Citation: SoaV. "Great Expectations, Wonderful Results: An Experience with MDMA & Cannabis (Hash) (exp69306)". Erowid.org. May 2, 2008. erowid.org/exp/69306
Previous experience: Alcohol, magic mushrooms, cannabis (oral/smoked), amphetamines (oral/snorted), MDMA crystals (snorted), ecstasy (oral/snorted), herbal ecstasy
Date of experience: 13 July 2007
I had been looking forward to my weekend leisure trip in Amsterdam for months as I was planning to take MDMA with a friend on the Friday and then to go to a well-known trance music event on the Saturday. Much as I was thrilled about the impending music event, this was even more true for the MDMA trip: I have an eight-year-long history of psychoactive drug use but had not taken anything stronger than herbal ecstasy and the occasional joint for well over a year – suffice to say, I could barely contain my excitement.
I arrived in the stunning city of Amsterdam on Friday 13 July, and whilst I had not slept since the previous night – a bad habit of mine – I was itching to get the impending journey into the world of MDMA underway. I met up with my friend (let’s be imaginative and call him X) at 17:00, and we spent two and a half hours hanging around in a sunny park, enjoying the weather, drinking soda and talking. At 19:30 we decided to go to a coffeeshop where his friend was to be DJ-ing later on in the evening. On our way there we went to a snack bar and had a gigantic falafel each, after which we sat down by a canal to smoke a few cigarettes and ingest some MDMA.
X had prepared it in advance by pouring 400mg each into two bottles of water, and whilst we talked about how repulsively paracetamol-like the water tasted and how great our trip was going to be, we drank approximately 1/5 of our respective bottles. Within five minutes I was filled with a rush of exhilaration as I sensed a mild effect coming on – admittedly it may have been a placebo effect induced by pure anticipation, but even so I recognised the ecstasy-like quality instantly. I was convinced that I could feel my pupils dilating and my vision had definitely altered slightly. The still bright streets looked brighter and the murky canal water seemed to buckle and undulate like shiny syrup.
After about 15 minutes of sitting by the canal we decided to head to the aforementioned coffeeshop. X was lamenting the fact that he still could not feel anything; I, on the other hand, could definitely detect something initiating at this point: mild nystagmus was setting in and the frequent pangs of excitement made me feel slightly breathless. X had taken MDMA only once before whilst I have a fair amount of experience with it, meaning that I was bound to be more familiar with the effects.
We kept a steady stream of words flowing on our way to the coffeeshop, but I found myself being distracted by the hustle and bustle of the beautiful city. A small stage had been set up in a square where some instructors were apparently teaching willing passers-by to dance, and I found this so sweet that I laughed out loud. Generally when I am intoxicated around (presumably) sober people I start to feel paranoid and agitated, but whilst I was feeling physically nervous and slightly hot, I felt no suspicion whatsoever toward the people around me. I have taken both MDMA crystals and ecstasy before on several occasions but never out in public. An ex once told me that MDMA is not likely to induce paranoia and I was pleased to discover that, in my case at least, he was right.
At 20:00 we found ourselves walking through the doors of the coffeeshop, and immediately the supremely relaxed atmosphere of the place enveloped me. The walls were all fitted with low sofa benches covered with heaps and heaps of cushions, and one side of the coffeeshop was already populated by a group of fellow psychonauts. X and I went straight to the bar to buy a soda. By mutual consent we decided not to buy any weed, at least not yet. Whilst he went over to speak to his DJ friend who was setting up by the decks, I remained sitting at the bar smoking my roll-ups and contemplating the approaching effects. My body was starting to feel properly restless now and the nystagmus was coming on strong: I made eye contact with the barmaid and wondered idly if she could tell what I was up to. Dutch coffeeshops observe a very strict anti-hard drug policy and although they would be unlikely to throw you out unless you were acting belligerently, stranger things have happened. I marveled at the fact that my paranoia remained conspicuously absent in the face of this knowledge.
Soon after, at around 20:20, X and I went over to a cushioned corner and sat down with an ashtray and a bottle of Coke each. I started to notice a sense of unease in my stomach and suddenly regretted having eaten that giant falafel. I had to drink the Coke one tiny sip at a time to avoid feeling as though I was swallowing giant bubbles of air. Miserably I conceded that this trip may not turn out as wonderfully as I’d expected – I was feeling extremely tired from the lack of sleep and the dull ache in my stomach was making me sweat even more than before. However, never one to give up on a potentially amazing trip, I rearranged some pillows, leant back in my seat and started talking to X. It transpired that he was still not feeling any effects, so I suggested that he go outside and have another couple of gulps from his magic water bottle. As he went outside I sat back and looked at a mural on the wall to my left, a New Age-type creation consisting of a succession of multi-coloured patterned circles covering almost the entire wall.
