I finally got around to trying the stuff Friday night. It was probably the most unpleasant experience of my entire life, but I doubt my reaction bears even a passing resemblance to the average.
For starters, I overdosed, and a little less than an hour later ended up vomiting violently either due to the subsequent nausea or as a general purging reaction to poisons. The guy who was sharing had given me some directions for smoking a pipe, and apparently he hadn’t expected me to follow the directions so perfectly. (Hurray for the weirdo genius, I guess.) I got the overdose in the first, singular inhalation, and apparently getting it all at once is another way to sharply increase the effects of the dose.
I experienced the typical, banal effect of being “high” in less than five minutes (which was not, for me, appreciably different from being drunk, nor noticeably pleasant or unpleasant). As expected, I became analytical uber alles. My muscles became relaxed to the point of catatonia, except for a tension in my brainstem and occipital region, saggital keel, spine, shoulders, and shoulder blades (I understand this is unusual in the saggital keel and shoulders). But this phase only lasted for about five minutes, and then I started tripping balls. In retrospect, I should have seen that coming 50 miles away. Associative horizon is, after all, the low end of psychosis.
The trip began with some rather unremarkable hallucinations. A car drove by, behind ours, and appeared to stop behind us with the headlights shining at us, as if the driver had stopped to observe us with his headlights. (Having been warned about the possibility of paranoia, I was able to relax.) When I turned my head to look at the car, the illusion was dispelled because the car wasn’t there. The illusion was due to the headlights passing through the light of the streetlamp above us and becoming mixed up in it, so that it was plausible to believe the headlights had halted there, and were still pouring into the same place as the streetlamp. This happened a second time when another car drove by. I attribute this particular sort of paranoia to the same self-consciousness that makes it impossible to hide from monsters in dreams, so that their eyes are ineffably drawn to our hiding places.
After this, the really weird stuff started to happen. I was babbling to my babysitter by now that my experience was not at all matching his explanations, or my understanding of what a normal “high” is like, but I still think he doesn’t believe me.
This is where the weirdest effect began, which I will leave open for interpretation. I began to see the immediate sensations of my eyes and ears as a series of disconnected pictures (though highly similar pictures), rather than as a movie, as if the film projector in a cinema had slowed down to the point that it were possible to see each slide for about 1/10 of a second. Each picture approached my mind’s eye from the front and would either drop straight downward out of sight, revealing the next picture behind it (usually an identical or highly similar picture, because throughout the experience I didn’t move my head much), or in rare cases I would “attend” to a picture with my conscious mind and it would pass around and through me and be recorded straight into long-term memory. This latter point will become important in a couple of paragraphs.
In the course of this sensory sifting process, I noticed that most of the time I was only attending to one in ten pictures, and sometimes would go for 10-30 seconds without attending to any of them as they poured downward, off-screen. This would happen as I observed my own cognitive processes and formed theories about them, and tried to translate them into words (which turned out to be very difficult, and I’ve spent a great number of CPU cycles since then attempting it). The words thing just wasn’t working out at the time, but I figured I’d be able to overcome this after coming down. I asked how long the effect would last, and whether my memories would be intact. My babysitter said yes, presuming I didn’t black out. This would later comfort me as the experience became less pleasant. The experience of fracturing my sensory inputs into discrete pieces had the feeling of similarly fracturing my ego, except for some times when I (my ego) would “attend” to all the sensory inputs for a few seconds in a row and they would blend back into a movie. This was more comfortable, but very tiring, and it happened spontaneously whenever I would rally my fractured thoughts to speak, usually a simple response to a simple question from my hypertalkative babysitter.
A cartoony homunculus of myself began to appear in the center of my field of vision, watching me. This wasn’t a hallucination per se, because I never mistook it for anything other than a curious dreamy artifact, unlike the car and headlights which seemed to have real substance in the 3D world that was assailing my eyes with a stream of 2D sensory impressions. When I was aware of it, it was more like something that was being added to the memories of the pictures that had been processed into long-term memory. To get a real feel for the effect, try staring at a lightbulb for a few seconds, then close your eyes. You can still see a low-resolution facsimile of the light from the bulb. Open your eyes, and it’s still in the center of your vision no matter how much you turn your head (there is no temptation to think it’s anything other than a weird visual artifact). Now imagine that instead of the lightbulb, you had stared at a very bright cartoon rendition of yourself, with the same facial and bodily dimensions as the original Super Mario for SNES, taking up maybe 30 degrees of your 180-degree visual field. Mine was very clownish, with an exaggerated beard and sanguine smiling face, and the red color of the hair and beard was impossibly bright (though appropriate for a cartoon).
I interpret this self-watching homunculus to be the inspiration for Freud’s superego concept. Some sorta meta-cognitive observer. As the trip wore on, this would morph into a realistic, androgynous man with long, angular facial features and very long, dirty blond hair. (By now, I had gone through the single vomiting episode.) This homunculus was very melancholy, and neither sanguine nor smiling. The last incarnation was a picture-perfect visualization of myself as a very tired-looking old man with no hair on top (my pattern baldness is showing the same pattern as my dad’s), blotchy skin, and lots of wrinkles around the eyes and forehead. His eyes were aware and highly perceptive, but tired, and he was obviously waiting patiently for permission from God to die, but willing to spend what little energy he had left to do what seemed right. In retrospect, the combination of these three characters is a very good visual representation of my personality (sanguine, melancholy, stoic).
