NOW SERVING Psychedelic Culture

Healing the Hurt at the Center of Addiction

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The following is excerpted from The Fellowship of the River by Joe Tafur. 

Not all addictions are rooted in abuse or trauma, but I do believe they can all be traced to painful experience. A hurt is at the center of all addictive behaviors. It is present in the gambler, the Internet addict, the compulsive shopper and the workaholic. The wound may not be as deep and the ache not as excruciating, and it may even be entirely hidden—but it’s there . . . the effects of early stress or adverse experiences directly shape both the psychology and the neurobiology of addiction in the brain.

It is impossible to understand addiction without asking what relief the addict finds, or hopes to find, in the drug or the addictive behavior.

—Gabor Maté MD, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction

Dr. Gabor Maté is a renowned speaker, author, physician, and addiction specialist. In the past few years, he has been speaking up about the positive outcomes he has seen in the treatment of addiction with ayahuasca and TAPM. In 2013, some of his Canadian colleagues published the first North American study evaluating ayahuasca-based treatment for addiction.1 This small pilot study demonstrated promising results and has paved the way for the larger Ayahuasca Treatment Outcome Project (ATOP), which is now being conducted in part at Takiwasi, a traditional healing center focused on addiction treatment in Tarapoto, Peru, under Dr. Jacques Mabit.

Latin-American-based research is now, in many respects, leading investigation into the healing potential of ayahuasca-based treatments.2-6 Brazil, in particular, has become a focal point of this ayahuasca research. Researchers are currently investigating a number of topics, among them the psychedelic therapy potential of ayahuasca in addiction.

In shamanic traditions, addiction is considered to be a spiritual illness, like PTSD, depression, or anxiety. Spiritual illness requires spiritually oriented treatment. Throughout this book, I have tried to demonstrate how what some see as spiritual illness can also be described in secular terms. When we speak about spiritual illness, we are describing dysfunction in the emotional body, measurable dysfunction. Modern research has clarified, for example, that addiction is associated with limbic system dysfunction within the PNEI network. Addiction appears to be a problem of the emotional body.7-9 As we have seen with the treatment of other emotional body disorders, this, too, can benefit from deep emotional healing.

In his book In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, Dr. Maté posits that addiction is a search for love (in response to a lack of love). He suggests that a lack of love during childhood emotional development often leads to long-term emotional instability, which then drives some individuals to seek “feel good” mood-altering substances as adults. In the case of cocaine addiction, researchers have demonstrated a strong relationship between early life stress and subsequent hypothalamic- pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis dysregulation. (You’ll recall that the HPA axis is a central component of the emotional body/PNEI stress-response system.10) As with psoriasis, addiction is likely the outcome of a combination of early life stress, genetic predispositions, and environmental factors.

In allopathic medicine, drug addiction is characterized as compulsive, out-of-control drug use, despite negative consequences. Instead of seeing it as a spiritual or emotional problem, modern science considers addiction to be a brain disease. In the United States, despite extensive research and massive expenditure, this “brain” disease continues to be a huge problem. The U.S. National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that the abuse of tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drugs costs the nation more than $700 billion annually (in costs related to crime, lost work productivity, and health care).11 It is time to broaden our understanding of addiction and explore new treatment options. As we’ll see in the following story, plant medicine offers promising pathways to healing.


Sometime after Sharon’s time at the center, in 2013, we were visited by Iron Mike, a big, strong, well-spoken Canadian in his mid-thirties. Mike is not a hippie or a New Ager, he’s just a regular hard-working guy—an oil patch worker from Alberta, Canada who had a problem with cocaine. Unbeknownst to us, he had been doing cocaine all the way to the airport on his way to Peru.

As he told me, “Yeah, it progressed to the point where it was a quarter ounce (somewhere around 30 or 40 lines) a day, every day that I could get it. I don’t know if I got some genetic ability to just consume unlimited drugs and live to be eighty or it was catching up to me, but the amounts I was doing and the frequency . . . I’m sure there would have been implications.”

Mike first did cocaine in March of 2000. He described himself as a social drinker and mentioned that he had tried marijuana, LSD, mushrooms, and Ecstasy but denied having had problems with other substances.

“Yeah, cocaine was the excessive one. The first time I did it, I remember thinking very distinctly that I should never go near this again. It just had this effect on me. It was like the missing link. When it first hit my system, all of my insecurities, all of my inadequacies, everything that I felt was missing from my personality just came firing together at once . . . The very first time I consumed it, I remember thinking, ‘Oh, wow, I’m going to get into trouble with this.’”