As I studied it carefully, I noticed that it looked strangely three-dimensional; I was almost certain that it was actually a flat drawing but it no longer looked like it. My eyes were doing their shaky nystagmic dance every thirty or so seconds as I was glancing back and forth from the drawing to the bar to the other coffeeshop customers, and I realised that if anyone took a close look at my face at that moment it would be immediately obvious to them what I had taken. X walked by en route to his friend and I felt so zoned out that I could barely lift my arm in a small wave. A few minutes later he returned and by now he too was feeling something. He was grinning cautiously, looking thrilled and exhilarated, and my mood was lifted in an instant. As if by magic my nausea vanished and suddenly we were talking non-stop, excitedly discussing the oncoming effects and the fact that our eyes refused to behave themselves. Even though the front door was wide open we were both feeling hot – X almost unpleasantly so, whilst I felt cosily warm. I had only drunk a few sips of my Coke and we decided to get ourselves some water.
From this point on the time-line is quite vague. I was ensconced in my seat, practically purring with the physical pleasure induced by the drug whilst thoroughly enjoying its euphoric, inspirational effects. Both of us noticed that the otherwise common empathic effect was not as geographically extensive as it often is: I did not feel that urge to hug the whole world, but I was absolutely overwhelmed with the togetherness and camaraderie of the people in the coffeeshop. Everyone was sitting talking quietly, smoking their joints, not a trace of animosity as far as the eye could see. And oh my, the music! X’s friend had started playing, and whilst that particular type of mystical ambient trance is usually not a favourite of mine – I have nothing whatsoever against it but I normally go for harder styles – I found myself enjoying it on a level so high as to be positively obscene. It was as though my mind was taking form and physically resting on the waves of the music, bodysurfing the surging melodies. A brief verbal exchange with X established that he felt the same. He also agreed that the wall mural was looking distinctly 3D, however he was convinced that it actually was whilst I was not so sure – the people around us might have wondered why we were pointing and staring intently at the wall above their heads as we discussed the supposed roundness of the mural’s outer circle. X put into words the exact feeling that I had about the entire trip when he said that it felt like that mural was, in some ultimate way, simply meant to be there.
By about 23:00, or T=3:15, I decided to have a stick of gum from the packet X had purchased earlier as those oddly pleasant jaw trembles caused me to keep biting the inside of my mouth – not that I cared at the time, but I was aware that I would care very much indeed when I woke up the next morning with aching cheeks. The gum, which had a particularly intense menthol flavour, tasted much too strong and I swallowed it instantly, only to replace it by another one three seconds later. We were both smoking frantically at this point, and X decided to try and roll a cigarette without looking at it to see if his relevant coordination skills had improved. I was fascinated by the concept and kept meaning to try myself but was incessantly distracted by people-watching, admiring the Coke bottle on the table in front of me, tripping on the music and contemplating my deep-seated sense of well-being. Upon closing my eyes I experienced mild but captivating CEV’s in the form of brilliantly sparkling patterns, however I was feeling so alert and lucid in that special MDMA way that I remained with my eyes open most of the time. My self-related introspection, pleasantly interrupted every couple of minutes by spurts of discussion with X, revealed for the first time in years just how much beautiful life really is. The coffeeshop appeared to me as the only space I’d ever want to be in; I felt that if I could have remained in that moment forever, physically and mentally, I would have been utterly content.
I had the sudden urge to sit on the floor and quietly shared this desire with X. He looked at me curiously and said, “Why don’t you then?” I was strongly aware of how obviously intoxicated we must look at this point but in a very real way I didn’t care at all. I slid onto the floor and sat facing X with my elbow on the couch, chewing crazily on my gum and smoking like I had been manufactured for it. X was sweating profusely; it was literally running from his dripping wet hair but he was smiling in a slightly unhinged way and expressed his distinct lack of concern for his fluid loss – he was very warm, he said, but he felt good. We were both drinking water, probably about a glass per hour, and as we were not moving at all the risk for dehydration would have been small.
