Citation: FalconHoof. "Freedom from the Prison: An Experience with Tabernanthe iboga & Various (exp112698)". Erowid.org. Jan 23, 2019. erowid.org/exp/112698
Iboga: Freedom from the Prison of Cigarettes, Alcohol, and Addictive Tendencies
Part One: The Prison
“Freed from desire / my lover’s got no money / he’s got his strong beliefs” – Gala
If you want to go straight to trip reports, go to 2016. If you are here to kick a habit and free yourself from the prison of cigarettes, alcohol, or your own personal something else, then welcome traveller! You have found a friend. Read on.
I’ve written this so other people like me with addictive tendencies can find a tool to help them stop giving in to cravings for short-term pleasure that result in long-term discomfort. Iboga allowed me to reset those overwhelming urges. This can be a transferrable technique. I know it works with coffee (zero caffeine withdrawal headaches).
I have tried different types of therapy and techniques as well and, although helpful, they have never achieved what Iboga has done for me.
Where possible, I would always advise to go to an Iboga centre. I would like to do this more, but I never seem to get the timing right and I seem to need it most when there is not a centre nearby. So, I often practice solo. I am physically active and am at an above-average fitness level, so that part is not a worry. I believe this treatment should be available in all health services.
* * *
To justify this long text, I want to reiterate: I am writing this in the event that you might identify with these struggles and as a result might seek some help with the plant.
Booze had always been a personal scourge to me, destroying my meditation practice, my physical exercise and slowing my work down. It also led me to smoke, which makes me disappointed in myself. Compounded with the fact that I love the outdoors and try to be active, I end up beating myself up about it.
I smoked from the age of 13 to 21 and stopped for five years with the help of hypnosis therapy.
I smoked from the age of 13 to 21 and stopped for five years with the help of hypnosis therapy.
This is a clue to you that I am probably the type of person susceptible to mind over matter –– or rather, body over mind.
In 2010 I started smoking again while traveling in India, and have been going off and on tobacco over the past eight years to present day.
But drink has always been there.
* * *
There was always a desire for me to do a “something,” the thing we are working with here and what I want to tell you about most – the insatiable adrenal urge that says “I must have it.” For me, it physically manifests in my sternum; breath work and meditation rarely help in these instances, but physical activity (particularly climbing) do. However, it sometimes comes for me at times I least expect it.
I am the sort of person that, when stimulated, seeks further stimulation. I am not the sort of person that drinks if depressed, and I will drink in response to both bad and good news – any excuse to do so, really.
Addiction runs in my family, and research indicates that there is a genetic correlation to addictive tendencies. However, this is simply a reason for your behavior, not an excuse. That being said, don’t get disheartened when you see a person who can drink one glass of wine and leave the rest, whereas you and I need the bottle. If you have not stopped booze before, give it a try. It can be easy for some and the most difficult thing in the world for others. To reiterate again: one can go off things and still have the real uncomfortable desire to want. You may always want. But every morning, you must tell yourself to just make it through the day. Then get up and do it again. Rinse, repeat.
Sometimes my addictive personality manifests in non-destructive ways. For example, I can be overzealous with meditation, looking after my friends, staying in touch, the opposite sex, and climbing. My personality plays into my substance abuse. I am an on or off kind of guy, and this is just the way it is. Meditation has really helped in this regard.
I do take recreational drugs and sometimes they simply substitute alcohol in a social setting.
I was largely off alcohol from my first Iboga ceremony in 2016 until the beginning of 2018 and would have considered myself a non-drinker, but the past year has been incredibly rough and I slipped back into moderate drinking and frequent smoking. Unable to stop smoking for more than a week at a time, I knew I required the plant’s help again and thought it would be good to realign myself to where I was after that 2016 session.
That was not my first attempt to gain control over my tendencies with Iboga.
That was not my first attempt to gain control over my tendencies with Iboga.
In 2010, I decided I was going to stop using booze. After five years of trying very hard for to stop alcohol use, I heard about Iboga from a friend of mine working in a related space to addiction counselling. My alcohol use at the time was moderate and only occasionally out of control if combined with partying or other drugs. I had varied success and sometimes was able to stop drinking for up to a month. That was a great success for me then. But, I can be off alcohol but still have that burning Friday night feeling when I must have something. Iboga takes that part away and “resets” my body and mind to stop those feelings.
I will now describe the first ceremony.
Part Two: Iboga Sessions, What Went Wrong, What Went Right, and What I Would Do Different
Session 1: 1 December 2016
10 grams of root bark split between two people
A tiny amount for a flood dose, yeah I know….Yes indeed but it floored my girlfriend and I and we had major ataxia. We took it on Friday night. I smoked a pack of cigarettes prior, we drew lovely intentions on cards and threw leaves into a stream and really looked into what we wanted to work with. I can just recall sitting trying to meditate and watching a show on TV. I tried to sleep and eventually took a Valium and listened to a Sci-Fi audiobook at about 3:00 a.m.