Over the next few months, his cocaine use progressed into a serious problem. Between 2000 and his visit to Nihue Rao in 2013, Mike had been in rehab four times, relapsing after every treatment. As he told me, “I would be sober for a period of time and then I would collapse. Everything I gained up to that point would go. Then when I got back to the bottom of the barrel, I would just check into another center or go back to another treatment place or go back to AA or whatever the case. As soon as I would do [cocaine], I would just instantly become fully involved in it again. I could pull it off for a couple weeks, little bit here and a little bit there, but it always ended up very quickly into 100 percent consumption.”

In those years, his longest period of sobriety was just over two and a half years, from January 2008 until April of 2010. Throughout that period, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) was a vital support. “That’s where I had my most success in sobriety. [Consistently] . . . Not just stopping the use, but building some sort of a life through a connection to other sober people.”

Mike was never treated with psychiatric medications, but in rehab, Mike recalls, “A psychiatrist told me I had borderline personality disorder and felt that it came from a lack of a father figure as a child. My dad wasn’t around and when he was around he was really short-tempered and he just wasn’t present as a father. From a very young age, I had temper problems, behavior issues, I had violence problems.”

Mike’s father was never physically violent with him, just angry. Although his father stopped drinking twenty-five years ago, he was an alcoholic during Mike’s childhood. Mike’s parents divorced when he was about eight years old, and although he always lived nearby, Mike’s father was not a consistent presence.

“Yeah, I was just a kid without a dad. I didn’t develop as somebody with a centered life. I didn’t learn how to be a man at a young age. I didn’t have that father presence. I just remember at a really young age I developed a temper.”

Mike and his three sisters were raised by their busy, single mother. As he told me, “[My mom] had four kids to raise and . . . she worked a lot. She did the best she could. She was a really great mom.” Mike’s mother did not have alcohol problems.

I interviewed Mike in 2016, three years after his first experience with ayahuasca, about his visits to Nihue Rao in the Amazon. Mike had first heard about us from a friend back in Canada and decided to come down for a three-week visit. Like the other pasajeros, he entered the diet process in the usual fashion and was then started on the master plant ojé. Due to its strong detoxifying properties, ojé is often used in individuals with alcohol and drug problems. Once prepared, Mike entered ceremony. To put it lightly, his first couple of ceremonies were challenging.

“During the first night, like the fool I am, I went up to the well [to drink ayahuasca] twice and ended up in that other [pasajero’s] bed. I completely ruined their night. I didn’t know the bed from the floor. I had no experience with this stuff and definitely had no business helping myself to two [doses].

“I was completely disoriented. Being the addict I was, when I went up there, I remember you asking me, ‘Are you feeling the effects?’ and I was like, ‘Oh, no, not really.’ I was [feeling the effects], right, but if I say I am, they’re not going to give me more, so I just completely BS’d my way into another round and I think that was part of the payback for being greedy.

“Yeah, I was detoxing still. I remember I had a drink on the plane on the way down there and was buying painkillers at the airport in Lima. They don’t care there, they’ll sell you anything. Whatever they got on the rack is up for grabs. Once me and the pharmacist established what I was trying to get he just handed it right over . . . the first night [of ceremony], I was still coming off of a really rough thing. I just got greedy and got leveled for it.

“I couldn’t even get off the floor. I couldn’t see, I couldn’t find my bed. I just remember lying there and thinking, ‘Man, am I ever helpless right now?’ This is bad. I knew I had overdone it. I had this feeling of that’s what you get.

“The next ceremony was much different. That was the night I was lying there and I heard this voice and I thought you [had] just snuck up on me, and I was just sitting there looking around and nobody was there. That’s when I realized something is trying to guide me here. I was trying to be rational. I had this moment where I was like, ‘Okay, there is nobody around you, you need to calm down a minute here and just go with this and not try to figure it out.’

“If I could [have] just put some rational thought to this, I thought it would make sense. That wasn’t the case. There was no putting any rational thought to it. I remember I had this feeling of, ‘Man, you’re in the jungle now.’ This thing is coming alive. I had this moment of clarity where I could hear all the noises in the Amazon and I was like, ‘Oh my goodness, I’m in South America, I’m in the middle of the Amazon jungle and this voice just kicked in. I’m going to be here for three weeks, I better get comfortable here and quickly.’