Looking into X’s eyes, his pupils the size of plates, I pondered how I felt closer to him than to any other human being – transient as these MDMA-fueled interpersonal connections tend to be, they are nevertheless powerful enough to be remembered vividly. I realised that whilst I found him very beautiful, my body was completely devoid of sexual urges. As previously stated I have taken ecstasy and MDMA crystals before, but this trip felt somehow different: I was not quite as filled up by physical euphoria as I had been on other occasions – probably because at those times I always remained in my own living room with one set group of people, topping up my MDMA usage with massive amounts of speed – but instead I was saturated with an all-encompassing, profound sense of satisfaction and comfort.
The notion that this experience was going to be over at some point suddenly emerged straight from the depths of my subconscious – nimbly sidestepping my complete lack of time perception – and struck a brief melancholic chord. I could not have felt depressed at that moment had I tried, but that was the one thought that could even remind me of the feeling.
Soon after, at around 23:30, X’s DJ friend came up to talk to us for a few minutes. He was hilarious and had no problems whatsoever with our dazed state – which figured, as he was in fact the supplier of the goods – but he brought tidings of worries to come: it turned out that, due to a newly enforced Dutch law, the coffeeshop would close already at 1:00. I could not help being unsettled by this but X swiftly talked me down from my fretting and encouraged me to just enjoy the place for as long as we were there.
I needed no second bidding. We continued pretty much as we had been going; on two separate occasions between 22:00-00:30 we took several sneaky sips of our MDMA water, too relaxed to be concerned that the coffeeshop staff might spot us doing so. By T=4:45, we had managed to slowly polish off the majority of our MDMA supply. The nystagmus was severe, our jaws were tensing and we were both rather hot and bothered, but it felt brilliant. The only potentially traumatic moment came when X accidentally bashed a recently acquired deep finger wound against a table leg – whilst looking for his constantly disappearing tobacco – and blood proceeded to gush out from it as though from a garden hose. A brisk rescue manoeuvre involving some commotion and a strip of band-aid that he had incidentally brought along, and the issue was resolved; in spite of the heavy bleeding, both of us were really more intrigued than concerned. X, Lady Macbeth-like, went to wipe the blood smears off his hands, and as soon as he was back we continued talking as though nothing had happened: about how easy it was to roll cigarettes, how comfortable and happy everyone looked, how we wouldn’t want to be anywhere else, how life really is a beautiful and most of all fortunate state to be in – all problems appeared to dissolve in thin air and everything made perfect sense. Emotional euphoria, pure and simple.
At one o’clock it was time to leave. I felt like my heart was breaking as we left the coffeeshop; it had now been just over five hours since we’d had our first drink of crystal water and I could barely remember what life had been like before that. As we exited the building the cool breeze of the summer night hit us like a hammer – a pleasant, cuddly, mild-mannered hammer wanting nothing but love for everyone. The sweat dissipated in two seconds flat but the resulting vaporisation did not feel chilly. Whilst the decrease in temperature felt gorgeous, however, I realised with a start that I was coming down from the peak. I am the sort of person who does not handle that knowledge with grace, and as X fluttered around with a bewildered but content look on his face, quite obviously still peaking, I remained uncharacteristically silent. We were not sure where to go but knew that we were not interested in a bar or club, so we simply walked around aimlessly, X talking ten to the dozen and me interjecting with the occasional comment. The conversations we had at this point were utterly random; X switched from talking incessantly about some general trivia to suddenly revealing something deeply personal to again continuing along the general trivia vein. In a sense I was also feeling slightly talkative but X was absolutely unstoppable, and as I was content with listening to him I found myself simply throwing in the odd remark here and there and otherwise remaining quiet. X admitted that he is not normally such a talker and apologised profusely on several occasions for his all but ceaseless monologue, encouraging me to speak out or even slap him, to which I simply laughed and told him not to be silly. Moments later he would be off again.
After about 20-30 minutes’ walk we arrived at a nameless street with a non-descript sidewalk equipped with a raised concrete kerb. I suggested that we sit for a while as I was feeling a bit walked out, to which X replied, “OK, we’ll rest for 20 minutes and then continue our walk.” In fact, we ended up staying right there on that sidewalk for well over five hours, quite possibly disturbing the curtain-twitching woman in the building in front of us, who according to X probably suspected that we were fierce mass-murderers. In fact, he got rather carried away with this notion and built up a whole scenario whereby we would sneak into her home and kill her family – all told to me in an even monotone befitting a serial killer.
