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Erowid Families and Psychoactives Interview Series
Dialog with Gwen & Charles
Interview by Erowid
The following interview was conducted with a couple who chaperoned their friend's 15-year-old son for his first mushroom and ecstasy experiences in the Summer of 2001. Erowid interviewed them in Spring 2002.



Erowid: Was it the teen's mother who asked you to facilitate her son's first psychedelic experience? How did this come about?

Gwen: I've known his mother for eight years, she's a good friend of mine from the East Coast. When I lived on the East Coast, I was fortunate enough to have a completely trustworthy source of psilocybin mushrooms. I'd buy - or barter - them from my friend. I used them to turn on women friends who I thought would benefit from mushrooms. I was trying to communicate to them the idea of using them as an ally, as a way of visioning in a ritual fashion.

His mother is a health care provider. She found the mushroom ritual was very beneficial for her. So she trusted me and my partner to guide her son. She trusted us to provide an appropriate set and setting, and to make sure he ate non-adulterated substances, and to provide emotional and physical support. He flew from the East Coast and stayed with us for a week before we brought him to Burning Man.

Erowid: Could you tell me a little background about the family?

Gwen: He is the only boy in a family of four children, and estranged from his biological father, who assaulted him, and against whom there is a restraining order. He has a contentious relationship with his mother. His real champion/protector was his grandfather, a doctor, who died at Thanksgiving before the summer in question. So he didn't have a lot of positive adult input in his life, he was barely making it through school. He does go to a progressive school that supported his going to Burning Man as an educational experience.

Every time I go back east, I stay with his family. It was my idea. She [his mother] was telling me how difficult things had become with her son, how he really needed to see some positive adult role models… to know there were adults who cared about him. He'd gone into despair after the death of his grandfather. I'd suggested he go to Burning Man. He's an artist, he writes rap lyrics and songs. What a prefect thing, to go and be surrounded by artists, which his teachers agreed with. His mother has very little money; she couldn't afford to really give him a summertime adventure, which he really needed to have. He needed to get away from his household. There's not a lot of masculine energy around him there like there is at Burning Man.

Erowid: What was his relationship to cannabis?

Gwen: She [his mother] knew he had been smoking pot for a few years. She had no problem telling me that. He wanted to grow in their house, because he didn't want to get ripped off at school any more. But she didn't want him to, so that had become a point of contention. They had a good enough dialog about drugs for her to know that he hadn't tried psychedelics, but wanted to. She wanted his first time to have some ritual aspect to it.

She trusted him. He's a levelheaded kid. She trusted him not to do something foolish. He had more maturity than kids his age about other topics, like sex. Our main concern was that he not buy drugs from people he didn't know. We gave him cannabis once he was here.

Erowid: Was there any kind of preparation by his mother for this experience?

Gwen: She sent him with a written letter giving me power of attorney. It basically said, "if there's a medical situation, I give my friend the right to make medical decisions on my behalf." It kind of surprised me.

Erowid: And did you talk to him beforehand?

Gwen: The topic of drugs didn't come up until we were there [at Burning Man, in the desert]. He brought up that he was interested in trying drugs. We asked him to not do any drugs without our consent, and he honored our agreement. We prepared him for how intense the conditions would be at Burning Man. He listened when we said how important it was to stay hydrated, and to protect himself from the elements.

Charles: We told him we wanted to make sure he'd get drugs from trusted sources. We went through the drill about what would happen if we got stopped in the car on the way there.

Gwen: We were honest with him about what we were carrying [in the car in the way to Burning Man]. There was no scarcity thinking. Which is different than what he knows in high school. The first thing he wanted to try was mushrooms. That's the first thing he asked about.

Charles: We managed to convince him the first time he should not mix drugs, so that he could discern the effects of each one.

Gwen: We made it clear he shouldn't drink [alcohol] or smoke [cannabis] that day. His mom is most concerned about drinking. To prepare, we explained how he shouldn't have other substances, because otherwise he would be cheating himself.

Maybe on the third day, after we'd gotten acclimated and built our camp, we had a mushroom tea party. We thought it would be a comforting benign medium. Fortunately, there was another boy his age who he quickly became friends with. We know the other boy and his parents. The other boy had an agreement with his father that he would wait to do psychedelics until he could share his first time with his father, so they could do them together.

He turned out to be a perfect companion a "control normal." He knew how to deal with the extreme conditions of the desert, because he had been coming to Burning Man practically his whole life. He was a perfect peer guide, I guess you would call him. It made us feel much better that he was around.