“The first ceremony, I was just a write-off, but when that voice and that sort of guidance came in, right away it gave me an offer. It was like, you have a choice here, if you’re down here to change, you’re going to have to experience some painful things. Or you can go on living the way you’re living. I had this option at that moment to make a decision, and I decided to proceed forward.

“[So] what happened that night was that a line-up of ex-girlfriends showed up. My ex-wife, my ex-girlfriend, I was lying there and, one by one, they appeared in front of me crystal clear as if they were standing there. They explained to me what my actions had done to them, how it had hurt them, how it had affected them, how it affected their lives, and how it had made them feel about themselves. It was four or five of them in a row. It was not easy, man. That was a rough road.”

Mike did not feel that he was guided through these experiences to make him feel guilty, “but in order to understand things I needed to have the severity and the seriousness of it put to me, and the best way to do that, in that moment, was through a visual interpretation of it. That’s what I got. I wouldn’t have known any different if they were standing right there yelling at me. It was that clear. I was looking and they were physically there, standing there and letting me have it. Nobody took it easy on me that night. That was a tough night in the jungle.

“At the end of that, I remember thinking, ‘How am I going to get through three weeks of this? This is ridiculous. Nobody told me about this.’ Then there was a break [a night off, after the first two ceremonies]. Everything that I had to feel from that [second] night just stuck with me. It didn’t leave. There was no reprieve granted that night and I think that was intentional. You need to sit with this. You’re not just going to say, ‘Here’s where you went wrong and now you feel better about yourself.’ That night and the next day and into the following day, right up until [the next ceremony] night, my heart was just heavy. It was just the weight of the world on me. Not in the sense of self-pity or sympathy, it was just I was feeling the pain I had inflicted on others. I was really connected to what my actions had done to other people.

“It was tough. I woke up the next morning and I was like, ‘I hate myself.’ I don’t even know if I slept. I think I just lay there all night feeling sorry for myself. This is wrong, man. I haven’t been through anything like that.

“It was kind of put to me from that point on. In between the bathroom breaks and all the crying and sweating, and the stuff that goes on when you’re cleaning out, I learned a lot about why I was unhappy. Why I was self-destructive, why I was counterproductive to my own future.

“I learned that it was because of my selfish behavior . . . When I hurt somebody that I loved out of selfishness, I would turn that into self-anger . . . to beating myself up and saying I’m a bad person, because I have a conscience. If I didn’t have a conscience, like your average sociopath, it wouldn’t have been a big deal. I would have just moved on to the next one. I truly cared. I was completely unable to stop the cycle that I had created for myself. Lying, cheating, deceiving, and then self-hatred and self-loathing. That would manifest into drugs and alcohol and lot of other behavior and all the other things that would come with it. Once I would see the effect I was having on people and my conscience would get to me, I would just medicate and self-destruct and it would just feed itself. When I was behaving like that, I was hurting the people I cared about even more. It would just constantly be this wheel that was fed with negativity.

“One of the very early fundamentals I learned [from] working with this plant was that ‘if I’m going to hurt other people, I’m going to hate myself. If I’m going to hate myself, then I’m going to self-destruct and I’m never going to be happy.’ It starts with, in my case, the way I’m treating the people that I care about. Even the people that I don’t care about.”

After two days in the jungle with a heavy heart, reflecting deeply on his realizations, Mike entered his third ceremony.

“I dragged my sorry ass in there feeling . . . like, ‘Oh man, what’s coming? Not another one of these . . . ’ The heaviness that I felt in my heart, that voice came back and was like, ‘You’re going to remove this. Now that you understand what you’re doing. Now it’s time to start caring about yourself.’ That next ceremony, after the Wednesday break, was when the guilt, the shame, the remorse, all that stuff started to come out of me. When I was able to really get the weight lifted out of my heart.

“The real crazy one would’ve been the fifth or sixth ceremony. They came and got the guy beside me and brought him up [to the shamans], then Ricardo said something and they brought the guy back.” The helper had brought Mike’s neighbor, but in that particular moment, Ricardo changed his mind and decided that he specifically wanted to sing to Mike. Deep in his ayahuasca effect and a bit confused over the shuffle, Mike allowed the helper to guide him over to Ricardo.