Now for the most alarming effect: complete breakdown in the experience of linear time. This began about twenty minutes after the initial dose. At first, I experienced this as a complete loss of short-term memory. Not less short-term memory, none. I was a computer without RAM, which meant that movement in time had no difference in character from movement in space (you can probably see where the nausea came from). Remembering what happened one tenth of a second previously felt the same as recalling biographical details, and when I looked at the clock to see how much time had passed it didn’t feel somehow appropriate or inappropriate (like when you think “it’s been about five minutes” and then check and see it was actually six minutes). So it’s like I was floating in the void after death and thinking “Pearl Harbor was Dec 7, 1941, Columbus sailed in 1492, and I once thought Now was 10:41 PM.” The idea that Now was somehow strictly connected to Before only reasserted itself when I was speaking and forming words in my mind.
A little while after this had started, my babysitter told me it’s normal to feel hungry, and I said something like “This is different. I can’t even imagine anyone being hungry while this is happening.” Even after I was passing out on his couch, he was inviting me to socialize with some friends and eat some munchies. Completely oblivious, the whole time. Irresponsible of me, in retrospect, to trust my physical safety to the basic decency of an average idiot. I don’t think he has the mental capacity to imagine that there are people with minds slightly unlike his own, much less fundamentally different. Anyway, that’s tangential. Back to the short-term memory thing.
The remarkable thing is that I was still functioning, if poorly, and entirely rational. Hyper-rational, even. I was making extremely predictive inferences. My babysitter was saying, at one point, that he felt safer driving while high than while sober, and he was certainly against driving drunk. His tone brought me to awareness for a moment, and I went back in my long-term memory to observe the last couple of seconds and analyze the tone. My long-term memory informed me that there were three other times in the conversation that the babysitter had said something highly similar, sort of like I’d done a Google search on my recent memories and it had returned four hits with the most recent at the top of the list. I concluded from this (and his tone in each case) that he was trying to prime me, through social hints and cues, to eventually leave the car and drive myself home.
Having already concluded by similar pattern-perception that A) driving myself was definitely NOT an option, and B) the babysitter did not realize I was not “high”, but rather “hardcore tripping”, I made a plan and a backup plan. Because I expected he viewed my continued presence as a mere inconvenience, I emulated his social instincts in my mind and concluded he would offer me the choice of driving myself or sleeping at his place, hoping the priming would cue me to the former. In my mind, I made a list of nearby places indoors within a few hundred meters where I could sleep without being discovered, and drive home in the morning. Luckily, he offered me the expected choice, using his tone to indicate which one I was supposed to pick. Instead, I rallied my fractured consciousness into movie-mode and said with uber-aspie pedantic syntax, “I would highly prefer to sleep at your place, rather than to drive myself.” Aha! Now he was obligated, and I was more or less safe.
Later in the night, as we were driving through the city, I came up with some disconcerting hypotheses about the breakdown in linear time. Maybe I’d died, and this was a fractured recollection of the minutes before, patched together like spare parts. Or maybe I’d been brain-damaged in a car accident, and this was my experience in the near-future of my brain trying to reconnect all the parts into a logical whole memory. Maybe I was under hypnosis, reliving the disjointed memory in order to make sense of it, and coming to terms with a highly traumatic event? Though disconcerting, I was only mildly upset by any of these ideas and the anticipation for, possibly, horrible pain. At least I wouldn’t be in my right mind. I’ve always kinda expected to die in a horrible car crash, but even so it seemed like a stupid time and place. The old man homunculus could only shake his head at that idea. How silly, to die in a car crash because my stupid babysitter thinks he can drive stoned.
Well, after the fact my short-term came back to full function, though very, very slowly. It’s been 44 hours, and even after three big cups of coffee do I feel like I’m getting back to normal. Marijuana doesn’t get filtered anywhere near as quickly as alcohol, and I’d gotten a huge dose too. I was probably close to being “high” at the normal level for most of yesterday. We had a spontaneous family breakfast, and they probably noticed I was a lot more spacey and inattentive than usual. Probably could smell it on my breath still (my coughing tic has also come back), and just didn’t say anything. People are weird that way. Gonna tell my brother tonight and see what he says about my level of function at the time. But it’s weird to see how much of my so-called “functioning” is just autopilot. I’m off in nowhere-land, someone asks a question, and BAM I’m Back to the Present and all the necessary information for forming a verbal answer has just popped into my head instantly, and after a tenth of a second for perusal out comes the reply. What did I have to do with all of this? My consciousness feels, at most, like a rubber stamp. It just says yes/no to some of the brain processes it’s allowed to tamper with.
Anyway, that’s all of the main stuff. Plenty long enough, crikey. Publish button.