In AA we define sobriety as total abstinence from any mind altering substances. This is generally accepted to mean all of the major intoxicants, including pot, mushrooms, LSD, speed, alcohol, barbiturates and opiates. Most of the time, no one goes against the norm so these things aren’t questioned at all. But if you look back at the AA literature, the book, Pass it On tells the story of Bill W., the AA founder and many contemporaries who participated in the then popular practice of taking LSD, before it was made illegal. To my knowledge, no one changed their sobriety date because of taking LSD.
Fast forward to the current trend in recovery to go on Ayahuasca journeys to deepen one’s spirituality. This is a controversy in the 12-Step world and even among treatment professionals. But as I’ve said for years, we in the recovery field need to be open to any and all treatments that have the potential to help reduce the suffering of addiction. Back when I got sober in the 80s, they used to tell people not to take antidepressants because they were mind altering. But now most people in recovery have experience with the benefits of those psychotropics. We would never have considered Suboxone or Methadone or other Harm Reduction methods as “real” sobriety. But I think we were wrong.
Why not try to use plant based medicines in recovery? If they can bring healing, insight and strength, it could be a good thing. But you have to be careful, mindful and a good consumer. There are many charlatans out there and some people have been harmed and have even died. I personally have used mushrooms a few times in the past couple of years. But unlike my drinking and using days, I don’t try to get high or escape my feelings. The purpose is to go into a deeper state of awareness and enhance my spirituality. In my experience, the use of psychedelics in sobriety has been very difficult and painful. I have had severe PTSD and depression all of my life so the core issues that surround these disturbances are very difficult to root out. Therefore my experience has been the opposite of escape and has really taken me to new levels of self-awareness. For example, I didn’t know how far back my PTSD went until I did a San Pedro (mescaline) ceremony with some shamans on a blazing hot mountain top. We addressed the wounds of the family as the first of four stages of our ceremony and let me tell you, that was no party.
My advice in general is that total abstinence is probably your best bet for a decade or so. Combine that with meetings, therapy and fitness. Then you may be stable enough to approach the deeper work. But it’s so hard to get sober and our inner Addict voice is so tricky that I don’t think it’s generally a good idea to take any risks at all with getting into and maintaining recovery.
For more on my experiences with plant medicine and yoga, see The Yoga of Self Compassion and The Yoga of Letting Go where I outline those processes in some detail. I also have a few episodes devoted to this topic on The 12-Step Buddhist Podcast on iTunes, Spotify and http://bit.ly/12stepbuddhistPodcast.