part against your mouth and pointing the bottom down, in order to create a vibrating, wailing sound while blowing through it.-

Two hours have passed since I have taken ibogaine. My stomach is upset. I throw up a little. I have a vision of walking through my brain, as if walking in a giant computer-like file cabinet. There are long narrow drawers with selected, collective information, to be opened on request. Somebody in the hotel turns on a radio and commercials are playing. Immediately a drawer in my brain is opened and all the jingles I have heard in my life come out as one long song. I realise the incredible amount of bullshit that is taking the place of more important information.

Four hours after taking ibogaine, I throw up twice. The person that is supposed to guide me through the treatment has fallen asleep and his snoring disturbs me. On top of that, my boyfriend keeps interrupting me in an effort to share his enthusiasm of being clean. Where the hotel had provided a quiet setting for him the previous day, activities have broken loose on this Monday. Maintenance people are washing windows, vacuum cleaning hallways and cutting trees in front of the hotel. I decide to go home to Utrecht. I leave my sleeping guide a thank you note, in which I wish him fun exploring new, freaky cultures in Africa with his friends. On the train home I see a lot of people who I experience as being "dead in the head." I feel intensely connected with black people.

At home I don't feel good. This gives me the feeling I have been cheated. I am not supposed to feel withdrawal now. Everything seems very awkward and I try to throw up. Throwing up helps me feel relief, but everything tastes and smells bitter from the ibogaine. In an attempt to get rid off ibogaine's effects, I decide to cop some smack (heroin), afterwhich I feel less anxious and more relaxed, though still trippy. Later that night the effect of the heroin finishes and I lay down on the couch and fall into a dream-like half awake state.

I see myself laying on the couch, which is followed by a vision of myself as a fetus in my mothers womb. I am actually, very rapidly, going through a rebirthing process. I feel an incredible devotional love coming from my parents. This memory enables me to accept the mistakes my parents have made in raising me. For the first time I can feel respect for my parents, which shapes our whole relationship into a more harmonious reality.

Many other dream flashes appear. The next morning I awake fully refreshed, new-born and hungry as a wolf. I give my heroin away to my roommate. My boyfriend and I start to evaluate our experiences. It is as if new things keep falling into place. It's as if all information in your brain file-cabinet is shaken out of it's drawers on to one big pile, looked at "objectively" and put back in, untwisted from emotional trauma.

It takes time to realise that we're not getting sick. There is no need to arrange money to run to the dealer anymore. That time can now be used to prepare our planned trip to India and Nepal. The following days go by in an up and down rythm. One day is incredibly energetic and active; the next one is needed to relax. We both feel very positive, joyful and enthusiastic. A withdrawal never took place -just some occasional yawning and minor chills. In a normal withdrawal you need all your motivated energy to go through being sick, which burns you out completely. This time, the motivated energy is reinforced, and together with all of the visual experiences, it puts you on the path directed towards your goal.

Initially my junkie-friends were very skeptical, until they realized that my boyfriend was selling his daily portion of 65 mg methadone every day, for weeks in a row, and he was not spending his money on smack, cocaine or alcohol, but on traveling gear. Some of them thought our enthousiasm was irritating. Others wanted to experience ibogaine too and it felt very frustrating that I couldn't give it to them.

The presence of hard drugs in my environment after the treatment was not threatening in any way. It didn't seem particularly positive or negative. It just didn't matter anymore. I did use some smack to see if I would still like it, but I didn't care for the effect anymore. It actually seemed like it reactivated the ibogaine. Up until four months after the treatment I experienced colors and light very intensely. I never experienced any negative side effects, mentally or physically after ibogaine.
I've noticed that I'm not sensitive to the influence of drugs as I used to be. I lost a great deal of interest in drugs in general, because the effect of ibogaine goes far beyond their effect, though not necessarily in a pleasant way. Ibogaine is quite an ordeal, therefore I hope I don't ever need to use it again. It is not possible for me to resume the same addictive personality, unless it would be my conscious choice. Ibogaine has given me this choice. Heroin never did. Momentarily I can use any drug without being used by them.

It is through the treatment that I don't experience events in the past as problematic anymore. I experience the present with the past as reflection. The past therefore is no longer perceived as an obstacle, but as a source of collective information. The realization of the collective consciousness is a mystical, religious experience. It confirms a unity with all living beings and old feelings of separation between "you and the outside world" disappear.

ibogaine was a mental process for me, a form of spiritual purification and a truth serum. I had to experience it's results through time. It's only now after six months that I can say I'm not addicted anymore. It takes time to admit there is no way back. Ibogaine is not the solution in itself, although it takes withdrawal away completely and gave me clues that made it possible to figure out why I got strung out in the first place. Ibogaine made it possible for me to accept life on it's own terms and access the willpower inside myself that I needed to pick up where I had left off.

After the treatment I was clean for about a year. I got retreated, but relapsed in a matter of weeks as a result of lack in after-care. In that time treatments were still very experimental. As I treated many other addicts, I realised that in order to stay clean, most people need some kind of therapy. Besides a quick and effective detox, ibogaine can offer a lot of information to the underlying reasons for becoming a junkie, which can be helpful in working with a therapist. I eventually quit my addiction the "old-fashioned way," with the use of some methadone and pills. After my first treatment with ibogaine I was so impressed that I started treating other addicts. Together with Nico Adriaans and Josien Harms I set up an addict self help group and we treated many people. We learned how important it is to provide treatments in the presence of ibogaine experienced ex-addicts and to provide aftercare.

Today we are called INTASH (International Addict Self-Help) and work to establish world-wide ibogaine treatments.


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