On Saturday, we were both dying physically – crawling to the toilet and kitchen, light-headed, and a mess really.
By Sunday we started to come down. My girlfriend was very bad; she kept getting brain twitches and did utter the words you never want to hear about: “accident and emergency.” Thankfully by Monday we came round and were okay. I had planned immediate leave for a remote part of Ireland with no phone reception for almost three weeks over Christmas and New Year. It was not my first Christmas and New Year without alcohol, but it was the first time in my life I did not have to fight the actual desire to drink, that pounding sensation in my sternum like adrenaline being jacked into my body saying, “you must drink,” “you must have,” “you deserve a cigarette.” If you have not had this feeling, try to stay off something for a few weeks – it may or may not come up in you as we are all different.
It was like freedom from a prison. The overall desire to drink alcohol, or go to the pub during the week, or drink the bottles of wine about the house, left me entirely during this first session. However, cigarettes came back into my life slowly with drugs.
This lasted for six months, until May 2016. I must add this was already the toughest year of my life financially.
I crumbled at a stag do very late on in the rollover/next day party session. I took Valium and instead of going to bed I continued to party. Despite this singular instance, I was straight again until July 2017.
In June 2017, I went to a wedding and was able to avoid consuming any intoxicating substances. I had brought an iboga tincture with me just in case, and instead of dropping it on my tongue I put it up my nose (I know, this is the kind of ridiculous guy I am). This was another massive achievement for me. A high point near the summer solstice in 2017 was participating in a whole wedding with my best pals without drinking alcohol or smoking cigarettes. I did use recreational drugs during this wedding, but avoiding fags and alcohol during a wedding was an achievement for me.
Going the entire span of November to May without taking any substances at all or having a desire to do any was impressive. If you are kind enough to give me May to July, then that was eight months of sobriety with one drinking night. To myself I say, “Holy shit man, high-fucking-five motherfucker”? Well, I can high five myself.
What can I learn from this session:
A. Do the iboga with no “get out of jail free” cards, like sleeping tablets. Go through the whole night and bear it out.
B. Do not for one second think that you can go back to having one drink or one cigarette.
C. Maybe think about removing yourself from the pub and club scene if that is one of your triggers. You have to put up with all manner of twats and best pals forcing drink on you. You get less annoyed by them as the years go on.
D. I now have pieced together that Valium is a gateway drug for me to do silly things and increases my chances of smoking and drinking by a factor of ten.
E. The use of the iboga tincture was handy, but this was not necessary as it did not fit my “all or nothing” approach.
F. You really need to stop whatever it is you are stopping. The reason I stopped with such a small dose was I was ready and tenacious like a dog eating beetroot.
* * *
Session 2: December 2017 The Darkeness
12 grams of root bark
Keen to get back onto my clean lifestyle, I made plans to journey again. It was a much heavier session. It was very dark but I finished it prematurely about 4AM with audiobooks and a Valium. I went out the next day and picked mushrooms feeling like death (and one of my pals said I looked like death as well). I should have stayed at home.
This session was taxing and the first time I can say that all thoughts turned to putrid wretch and shite; generally every little thing I might be self-conscious about comes up and if I let it run away with itself it turns into very anxious things. Those questions that come up, surely you know the ones: “What am I doing with life?” “Is this my purpose?” “I don’t see my parents enough, when will they die?” This is where meditation really comes into the picture, one can let the thoughts arise and pass and one only really gets respite from this ‘thought trauma” when concentrating on the spaces in between thoughts.
Although this session was tough and that generally means healing, unfortunately I did not capitalise on it for some reason. Perhaps it was to do with the toughest emotional time of my life coming up in 2018.
Far too soon, I went to a friend’s birthday party and actually forgot I’d taken the iboga and started taking ecstasy. Thinking they were dudd pills, I kept taking more, until I got kind of high. But then I was horrified when I remembered the iboga session and of course you are meant to stay away from many things after iboga, and ecstasy is a big one. So I lay down in a dark room and freaked my biscuit thinking I had disrespected the iboga gods and surely I would now pay with a forever-impaired central nervous system. I had disrespected DMT once and the plant gods had punished me, and I was fearful of this. Of course there are no gods but only me to blame….
Anyway I came out my shell and escaped fine actually – or so I thought. The knock-on effect was that the session was not as long-lasting as 2016. Although I was definitely now a non-drinker, apart from certain remises which were Valium-related. I then went out on some club nights and I think I started to smoke again at that point.
