I have read many blog posts that have carried a warning, meaning that one should read only with the understanding that there would be material that might be a trigger if they have suffered some form of sexual trauma. This will be the first time I have done so, but I believe it is necessary.
I started this blog so that I would have a place to process what has and continues to happen in my life. In 2012, I stumbled into a world where shamans practice, and in doing so was thrust in front of a deeply buried memory of being sexually abused as a young boy. When first I was re-introduced to this memory during an ayahuasca ceremony, I felt like I had been handed a key to unlock the mysteries of my life. As I left that next morning, I thought that I knew it all for the first time in my life.
Alas, it was not “all”, not even close. I knew that my childhood was not very special, that I had lived in fear always. But as I continued to take part in ayahuasca ceremonies, I began to have glimpses into just how tough that childhood was. It was hard to understand how I could have not remembered, so I spent a great deal of time reading accounts about repressed memories, some supporting such a syndrome, and others denying it. I researched ayahuasca extensively, taking in many, many accounts of people who had drastically improved lives after spending time ‘behind the curtain” (my phrase), people dealing with all forms of trauma. I became aware of the term “plant medicines” and the extensive shamanic practices around the world using same. I was in a whole new world.
Something kept driving me to take part. I coined the phrase “there is a locomotive at my back” to try and describe why I kept on. It seemed as if I was driven to continue, to learn, to decipher, to understand not only my own life, but the larger world as it appeared when taking part. I had been trying to make sense of my world all of my life, and sense had escaped me until I started down this path.
That first glimpse into a nasty event that happened in the neighbour’s barn had some relevance to a “knowing” that I had all of my life. As a child and later as a young adult, I knew that something bad had happened in that barn. I had an image in my head of a young, blond haired boy laying belly-down on the floor of a barn, his face turned sideways, eyes closed, head resting in a bed of yellow straw, very still. I had a view from above, presumably from the overhead beams in this very large barn, and I can remember that I was deeply afraid of getting into trouble. This young boy on the floor was hurt, possibly badly, and I knew that it was my fault. Maybe I had caused him to fall. I was going to be in trouble, again. So very many times in my life, I had wanted to ask my parents what had happened in that barn, but I was afraid to do so. I knew that asking would not end well for me, and that these people had never been fans of the truth in any regard. I was left alone with this haunting. Until ceremony.
The shamanic image was not a replay of this: it was much more cryptic. However, it was close enough that I was immediately reconnected to that childhood fear. And as I lay awake on a couch at 3am, I became warm all over as I realized that I had been, all of my life, living in fear of that happening again; now I knew that this wasn’t so, and I felt safe. Maybe for the very first time.
As I continued through the many ceremonies to follow, I became reconnected to other traumas, quite a few of them sexual. I had an uncle and a cousin that took advantage of me as a very young boy, but it took quite some time for me to decipher what was real, what was a fear and what wasn’t mine at all (that can happen). Remembrances of barns, dark basements, locked bedroom doors, spinning walls and ceilings, pubic hair, threats, grunts, and meagre gifts like ice cream cones and a dog.
As time passed, I was given many missing pieces that helped me to understand my life. Basically, I was a sort of escape artist, running out the back door just as the demons broke down the front door, threatening to show me their ugly faces. As they attempted to resurface, there would be a return to some heavy drinking. Gathering in the praise and potential affections of other women were also distractions that kept my feet moving and my eyes focused outwards. And I became very good at my work, as it allowed me to focus on things that weren’t me. I was successful largely because I was so damn afraid of failing. I must have been very afraid, I was that good.
It was some time before I realized that Madre (spanish for mother, and the affectionate name of the spirit) was drawing me in, showing me the least-nasty memories before she would take me to the tougher ones. But she never returned to the barn, she wouldn’t show me how old I was, who was responsible, anything. Except once, about 35 ceremonies in. I was given the briefest of glimpses that it was a violent act, that I had been set upon by more than one man. I rejected the invitation to look further, I remember shaking my head as if to say, no, no that can’t be. The next day, I shrugged it off thinking that this was getting out of hand. Not mine. Not mine.
For those that have not taken part in an ayahuasca ceremony, let me tell you that it can be very intimidating. Extremely so. And even though I say that there felt to be a locomotive at my back, I still dug in my heals. I could rarely surrender, be a witness only. Shaking off the idea that the barn event was violent was one of those times where my heals were 2’ deep, but I didn’t realize that at the time. I thought I was being brave.
Looking back, it seems as if rejecting Madre started a sort of decline in the relationship. Many times I would leave the next day feeling as if it wasn’t a fruitful evening. I was heavy and even nauseous for days after. I reduced the pace late in 2014, and have only taken part once this calendar year.