Mike continued:

“[I was brought up in front of Ricardo for the icaro and] there was a crazy moment where [Ricardo] kind of sat up and leaned in on me and started making these really weird noises. I felt like my chest had opened up and something was being pulled right out of it. The weight of this darkness, it was just like he sucked it right out of my chest. I couldn’t feel my legs. This went on for ten minutes. When I went back to my [mat], I could barely walk. I was like, ‘Holy [smokes], is that an exorcism? What just happened there?’ I felt like he had just taken that negativity, [in] that moment [he] just saw the opportunity to take something out of me and clean me. That was the real changing moment.

“I had been feeling good up to that point, because it was five or six ceremonies in, but after that night, was the point that I knew that my path had forevermore altered. I felt like from this point on you have a choice.”

The power to choose, improved personal agency, improves personal mastery and, with it, spiritual well-being and emotional body function.

“Up to that moment in my life, I just didn’t feel I had any choice over how I was behaving. I was completely unable to stop the bad behavior. That night I remember when I got back to the mat and [then] back to my hut, I remember thinking, ‘From this moment on, you can choose if you want to be that person, or you can choose if you want to be a better person.’ It was just so clear, for the first time in my life I now had the option. Does that mean everything is going to be perfect? No. It’s just that I didn’t have a choice before. I could never stop the behavior.”

I mentioned to Mike that I had come across a quote that said, “Once a person discovers a mystical or archetypal experience in his memory banks, he never again can view himself as worthless—which might well prove to be the most potent contribution of entheogens [psychedelics] in the treatment of addictions.”12 I wanted to hear his perspective on this idea, that a major mystical experience can help an addict transcend the feeling of worthlessness, that on the other side of worthlessness is choice.

Mike responded, “What’s going on with everything since my first visit down there is that I have the option if I want to keep suffering. I have the option if I want to get better. I firmly believe that I have the option . . . I really believe that sort of set off that night. I really believe that was the big catalyst.”

Mike finished the three-week experience feeling “amazing.” In his own words, “Things had been so bad for so long that part of my final experience in those final ceremonies was just to learn how to feel good and enjoy feeling good and enjoy taking some positive lessons . . . The punishment stopped.”

Mike had to go through his own forgiveness and acceptance process in order to move forward. “That was one of the keys to this thing. I had to understand it. It wasn’t because I was a bad person. It was the situation. It was a sickness. To come to accept all those things.”

Unfortunately, once home, he learned that he had come down with malaria.

“I was halfway to getting home, on the plane and I was like, ‘What is going on? Something is not right.’ I thought it was jet lag but after about the third day I was like, ‘This is not normal.’ [Mike went to see his doctor and was diagnosed with malaria.] But the thing was, when they treated me for it, the next day everything just returned. Once the malaria was gone, how good I felt, that all returned, it was just a sickness. It came and went. It didn’t affect me spiritually.”

Six months after his first stay, Mike sent me an email saying, “It’s now nearing the end of December, and six months later. So what has become of the man who lost his soul and begged for mercy from the plants of the amazon? My life, and the very existence I’ve ever known, has been completely transformed. I have experienced things in the last six months that I would never have believed possible. I live a caliber of life that people would die for. I am clean, sober, healthy, and most of all Joe. I love myself.”

Not too long after that email, Mike decided to go back to work in the oil patch. A few months later, approximately nine months after his stay at Nihue Rao, he started using again.

During the 2016 interview, Mike recalled, “Yeah. I had forgotten the fundamentals that I learned as far as what was important. Because I had never felt that good in my life, I got complacent. It started out with going to the pub with friends and drinking and thinking, ‘Well I’m cured, I’ve got this thing beat.’ It was a situational thing and I can drink and behave like this again. Sure enough it didn’t take long from when I started drinking again until the cocaine came back. Then again it just fell apart very quickly. It just collapsed again.”

Yes, Mike relapsed, but things never got as bad as they had in the past. He was able to overcome his self-hatred. He still had the power to choose, and he realized he needed more help. Mike’s mother advised him to return to Nihue Rao. He returned in April of 2014 for two more weeks. Ricardo started him on ajo sacha for this two-week diet, another plant used in cleansing the body of addictive substances. This two-week trip quickly got him back on track.

I asked Mike how he felt after his second experience. He replied, “Oh, yeah. I was doing incredible. I think what made that trip magical was the group of people that I met down there. All those guys and we just formed a really tight friendship very quickly. We had a really great time together. . . . It really restored me, being back there that time.