Soon after we’d sat down, X – who seemed somewhat off-balance but in a calm, controlled fashion – was also noticing a distinct diminishment of effects. Both of us were loath to give up our trip so easily, and as we still had some crystal water left in our bottles we decided to drink some more. This would have been at around T=5:30. After a few minutes I could feel a light peak coming on, whilst X did not notice much difference at all. I let him have a few sips of my water as he’d drunk more than me and didn’t have much left, and then we returned to our talking. We were fascinated by how difficult it was to stay on track with our conversation; we’d be talking about some past event, perhaps, or a great film, or religion, when we’d suddenly veer off on a tangent and get all entrenched in that topic to then repeat the process all over again. As we were both consistently deeply involved with what we were talking about we kept trying to return to the previous subject, mostly without success.
Our spirits were dampened slightly by the fact that the effect was leaving us – bar the eye movements and jaw tension – but we were both still feeling great. At one point a woman with a crazed look in her eye approached and started talking to us; she looked like she was on drugs or a lot of alcohol and, as we discovered later, we both had a strange feeling that we had seen her before. Her weirdness brought a sense of the supernatural, albeit of a disturbed variety, to our impending comedown, and I felt quite unsettled when she displayed fierce offence at my admission that I am not “With the Lord Jesus Christ”. Fortunately she left soon after I had shared this piece of information with her, but not before she had blessed us both – me with obvious reluctance – with a pat on the head.
Considering the vast amount of topics we covered during those six hours of sitting on that kerb, it is odd that I am only able to remember a few clearly. However, there was one that we kept returning to in our off-on-a-tangent-then-back-to-base manner, and that was the one concerning The Circle of Uniqueness. It all started with the observation, I cannot remember whose, that insane people are often the most interesting. X had made it his mission to turn this into a conceptual framework a year ago, and he had it all figured out: let us say, for the sake of the argument, that people are dots in a circle; toward the middle, “the norm”, there are more dots and the collection of dots is denser; toward the edge, “the abnormal”, the dots are few and far between. Each of us agreed that the other was strolling around along the outer rim of this circle as “unusual” people. I suffered a case of mild aphasia (as I have done before after a number of drinks and five too many lines of speed; however in that particular instance it was both severe and very frightening) when I tried to put into words how I’d always felt strange and unusual without making it sound like I was calling myself special.
Through all this, X was still doing a disproportionate amount of the talking, and when I pointed this out to him for the nth time he promised to be completely silent for 10 minutes to let me talk. I, not at all thrilled by the self-conscious position this put me in, grasped helplessly for a topic to entertain us with, returning eventually to the Circle of Uniqueness and how alienated I can feel sometimes, having as I do few friends around me that I truly connect with. I was allowed to touch upon this subject for approximately two minutes before X interrupted me again. There is something about being interrupted that I have always found irritating, but at the time I didn’t mind at all. Partly because I knew it was not done out of malice or even vague rudeness but rather out of enthusiasm for the subject, but probably also partly because of the MDMA. The peak had definitely left me but I was still bathing in its soft, blissful glow; enjoying life, enjoying the moment, feeling quite careless and free from my regular hang-ups.
I also remember that when X told me of a past event in his life involving some strength and courage, I was all but eaten up with empathy. Even now the memory is crystal clear in my mind, indicating that the empathogenic properties of the MDMA were at work within me still, even as I was coming down.
At just before 7:00 in the morning, about 11 hours after our first MDMA dose, we decided to go in search for a coffeeshop. We were both exhausted and cold at this point; speaking for myself, I was enjoying the comedown and its mellowing effect on my body, but it would have been a great deal more palatable had I been inside, on a sofa, with a mug of cocoa in my left hand and a cigarette in my right. Obviously no coffeeshops were open yet, and so we found ourselves ambling around the streets of Amsterdam rather aimlessly, chatting serenely and being bothered by the occasional homeless person wishing to tap into our ever-dwindling tobacco supply.
At 7:55 we happened along a coffeeshop in the very last street we intended to search, and lo! There were people inside! We knocked on the window and were assured by the owner that they would open in five minutes. Utterly thrilled in a distinctly subdued way we went off around the corner to have one last cigarette, again by an archetypal Amsterdam canal. We ended up sitting there for 20 minutes without realising, still talking but with considerably less gusto than two hours previously, before we went off to have our long-awaited joint.
