by Matt S., 2011
Reproduced by Permission of the Author
In my experience and in the experience of a number of others on the ibogaine list, what you do AFTER you do ibogaine has as much, or more, to do with your chances of staying off of dope long term then just the ibogaine itself. Not to minimize what ibogaine does because it’s definitely amazing, but if you don’t change anything, it’s very likely that nothing is going to change.
I think the window of opportunity that ibogaine gives you to change your behavior should not be wasted. This is really the very best opening to make real changes because in my experience, that window (where changes are made easily) really does eventually close. Immediately after an ibogaine treatment it’s much easier to make different decisions for yourself, and it is in the repetition of those different decisions, with their different outcomes, that the freedom from having to return to dope arises.
I think for me the most important changes were general in nature. So for example when I was getting loaded I lied to and stole from everyone. And while I didn’t have conscious thoughts to the effect of “Oh what an asshole I am for doing such and such.” What I did have were conscious thoughts of “What a shitty thing I did here, and what a shitty thing I did there.” So even though I looked at like I was resorting to asshole behavior because my addiction did not give me any choice, and not because I was actually an asshole, the end result was the same in that I felt really bad about myself. Even though it seems like a small semantic difference between whether I was actually an asshole or I was a good person who acted like an asshole because of addiction, I think it’s an important distinction. I knew I was not a bad person.But I also knew that I did not want to treat people the way I had been, especially my friends and family. So in a way I was protected from the sort of self-defeating thoughts of “I’m a bad person” however I was not protected from the feelings that go with it, I still did not like how I felt about myself.
So that was one of the most important changes I made. I stopped lying and stopped stealing. Because of the way I had lived for so long, those behaviors still occurred to me. When I was first off of dope and I wanted to buy a coffee or I wanted to go get something to eat but didn’t have any money, thoughts like “hey my roommate keeps a pile of cash on his dresser” would still occur to me. I had lived that way for so long it’s not at all surprising that they would, but I did not give them any energy by actually spending any time considering it as an actual behavior option. I rejected it out of hand. I will admit that in my first year clean I did give in to temptation and steal something from work but after having it eat at my conscience for several days I finally returned it. And when my conscience still would not let it lie I even admitted to the theft AFTER it was returned and without anyone having known about it at all.
I also took a number of years to get a better balance for what honesty should look like for me. At first I tried to always be totally and completely honest, and I still believe that at the time that was very important because my inclination was often to lie and I needed to be very black and white about it for my own sake. When my mom would say, “Hey I was looking in the garage for such and such and couldn’t find it; do you know where it is?” I did not give into the urge to say “I have no idea.” And instead I said, “Yeah I sold it for dope money 3 years ago.” Or whatever the truth of the matter happened to be. It didn’t feel great when I was admitting to that kind of stuff, but I am absolutely certain that there was less suffering on my part on the back end. In other words a comfortable lie at that moment would have led to greater discomfort later in how I felt about myself. Self-respect is extremely valuable and whatever advantage you get when you steal or lie to cover something up, that advantage is less valuable than your self-respect, which means you get ripped off whenever you sacrifice that self-respect no matter what advantage you trade it for. But in time I also learned that there are some ways to tell the truth which are less blunt and less hurtful than others. Honesty is important but considering the feelings of others is also important, and it’s not ok to make myself feel ok about being honest if it hurts someone else’s feelings. But early on I erred on the side of being overly forthcoming which I still think is the best way to go if you can’t find the tact to be more circumspect about it. In the long run it is always easier to clean up after an incident where you were too honest than to clean up after an incident where you were less than completely honest.
I think that living your vision of integrity is the most important change to make post-ibogaine. Embodying your principles and values makes you respect yourself because you suddenly become the kind of person who deserves your respect. As I mentioned, self-respect is extremely valuable. Ibogaine makes living your own values so much easier than just trying to do it all “New Year’s resolution” style. Because living your values really means being true to your own heart and because ibogaine can help you reconnect with your heart in a very big way, it doesn’t feel like making huge life changes or sacrifices, it feels like finally getting to be the person you always already wanted to be.
What this means for me has evolved over the years as well. I became a vegetarian after my last ibogaine treatment for addiction, I had never even thought about becoming vegetarian before that, even though I did feel badly about what I knew about factory farms and the cruelty experienced by most food animals. But several years after becoming vegetarian I restricted my diet even further by eliminating certain kinds of cheese because they were made with an enzyme that required the death of an animal to obtain it. My point is that it has been an ongoing process for me to get more and more in line with my values. And since my values have changed as well over the years it has required further fine tuning. But because I do live as much as I can, in accordance with my values, I don’t have to feel bad about myself on that point, I get to respect myself instead.
