Citation: Randolph Carter. "The Glory of that Positive Hour: An Experience with MDA & Nitrous Oxide (exp73381)". Erowid.org. Sep 11, 2008. erowid.org/exp/73381
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Even though empathogens have been articulately described many times, I want to share an experience that I had with MDA about a year ago. It was one of the most significant and beautiful experiences of my adult life, and for me it served as a clear and vivid illustration of how empathogens, with the right people and in the right setting, can offer an incredible tool for experiencing beauty, insight, connection, and positive transformation.
I'm fairly experienced with a variety of psychedelics, my favorite being LSD, which I've taken dozens of times. I had taken MDA once previously, and had taken MDMA perhaps a dozen times, mostly at dance parties or at Burning Man. I have had a topsy-turvy relationship with empathogens, because I find them to be over-assertive at times. When I feel driven to connect under sway of MDMA and don't have a good outlet, it can leave me feeling a ghastly sense of alienation and loneliness. I had one particularly bad MDMA experience at Burning Man in which I was separated from my friends and ended up lost and alone. I experienced a profoundly jarring emotional comedown, which literally left me reeling for more than a year.
So I am aware that empathogens have a dark side, and even if one takes them with care and in the best circumstances, things can still go bad.
On the occasion I wish to describe, some friends of mine and I rented a beautiful house in the woods for the weekend. It was set back in a thick grove of trees and had an expansive deck with a hot tub. We spent Friday night drinking and watching movies and there was an air of complete freedom and revelry.
Saturday was a quiet day and I found myself feeling a bit withdrawn and contemplative. The plan was to take MDA that evening, and I was looking forward to it -- especially to spending that time with two close friends of mine, Bonnie and Todd, a couple (all names are changed). We had never taken an empathogen together, and I was glad for the opportunity.
As darkness fell around 8:00, two hours after a large dinner, we each started with a 125 mg press pill of MDA. They had been purchased from a source that I believe to be extremely reliable, and I have a high degree of confidence that they were MDA, and that they were clean.
I had taken one 125 mg pill from this batch about two months earlier and found that it wasn't enough to get me to a comfortable spot. It pushed me into an unpleasant threshold state where I felt stimulated and hyper-alert, but without the euphoric exuberance I associate with empathogens.
We sat and talked in the living room, laughing and joking and listening to music. Five of the six of us took MDA that night, with one friend sitting out. By 8:30 or so I began to feel a tremendous sense of optimism and found that conversation took on an energetic and effortless tone. Things and ideas became fascinating.
I became acutely conscious of what everyone was doing, and how they seemed to be doing. Two of our friends, Sarah and Kelly, seemed to be having a good time, but also seemed to be on a different vibe from me. They seemed into their own thing, and I didn't interact with them much that night.
Around T + 45 I saw that Bonnie was climbing on the roof rafters with our sober friend. It was a warm night. I have always been aware that she is a beauty, but tonight she was radiant. I felt an immense feeling of genuine affection for her, and was transfixed by her. It was simply glorious.
At T + 1 h Todd told me he had just taken another 125 mg. We talked it over a bit and I decided I would do likewise, and I went back inside to do so.
The next half hour or so is a kaleidoscope of conversations, thrilling music, and connection. At a certain point I found myself wanting to be alone for a bit so I wandered out to the deck again. The night was beautiful and still, and the tree-enclosed property surrounding us gave a nurturing sense of safety.
At a certain point Bonnie wandered out onto the deck and we passed momentarily. I was lost in thought and wandered by her, but she called me back and took my hands. She told me that she loved me, and my heart soared with joy. I had known her for about a year, and I had long felt a tremendous affection for her. Out of deference to her relationship with Todd, I had always been circumspect in communicating my great positive regard for her. But tonight I could tell her truthfully that I loved her too, and that I think the world of her.
The next few hours are a swirly blur. I remember sitting in the hot tub with shifting groups of people. It had a lovely turquoise light that bathed the faces of the tubbers with a marvelous glow.
I remember feeling completely un-self-conscious about my body. I was fairily overweight at the time and normally I would not even get into a hot tub, I was so ashamed of my appearance. But that night it felt completely natural, and I didn't give it a second thought. It was delightful to put that hangup on hold and enjoy something as delightful as a hot tub under the stars with friends.