In the blissfully warm (and amusingly low-end) coffeeshop, we bought ourselves a mixed-hash joint for six euro and went over to the burger bar-style bright yellow plastic chairs to have a smoke. X noted that the tables and chairs looked like build-your-own play sets for children. I was struggling to walk straight at this point, so exhausted was I, and a mere glance at X revealed that he was in the same state. We took turns with the joint – the first whole joint I’ve smoked in years – and I found my mind turning inwards, drawing into myself like a startled anemone. This, however, was nothing compared to X: half-way through the spliff he closed his eyes, and soon he was sitting all but horizontally on his chair, his joint-bearing hand inching ever closer to the table top. There were two other people in the coffeeshop, and I marvelled at how oblivious they were to us – all these years of paranoia, and for what? As I was amusing myself with watching the early morning tourists walking by outside, I felt an abrupt shift in my perception.
Before I knew it, I was in the midst of the most powerful cannabis trip I had ever experienced: a flashback from a mushroom trip that took place almost seven years ago landed on top of my perception like a thick canvas, transforming the world around me. Everything was overlaid by a pixellated, shimmering web, and the interior of the coffeeshop looked suddenly absurd, grotesquely synthetic and make-believe – but that was nothing compared to the people: short and squat, with protruding noses and pale, almost green skin, they looked like they could not possibly be human. What was “human” anyway? Who was I, for that matter? Oddly, paranoia did not pin me to the proverbial wall as it normally would have done: I was watching all this as if through someone else. I stared at X – who looked if not quite human then at least reasonably familiar – until he emerged from his closed-eye, body-tilting trance and looked back at me, at which point I started to giggle exhaustedly. I was so unbelievably tired that I hardly cared about my swiftly diminishing sanity. X started to sink back into his comatose state and it occurred to me that I might struggle to wake him if he fell asleep. I poked him a few times until he became lucid and told him that we had to get moving.
The walk to the train station, whence X was to take the train back to his home, was strangely uplifting in the early morning sunlight. I told him about my people-aren’t-human trip and in so doing passed it on to him; however he soon drew us both out of it and into another by suggesting that other people in fact looked more like coded characters in a computer game than bizarre aliens in an unfamiliar world. As soon as he had said that, the thought simply would not leave me. Never have I felt so solipsistic – although it doesn’t quite count as such, seeing as we were sharing this trip and by definition solipsism cannot be shared – and instead of feeling threatened by the people I was utterly amused. At the train station we passed two men, walking about 10 metres apart, who both turned to us and nodded casually in greeting. The act was almost identical and looked ridiculously programmed, and X soon confirmed this thought of mine by mentioning it himself.
We sat on a bench at the station smoking for what I believe was another 20 minutes – I remember looking at the oversized station clock and thinking that the seconds appeared to be ticking by at break-neck speed – until his train arrived. It was hard to grasp that this lifetime of a trip was actually over; saying goodbye to X felt sad and very strange.
I made my way back to my hotel without further incident, only halting briefly at the supermarket to buy myself a cheese-and-tomato bun and some tobacco, and when I finally reached my tiny hotel room with the cool tiled floor and crisp white sheets I all but wept with joy. Putting on my night dress, curling up in the bed and wrapping the blanket around me was one of the most satisfying experiences of my life. I lay reading for a few hours, munching on my delicious-tasting sandwich whilst empathising passionately with the characters in the book, before finally curling up to sleep for the first time in almost 48 hours.
The afterglow of the trip was, as I have come to expect, entirely pleasant. I woke up at midnight, three hours late for the trance music event but still determined to go. I was still physically and mentally exhausted, and getting ready felt much like dressing a doll with my conscious mind merely looking on from the sidelines, but after a brisk walk to the station (easier said than done in five-inch heels) and shelling out €30 for a taxi ride as no trains were leaving at that hour, I found myself at the event as intended. I sat through the entire thing, perfectly content with my hard, plastic seat, indulging in my roll-ups and some weed given to me by a generous Italian. I dare say that the lingering effects of the MDMA let me enjoy the music and the amazing light display even more than I would have ordinarily. I never wanted it to end.
In the weeks after the trip I went through my usual period of awestruck euphoria, slowly tapering off to baseline after a week or two. The whole thing was a splendid example of great expectations transforming into great memories, and my only regret is that it was over much too quickly.
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