This series will explore my first-time experiences with mind-expanding substances or as the Federal government likes to call them “drugs”. For most drugs the first time is like sex, whether it’s really good or really bad you will never, ever forget it.
I’m an anxious/depressed person naturally so I took to drugs pretty easily. Experimenting with things that calmed my nerves or allowed me to feel happy for a while was a godsend. These substances won’t solve your problems, just delay them for a while, but when you’re immature and ignorant of how to deal with mental health issues in a healthy way they help get you through the rougher patches life throws at you. Seeing the world from a different perspective is important, and since traveling is expensive, drugs are a cheap alternative.
Which brings me to the first and only time I have taken LSD. It was an unexpected trainwreck of an experience.
The trip from hell
I was attending college at the prestigious George Mason University, best known for reaching the men’s final four in 2005, spring semester had just begun and life was good. I lived in a 5 bedroom house with 4 of my best friends and was in the middle of my college career which meant a lot of partying and a little responsibility. I was over at the Potomac apartments hanging out with a girl I had just met. I left around 10 PM to participate in the nightly ritual of sitting on the deck and smoking blunts.
I remember listening to Jim Rome’s AM radio show on the way home in my ’03 Mazda 626. My CD player was broken, well, not broken but Nas’ Hip Hop is Dead was stuck in the CD player and I had listened to it so much that every time I heard it, it made me want to crash my car. It was a perfect night, about 65 degrees with clear skies and no wind, a rarity in Virginia. And I was feeling clear-headed and happy, I was worry free, or so I thought.
I arrived home and hung out with my roommates/friends on the back deck that overlooked our broken recessed hot tub that didn’t work once the entire time we lived there and a yard full of leaves and high grass that we all refused to maintain. As I surveyed the testament to our collective laziness, we smoked several cigars filled with the devil’s lettuce. Fitting.
There was an air of excitement because they had just picked up two Natural Light kegs for a party we were hosting the following night. I made it my mission to sleep in order to be mentally and physically prepared. The roommates felt the same way, one went to bed, two of them went downstairs to watch “28 Days Later”. I retired to my room, drank a massive passionfruit vitamin water that I had bought earlier that day, turned on the TV, and fell asleep to G4TV’s “Attack of the Show”. Remember the video game network? God damn I’m old.
Unbeknownst to me, there was a girl who really, really hated me in high school that had been hanging out at our house earlier with one my roommates. I won’t get into what happened to make her hate me, but let’s just say her hatred was mostly justified.
Also unbeknownst to me, she had put a Grateful Dead amount of acid in the vitamin water I had just chugged. Giving people free drugs usually isn’t a punishment, but in this case, it absolutely was. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.
I was asleep for about 2 hours until I am JOLTED awake. It felt like I had taken 6 Adderall before I went to bed. The first thing I noticed was my entire room was purple. Really purple. Along with a lot of constantly shifting geometric shapes all over my walls. I knew something was amiss because these things weren’t there when I went to sleep. I look at the TV and by sheer coincidence, the video game channel was reviewing Geometry Wars.
This was the first thing I saw. It was slightly overwhelming
I was mesmerized. I stared at the TV without blinking, the sensory overload consumed me. Then the hosts of the show reappeared and their faces immediately started melting onto my floor. I realized that either the weed I had smoked was not only time-delayed but irresponsibly strong or I was having a stroke. I decided to get up and walk around to see if this was a bad dream.
I go downstairs to talk to my roommates and immediately forgot what I was doing so I walked back up. I repeat this process about 30 times before my roommates come out of their room and rightly ask me, “what are you doing?” I don’t have an answer, I stare at them with pupils the size of dimes and tell them I don’t feel very good, that I think I’m dying. They convinced me to watch 28 Days Later to calm my nerves. I don’t know if you’ve seen 28 Days Later but it is not something you want to watch while on acid. The movie made my situation much worse so my roommates decided the best course of action was to smoke cigarettes in an attempt to calm down.
I start chain smoking as the world is going fucking bonkers. I can’t focus on a single thought for more than 1 second and they’re all overwhelmingly negative. Keep in mind I had done psychedelics 1 time at this point in my life. More accurately 0.5 times, I took a tiny bit of shrooms and saw a few tracers and what not, it was a minor step up from weed. This blasted my mind into outer space to a degree I didn’t know was possible. I was losing grip on reality, on who I was, on what the world was as the LSD took my brain pathways and twisted them up into a tangled knot.
I was positive I hadn’t taken any drugs because taking acid for the first time isn’t something you do absentmindedly. My roommates, who didn’t see the girl poison my vitamin water, are swearing up and down that they didn’t give me anything. OK, fine, then I’m definitely having a stroke. I demanded that my friend drive me to the hospital because my brain is bleeding and I’m dying. Everybody started to protest but I began screaming at the top of my lungs which immediately silenced their objections.
I fought as hard as I could against the trip instead of letting it take hold which I understand now is the absolute worst thing you can do. It opened up a Pandora’s box of issues that I had been suppressing for quite some time. Terrible memories, regrets, paranoid thoughts, and brutal self-assessments were ricocheting around my mind at terrifying speed. The more I tried to regain control the worse it got.
Despite popular belief, hospitals are not fun on acid
On the way to the emergency care center, the visuals ramped up significantly. I tried to jump out of the car multiple times. The enclosed space was giving me horrific anxiety and the negative thoughts started to close in. I knew if I jumped out of the car door I would be able to fly away since we were definitely flying a spaceship.
