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  • Writer's pictureJeff Arce/Jarce ArtThor

Don't Tell Anyone I did DMT...


What's in the box: A short, true, story about how experimenting with psychedelics rescued me from myself.


Genre: nonfiction, autobiography, blog.


Reading Length: about 4850 words. Takes thirty minutes to an hour to read.


WARNING: This story is intended for adult readers. Contains vulgar language, and gratuitous drug use.





Story:

Suddenly my entire realm of reality evaporated. I exploded into a thousand wriggling pieces. A furious vortex swallowed me up. It hurled my limbs round and round in a lurid cyclone, fueled by the winds of my tumultuous ego, my rapacious greed, my ruinous envy, and my addiction. It liquified my physical form. I felt like a broken toy caught in an unrelenting tempest. My foot was stuck on the ceiling, my severed hands flopping uselessly about—but wait…hold on. Let me go back a bit.

 

My intrepid psychedelic adventure began at a time when I felt like I was at my lowest in life. It happened at the end tail of a very bad season. Perhaps, the worst season of my career, culminating a personal revelation, and a devastating reality-check. My false illusions of immortality had led me to this place. And I left it with a vulnerability that both killed me and saved me at the same time.

I was making my sordid living as a traveling carnival vendor. Fresh off a short-lived toxic relationship and losing my ass one bad show after the next, things weren’t looking to bright for me. No matter where I tried to run to mitigate my loses and better my luck, I only kept stumbling right into one boggy quagmire after the next. But at least the scenery changed. I went from desolation and despair to a fiery hellscape that was also plagued by despair. My side quest to Illinois turned out to be a hot mess. So I ran back to the east coast where business got moderately better, but still not enough to placate my frustration.

There was nowhere I could run to escape it. The country’s working class was broke. And with two existential crises fast rising out on the other side of the globe, that our leaders insist we stick our noses in, the future was starting to look quite bleak. It was beginning to look a lot like a new great depression was on the horizon.

Little did I know it at that time, I was coming undone. I was on the threshold of an awakening. I was losing my sanity. The feelings that possessed my mind with an implacable sense of dread were: no way out, no hope left, and AI is gonna swing in and take away all the cool stuff. But I’m not trying to bore you with too much of that apocalyptic nonsense. These plights—however banal they may seem—are what got me on my way to a very trippy, hard reset.

Full disclosure: this was not my first time expanding my perception of consciousness as the great #DuncanTrussll might call it. I remember once long ago, somewhere back in my distant youth, I had gotten my hands on some magic mushrooms. I was both terribly curious, and terribly reluctant to try them. I went a little bit overboard with it when I finally did. A smart person would try micro dosing first. But then again, a smart person would probably leave that shit alone and stick to his studies. But I am not a smart person. Especially then. I liked to flirt with chaos. That’s why I spent most of my thirties trapped in a carnival limbo. I definitely should have stuck to my studies. But my A-D-D wouldn’t go down without a fight.

So, my true pitfall came when I had learned at the time that psilocybin, (the active ingredient in Magic Mushrooms) though a poison, and a schedule one controlled substance, is mostly safe to consume.

“Mostly…”

Thank you, Newt from the movie Aliens.

Whether taking a whole handful of these dry, cow-patty fungi straight down the ol’ gullet with some Powerade was a real good idea is up for debate. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion. But I did it. I scarfed them down without an ounce of shame. Looking back on it now, I can venture a guess that I probably took in about two to three grams of psilocybin. My knucklehead strategy had been to dose up early before the drive, so that when I got home, I would hopefully start feeling the desired effects. To my dismay, they hit me rather faster than I had anticipated.

To be clear, I do not condone driving under the influence in any sort of way. It’s dangerous, reckless, and irresponsible. And that was gonna be the original title for this here story.

The upside was that shrooms seemed to improve my sense of focus, so I was driving more deftly than I usually do. The bad part: I was paranoid as all hell. The traffic light at the intersection was playing games with my emotions. I was approaching the one that hung just over the intersection at my apartment when things started to get weird. The light was on fire, imbued with a very tangible feeling of bright-hot anxiety and regret. Until it finally turned green. Then I was happy again. Too happy. It was a laughing-my-ass-clean-off-and-out-of-this-stratosphere kind of happy.

Took me a moment to gather my wits again. 