On the plane away for Christmas and New Year’s, I made a holy show of myself and had smuggled drugs on the plane, took them in toilets, drank, and was generally a mess in my Christmas jumper and all. At this point, I realised that something was not right in myself. This was not a booze-free Christmas, but was not too bad. On New Year’s I had a kind of breakdown with booze and cigarettes and it culminated in tearfully singing the apropos song “Free from Desire.”
The year 2018 turned messy. I did some really crazy stuff, and took lots of substances, and did a lot of ketamine. I admitted myself to NA and would generally say I was a part-time smoker and drank more, but still not a lot. Ketamine played a big part, as did every other substance that was near me. I went through the most impactful series of events in my life in 2018 and hurt someone very badly. I vented this sadness on myself using it as an excuse to go wild on substances. A period of this may be okay but not for almost the entirety of the year. In addition, I had to contend with my stag do, for which I abstained from alcohol but did everything else I had to excess….Hunter himself could not keep up….
What I can learn from this session:
A. The dosage was fine, but I should not have escaped with audiobooks and sleeping tablets.
The dosage was fine, but I should not have escaped with audiobooks and sleeping tablets.
B. Always respect the plant: do not be doing drugs like Ecstasy straightaway or even putting yourself out there.
C. Iboga is not something you can just take then say, “That is me, I’m cured!”
D. You need to stay strong. Stay away from temptation and continually reaffirm yourself by remembering your progress. I would say that doing this in a daily practise is best.
E. I had some serious things going on in my life, and although the year was messy, in reality I kept going back to being sober and still had the general outlook of a non-drinker. Who knows how this year would be without the 2017 session? This year was the toughest for me on record emotionally buy great for fiscal stability.
* * *
Session 3: November 2018 OH NO NOT THE DARKNESS AGAIN.
10 grams of root bark taken in multiple doses of 2 grams each
In 2016, I did iboga after my birthday which helped me weather all the Christmas temptations and I arrived into the new year feeling awesome and, yes, a little bit “holier than thou.” Of course this did not work so well in 2017/2018 but action had to be taken.
Most of this year I was a part-time smoker, occasional drinker, and OTT general drug user. I was not able to stop cigarettes for more than two weeks at a time with willpower and meditation. I knew I had to admit defeat and bring out the iboga again, which is a decision I did not make lightly.
I ordered 10 grams of root bark from my usual supplier. This would be considered half a flood dose and pretty small compared to what one might take in a ceremony or in Africa. Once I had prepared myself by mindfully tidying the house and transitioning from work to non-work, I started. On Friday at 16:00 ingested a dose of approximately two teaspoons, which is about 2 grams. I went outside with my written intentions, which were the following:
1. No smoking
2. No drinking
3. No Valium
4. Learn why I have this addictive nature (optional extra, I don’t expect to find that one out so easily)
I imagine this is asking a lot of the plant, as I have heard you are meant to work with one thing at a time. I took these intentions and intoned them deeply in my body and mind with very strong will and conviction. I burned the physical pieces of paper and a packet of cigarettes, and threw some incense on the whole lot. I made a video diary of me talking, as I was at a very low point and wanted to catch that. I then went into the mirror and affirmed the same and asked for the plant’s help. The mirror is powerful and you should keep one with you during the ceremony. Give yourself a good hard stare and, with conviction, affirm what you are doing and dispel negative thought patterns. After meditating for about 40 minutes I took the next dose.
Friday: 16:00 to 22:00
During this period, every hour I took 2 teaspoons with water. The taste is really pretty poor and perhaps homemade capsules are a good call. However, there is another school of thought which says you should taste it and feel the plant and I certainly intoned words and affirmations as I ate the plant really hammering home my message. One can also clasp one’s throat as you eat the plant and speak into the mirror.
I started to feel the effects at about 18:00, including slight difficulty walking and a mild headache. I also got visuals as well, which are like vision catching up with you, if that makes sense. At this point I thought it would be good to dance to the Biwiti music that was playing.
During this period I did some meditation sessions. These were way longer than normal, and the entire time I intoned why I was there and continued to reaffirm my intentions.
I was determined this ceremony not to use anything to distract me such as media or sleeping tablets etc. to go to sleep when the time came. I listened to much of the traditional Biwiti music that is meant for Iboga during this period; although I was not very keen on it, I had read that it is very important. So I got into the music, as mad as it is.
I got very hungry during this period and managed the shop for some food. It was nice to go outside and I think moving was good, but I was glad to get back inside as I was starting to get “sailor legs.”
