Sam’s demanding career started to take its toll around three years ago, after he was promoted and his responsibilities expanded from regional head to global team leader. He came home later, often displayed emotional hostility toward his wife, Carrie, of six years and started heavily drinking. Carrie convinced him to see a marriage counselor to avoid what she dreaded was the inevitable breakdown of their marriage, however Sam found the sessions ‘useless’ and after three weeks refused to continue.
Several months later, Carrie, at her wits end, was now certain of her suspicions that Sam was secretly having an affair. She moved out of their marital home as part of their agreed trial separation for six months. Sam had promised her that he would find help but only in his ‘own way’. He wasn’t keen on traditional therapy and having read much about the benefits of meditation following Carrie’s suggestion, Sam enrolled in a weekly mediation course. Within five weeks of daily practice he not just began to feel more in control of his mind and stress levels, but he had also made a new set of friends.
One of his new friends, George, had spent the last several months in an ashram in India and was now teaching yoga part time. Sam took up George’s offer to be privately taught, and the two often went out for meals as Sam carefully listened to George’s life story about quitting his job and breaking up with his long term partner. One day Sam worked up the courage to ask George a question he had been putting off for some time; “so what exactly happened that made you just know? I mean, what was that penny dropping moment in your relationship?” George remained quiet for a few moments then said, “it was my third Iboga ceremony that woke me up”. George proceeded to explain his journey into sacred medicine and his hidden addiction to cocaine. Nothing much had happened during his first two Iboga ceremonies, yet he persisted as he saw the effect of others in his ceremonies and listened to their encouragement to continue the inner work. “After nine months, I was clean, and now after two years I’m much happier and in a healthy relationship for the first time in my life”.
Sam hadn’t ever heard of any of the substances George was mentioning but he was beyond intrigued by George’s experiences and his conviction in the healing power of Iboga. Sam spent the next several weeks reading, watching and researching everything he could find on the internet. He approached George one day after class and said, “I’ve done my homework. I know it’s a big deal but I’m serious about wanting to try it. I am not completely addicted to alcohol but I know I drink far too much and I’d like to stop. I also have had issues my whole life feeling like I’m never smart enough and I don’t talk to my only brother so I need to really figure that out someday. I don’t know what to do about my marriage either, what I’m supposed to be doing there?” George offered to put Sam in touch with a friend of a friend.
Sam began microdosing with Iboga for almost ten weeks before his first ceremony. At first Sam felt destabilized as his sleeping routine and diet was much disturbed, but after two weeks he felt a sense of calmness and began to enter deep trance states during his meditation sessions which left him in awe. His guide explained that while his recent high daily doses had supported him to substantially remove his dependency on alcohol, lose his appetite for meat and cut out sugar as side effects, there were emotional issues he would need to address in a ceremony setting.
Sam felt that he could not have prepared for his first Iboga ceremony. His guide had trained and supported him for the experience, however it was beyond what he expected despite knowing of others' experiences. He saw himself, a child in his mother’s womb, already afraid of his father’s dominance. He saw his brother’s financial success and his own insecurity and fear of being a failure. Then suddenly he felt himself become his father and saw lineages of men standing behind his father; all his male ancestors’ carrying burdens of a greater ancestor who couldn’t live up to his own father’s standards in a very brutal circumstance. Then he was brought back to the present and saw his mother and father, and how these burdens’ had been carried into their marriage. During this vision his parents morphed into two different people and when he looked closer he could see himself and Carrie. The realization that he was doing it all over again, trapped in a cycle which had been on repeat for generations, made him instantly physically sick. He was vomiting and nauseous, but when it passed he saw himself being asked to choose between a bottle of alcohol and his wife. Suddenly, he felt all of Carrie’s love - when they had first met and she had made him feel safe. He heard her voice, long ago, before he had become absorbed in his career; “you’re perfect just the way you are, you don’t need to try so hard to impress everyone”; and he experienced deep pangs within his heart. His guide sat him up and helped him take a few deep breaths to regulate his breath and anchor him. The physical pain eventually left his heart, however the floodgates were open and he finally let himself go.
George, along with Sam’s guide, supported Sam through several weeks of integrating his experience. Sam was deeply affected and it took many months to digest his insights and emotions. Two months after his ceremony, Sam met Carrie and explained his experience. Carrie was shocked at the change in her husband, particularly Sam’s transparent display of emotions which was extraordinarily uncharacteristic of her husband. He apologized and asked her if she would be willing to move back into their marital home and support him to work through some other traumatic visions of his childhood that he had seen but had not yet emotionally accepted.
Fifteen months after his first and only Iboga ceremony, Sam says, ‘“Iboga allowed me to see myself in a new light. It changed how I view my parents. Suddenly, all the traits about them that I had disliked have taken on new meanings; instead of seeing my father's belittling comments as negative, I see my own insecurity and fear. Instead of seeing my mother as emotionally repressed, I see her fear of intimacy which reflects a lot of things in my own marriage. I'm still going with the microdosing because it helps me to refine this perspective. Nothing seems to throw me too much - not even my crazy work commitments anymore! I feel like I am just watching these things in my life and not feeling strained or exhausted by them as I always did. I’m also experiencing some interesting stuff: one night I had the feeling of floating above my body (unfortunately I was too frightened to explore what I now know is called an out of body experience so I was sucked right back in like I was traveling through a lifesize funnel). After almost 40 years of being in the dark about who I really am there is not much more for me to say other than thank you to this miracle wood called Iboga." ’
Modern Ancient Insight: Sometimes we just don’t know what is driving our current behavior or circumstances. While it is always possible to make change happen in the present moment, it usually requires an unravelling about ourselves on a deeper level to fully recognize what needs to be changed. Sam’s story illustrates that a healing journey is best served by:
- - Being proactive about seeking out methods to support self discovery and personal growth. Asking for help when you need it and finding a community of like minded souls can make all the difference to how much time and discipline you put into your practices.
- - Stepping outside your comfort zone and being willing to try new things, even if you haven't heard of them. Performing your own independent research is key; what feels right to one may not feel right to another.
- - Making sure you have dependable support for post ceremony aftercare. Sacred medicine ceremonies are not predictable so to receive the best benefits it is important to integrate the insights with trusted and non-judgmental friends or family members.
If you are choosing an Iboga ceremony as part of your healing journey, consider how a gradual introduction, such as microdosing, may support you to prepare, integrate and continue such a profound journey.
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Transform Your Reality: In this bimonthly series Modern Ancient shares real life stories which have been transformed by the power of alternative and holistic health. Discover how self development and higher consciousness can be practicality applied to overcome dis-ease, achieve a state of balance and live authentically.
*Where requested names and identifying details have been changed in some stories to protect the privacy of individuals featured.