I remember going upstairs to play MTV Music Generator 2 on my PlayStation. As I was enjoying watching the gaily note bars playing across the television screen my high at last bloomed into its apogee. I was suddenly inundated by this illusion that the brightly colored bars from the game had transformed into these gaily smiling faces that were all at once swarming me. I erupted into a fit of uncontrollable giggles and guffaws. I ended up hooting like that for about four whole minutes before it subsided.

That was a damned good time.

 

Fast forward back here to the year 2023. Things weren’t going so well for me neither financially, nor spiritually. I needed an escape from my problems, and I needed it fast. I was drinking way too much. Just about every single night after work I was either killing an entire six pack of Dogfish Head IPA, or I was slamming down half a bottle of Grey Goose. I was in bad shape. 

One night when I was knocking one back, I got that urge to want to chase after the Dragon again. So, I staggered over tho the fridge in my RV, and I went in on this shroom candy bar I had gotten from a colleague a few nights prior. After something like thirty minutes had passed the trip finally sunk in. I had a long moment of looking inside myself. There was a lot of pain lingering there. But I was okay with it. When I drink alcohol and I think about these depressing things, I tend to start hating who I am. I convince myself that my life is over, and that there is no point in going on, or even trying to improve my situation. The only answer is to drink more and hide from the world. But not with mushrooms. I saw the poison inside. I accepted it for what it was. But I also knew that I could be better. And that I should get better. That evening I suddenly realized that I’d rather trip than drink.

I found myself walking alone at night under a dark, but tranquil, cloudy sky. The forlorn moon was peeking through, casting a bluish hue onto the sleeping carnival rides. I saw it peering past the borders of the carnival, hanging over the still ferris wheel. The once jovial mechanical attractions did not look so friendly just then without all their glits and glamor. The lights were off, revealing their truth. They looked like what they really were, steel bones in a dead-end graveyard. I wandered all the way out to the deserted parking lot. I was the only one there. I felt as though the moon was beckoning me onward. It wanted me to keep going. To keep hunting for something new… something alive. The rolling, nimbus clouds were moving in that direction, away from the carnival. They looked like somnolent rivers rushing across the sky. I was suddenly possessed by this intuition to keep going. I was about to embark on a perilous journey that would ultimately change my life for the better. I was a lone wolf, and I was on a wild hunt. I stayed out there pondering this thought for hours. Even as I became sober again, I knew that something in my life needed to change.

 

The next time I got my hands on another one of those shroom bars I ate the whole damn thing in one go. Where did five full grams of psilocybin get me that night? It got my ass to the spirit world, that’s where. And who needs wine and spirits when you are trully walking with the spirits?

We were taking a stroll around this old, decrepit mall after work and before too long I was fully emersed in my high. Now, at this point I have grown acclimated to the effects of the ol’fungus bar. My tolerance was strong… or so I allowed myself to believe. I thought I knew what was coming. The fever chills rushed in. I was getting clammy. I was like, “oh boy, here we go.” Waves of gentle anxiety began rolling in my chest. I felt heavy, and I felt funny. All the usual stuff. Then, as expected, I started getting energetic and gregarious, just ranting off whatever self-reflection that came to me at the time. Venting all the bad air out. I started divulging my reservations about the war in Israel that had only just erupted the week prior, ruining everybody’s Halloween with some actual scary shit. I was worried about everything, fearing the worst, believing it was the end of the world. I regaled my friend with all of my apocalyptic soliloquys. He was a trooper about it though.

Then, we approached this one, lonely streetlight and I saw something that snatched the bullshit right out of my mouth. I gasped, flabbergasted. The light around the asphalt seemed to be bubbling around me, like an effervescent liquid. I looked down, and I shut up in mid-sentence. Something was rising up from the frothy pavement. I saw these glowing shapes emerge beneath my feet. They were swelling with blue light, and they were mesmerizing. Dazzling. My jaw fell agape. In utter shock and bewilderment, I asked my buddy if he could see it. Of course, he could not. The incandescent shapes appeared to me like ancient drawings of various earthly creatures. I was surrounded by them. I knew that they weren’t really there, but I couldn’t contain my excitement. I’ve never seen anything like this before. They looked as real as the streetlamp in front of us.