Friday/Saturday: 22:00 to 05:00
During this period, it became difficult to walk and going upstairs was without doubt dangerous. In addition the visuals in this period were several other psychedelic effects, including “ghost images” of my hand and body as I moved, which also hindered movement; a striking blue strobe lighting up the room up as I moved; general trippiness and speed trails as I moved my head and stood up; and internally dark faces and shapes forming behind my eyes with alarming detail. These are not pleasant feelings.
During this period, the real cognitive work was done. All thoughts that came up turned into rancid putrefaction, and displayed themselves in the most horrendous way. They only real escape from these thoughts was a good, solid concentration practice. The only way to get respite from these thoughts is to allow them to arise and pass and then focus on the space “in between” the thoughts. I am a very keen meditator and can tell you this is not easy task. In addition, as the plant got stronger the internal visuals I was having became stronger thus focusing on the dark space behind my eyeballs instead of thoughts began to eliminate the last place I could hide.
Following on from the written guide I had, I used my voice (and also sometimes a mirror) to dispel these repeating thoughts by assertively calling them out as, for example by saying “false” out loud or in my head, and generally dealing with them in a way that did not lead to further extraneous thoughts causing me to spiral.
I had hoped that these thoughts would just run out and were emptying from my mind. In a way, that did happen, but they just kept coming thick and fast. Soon enough my most taxing times from my past started to appear, the times I had been most ashamed of being human. No rational thinking can help here; one can only breathe the thoughts in and out and not let them manifest in the body through feelings and emotions. One has to catch them prior to this, as in the end they are all detritus but useful somehow in a purging kind of way. As my friend said before my session, “breathe” and “be nice to yourself.”
Aside from the most deep-seated past memories and feelings, my current greatest issues came to the fore, and from these I gathered great insight. The two items that bothered me the most came up every few seconds for up to ten hours
The two items that bothered me the most came up every few seconds for up to ten hours
, so I took it upon myself to sort these out as soon as I returned to the real world, having identified them as the cause for my recent relapse into my cigarettes and booze addictions. I did this with great gusto on Monday evening, to which I thank the plant. “thank you pal I love you”
I found out a plethora of other things about myself which I managed to write down and won’t bore you with, but needless to say they are rich with fruit. The main takeaway was that my addictive nature was related in some way to my behaviour as a boy to take risk, be a miscreant, petty thief, firestarter, often in trouble with the law and pushing the boundaries of authority in public and school, generally misbehaving and leaning towards drugs and having to go to court at the age of 12 for buying cannabis.
Saturday: 05:00 to 12:00 Noon
During this time I entered a sleeping/waking state which would basically have me awake with fear and sweating, self-loathing and anxiety or annoyance in regard to repeating thought patterns, mainly to do with my current hurdles in life. To the thoughts that kept repeating I said to myself, “That has to stop in real life, I am not wasting any more mental energy on that, it’s gotta go!”
The visions during this time were more of the dark “behind-the-eyes” types and some in the room as well, resembling moving shadows of the artist Hieronymus Bosch’s work, like giant, bipedal birds playing with a priest’s head. Yes, just what you want.
Saturday: 12:00 Noon to Midnight
I felt physically very weak and jaded during this period; walking was a task as was moving in general. But getting up and about was good, and I would say movement is good for this time.
During this period the trip began to wear off and I did lots of meditation. Only at this point did I allow myself to do any other distracting activities, and luckily I had prepared food already. I would call this the end of my trip, although on Sunday at 11:00 a.m. when I got up I still had visuals and was unsteady. However, afterwards Sunday became a great day and I knew I was free from the prison!
I do not have it as bad as some, but my plight gets me very down and I am not a down person. I have a rock-solid core of ethics and have strong willpower and tenacity when I apply myself. As I said, I am an “on/off” person and that carries onto things like work, meditation, relationships, and drugs.
I have told you the story of person with what one might say has more-than-minor urges to do things and I keep coming back to sobriety. There is light at the end of the tunnel and iboga, the teacher, helped me. There is surely some cosmic joke here in taking a “something” to cure a “something. But that is exactly how I seen hypnosis on my 21st birthday.
I am 4 weeks off booze and fags I attended my own birthday night out which went on until 8:00 in the morning. I’ve been surrounded by triggers, people places clubs drugs and I can tell you with my hand on my heart that I had not even a whiff of desire for a cigarette or alcohol.
Unbounded joy amigos….unbounded joy
UPDATE October 2019
I've been off cigarettes and Alcohol for a year now.
COPYRIGHTS: All reports are copyright Erowid and you agree not to download or analyze the report data without contacting Erowid Center and receiving permission first.
Experience Reports are the writings and opinions of the individual authors who submit them.
Some of the activities described are dangerous and/or illegal and none are recommended by Erowid Center.