I did acid once a week for ten months; a summary is here
I am writing from my experience on acid. I have met many people who say their experience is very different. Although I use language like ‘we feel like’ or ‘one experiences,’ please know I don’t think my analysis is universal.
On acid, thoughts work like a stitch in cloth.
If you look at a stitch from the top down, it looks like a straight, mostly unbroken line
The thread itself isn’t actually going in a straight line, but the visible portion looks even, organized, functional.
If you look at the thread itself, it might look like something closer to this:
On acid, thoughts stop feeling like a top-down view of the stitch and start to feel like the entire goddamn thread. You start out with one thought (the first segment), and then find you’ve forgotten what you were thinking about – you are now headed in a different direction (the loop underneath), and attempts to force yourself back in line is useless. And so you go, helplessly, through a thousand ideas related and unrelated to the first segment of thought, before you find yourself back in the top stitch again. By that point you’ve forgotten what you were thinking about, so the return to the “normal” thought line is a bit of a pleasant surprise. And so you go on to move through the thought – but then the forgetting happens again.
In this way, normal thought streams can occur, but interspersed between many other thought streams. I tripped a few months ago and needed to go to the bathroom. The thought I wanted to think was “I need to ask someone for help to go to the bathroom.” This thought took me (probably) twenty minutes to fully process and actually come out of my mouth. Those twenty minutes weren’t useless, though; when we relate the idea of ‘trouble asking for help’ to our daily life, we usually think of things like being very drunk, or being very sick, and the entirety of our attention is taken up in completing the task. This is not the case on acid – the entire set of the thought “I need to ask someone for help to go to the bathroom” took the same amount of attention it would normally, only it was cut up into fragments and thrown across twenty minutes.
On acid, trying to remember what you were thinking about ranges from difficult to impossible. You cannot fight the course of the thread. Eventually you learn to give up and allow your mind to take you where it wants, because it will come back round eventually. This teaches you that the sensation of “trying to remember” is useless, and you learn to stop pursuing it.
This is my rationalization for why my memory is bad after taking so much acid. I tripped for so much so long that the muscle of memory atrophied. I feel like everything I need to know is still within me, but the command to access it is severely delayed.
I tripsat a man alone in my apartment on what turned out to be much stronger acid than we thought. He was twice my size, heavily muscled, and, as we found out, had a rather delusional reaction to acid. He hallucinated, had poor spacial awareness, and ran around, screaming and flailing his arms, breaking my furniture, and alerting my neighbors. I spent his peaking eight hours (the acid lasted way longer than normal) trying to sit on him, calm him, and being thrown like a ragdoll whenever he got excited. At one point he took my head between his hands, stared into my eyes, and said “I could snap your neck right now.” I wish I could say I was scared, but by that point I was so exhausted I kind of wanted to die anyway.
He didn’t remember any of it afterwards but felt quite regretful.
Usually we process concepts with a near direct one-to-one correspondence to words. There is a concept, and there is a word that maps onto the concept. Normally the mapping is so tight that we sometimes end up feeling like the words are the concepts themselves. This is why rhetoric is so powerful, why words so important, and why a skilled wordsmith can spin us around and confuse ourselves as to what we really believe – they are manipulating words that are strongly bound to ideas, and thus they manipulate ideas. It’s why we care about things like gendered language, or slurs, or insults.
On acid, this correspondence is reduced. Concepts occur wordlessly; they are experienced, like a tactile sensation in the brain. This is why thoughts on acid are so difficult to communicate – no matter how clear they are to ourselves, we lack the structure to communicate them, and the structure to recall them later. The the words for the concepts are reduced to just symbols, and seem petty, or arbitrary, or artistic representations of the real, truer thing beneath. This makes communication feel much more like a game, or a dance – that you are toying with verbal sounds that aren’t bound to any one thing anymore – you can tie them to anything, and they become much more flexible.
When we normally imagine ‘inability to communicate,’ we imagine that we can speak the thoughts in our heads in some fashion, but that others don’t understand because of language barriers, or they have different contexts for our words, or they haven’t heard the long thought train that led up to it. Normally inability to communicate is something rooted in the poor understanding of the other person – but this is not the case on acid. On acid, the inability to root things in language occurs in your own mind, to yourself. This is an alien feeling to someone who is used to orderly and practical thought.
I feel like the processing I do now is much more similar to words-as-symbols rather than words-as-direct-mapping. This has its drawbacks: I believe it ties into my difficulty remembering things, as words are fucking great for memory. It damages my ability to communicate with other people and I have trouble having an active handle on my train of thought – I get distracted more often, and I can’t hold as many multiple concrete details in my head at the same time.
On the positive side, I feel like my thinking is immensely more clear. Where I would be influenced by seemingly persuasive arguments before, now it seems like they’re waging a war with weapons that don’t work on me. My sense of concept is like gears working underground, disconnected from any handles above the surface. All the ways in which those handles were pressed in order to lead my concepts astray now have severely reduced effects. My thinking has grown significantly more independent (crazy?)