The best way that I could hope to describe them is that they were like those old Native American paintings you found at the museum. They looked like hieroglyphics of a forgotten art. There were butterflies, and bison, and deer, and rabbits. I saw a variety of birds soaring between them. I saw the world. But the thing that blew my mind the most is that when I turned my eyes from one creature to the next, the iridescent designs stayed right there. They did not move or dissipate as most mirages tend to do. When I returned to those areas where I first saw them, they were still there, like they were fused to the ground. I did not know that was even possible. How did my mind make that up? That’s what I kept asking myself. We even walked around the block again and came back to them. They were still there. I remember the butterfly most vividly. I remember it telling me that everything is bad, but it will get better. It told me that it was time to change. 

But then, sadly, I tried to cling on to that high. Instead of just accepting it as a gift for the moment, I decided to run after it, and force it to come back. As my initial buzz started to wan, I smoked a joint with my friend. Don’t worry—that one was at least legal where we were at.

A few puffs in and I saw exactly what I did not want to see. I saw fear. I saw myself. The ugly in me came out. I saw a shadowy patch in the street. The darkness was lapping like water. The molten shadows formed into what looked like angels blowing trumpets. They appeared to me as globs of steamy dark tar dripping skyward from the asphalt. The strange substance was rising from the asphalt. It wrapped around me. It sinched tight and I lost my shit.

I stood up on wobbly legs, ashen faced, and horrified. I said, “Ummm, I need to get to bed.”

I remember scurrying back through the encampment, seeing all the bunkhouses and trailers, and just being the worst kind of freaked the hell out by everything.

My friend had to help me get back to the RV to lay down and drink some water. Once I was calm again, I knew that I messed up. The devil I saw climbing out of the gravel was this beast inside of me that always wants more. I had a problem. And the problem was festering within. 

My intuition spoke to me. It told me that I was becoming an alcoholic. And it warned that if I don’t rein in this beast soon, it was going to ruin my life forever. 

So that was scary.

But it gets worse.

Because I didn’t listen.

 

After a very long, exhausting journey back home, all I wanted to do was go upstairs to my room, put on some cartoons and dive back into the ol’ ego-eating fungi realm. I chopped up a couple caps that a buddy of mine left for me. I sucked them down with a glass of cold water.

Fifteen minutes later, I found myself flipping through the videos on youtube. There were a few psychedelic animations, an artsy music video, plenty to choose from for my inebriated eyes to feast on. But I didn’t like any of them. Maybe it was the initial fever stirring in my gut, but every video I sampled was giving me tremendous anxiety. All but for one. I found a very simple video that caught my eye. I paused, feeling coaxed by it. Just a peaceful ocean, nothing more. The somnolent waters were washing over a midnight shoreline, with effervescent webs of white sea spray capering across its shimmering surface. The rippling moonlight that was reflecting from those tranquil waves beguiled me. They looked like X’s. But as I allowed myself to sink ever-deeper into this reverie, I found myself oscillating in my seat—I was swaying with the ebb and flow of the water. The X’s were hypnotizing. They began to look like something else just then. They looked like frogs, and lizards. They looked like us, reaching for a new world…a new chance at survival. I thought to myself what a wonder it may have been to be an early race of tetrapods, reflecting on those amorphous shapes for millions of years. Ensconced at the threshold between water and land, taking its temporary refuge from whatever vicious predator that might be stalking after it. A monster that will be back, again and again. The deep blue sea was so full of danger. I imagined that this small, primitive, feeble creature would ponder those curious, swirling, prognostic formations the same way we do with the stars today. Dreaming only to have the arms to climb. To have the strength to rise up out of the firmament of the only world that they have ever known. I was ensorcelled by that video for what seemed like hours hours.  

 

The first time I tried DMT was only a few months before the butterfly incident had occurred. It was exhilarating to say the least! Though, it did leave me with a nagging sense of incompletion. It was probably one of the most euphoric ten minutes I have ever experienced in my life at the time. But it was also scary. Beautifully terrifying. Perfectly Chaotic. Just like me. 

My old pal from high school stopped by the carnival to hangout. That night the show got rained out, so we were all just hanging out in the RV. My friend broke out with his vape pen. He asked if we wanted to try some DMT and so we indulged. I took a deep hit from the thing and laid back in my couch. It felt at first like gravity was sucking me down into my chair. I let the sensation take me wherever it wanted to. The patterns on the ceiling wallpaper began undulating. I’ve seen that before with shrooms so I wasn’t impressed. I stole another hit… and another. Then the pattern transformed into an old man gazing down at me. It blew my mind. So, I kept on digging my way down the rabbit hole. After several puffs I started to see the wallpaper patterns turning into what appeared to me as a kind of yawning rib cage opening up like a deep, dark mouth. There was a cajoling blackhole on the other side, sucking me in. I wanted to see what was in that darkness. But I never got there. It was impossible. It was only an illusion. It was all over in ten minutes. And then the pen went dry. A sad day indeed. 