The car ride from my POV
My friend had to physically restrain me from opening the door. My only objective was to get out of the car because I thought if I got outside the nightmare would stop. Thankfully, I didn’t jump out of the car but I was yelling insane things the entire way to the hospital. If you gave a ride to a homeless man on a 3-day meth binge it’d be what my friend experienced.
The scenery outside my window was overwhelming to look at. The entire world was changing colors and waving back and forth in slow motion, everything felt surreal. Was I alive? Had the stroke finally killed me?
We get to Emergency Care and I try explaining my situation to the no-nonsense black nurse who looked like Viola Davis. It did not go well.
Me: I have no idea what’s going on and everything is confusing and the wrong colors and moving.
Her: *rolls eyes* did you do any drugs tonight?
Me: Just smoked a little weed but this is not that
Her: MMMHMMM Now its all in ya system and you freaking out?
Me: Listen, LADY, I know what weed is like. This is not…weed wait what were we talking about?
Her: *rolling her eyes so hard I thought they might disappear* ain’t nothing we can do about it. You gotta wait till it’s gone. If you wanna stay here and waste ya damn time fill out this form.
Me: Where are we right now?
Filling out the form was fucking impossible. It looked like hieroglyphics. While I was scribbling nonsense I noticed that there was a magazine called YACHTING MONTHLY on the coffee table. I had so many questions. What yacht owner is visiting this budget ass emergency care center? Who reads this magazine? Me and my sober(ish) friend who drove me there laughed until we couldn’t breathe. It was a brief respite from the relentless hallucinations and horrific thoughts. The black nurse was visibly annoyed as she sucked air through her teeth and muttered under her breath.
Since I thought I was dying I decided I should let my parents know. In retrospect, calling your parents and saying “I’m dying at Emergency Care” wasn’t the right approach but what can you do. My friend grabbed the phone and explained the situation in more rational terms. They rushed over and their mix of concern and disappointment ramped up my anxiety to levels I had never experienced before or since. The constant barrage of negative feelings became too intense, I just started bawling. The emergency care center gave me a Xanax because what else can they do at this point? As I laid in the hospital bed with my parents hovering above me, tripping balls, ready to die.
My parents drive me home and stop at Starbucks since it’s 4 in the morning even though the sun is out and also bright blue. I remember asking for tea even though I had never ordered tea in my life. As I sat in the car, trying to comprehend why world looked like The Beatles Yellow Submarine movie, my Mom tried to start a conversation to break the indescribably awkward silence. I can’t remember the words that were said because I have repressed the memory so deep it’s impossible to access. I will say it was just as uncomfortable as you’re imagining right now. My dad gave me a boiling hot cup of tea which I drank immediately and burned the shit out of my lips and tongue. It was not my day.
We get back to my parents’ house and they go to sleep but I obviously can’t because there’s enough acid in my system for half of a Phish concert to have fun. I spend 3 hours staring at their granite countertop because it looked like it was a big pool and I could move the tiny little black flecks with my hand. Another bright spot in an otherwise dark abyss of a trip.
The most beautiful thing I had ever seen
I “slept” for maybe 2 hours from 5 AM – 7 AM. When I woke up I was still tripping and while it was somewhat less intense I definitely wasn’t in a place to live in the real world yet. My dad drove me back to my house and was genuinely concerned. I was pale white, deep bags under the eyes, my pupils were dilated as hell, and I couldn’t stop shaking. He was beyond understanding. I’m not sure if he thought I was lying about the drugs or really thought I had no idea what I took, either way he didn’t care. He was glad I was alive and that’s all that mattered.
About 4-5 hours after I get home there’s a full-blown frat party at my house which was the opposite of what I needed. I can’t think of any worse place to be recovering from an unexpected acid trip than a frat party. I locked myself in my room and sat low in my computer chair staring at the floor. My mind was a blank slate, I had no thoughts left. I went to get water once and had to wade through a mob of drunk people all asking me questions. I heard their mouths making noise but couldn’t process any of what they were saying. I just fake laughed and nodded, praying to God nobody would corner me.
A good but estranged friend of mine called me a few months later and told me what really happened. She was friends with the bag of shit that dosed me. It definitely eased my PTSD because I knew it wouldn’t happen again (unless I took it myself) but a lot of the damage was irreversible. I’m now terrified of psychedelics and have mostly stayed far away from them despite their benefits. It also affected me for months afterward not being able to sleep properly because I was in fear of it happening again.
In retrospect, I’m somewhat grateful for the experience. It was a complete nightmare but it forced me to confront my fears. At the time, I was terrified of life. I on the cusp of graduating from college but no closer to knowing what I wanted to do with my life than when I started. I had been putting all these problems on the backburner in favor of extending the party as long as possible. Without this wake-up call, I would have been gotten even more irresponsible. I felt like Alex from A Clockwork Orange, staring into my soul without any filter.
I was now acutely aware of everything I was avoiding, I freaked out because I wasn’t prepared to face it all at once. Especially without warning.
The experience opened my mind to the idea that I need to confront these things, not let them fester and start oozing out into my daily life in the form of unnecessary anger or jealousy. I needed to release the pressure by finding an outlet for my thoughts. My soul was naked and raw, ready to start fresh and leave all of the things I didn’t need behind. It was a humbling experience that I didn’t know I needed. It made me a more compassionate, understanding human being. I wish the journey had been more enjoyable, but I arrived at the same epiphany.
The main lesson I learned? Don’t piss off a woman with access to gallons of hallucinogens.