Matt: Growing up, I used cocaine and marijuana to cope, but my big thing, when I was 15 and starting out was alcohol. (I’m 54 now) It was such a natural thing with me. On the weekends, I would drink. As time went on, it got to where when I drank, I would get out of control, but then something would make me pull back …
I guess I drank to feel the acceptance part of it. I grew up the youngest of 6 and it was just in the fabric of life. That’s just what we did. We drank on the weekends and with me, it wasn’t really a panic feeling, it was more of a habit. I was in a routine where I would drink and I wouldn’t even think about it. We all were there, partying, and that was that.
When you’re 18, most people go to high school and then to college and they grow out of it. But for me, I married when I was 23 and the drinking just kinda continued. I would drink on the weekends; I would hold down a job. I never really got in trouble with the law that much. But seeing my son, Carl, and his addiction really woke me up. It shook me like there were more things going on here and I was affecting a lot more people than I had realized. When Carl got so bad and went to Mexico, I didn’t have much hope. I was like “Hell no!” My brother said he’d be highjacked when he got off the plane in Mexico.
But when I saw that he had gotten to that point [of wanting help], I started examining the things that I did. It really started to make me think that my alcoholism was having a wide [impact]. They say alcoholism is a victimless crime, that you’re just hurting yourself, but I realized I was hurting so many people. To see Carl and how successful he was after the ibogaine, it woke me up.
I could have a month or two where I wouldn’t drink, and I was lucid. Then I would see other people drink and I would want to drink. I’d gone to AA before, and never quite to that point where I thought I was so bad that I had to stop because I didn’t ever run into trouble with the law…but…Carl’s healing was something so much more intimate and close to me than that. It was my own son, and my behavior affecting my son and my family.
So when I went down to Mexico, I wrote out my goals and intentions. One of them was to take away that craving of wanting to drink for whatever reason.
I didn’t even know why I drank. It was such an automatic thing just to grab a beer. When the weekend came, it was automatic and I’d want not just to have a beer or two, but to drink to get drunk. When I went through ibogaine treatment, I saw one person who was drinking, but I’d also see another person who wasn’t drinking. I would see how happy he was.
When I was drinking, I’d get up in the morning and look in the mirror and say to myself, “You are your own worst enemy.” I saw this other person who didn’t have that, drinking and wanting to get drunk. I thought about it deeply.
A: Was this other person you? You as a sober guy instead of you as a drinking guy?
A: Did you notice that your drinking affected your relationship with your wife, co-workers, and your son?
M: Deeply! My younger son not as much, but he was really good about hiding it. My older son, he’d really get upset when I drank towards the end. And with my wife, it was the hot-button issue of all the things in our marriage. It got to where I wouldn’t even have to go through a night of drinking. Just me with a beer in my hand and a wall would go up between me and my wife. As you can imagine, after so many years of that, I saw that other person as someone happier with my life and with myself.
A: Did your parents drink too?
M: They were teachers, so when summer came, we’d go up to a lake and camp. Then we’d go to the beach. At the beach is where I’d see my parents drink. Not to an extreme. But there were a few families, and they’d all go to a trailer for happy hour. There was a guy, he’d be there wearing a necktie without a shirt on, and I could hear him laughing and having a great time. So I associated alcohol with fun times.
When I went through ibogaine treatment, I went to counseling with a woman who was very good, and she went through AA. When I came back, I had NO intention of going to AA again. That wasn’t gonna happen! But when I got back from Mexico, after 3-4 weeks I went to a meeting, and I found I was really in tune with it now.
During the treatment, I took the root bark a little bit each day. The program for me was perfect. I’d wake up, do my workout. My counselor and I would run on the beach, and I’d get whatever dose they were building up for me over about 3 weeks. After 2 weeks, I did the flood dose, the lay down dose. …
On ibogaine, things I’d done before were brought up to me. It was like looking through a looking glass, almost. I could feel it in my heart. The people I’d disappointed…it gave me a way to be outside, looking in.
A: Like a life review?
M: Yes, like that. Have you ever seen that picture that’s a young woman and an old lady – if you look at it one way, once you see the young woman, it’s very hard to go back and see the other one. Once you get through it, the change is subtle but very THERE.
A: Did a lot of emotions come up? You said you felt it in your heart. I’m curious about forgiveness…seems like the plant really helps people to move through some of those places. Is that true?
D: Yes. I have let go because I see it more the way things are now. I let go because earlier, I’d have experiences that I would want to drink to just forget about. Definitely. It’ll be 3 years now, and I’m at a hotel and I have money and I could go get alcohol and no one would ever know. But now I don’t have that desire. The ibogaine just took that desire away. I’m not trying to forget about something, or cover something up by drinking. That’s what changed.
A: What kind of aftercare did you need once you were home?
M: I went home, and I went through a lot. For me, AA really helped focus me in a positive way. Ibogaine and AA went together for me like bacon and eggs, because AA was a great way to follow through. The whole AA thing is about helping yourself by helping others. I’ve had a couple of sponsees through AA. I help them go through the steps.
The 12 step program is a proven winner. If you can get sober that way, that’s the way to go. But I see some people in AA, and they’re sober and they’ve started their other life, but they’re really not happy with it. They’re just kinda white knuckling it. And in Virginia, where I work, there’s a heroin epidemic! People are ODing right and left. It’s like a plague. It’s awful. I think, in some cases, ibogaine would really help them, like it did me.
After I came home, I read a lot of books, including A Course in Miracles and Eckart Tolle’s The New Earth as a follow-up and that really helped.
A: When you came back, there must have been changes in your marriage. You weren’t drinking anymore, but then there’s the rest of your relationship. Stuff comes up. Are you better equipped now?
M: Some changes happened, and there are some issues that remain. We’re still working those out. I think we’re both better equipped to work on those. When the alcohol was there, all the reasoning went out the window. For my part, and her part, too, everything would just shut down. There was a big barrier there. We’ve been married over 25 years; we knew each other in high school. So there are some deep-rooted things that aren’t going to go away overnight. But the alcohol isn’t always affecting us. We can grow deeper together now.
A: Are there specific issues that you now realize you’ve forgiven? Do you feel differently now that you’re not masking those things with alcohol?
M: Right now, I have a job caring for a young man. He had a traumatic brain injury when he was young. I’m very close with him and his family. I’ve been there 20 years. I’d like to be more effective there. I could go through the job and not work on anything, like I did before. But now I want to be more effective as a man and at my job, to do things better. We don’t have much time! We’re only here a short time and we have to be as good as we can be.
A: What about things from the past? How have you unburdened yourself through the ibogaine and other ways?
M: Those things from the past, they would chain me. I can see that now. Now, I just don’t think about them as much. It’s a miracle, yes.
Now I’m interested in things around me, and the history of the place I’m in. I make better use of my time. I go out for a walk in nature, and I can enjoy everything…how the berries are coming on, the beauty… it’s heaven.
I was an AA drop out. I think ibogaine plant medicine is really good for people like me. There are a lot of counselors who won’t even consider working with someone who’s going through ibogaine treatment. But when someone has a really hardcore addiction issue, and they’re working through it, that’s when their ears are turned on and they’re really listening. I look forward to the day when we can have more treatment options for people.