 

Now, a few weeks after the butterfly vision I came in possession of another one of those fantastic pens. This one was high in potency, and I couldn’t resist the urge to give it another go. I vacillated at first, taking very small hits. But the effects therein were still palpable. One night I saw the Orion constellation dancing across the heavens. Another night my hands turned into wrinkly, ancient, green alien creatures that seemed to be trying to communicate with me about some prophetic drivel I could not decipher. That one was freaky because I thought my high had been done. I thought I was back in the real world. Then I saw how old and knobby my hands had suddenly gotten. I gasped, exhaling smoke I did not know I was still holding on to. I felt possessed. So, that was enough playing with the Spirit Molecule for me. It was time to take a break from my new hobby of expanding my conciseness for a little while. And by a little while of course I meant about a whole five hours.

After a much-needed respite, I got at it again.

I shared a couple beers with one of the security guys at the carnival. He divulged some rather disconcerting news. To make a long story short, he thought he should let me in the know that I had accidently crossed swords with the wrong individual, and now this person was on a bit of a warpath, so to speak. I unwittingly painted a target on my back. They were actively trying to have me ousted from the show. I knew exactly who he was referring too. I had traded some words with a person who was disrespecting me and my customers at my stand during operational hours sometime a few weeks prior. I told this said individual to fuck-the-fuck off. Elegant, right? I know. But this is the carnival, not the Build-a-Bear Workshop.

Anyhow, turns out that the antagonist in this little freakshow was someone important. That, I did not know. I suggested maybe I could just go and apologize for my impertinent actions. But the cool security guy advised that I just leave it alone. Told me that the next time said-person is giving me a bunch of crap, I should just nod my head dutifully, and kiss said-person’s ass. That wasn’t going to happen.

I had a lot of thinking to think about after that conversation. So, I did what any sane person would do when they got a lot to wrestle with: I went back to the spirit world.   

Alone, bored, and pissed at my sore luck, I headed back to my RV and locked the door behind me. At this point, I had ran out of beers to drink. I was lit. I was aggravated, and I was too hyped-up to fall asleep.

I picked up the pen again out of alcohol induced mayhem, and I sucked on that thing until there was no more juice left to suck. 

 

Now, I have read stories about people experimenting with Dimethyltryptamine. How they claim to have seen a kaleidoscope of colors before encountering bizarre beings from strange dimensions. Aliens, Elves, Jokers, Robots, oh my! But I didn’t really believe any of it. I didn’t think this pen could take me to that place. I got the Tally delusion in me: “I’m only gonna get a little high!”

I was very—very wrong. 

The universe was suddenly like, “oh, so you wanna see God, do ya?”

 

As I was lounging out on my bean bag chair, my foot propped up on the fridge, I vaped, and vaped, and... One minute I’m in the world of the real, the next, I’m not even on the same planet anymore. my cluttered RV was lifted off its axels. Everything I owned jettisoned into the sky. All my useless stuff was spinning over my head. It felt like a cyclone of gusting winds had snatched it up like weightless leaves. My box of frames, my easel, my packs of paper, my Playstation, all the junk that was on the counter, my saintly Taylor Swift candle, it was suddenly all in the air. Just floating on nothingness like Jeff Bezos’smug grin on a spaceship.

Everything was mutating. It rapidly shifting around me like one of those weird AI art videos all these vacuous content creators keep flooding the internet with, calling it, “my art.” My foot was no longer on the fridge or attached to my body. I saw it stuck on the ceiling, the gray shoestrings hanging every which way. My hands were twitching and summersaulting across the room. My entire body unraveled into a million displaced pieces. The stove and its knobs were sluicing off the counter in liquid silver streams. The sink’s faucet was thrashing and twisting into a myriad of sinuous shapes. I felt like I was broken. I felt lost. I knew I needed to put myself back together again… to become whole again. But how? How could I ever recover from this. I have no soil to plant my roots. I have no gravity… no home. I had nothing and nobody to rescue me from myself. I was a wilting weed poised to wither and die.

