In collaboration with The University British Columbia Psychedelic Society
What happens when people who want to heal from drug or alcohol abuse don't have a safe space to focus on mitigating their circumstances? We see a large population fall out of their journey. Imagine you just had a mind-bending experience with no one to help you decipher what the hell you just saw. Integration is a fundamental KEY for people to keep their head above water when wading into the possible darkness of healing. Being able to convey to an individual what you were shown creates a stronger guarantee that they will be able to return to their normal lives and adequately thrive within their bubble.
There are stories of people who had everything they could ever want in life, that they want no more, that is, until they hit their version of rock bottom and decide that they can no longer continue living as they have been. For those who have chosen the path of Plant Medicines as a tool for their own personal journey, they are about to step into a very different way of coexisting with their demons. Unlike prescriptions and over-the-counter medication from a pharmacy.
Now the time has come for them to sit in ceremony with these remedies, some may think that the medicine is what heals them, when in fact, it's you that heals you. Partaking in any plant medicine or medically controlled therapy (i.e ketamine, MDMA, etc.) is only a small fraction of the journey, the rest is you working through what was brought to your attention through intention. This may invoke an intimidating thought, “How am I supposed to do this alone?”
Well, you aren’t. No one should ever walk a healing path alone. Many people who start working with these medicines think that they are strong enough to integrate themselves, but become frustrated and lose hope when things aren't working out the way they imagined. If you tried to amalgamate yourself with an overwhelming amount of new information in your head, you might not prioritize these new findings accordingly.
There are individuals out there with jeopardy-level intelligence and insight, who have dedicated their lives to helping others use this newfound knowledge in a way that presents itself as simple and non-threatening. The ability to converse through visions and feelings establishes the grounding that the body and soul need after such a wild experience.
There needs to be a large push from the integration community to show people that there is no shame in talking it out, nothing to fear in what you saw and experienced and that a plethora of resources and humans are wanting to help you on this odyssey. I believe deep down in the individuals who have begun this cavernous journey, there is an unsatiated need for assistance. Perhaps stigma and discomfort have rooted themselves so well into the human, that calling out for help is seen as a weakness. Then we circle back to the thought of, ‘one should be able to do this work on their own.’
The yearning for community and guidance is there, but in a world filled with technology, it's easy to lose the actual meaning of those words. Often these devices are more divisive, bringing around a false sense of security, a way of diversion from actual problems. I also think there comes a time of self-actualization for us when we actually disconnect from the collective connection and look up. An, “Oh shit” moment, if you will.
On the flip side though, using technology is one of the easiest ways to get the word around that there is a surplus of resources and info out there for people to frequently use. Then the step of trial and error occurs trying to find an integration circle or counselor who resonates with you. It may take time, trying to find the right frequency but don’t let that discourage you from your healing process.
Noor Hussain Ramadhan is the Co-Vice President of the UBC Psychedelic Society and I had the privilege of learning about her journey and gaining insight into this important topic.
Noor: “I've always been an extremely anxious person and developed depression when I first moved to Canada from the Middle East. A friend of mine introduced me to MDMA (the first drug I’ve ever taken) and it completely opened my eyes to how beautiful life could be… to the point that it took away my depression/anxiety for a good 4-6 months (without redosing).
I was extremely shocked at how a blissful drug like MDMA was illegal and more harmful drugs like alcohol/tobacco are not. It made me question our societal norms and stigma surrounding drugs. This made me change my career path completely from studying international business, to psychology. I am now focusing my research on the benefits of psychedelics in treating mental health disorders.”
I asked Noor the following;
What does integration look like to YOU?
Noor: “Integration is the processing that comes after a psychedelic experience, where you explore challenges and insight that arise during a psychedelic experience. Psychedelic experiences have the potential to bring up lots of grand ideas, sensations, and feelings. Integration requires that we engage with these ideas and feelings to work on self-development and understanding ourselves from a third perspective.
If you do not integrate an experience, you will likely forget the experience and relapse into your old patterns.
Integration comes in many forms, some that I engage in are journaling, integration circles (similar to support groups), meditation and seeing a psychedelic integration therapist.”
How can we as facilitators help people ease into the integration part of healing, helping them know that they are not alone?
Noor: “As facilitators, I think you should emphasize the importance of integration. As a shaman once said, "only 10% of your healing comes from the psychedelic experience, and 90% of it comes from integration". As facilitators, you should make sure you hold a safe space for integrating people’s experiences afterwards. Some people may be uneasy and need extra support after a psychedelic experience, which is important for a facilitator to either hold space for them or refer them to an integration specialist.
In my experience, attending integration circles have been super helpful as I embark on this healing journey. Sometimes you can't really make sense of an experience, and discussing it with others who've experienced similar things can give you clarity. I find the healing process to be more meaningful and quicker when I integrate. Also, hearing about other people's experiences makes you realize you are not alone on this journey.
Another great thing about integration circles is you get to meet like-minded people and build a community!
Some resources for integration: The UBC Psychedelic Society do host integration circles which are held by well-known psychedelic integration therapists, you can find out about these through our Facebook group and Instagram. Also, there is a Women in Psychedelics MeetUp group (and others) hosted once monthly, the Flying Sage, and Intronaut.”
What is one piece of advice you would give to others who want to begin their healing path with plant medicines?
Noor: “It's not easy, don't expect it to be all fun and cheerful. Psychedelics are not the 'healer', you are, and you will need to work on yourself to achieve the benefits from this powerful medicine.
A lot of people get into psychedelics thinking they're going to magically cure them. However, this is not the case...psychedelics are just a tool, they're not going to fix you. You need to do the work yourself.”
Do you recommend this type of healing pathway for everybody?
Noor: “No, it's not for everyone. It can actually make some people even more down than they already are because it can distort some people's belief systems and realities. You need to be curious about this healing pathway and research it well enough before you start to make sure this is something that fits you.”
A big takeaway from this is that people need to be open to the possibility of co-creating companionship and community with others who are on the same path. Healing is much easier to do when you have someone who understands all the hidden uglies and who has a shoulder to lean on, and an ear to hear.
My hope to all of those reading and who have started or are wanting to start this journey is that you have the building blocks to start creating your team. That you no longer have to live in the ‘in between’ of any sort of mental game you play with yourself. Not letting the pain get in the way of you moving the mountains that need to be split. You are so worthy of healing.
About the Author: Kysha Lane, adopted from Russia, with a very colorful ethnic background. She was brought to Canada when she was two years old and still reside in BC. Plant Medicines have always been in her scope. But by being raised in a religious home, her parents thought they were doing what was right by telling her siblings and her that these ‘drugs’ could cause insurmountable damage.”
Being a twenty-four-year-old, mom of two, Kysha teaches Pre & Postnatal Yoga to help facilitate early healing and proactive guidance for labor. She turned to plant medicines as a way to help with Postpartum and found solace in microdosing & cannabis.