Citation: Rational Exuberance. "A Visit to the Basement of My Mind: An Experience with Salvia Divinorum (exp70353)". Erowid.org. Jul 11, 2017. erowid.org/exp/70353
I tried salvia divinorum for the first time this afternoon. It was without a doubt the strangest, most utterly alien experience of my life. It was briefly frightening, but not terrifying.
I learned about salvia from an AP story in the newspaper, of all places. I was amazed such a potent hallucinogen was legally available. I did a fair amount of internet research, mainly to determine its safety. I then ordered two grams of 20x standardized extract, which arrived a week ago. Today I summoned the courage to try it.
Not having a pipe handy, and wanting to start cautiously, I put a small wad of extract between my cheek and gum. I was alone in the house, and yes, I knew I should have a sitter, but that wasn't an option. I laid on the couch, closed my eyes, and waited. After 30 minutes with no effect, I gave up and spit it out. Tasted horrible, and not swallowing for that long was unpleasant. I had brushed my gums and used mouthwash beforehand, but I guess extract is not a substitute for fresh leaves.
Or maybe I'm one of the people with a high tolerance, I thought. I decided to find out. I went down to the basement and opened a box of old memorabilia. Inside was a small pipe I last used 20 years ago. I loaded it with about one-tenth gram of 20x extract.
Then I did something foolish. Instead of smoking it in a safe place, I opened the basement door and went outside. No smoking in my house! I hyperventilated for half a minute, lit the salvia using a butane lighter, inhaled deeply, struggled not to cough, then came back inside. I knew I should find a comfortable place quickly. I had no idea how quickly. I don't remember exhaling.
It hit me like a ton of bricks. Unbelievably intense. The term mind-bending doesn't do it justice. I remember being surprised, not comprehending why this was suddenly happening to me, even though the pipe was still in my left hand. I felt numb, and for some reason decided I absolutely must return the pipe to the box. I did so, largely by feel because I was having trouble seeing. Everything seemed to be tilting to the left. Somehow I managed to walk down the hall to my office. There I fell into my chair, where I remained for a long time.
I became increasingly panicked. I had no idea that I could become so completely unable to think, reason, and control my actions. I was expecting to laugh uncontrollably, as I'd read many first-time salvia users do. It felt nothing like that.
No, it was deadly serious. Seriously scary. My body felt heavy, as I had been told to expect. Getting to the chair felt like wading through molasses. I had never been in a state where I was so unable to control myself, which was frightening in itself, but nowhere near as frightening as what was to come.
In reconstructing this afterward, I'm not positive where I was when the peak occurred, although I must have been in my office chair. It was so unlike anything I've experienced before, vastly more intense than cannabis, or even LSD. Salvia completely separated me from reality, snatched it away like candy from a baby.
I entered an entirely new world. One utterly strange and frightening, but at the same time completely concrete and believable. Frightening, but not terrifying or nightmarish. I wasn't afraid of bodily harm or some malevolent being. The fear was on a more abstract level.
At this point, I'm struggling to describe what I thought and felt at that point of maximum intensity. I don't know if my eyes were open or shut, but I was definitely oblivious to my surroundings. I was in a dreamscape, but remember few specifics. I'm not sure I could have recalled my name at that point if I had tried. But all of this was insignificant compared to the realization that was to follow.
Quite simply, I didn't know who I was. My sense of self was gone. I had an abrupt realization--with absolute certainty--that my entire past life was an illusion, that it had never been real, that I had emerged to some frightening new reality.
There was an endless wall to my right. I felt my old reality was everything left of the wall. Somehow I became a door in the wall. As I swung open, I understood everything had changed, that I could never go back to what had been. What was on the other side of the wall? I never saw.
The wall wasn't the most important element, though. The frightening thing was a crystalline certainty that my entire past life had not been real. It was a fiction, an elaborate deception, something I was duped into believing, or possibly fabricated myself. I briefly felt the presence of other people observing and judging me. Above all, there was an overwhelming sense of permanence and finality: that my life as I knew it was gone, vanished, maybe had never really existed.
Fear was accompanied by feelings of guilt and dread, that somehow I had deceived everyone throughout my life, now the game was up, and the consequences were ominous. I had no idea what lay ahead, there was only a yawning chasm of uncertainty and nothingness. Not death, but perhaps something worse, where I had never existed at all. I thought to myself: 'What have I done? What have I done?'
There were two separate waves in the experience. The first was the most intense, and as my fear grew, I struggled to remember who I was, tried desperately to return to reality. The fear subsided briefly, but then the second wave hit, different in some way I can't recall, but like the first, it swept away the reality I'd known. It reminded me of scuba diving in a strong current, holding onto the anchor line with both hands, lest I be swept away.
I've neglected to tell you about myself. I'm 48, a software developer, married to a lovely woman, no kids. I'm mostly an upbeat, optimistic, and rational person. I'm not spiritual or religious. I haven't had a terrifying nightmare in ten years. I'm interested in all fields of science and technology, and I guess curiosity is what led me to explore salvia. I used to enjoy cannabis, but stopped 20 years ago because I found it killed motivation. I tried LSD twice in college, pleasant but not intense trips. Never tried other drugs. I was not using any other drugs at the time of this experience.
Still in my office chair, I slowly began to come out of it. I opened my eyes (if they were actually closed before) and noticed the desk clock said 3:24pm. I regret that I failed to note the time I inhaled, I'm guessing it was only a few minutes earlier. Still shaken by the intensity of the experience, I worked at returning to reality. I read the title of a book on my desk, and was relieved that I comprehended the subject.
Sadly, much of my experience was spent feeling paranoid, worried how out of it I was, wondering when I would return to rationality. I kept telling myself I was safe in my home, no one would come by, this was not illegal, reality was still intact, and I would soon be thinking clearly again.
It's ironic. For the first time in my life, I finally achieved escape velocity from reality. And then all I wanted was to return.
After a while I very carefully made my way upstairs, laid down on the couch, closed my eyes and thought about the experience, which as it turned out was not quite over. I looked for subtle visuals, but there were none. However, there was still an intense feeling of strangeness, the kind of sensation I craved as an adolescent reading science fiction.
Then followed a period of recalling various thoughts and scenes from my childhood. Many were structured around places, scenes in my neighborhood, but most were non-visual: feelings, patterns of thought, and--for want of a better word--classifications of experience and reality. Strange, emotional, irrational classifications that I immediately recognized with fondness. Familiar (and often silly) ways I would organize and categorize things in my mind long ago. I wonder if this was truly the way I experienced the world in early childhood, or simply a nostalgic illusion? Regardless, this part of the experience was the most pleasant, a visit to the basement of my mind.
After a while I checked the time. About 45 minutes had passed since the experience began. I got up, washed my face, looked in the mirror. I felt completely normal and seemed to be thinking clearly, although I was left with a vaguely disturbed feeling, one that haunted me the rest of the day.
Will I try salvia again? Probably, but I don't know when. Possibly with a lower dose. Definitely with a sitter next time. Salvia is so radically different from other drugs I've tried. I'm not sure I want to totally escape reality again. It was frightening, not fun. But in retrospect--and only in retrospect--it was also fascinating.
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