“Again, things were going so well. [When I got back to Canada] I went back to the oil and gas industry, which in the divisions I was working was very high pressure. [You’re] working with people with tempers, there is a lot of backstabbing, there is a lot of fighting. You can’t really be a pacifist . . . You have to just be a bull to get things accomplished and survive . . . I kind of fell back into that role again.”

After another seven or eight months of working in this environment, Mike started using cocaine again.

“After I left Peru, I never did anything to maintain sobriety. I just rode the wave of [good feelings] without reconnecting to something. For the second time, I just thought, ‘Man, I’m fixed. I just had a little bit of a dustup there, but I’m back on and it’s all good.’ Again, there was no maintenance of spiritual condition. I just kind of came back and went back to living the life, with the oil fields, and the trucks, and the money, and all that stuff.”

After this relapse, Mike returned to the center for one more week and then followed up by taking an opportunity to participate in ayahuasca ceremony in Portugal.

“We worked really well in Portugal. One of the things that I hadn’t dealt with was the loss of my marriage. I had never really forgiven myself. I had never come to terms with it. I hadn’t allowed myself to go through the feelings of it. How much that really meant to me, how much that really affected me for that to have happened.

“That happened six years ago. [Mike was married in July of 2009 and got divorced in May of 2010.] The weight of my decisions that cost me that opportunity, that cost me that partnership, I never really allowed myself to understand how deeply I felt about it. [My wife] wasn’t into drugs or anything like that. She supported me in sobriety and supported me going to AA and being around sober people, but when the relapses happened, when I wasn’t ready to stop it, she gave me more than enough opportunity to put the brakes on it and to get better and reach out for help. When that wasn’t happening, she just couldn’t be around it.”

Mike worked through forgiving himself and is now most focused on applying what he’s learned from his experiences with master plants.

“In spite of the treatment I received with the plants and the different ceremonies I went to, when I got home, I didn’t put any action into continuing the connection. Although I had been able to bounce back from setbacks, what has held me up was that I didn’t put the effort into staying connected to something other than to just go back to my complete old lifestyle and expect everything to change.”

After Portugal, Mike started using again for a period of time over the winter but was able to pull out of it on his own, with the help of his community. When we last spoke, he was back on track again.

“When I was telling you today about what’s going on [over] the last few weeks, me being able to be in the situation I’m in right now and doing as well as I’m doing in the brief period of time, that I swung back, this would not have happened in my history . . . I wouldn’t have been able to stop. It would have had to get to the point where [I needed an intervention,] a treatment center . . . [or] going back to Peru.

“What I’m finding now that I’m in AA and working with people that are spiritual people and people that are clean and sober, when I’m living around people that are living in the solution that I want to be a part of, I’m finding the solution is becoming a part of my everyday life. Instead of being back in the oil fields, instead of being back around people that are drinking, back around people that are around drug dealers, back around all that, just expecting to maintain this great thing . . . That’s the big thing. That’s the big deal. It’s a boost. It’s a day-to-day thing, it’s real life. To stay connected.”

At first glance, it might seem that ayahuasca and the TAPM treatment failed to heal Mike. But that’s not what Mike took from the experience.

After maintaining his sobriety for some time, Mike spoke with a therapist who has seen others go through plant medicine experiences. Mike told me that this therapist said something to him like this:

“You can go down to the Amazon and do a night banger through the jungle and have a great time and be safe, but if you don’t understand the messages that are being given and find a way to apply them in your life, all you are doing is going on a rodeo tour. When you come back, you’re left with all these answers and you’re not connected to anything. There’s a whole other side to this that isn’t just about drinking the medicine and expecting to be fixed.

“We go down there because we are in such bad shape and we come back having never felt so great about things. We forget that there is work needed to maintain this stuff. You’re not going to feel great forever, but there is a way to consistently be dialed in, and it involves some work outside of going to Peru once a year. You can’t just expect it to be fixed.”

Mike is now part of a healthy community, working part-time as a firefighter, and interested in getting back into radio broadcasting. In his new community, he attends AA meetings regularly.

“This is the first time since I’ve visited Peru, since before I went to Peru, that I have the understanding that I need to be connected to something that is going to keep me sober. I’m not going to stay sober based on the fear of my last bad experience. Fear is not going to keep me sober. Fear of relapsing isn’t going to keep me from relapsing. One thing to keep me from relapsing is putting in some work. Without what happened in Peru and the experiences I have had . . . well, [I can say that this plant has] taught me to how to fight instead of just roll over and die and give up. There is always another option, a lot of hope.