So on the more practical side of things, exercise, exercise, exercise. I am a believer in this obviously. Ibogaine helps “re-sensitize” those endorphin receptors so you might be surprised by how good exercise can feel post-ibogaine treatment. Plus everyone knows it’s good for you physically. But here is the other big pay-off, since it is easier to introduce life changes post-ibogaine, if you know a certain kind of habit is healthy and beneficial, you will never find a better opportunity to try and implement it in your life. This really goes for everything, so more healthy habits in general are good to try and implement at this time. Some of the things I was able to do after my ibogaine treatment were eliminate TV watching, more healthy diet in general (you don’t necessarily have to become vegetarian like I did), and regular exercise.
Some form of self-examination and introspection is important I feel. There are different ways to do it but basically the idea is that you hold yourself accountable for your actions. You pay attention to what effect your actions have on those around you and if you screw up (and we all get to take turns screwing up, nobody gets out of it believe me) then you own your screw up and try and make it right. You apologize when you owe an apology instead of trying to cover it up by making someone else MORE wrong than you, or pretending it never happened. Whatever way you use to weasel out of taking responsibility for your actions will come back to bite you in the ass, usually by making you feel like a weasel. And since walking around feeling like a weasel is a good excuse to get high, better not to let yourself behave like a weasel in the first place.
In my experience self-examination should be frequent but doesn’t have to be something you do every single day, with the caveat that if you are not doing some sort of formal daily self-examination you are not also ignoring something. One thing I found was that after staying off dope for a while my conscience became a useful tool to monitor my actions. If my conscience was bothering me (more than usual), then I needed to look at something. The problem with using my conscience as a guide was that it was always bothering me when I was getting high because I was always doing stuff that gave it a reason to bother me. When I first got clean it was still a little bit like that too because all of that slimy behavior was not really very far behind me in terms of time. But the more I behaved in an esteemable way, the more I was able to hold myself in high esteem, and the less my conscience bothered me overall. So after a while it started to become useful again as a tool to recognize when I wasn’t behaving well in the present.
I think it’s important to find ways to give of your time or energy or talents or whatever to help other people. There are lots of ways to do this, but it’s important to find some way to do it. It’s pretty unsatisfying to live a life that is always all about yourself. In the 12-step recovery world they call this “being of service.” But even helping your mom clean her house is being of service. It doesn’t have to be a big deal, but it can be that too if you find that easier. Just so long as you find some way to contribute to the wellbeing of other human beings from time to time.
The final aftercare piece I think is essential is some form of spirituality. It doesn’t have to be formal and it doesn’t have to be shared with anyone else. It just needs to touch that spot inside of you that opens up to some awe at the mystery of it all. It has to be authentically spiritual for you. Ibogaine is good for opening you up to this but it is up to you to keep it open and keep that energy flowing somehow. It can be a very time consuming and energy intensive search just to figure out what does this for you but it’s totally worth it. For me the experiential aspects of spirituality are the most important so formal kinds of repetitive things soon become meaningless to me. Which means that I have to resort to lots of experimentation as well as relatively greater efforts than I see others make in this area. I can’t JUST go to church, that wouldn’t get it done for me. Getting out into nature and then risking my life (to some extent, I still try and be safe about it but it needs to FEEL like risk) works well for me. For example hiking or mountain-biking into a remote place where there is only me and nature is good, rock climbing to a relatively inaccessible place is good, jumping out of an airplane was a pretty spiritual experience when I did that a few years ago. I also do other things but the key here is to find what works for you. If you have trouble finding something that works, don’t stop searching, ask other people what works for them, research it, read about it, keep looking, its important, and as I mentioned, totally worth it.
So that’s the basic framework as I see it. I tried to give more explanation to the portions that are more important but I think all of these components need some representation in an aftercare plan. Formally spelling them out can be helpful so for example keeping a nightly diary of the day’s events could be a good way to make sure you do some self-examination and remain accountable to yourself. But less formal methods can work as well. It should be tailored to the methods that most work for you. These are the essential elements; the actual plan should fit the person who needs to follow it. The longer you stay off dope the more fluid it becomes as well but I still find that keeping all of these elements in my life is important. The way I do each of these things has changed pretty significantly over the years as well but I could point out exactly where I still do each of them.
If you look at this framework you will see that most recovery paradigms will fit right on top of it. There is nothing in here to contradict the more traditional recovery formats. But whereas something like 12-step recovery is a fleshed out body, this is intended to be just the skeleton. The same basic ideas are present and they are present because this is what works for people. But since we are all different, the same fleshed out body may not be so comfortable for all of us. No-one has a monopoly on recovery. Whatever allows you to live a life free of dope and free of constant fiending for dope, that’s recovery. This skeleton of principles should be flexible enough to allow plenty of leeway in how to flesh it out but in my experience all of the elements in it need some attention. It varies for me which ones need the most attention at what time but I have found that none of them can be left out entirely.
My experience is that if I neglect one or more of these elements for too long, or cross too many lines with my behavior in terms of not being true to my values, I start to feel less comfortable in my existence and the relative comfort of getting high becomes more attractive. When I am true to my values and I make efforts to incorporate some version of this framework into my day to day existence, I feel grateful to be off of dope and it holds no attraction for me.