I met a woman through these activities, smart and beautiful and brave and inquisitive. In early 2014, she asked me to take part in a ceremony using MDMA. I had never even considered such a thing before, but I trusted her so completely and agreed. This was the first of only 2 occasions, and they rank as the most beautiful experiences in my life. Many of you might know what I mean, and even be smiling as you read these words. For a 61 year old man, there had been nothing like it before. I realized later that this was valuable largely because she insisted that we have an intention for taking part. I had learned through ayahuasca that an intention was the guiding track for the subsequent experience: it is everything. I look back now and see how even though MDMA is not a plant medicine, the experience is guided by the reason for being there. Don’t go in with a blank stare on your face.
This year in 2015, I have taken part in 2 more evenings with MDMA. The first was with a very good friend, and given his life experiences and our many, many discussions, I believed it would be an uplifting experience. In hindsight, I think it was good for him. I hope so.
It was becoming clear to me that I wanted to have a solo experience, and the intention that was forming was to have “loving compassion” for myself. I contemplated this for over a week before I came to believe that is was a good choice. So, about a week ago, I rented a room in a local hotel (I wanted to ensure complete privacy) and set about my evening. I did not want to complicate it with music or anything but just myself (ah, my dog was with me). So about 6:30, with intention intact, I ingested the first half of the evening’s “medicine”. Things progressed as expected, with a familiar warm glow, sense of well-being and safety. I even had the laptop open and made some notes about thoughts that passed through, timeframes, and new sensations. Strangely, the effects started wearing off in just under 2 hours. I sat with that for about 30 minutes and then decided that it was safe to take the second half of the medicine.
The warm glow rose again, I made some more notes. One of those notes, the last one actually, was that I believed that the ringing in my right ear was not a physical thing but a mask so that I couldn’t hear something I was resisting. After that note, I remember closing the laptop, thinking that I should just sit with the experience.
The next time that I had any awareness, I was standing in the middle of a large, 7′ wide door opening (the doors removed) with wood trim around. This opening separated the bedroom from the living room area of the room. My hands were grasping the trim above the opening with such force that I am surprised I didn’t rip it off. They were clenched and I was grunting, groaning, shuddering, twisting, writhing, still on my feet though, looking up at the ceiling stretching the front of my neck. My arms and wrists were distended, there was so much force involved. And the sounds coming out of me were guttural, tribal, primal, whatever words can be used to describe what later became apparent as the soundtrack of a rape ….. of me. My hands had been tied up to one of the beams in the barn.
I knew then, even as I could not stop, that I was re-living the most awful experience I could imagine. Even as it was happening, I knew it to be a good thing, but god what sounds. Absolutely every exhale was a grunt of some kind. And it went on and on and on and on.
I cannot say when, but there seemed to be some levelling off of the medicine, and I new, or thought I knew, that I wanted to carry on so I could see the faces of those responsible. But I also knew that 3 pills were too much, especially alone. So in some semi-lucid state, I went through a list of names of people I could trust and called a friend to come be with me. When he came, I was planning on taking the third pill. What I had forgotten was that he too had been abused as a boy. But he came and sat with me. He watched as I continued to writhe and grunt and groan, even though it was slowing in intensity. We talked about things, mostly things I cannot remember now. But he is very smart and observant. I feel so sorry for him, that I put him through it. He left, I think about 2:30am, and I gradually found my way to bed, but not with any kind of rest. And I was so cold, I could not get warm. I bathed in the morning and then got out of the room.
In the days that followed, I couldn’t exhale without emitting a rather primal sound. As I was showering at my daughter’s, I had a much smaller repeat of the same episode, where the growling came out of me. My god.
I went to see my counsellor pretty quickly, one I trust and know is capable of meeting me with the necessary force I was going to need. She used the word “flashback”, something I never even thought of. My body was giving up some of it’s ghosts. She helped me to tap into the anger, the fear and the pain that was built up in me, that I could now acknowledge. But in the days since, I am realizing just how much more work I have to do. I had fooled myself to thinking that I was “better”, whatever that means.
I had rented that motel room with the express intention of showing myself some loving-kindness. I didn’t have my guard up, because I was there to take care of myself. And in this open state, spirit allowed my body to release what it has known and carried for 50 years. That boy, laying face down on the straw, was me…. after the event, after my hands were cut loose.
I am unsure what form it will take, but my life is unfolding as a “healing” and I will continue. I am very safe, and stronger than I ever believed possible. Sharing such a story here or anywhere is surprising, but as a very good friend reminded me, “authenticity” is a core principal of mine. Speaking and sharing have emerged as important.
God knows, silence hasn’t worked out so well.