We spent a lot of time in the living room lyying out on cushions listening to downtempo chill music. At perhaps T + 4 h Todd brought out a box of nitrous oxide canisters and we took turns pulling from the cracker, going through perhaps 4 or 5 hits each. Each hit of nitrous produced a spectacular blast of engulfing euphoria.
Bonnie and I really connected. We cuddled and shared feelings and secrets with one another. Todd had taken MDMA many times in his life and was having a familiar experience of feeling anxious, and he withdrew a bit. I'm accustomed to feeling a bit distant from Todd under the influence of psychedelics so it did not come as a surprise to me. We were concerned about his state of heart, but Bonnie checked in with him and he assured her that he was feeling okay.
Gradually the pale fingers of dawn started to reach into the sky, and the euphoria and stimulation gave way to mental cloudiness and fatigue. I had a familiar feeling of not wanting it to end, of wishing I could keep the intensity going. But the house was turning quiet and people started to vanish into their bedrooms. At about 5 AM I tried unsuccessfully to sleep, and lay awake, exhausted, for about two hours before I finally drifted off.
The next day we had to be out at noon. We quickly packed up and headed out. I drove back to the city with Todd and Bonnie and we talked about the things we experienced and felt. At last we parted ways, and I felt so bonded to my friends that when Todd took a wrong turn on the way to drop me off, I didn't say anything, just to make the trip a little longer.
In the days that followed I was aware of a sense of anxiety about the closeness I had felt and expressed with Bonnie. I checked in with Todd to make sure he was okay with how things went. Todd assured me that he was happy that Bonnie and I had hit it off, and my concerns were allayed.
For months I had kept my affection for Bonnie in a cage, out of fear. During that glorious hour of disinhibition, all the golden light could stream forth unchecked from my heart. In the days that followed, it was fascinating to watch the anxiety come back. It was as though I could perceive in real time my ego reasserting its boundaries, in the form of that anxiety.
I believe most of the time our sense of self is bounded by the limits we drawn to define and protect our inner life. I find that under the disinhibiting effects of an empathogen like MDA, those boundaries vanish for a time. It's possible in that window to experience a fearless sense of connectedness and true expression of the heart. That ego-loss is experienced primarily on an emotional and physical level, but I believe it also reflects a deeper truth, that all things are interconnected.
Sometimes with a strong psychedelic like LSD, one can experience the world as interacting currents of energy and information in a vivid and direct way. This MDA experience, for me, was similar, except it was embodied and felt, not witnessed.
Having a transient glimpse of the eternity of the heart allowed me to see where I was holding myself back from expressing love, and from being love in the world, with my body and with my friends. I saw the shame that I had for my body that came from not taking care of myself. I saw the barriers to connection that I unconsciously maintained out of fear and habit.
In the days and weeks that followed, I pursued this inquiry actively and passionately with my dear friends Todd and Bonnie, who listened, and understood, and supported me in trying to integrate the insights that I'd gained. I changed my relationship to diet and exercise and over the next several months lost more than sixty pounds weight that I've kept off since. I learned that my body is important to me, and that honoring it is part of a complete life.
My connection with Todd continues to be deeply rewarding, while my relationship with Bonnie continues to blossom and bloom.
I have had breakthrough experiences with psychedelics before, but this was something different. My psychedelic breakthroughs usually take the form of a crisis I'm confronted with truths that I can't see in my normal life, and have to face them. As a friend of mine recently put it, when you're confronting something difficult under the influence of a psychedelic, you desperately want peace. In order to get it, you make a deal with yourself -- If I can just have an ok acid trip, when I come down I'll take on this problem that I'm facing.
This MDA experience was not a crisis or ordeal, it was heavenly, and it produced insights into my life that led directly and immediately to lasting change.
It took me years of being around these substances to learn what I wish I had known from the beginning. For me, empathogens have a profound capacity to enhance connection, but only if there is a real basis for that connection
, if it opens the door to genuine feelings. Otherwise, the experience is false, and the comedown produces jarring dissonance and alienation.
At this point I'm inclined to be extremely thoughtful about how I take empathogens, and when, and with whom.
There are so many hard lessons to be learned with psychedelics and empathogens. Of course, this story can only describe the things that I needed to learn on my journey. But I truly hope that you find something useful, some point of connection that you can apply to your own questions.
The deepest part of me knows that all things connected -- you and I are connected right now, through these words. I hope that life leads you to ever greater peace and compassion, whatever path you choose, and whatever seems real to you.
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