Citation: Barley. "Existential Horror: An Experience with 5-MeO-DMT (exp19319)". Erowid.org. Dec 2, 2002. erowid.org/exp/19319
||(powder / crystals)
I am a 41-year-old, 185 lb. male. Though I have once taken about 20mg of 5-meo-dmt by insufflation, the psychoactive results were negligible, so I consider the following to be an account of my first true encounter with this substance.
With the aid of my sitter (call him “John”), I held the glass pipe to my lips and drew a very long, slow drag until I could hold no more. I saw a wisp of alarmingly white smoke rise from the pipe before it was blown away by the large white cloud I exhaled.
Just as John secured the pipe out of my hands, I felt the onset. I let go of the pipe, let myself fall back into John’s inordinately comfortable couch, and then, all within a matter of a few seconds, was launched into the peak experience of the trip.
Words now fail, of course, as (to a lesser extent) does my memory of these four-day-old events.
I know that I felt a tremendous surge of energy through my entire body—at first from my heart (or was it my brain) exploding out through my extremities, then imploding back—electric-chair power, it now seems. Yet, as I imploded back, it was as though I dis-integrated, got shuffled and then lost all concept of my physical body and the physical world surrounding it. Again, this is all within the first moments.
There was tremendous sound, that of a tornado or jet engine. The visuals were very jumbled, a swirling, cracked-mirror geometry with black and white and yellow and some red (the flag of Maryland in a washing machine?)—seeming to move, to radiate very fast, yet hardly to change -— mild, as hallucinatory images go.
That which was not mild in any way was the emotional-mental-spiritual effect. My entire being —- my soul, I suppose -— began to scream in anguish, in terror, in horror. This, surely, was the worst place in the universe for a human soul to be. I can’t say why or how or what this was; it doesn’t translate to our consensus reality. I just know that it took me utterly and horribly. I wanted to get out of there with every fiber of my being.
After what was maybe two or three minutes of this, I came to believe that I was, in fact, in hell: Hell, the real place -— no red demons with pitchforks, no fire, no frozen lakes -— just pure, non-stop, overwhelming, spiritual torment. And it seemed to be eternal. I believed, not in the way we think normally or have a notion, but rather as an indisputable, immutable truth in the core of my small, small self, that I had made some huge mistake in my life (what?!) or bartered away my soul (these painful insights peering through the non-stop rage of the whole thing).
Then the first real-world image came through: John’s face, his eyeglasses oddly askew. He had procured and prepared the powder for me, therefore, I knew at the time, he was the devil. No . . . he was The Devil. ‘The Devil exists, and he is John. He tricked me into doing this, and now I am paying with my soul, damned to everlasting, existential torment.’
If not the Devil, then maybe some sort of vampire. I was suddenly, vaguely conscious of my body again, that I was lying back on the couch with my neck very exposed. I was beginning to come back, to come down, to leave Hell.
To a slow syncopation, the rage subsided. I still was frequently overcome by waves of terror, but the spaces in between were familiar and quiet and dark, each one blessedly longer than the last.
I noticed that my mouth was open and very dry, my throat sore. I couldn’t muster the strength —- or the know-how, for that matter -— to reach for or ask for my glass of water. This predicament got me to think about my hands and fingers, my feet (cold). I was not comfortable with my body position on the couch, but couldn’t yet move.
My heart was pounding, as was my forehead. I was inhaling vast, deep breaths, then pushing the air out with all the force I could muster -— as if I were pushing out the drug, the devil, the experience -— anything that could be pushed out.
After a few minutes I knew that I could move my left hand. Its first chore was to rub (deeply, slowly) my clenched and throbbing forehead.
The terror continued to pass. My ego came roaring back and tried to strategize its way back to ascendancy: encouraging me to lighten up (‘Hello Bedford Falls! . . . Hello, you old building and loan!’) or to analyze (‘ . . . and as to intensity, I figure that 5-meo-dmt is to LSD as LSD is to cannabis . . .’) or to become self-conscious, worrying me about what the appropriate first words to John might be, wondering what he saw.
I was exhausted as I began to feel familiar physiological crutches clicking themselves back into place, the crutches of Dalí never having made as much sense before. I bent one knee, then the other, getting my feet flat on the floor for a time, then letting them slide.