“Before I didn’t have the choice. I didn’t have the choice when I relapsed . . . Now I have the option. I know what needs to be done, I know how I can feel about myself if I put the work in and I know where to get help if I want it. I know that I’m worth fighting for. Before, [that] wasn’t a part of my psyche, it wasn’t a part of my thought process.”

Mike and I are now friends, and I hope to be on his radio show one day. He is still going to AA meetings and he is still sober.

Mystical Healing

Although Mike’s path to sobriety was long and complicated (involving multiple plant diets and ongoing social support), he is quite clear that the ayahuasca ceremonies opened the door to his transformation. His mystical ceremonial experiences were crucial to uncovering and healing the deep emotional wounds that were preventing his success. We are now discovering more and more about how such mystical experiences shift perspective and help someone overcome the feelings of worthlessness that underlie self-destructive behavior.

Dr. Roland Griffith’s research group at Johns Hopkins Medical School (Dept. of Psychiatry) is currently investigating the role of mystical experiences in healing.13-15 They are using psilocybin- induced states of consciousness as a model for the mystical experience, exploring the way mystical states affect healthcare outcomes.

In their research, they use a secular scale, The Mystical Experience Questionnaire, to try and determine how “mystical” a particular psilocybin experience was. This scale is a subjective questionnaire that explores the degree to which a study participant, for example, had the experience of feeling eternity or infinity, or the experience of fusion with a larger whole, or the feeling that they had gained insightful knowledge at an intuitive level, etc. Using their Mystical Scale and other research instruments, researchers have found that those psilocybin experiences rated as more mystical were also found to be more personally meaningful and spiritually significant, and that personally meaningful and spiritually significant experiences promote more lasting change.

This aligned with prior observations that I had read: “Naturally occurring instances of dramatic, positive behavioral change are sometimes associated with spontaneously occurring transformative psychological experiences, frequently of a mystical-type variety and with prior psychedelic research demonstrating that mystical-type experiences, transcendent or peak experiences, played a key role in positive therapeutic outcomes (including early research investigating the treatment of drug and alcohol dependence and, more recently, the treatment of anxiety associated with advanced cancer).”14

The Johns Hopkins group applied these concepts to a further study investigating a psilocybin-based treatment for tobacco addiction.15 In an attempt to get them to quit smoking, fifteen people were put through a treatment program that included up to three clinically observed psilocybin experiences. After the treatment program, twelve of the fifteen study participants quit smoking. Six months later, those twelve were still not smoking. The participants who quit smoking reported stronger mystical experiences with psilocybin and rated these experiences as more personally meaningful and spiritually significant as compared to those who did not quit. The investigators summarized, “These results suggest a mediating role of a mystical experience in psychedelic-facilitated addiction treatment.”

Why the science “talk” again? Well, apparently, tobacco addiction, a “brain” disease, regarded commonly as a physical addiction, can be “mediated” by a mystical experience. Mike’s cocaine addiction was similarly affected by his mystical experiences with ayahuasca. Perhaps it is time to expand our understanding of addiction. “Brain disease” doesn’t seem to quite cover it.16

Profound, mystical experiences of self-love can apparently reprogram the mind-body in a meaningful and lasting manner. Mike’s experiences in ayahuasca ceremony helped him to overcome much of his deep emotional suffering, so that his story could be retold and his brain could be “rewired.” This transition was further facilitated by shamanic healing, master plant diets, subsequent integration, and social support.

Feeling is what affects the emotional body. Sometimes the master plants and the energy of an ayahuasca ceremony can make you feel something so strongly that it can change your life. Such experiences can even impact something as physically intense as cocaine addiction. Ayahuasca helped Mike cross into the mystery to find and fully feel self-love, forgiveness, compassion, and gratitude. These faculties of the soul then promoted healing in his emotional body, which then translated into changes in his mind-body.

Afterwards, clearly, there was more work to do. Traditional medicine all over the world acknowledges this. After traditional healing, if you don’t change your life, nothing will change, not for long. You have to do your part to maintain a shift in the emotional body. If you don’t, your mystical Amazonian experiences will fade into that memorable “rodeo tour,” that one time, in the jungle.


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