I was tripping on about 400ug. My friend asked me to do some math, gradually increasing in difficulty. I could do any math that relied on one unit of memory – for example, 3×3 = 9. I didn’t manually calculate 3×3=9, it was already memorized.
I had difficulty doing math that relied on two units of memory – for example, 54+92. I knew 5+9, and I knew 4+2, but by the time I remembered one of them, I forgot the other.
I was incapable of doing any math that required three units of memory. 13×14 was impossible. I knew how I was supposed to do it, but the thought-loops prevented me from creating a singular, unbroken line of thought. By the time I’d looped all the way back to my original train of thought, I’d forgotten the concrete detail I needed to remember.
Then my friend asked me to imagine a diamond, equal in length on all sides. He said – the top corner is blue, the left is green, the bottom is yellow, the right is purple. If you rotate the diamond one quarter counterclockwise, what color is on the top?
I figured out the answer almost instantly, even before any of the sober people listening. My visual imagination was so strong that a description of an image was almost as good as me looking at the image.
I’ve tripsat around 50ish people, and have noticed a trend where some men, generally quite polite, unassuming, and gentle while sober, will make uncharacteristic sexual advances to me while tripping – mostly while in a sort of distant, dazed state. The advances mostly come in the form of silently caressing, holding, or groping me – pretty casually, as though we’re already sexually intimate. This puts me in an awkward position, because as their tripsitter, I feel responsible for facilitating a good experience, and rejecting someone on acid can start a bad trip. I usually respond by pretending I have something to do somewhere else, or gently pulling away, if I can.
(I know there’s a strong cultural taboo against unwanted sexual contact, but in this context I want to emphasize that I feel no judgement and I don’t mind. The contact wasn’t aggressive and I felt in control and free to leave. Plus they were on drugs.)
It’s rather amusing to me that this is a trend. I haven’t asked any of them about it yet. I don’t know what it’s all about. If any of you have experienced this I would like to know more.
I generally don’t experience construction of belief during a trip. Tripping is almost entirely deconstructive for me; it’s a continual process of locating ideas I have about the way things work and then losing belief in them.
Some other people have this same experience, but most don’t. Experiencing constructive belief “that cat can hear my thoughts” or “I am communicating with an omnipotent being” is fairly common. I don’t understand how this happens, but it’s really hard for people who experience it to explain it. If anybody has an enlightening perspective on this phenomenon then I’d like to know about it.
Anyway – normally when we ‘believe’ things, we have some sort of sensation that the thing we believe matches up pretty accurately with some sort of external reality. This is what we feel when we say things are ‘true,’ when we talk about ‘facts,’ or ‘insanity’ This sensation can permeate so strongly and universally that we stop really registering that we feel it, sort of like a fish that doesn’t know what water is. This is why it can be so difficult to describe to someone who has never experienced anything else.
While tripping, this sensation is reduced or lost. Beliefs are still experienced, but without the feeling of matching up with ‘external reality.’ Once unbound by concerns about ‘truth’, beliefs start to feel like stories, and it becomes much easier for the mind to view beliefs purely for the benefits or comfort the stories provide. This can really highlight ways in which we lie to ourselves, because we lose the escape of ‘but it’s true’ to justify our self-deception. All we have left is “what are my incentives for believing this,” and the answers can be very brutal. “You really believe this because you are desperate for love” or “because you like feeling superior” or “because you are afraid of being alone.”
All that’s left is “this is the way I have made it.”
An okcupid date
I don’t remember who proposed it, but I met him for the first time at my doorstep. Within ten minutes we both dropped acid and went to church. I sang all the songs joyfully, and at the post-sermon meet-and-greet I told everyone that I was god.
That was the reported dose, but in hindsight I think the tabs were stronger.
I spread out towels on my bed out of fear I might pee myself. I closed the door, turned off the music, ate the tabs, and laid down, alone and in silence.
The comeup came hard 20 minutes in. By 90 minutes time slowed so much that I could hear each individual rotation of the blades from the fan in the corner. I was writhing with overwhelming ecstasy, in my body and my mind. I became aware that my genitals were contracting, that I was having an orgasm. It didn’t stop for several minutes.
By 120 minutes I could no longer see the room in front of me when I opened my eyes. I was no longer Aella; I had no experience of my identity, my beliefs, my expectations – I was an infinite series of conscious experiences, cruel and kind, suffering and prosperous. I was dreaming with my eyes open wide, with the knowledge that these weren’t new dreams, they were old ones, ones I’d had a thousand times before, and my presence here was a remembering, and in remembering was what existence was.
After a few hours I regained function enough to manage to hit play on a laptop I’d set up next to me. Time was so distorted that, while I recognized the music, I felt nothing from it; by the time one note had played, I’d forgotten the last one. It no longer functioned like music to me. This frightened me; I thought maybe I’d lost the ability to enjoy music, and the concern was enough to prompt me to skype call a friend and blabber nonsense to him until I finally regained my sense of self.
Fortunately I managed to get through the whole experience without peeing myself even once.