I remained frightened. I pleaded with ______ (the universe?) that I might never have to experience that again. I felt mild, occasional tremors run down an arm or leg or side and the very slightest nausea (I had fasted for eight hours prior).
John had told me before we began that he wouldn’t say anything to me until I spoke to him. Perhaps I indulged this; I felt as though I wanted to sleep. Then John’s phone rang.
John raced to turn down the answering machine, and I mustered a chuckle.
“You all right?” he ventured.
“Yeah,” I breathed. And after a moment, “That was hell.”
“You know it’s been an hour.”
I thought it had been somewhat shorter, maybe forty minutes. He told me that I must metabolize tryptamines such as this at about half the normal rate, that most folks would have been up and conversable within a half-hour.
“Your throat must be sore,” he said as he left to dig up a lozenge (mentho-lyptus). I also accepted his offer for a cup of chamomile tea, which soon appeared in a mug featuring a Mary Engelbreit illustration and the words “Snap out of it!”
John re-joined me on the couch, and I asked him if I had said or done anything in this world during my trip to that one. He smiled and explained to me that I had screamed -— at the top of my lungs, from the bottom of my guts, non-stop -— for about six minutes (mostly “NO” and “FUCK” and occasionally “PLEASE” among the wordless screaming). He continued that I was among the one-in-six who physically move during this experience and that my movement consisted of rocking forward and back, slapping both hands back and forth from the tops of my thighs to my forehead.
I noticed that all other furniture, all breakables, anything with a hard edge was now on the far side of a six-foot radius around me. He hadn’t interrupted nor attempted to restrain me at the time, he said, because I didn’t seem to be hurting myself, which was true.
He told me that he had been about four or five minutes away from calling 911 when I sat up, looked him straight in the face and screamed with the intention of every shard of my existence that he was the Devil and that he should get fucked -- shortly afterwards sinking silently back into the couch. After a while he had seen my left hand move and knew that I would be all right.
He went on to explain that he was not, in fact, the Devil, though he had been called the Anti-Christ by someone several years ago under somewhat similar circumstances.
We reasoned together about the circumstances that may have brought about such a dark episode when an experience of absolute bliss followed by joyous weeping more typically follows this powder’s ingestion. John gently cautioned me off the seductive tracks of fate and design.
Feeling about 90% back to base level, I found that I could stand and that standing felt good and that, two mugs of chamomile and a glass of water later, it was also good that I could make my way to his bathroom.
I told John that I hadn’t yet been able to decide whether or not to thank him, but that I did appreciate his vigilance. I wasn’t yet entirely convinced of his earthly mortality. I got in my car and drove home, avoiding freeways by driving right through the center of town, which, to my delight, had just been festooned with lights for the winter holidays.
Arriving home, my wife smiled at me and said, offhandedly, “So . . . you shattered?” Seeing and hearing from me that I had, in fact, been through hell, she enveloped me with her matchless love and warmth and support (if not, entirely, understanding). She made me another cup of herbal tea and a slice of peanut-butter toast, and we went to bed.
With my heart and forehead still pounding, with my palpable fear that, should I give over my consciousness to dreaming, I might revisit the terror, and with my bladder in need of frequent emptying of all the tea, I didn’t sleep until about 4:30 AM.
November 23rd and on
I was only able to sleep for about three hours. I woke up shaky, cautious, beat-up.
Throughout the day, which included a two-hour business meeting, I experienced intensified colors and contrasts and the occasional wave of terror. These would start in my gut or groin, roll up into my head, and, I found, were best released with a quiet but open scream. I never knew my jaw could open that wide. I became frightened that these waves might accompany me for the rest of my days —- and frightened of eternal damnation (a new fear to me).
In the late afternoon, I smoked some cannabis, which proved to be a great blessing. Most of my fear left. I relaxed. I took great joy in the simple acts of walking the dog and preparing food. Finally, at about 24 hours after take-off, I felt to be at 100% baseline consciousness.
I was asleep by midnight and racked up a good nine or ten hours. I awoke the next day feeling fantastic: bright and cheerful, happy and thankful to be alive, to have this human body and this life on this beautiful planet —- meek in my knowledge of the limitations of human consciousness.
I’ll continue to wrestle with the ontology of the whole thing for some time, I suspect, and try not to think too much about my new fear. I look forward to a particularly rich Thanksgiving.
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