I was fucked!

In the blur of that moment, I thought this was death. I knew I was done for. I chased the dragon until it swept up behind me like a perfidious uroborus. It bit me in the ass. I got what I deserved, and this is how it ends. It’s difficult to put words to what I was thinking and feeling in that headspace. I was a little sad, and a little relieved. But I still remember it as vividly as if it had only just happened to me a few seconds ago. I had this inexerable sensation that I was vying with something evil inside. Something dark and awful. It has been with me my whole life. But now it was infecting every aspect of my life like a virulent disease. It was poisoning me from the inside out. This sinister entity that was festering inside of me, it had no face. It was oblique, like that little worm you can see at the corner of your eye but when you turn to have a better look it vanishes. But I knew it was there. It was as real as me, and it was tenacious. I saw it hovering over me, encompassing my life. I was grunting in my efforts. It felt as though I was heaving at it, shoving it away. I was trying my best to beat it… to banish it. I fought it for some time. My ego would not go willingly. 

When everything settled again, and my foot was back on my body, and I was back in the real world with working gravity, I emerged from that nightmarish spectacle with only one single revelation: I have to get my life together. I have to get myself right. I have to escape this hell.

Enough is enough. And I had enough.

 

I came back knowing that I was a lost soul, disconnected, and fractured. I needed to defeat my own ego, and I did not care how much money I would lose in the process of it. I needed to let it all go. It was poison. For thirteen years, I was on the wrong path. For thirteen years ive been letting the beast win. I’ve lost friends. I’ve lost family. I missed so much. All for what? The money I get comes fast, and goes even faster. Keeping me trapped. Imprisoned at the carnival. Forever moving but going nowhere. Never advancing. Never rising from my firmament. Always stuck with the monsters gnashing in the depths just behind me… waiting for me to swim back and die.

For the first time ever, I could see what I have become. I looked in the mirror and did not shy away. That thing making me grunt and groan in agony was a demon. It was a trickster—a clown. And I was the joke.

 

Living my life like a road pirate was finished. It was time to abandon this nomad existence and start anew. I realized that I could not go on living like this. So, I gave up my carnival rout. A good friend of mine took it over for me. I knew that if I didn’t make this sacrifice, I would be forever stuck in this quagmire, drinking my sanity away, alone, and miserable. It was time go back home. I had to do it now, while I could still afford to rebuild my life.

So that’s what I did. I had no plans, and no idea what I was going to do to pay my bills. It was natural to feel a little apprehensive about it. But that’s the fun part about a new adventure—not knowing what you might find lingering on the other side of that tree. Sometimes, not knowing is the best way to find out. And now I can start planting my roots again. Humans crave adventure, but we also need stability. We need passion and drive. We need something to chase. We need to hunt. But most of all, we need a home. I was determined to build one for myself.

     My first new goal was the one I originally had before I started traveling on the carnival circuit. I wanted to find a tattoo apprenticeship. I figured I was going to get a lot of rejections in my hunt. So, I started with the best shop I knew in town. I figured if I did that, I might at least acquire a few trustworthy recommendations before I had to start looking in the gutters. However, to my surprise, the first shop I stopped at liked my portfolio enough to give me a shot. I couldn’t believe it. I remember I had gone home that evening feeling good about the direction I was going. It was a new feeling for me.

Then, I got an email. It was a caricature gig request for a party going down this weekend in upstate New York. I agreed to do it, and on my way there, an honest to God rainbow appeared over the road ahead. I’m not even bullshit’n!

When I finished with that event, I left there with $700 dollars in my pocket, and a heart full of gratitude. I was tired and it was getting very late. I stopped at a hotel to get a room for the night. The fee for the room was $110, which was fair. Then the room number I was given was 110. I smiled at that. It all felt to me like a sort of divine synchronicity, like for the first time ever I was finally in line with my destiny. The key to my future was in, and the tumblers seemed to agree with its groove.

I recalibrated my life. A little hokey, probably, but I don’t care. That’s how I was feeling. I became the alpha and omega of my own destiny. The beginning and end to a journey going in the wrong direction, only to go back home to discover that everything I ever needed was already there waiting for me. I just needed to do a little DMT to wake up and see it.      

 

Sorry, Mom! 

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