After our tea party, we lay around waiting for it [the tea] to come on. I don't really remember what time we dosed. I remember it was light when we drank the tea. It was a little cooler. He had eaten that day. We made sure he was well hydrated.

I think before our mushroom trip I had a discussion with him about spirit beings. I tried to explain to him he might get the feeling he was being visited by some form of spirit being. I don't think I used the word "entity." I tried to tell him some types of beings were not physical, and if this happened to him, it was no big deal. He should assume whatever he encountered meant him no harm, and that perhaps he might have something to learn from them. I tried to prepare him for a visitation, in as simple a way as I could. I told him to breathe - if he should have a difficult time at some point, he should stop and sit or rest, and breathe, and stay with his buddy. We told him we'd be in camp if he needed us. He checked in a couple of times [during the trip]. A group of performers who were camping with us had a nice tent, a cozy place with fun stuff.

Charles: He spent a lot of time there.

Gwen: Towards the end of his trip, I found him in there, curled up, looking happy and speechless. I asked him if he had any words to explain his experience and he said no, he didn't. We did a check-in with him as we were coming down.

Charles: He had more words as he was coming down.

Gwen: It was strictly a one-on-one, "I'm your pal, here are the rules." [[ ß This is out of context, I can excise it or leave it in with a elaborating sentence, or move it]]

I guess it was two days after the mushroom trip, he told us he'd scored some ecstasy. He showed it to us, and told us whom he'd bought it from. We checked in with them, and still decided it was our personal responsibility to only give him a calibrated dose of something we'd tried first. I asked him to wait three days, to give him time to rest, physically and mentally…

Charles: ...time to integrate, as well as to have some time straight at Burning Man.

Gwen: He agreed to wait. And we did the same thing [with the MDMA], we sat with him while he was getting of. He stayed with his buddy for that trip, as well.

He actually had a question [before taking the MDMA]. He wanted to know if it would make him into some kind of sex fiend - I was impressed [that he would feel comfortable asking this question of an older woman and friend of his mother's]. He had heard it could make a person very affectionate. He asked in a joking way, but I knew he was serious.

I said, "No." I tried to keep it very light. Of course not, he already knew the difference between good and bad behavior, he'd be fine. I told him he'd have really close feelings towards other people, but that didn't necessarily translate into sex. I think if he hadn't been with his buddy, I might have given him another safe sex lecture. But it wasn't a big concern for me. I was more worried about his staying hydrated.

Erowid: Did he also try LSD that week?

Gwen: When he came back from his E trip, it was pretty clear it had rocked his world. It appeared he had had an even more profound psychic experience [than on the mushrooms]. The next day he asked if he could try acid, and we said, "No." It was time to integrate. He needed to rest, the weekend was coming, and in itself that would be like a mini acid experience.

He listened to us. I think he trusted us at that point. I think he welcomed having some boundaries imposed on his experience. Not boundaries that limited him, but boundaries that made him sit back and reflect, appreciate what he'd already experienced. He didn't argue. We didn't tell him not to smoke cannabis.

Charles: He was doing more cannabis by the end of the week.

Gwen: I kept my eye on him (re: food, water, the elements). The only thing was he refused to keep his shirt on The only time I got maternal on him was when I suggested he bathe. He refused; he just wanted to marinate in playa dust. But that wasn't a big deal.

When it was time to pack up, he helped. At the end of the week, when we got crabby because we were tired, he stayed noticeably calm, I noticed he tried to humor us when we were getting cranky. He was really steady, didn't complain. He was a well-brought-up kid.

Our big final discussion after we got back had to do with him wanting to bring back cannabis on the plane. He argued he and his fellow high school students often got ripped off. We argued it wasn't worth the risk, penalties were high. So we sat down and had a whole household. In the end, he did bring it with him on the plane; he didn't listen to us.

He had also borrowed our housemate's laptop. We found out he'd been sending emails home to his friends about his experiences. So we sat down and had a discussion with him about not talking about drugs on the phone or in email. I don't think he had a clue. We really ganged up on him on that one. We brought in another adult he respected, a male housemate of ours. I also tried to explain why he shouldn't grow grass. Could he live with himself if he made his family homeless? It was hard. He lived in a community where some of the men made a living that way…

Later I talked to his mom, when I could see her in person. These kids grew up in a culture where everyone smoked grass. They had not been properly trained to avoid arrest. So that was our final advice. It's hard, kids are sitting ducks. I remember feeling really angry with him.

Charles: We explained we needed him to protect us [protect our privacy], it was a relationship of mutual trust. That there are a lot of people in the world crazy enough to be upset about what we had done.