Table of Contents
Vincent is a 33-year-old man who’s originally from France but recently moved to the Netherlands. He first experimented with psychedelics recreationally before seeking to embark on a deeper journey on a retreat.
“I used to suffer with stomach cramps all day every day”
How long have you been interested in psychedelics?
My interest in psychedelics came from reading “How to Change Your Mind” by Michael Pollan in summer 2021. I was amazed by all the different experiences people had with psychedelics; there were so many extraordinary accounts that made me think of myself and my own life.
Before 2021, I had experimented with magic mushrooms four times and had recreational psychedelic experiences with friends in their garden, but I never thought that psychedelics could help me better understand myself so radically.
Since the retreat in 2021, I haven’t had any new recreational psychedelic experiences.
Have you ever been treated for anxiety or symptoms of depression?
Before my first psychedelic retreat, I had never associated myself with words like ‘anxiety’ or ‘depression’, so, no, I’d never undergone treatment for either, except some breathing exercises for stress.
That said, I used to suffer with stomach cramps – almost like electric shocks – all day every day for about five years. Most of the time, it wasn’t a big deal, I just got used to living with it. However, it did make me quite moody, depending on how intense the ‘electric shocks’ were.
I also used to have big problems going to the toilet, defecating. For most of my life, I went three or four days in a row without going for a ‘number two’. When I was at university, I used to hold it in from Sunday night to Friday night. Those are definitely not normal bowel movements for a young man in his twenties.
Looking back now, I can see I was totally consumed with what was going on with me. I had no idea where it was all coming from, but I thought I could cure myself with medication, a better diet, or giving up alcohol and coffee – but nothing ever really helped.
“The first phase of my psychedelic trip was like a Wes Anderson film”
How was your experience with psilocybin?
For my first retreat, I was told that I had been given a ‘high dose’ of psilocybin. I was lying on a bed, listening to music with my eyes closed. A facilitator who helped organise the retreat was by my side the whole time with pen and paper, ready to jot down anything I said.
I took the dose at around 2 p.m., following a morning walk through the forest. The experience came to an end at around 7 p.m. Afterwards, I fell asleep very, very easily at around 10 p.m.
My experience lasted five hours, which I can break down into four distinct phases, each with their own very vivid feelings:
- The first phase was like a Wes Anderson film, with people dancing around a fancy, baroque ballroom. It was one of the most beautiful films I’d ever seen, I was really happy to be watching it.
- The second phase was more about shame. It included sexual images, and people insisting that I talk because I was being shy and didn’t want to communicate. They kept saying, “Go on, Vincent, talk!” I don’t know why, but at that moment, my ego broke up and I felt a strong urge to talk.
- The third phase was difficult but ultimately did me good. I shouted and cried for at least an hour. Strangely, I can’t remember any images or sounds, just bodily sensations.
- The final phase gave me some extraordinary emotions. All my friends were there and they took me by my hands caringly and said, “Come with us, Vincent, we understand you and we’re going to help you. Trust us!” Right then, I felt unbelievably good, better than ever. It was a real wake-up call.
People often say that psychedelic retreats are one of the defining moments of their lives. What do you think about that?
Yes, that’s very true for me. It was one of the most important times of my life. I learned so much about myself.
In one afternoon, I understood that I’d been carrying a profound sadness inside my usual smiley self. I don’t think I was depressed, but something very painful had been lurking in the darkness for a long time. I understood that I had to connect to what was deep inside me and express it out loud. That may sound easy, but it was a real shock to my system because I’d never seen things that way before. What’s more, I learnt that I could truly trust my friends.
“I’ve never had any more digestive issues”
And after you go home ?
Over the four months following the retreat, all my digestive issues disappeared. My stomach problems did come back for a few days, but I simply talked about what I was going through with my friends. I shared this very intimate side of my life that I used to find shameful with my friends; I used to think they’d make fun of me or look down on me for it. It’s really incredible because, since the retreat, apart from that one time, I’ve never had any more digestive issues.
The retreat was so intense that, two years later, I’m still processing a few things. That’s why it’s been such a radical change in my life, because it’s shown me what state my subconscious was in and it gave me more motivation than I could have dreamed of to make a change.
Do you think you would take psilocybin again?
I’ve done a lot of work on myself since the retreat. It brought me so much clarity that it would have been a waste to move on without making some changes. Now, I’m a hundred percent motivated and prepared to discover more about myself.
Through psychedelics and the work I’ve done on myself that I’m really proud of, I feel much better than before. My relationship with life is much healthier.
I think a second retreat would help me go even further and work on other things that I may want to change in my life. The difference is that, now, I feel ready, and I know exactly how positive the experience can be. So, the answer is a resounding “YES”, I would definitely do it again.