Charlie, whose name has been changed for this story in exchange for candor, discovered magic mushrooms later in life. A 39-year-old single father who works in the federal financial sector, Charlie is conflicted about requesting anonymity for this story.
"I so wholeheartedly believe in this," he says. "I'm super passionate and I'm like, philosophically down for this to proliferate. And so it's just like a tricky balance for me."
He describes himself as being pretty straight edge in his youth, though says he drank and smoked weed in college. Drugs and mind-altering substances were heavily stigmatized in his home, which he assumed had trickled down from societal norms.
"Even smoking cigarettes, which I don't do, everything was under a single umbrella," he says of his childhood.
It wasn't until 2016, around the same time he began practicing Transcendental Meditation, that his interest in psychedelics was piqued, after he had heard podcasts about peoples' experiences with shrooms, ketamine, LSD, and ayahuasca. He describes himself as not being "discontent" but also, at the time, unfulfilled by the expectations of "the rat race" and paying bills, earning a living, and trying to support kids while living in an upper-middle class area of metro Detroit. He longed for something beyond the surface.
"It's like I'm still longing for more and more connection," he says. "So hearing people talk about the various aspects of psychedelic use and what that can do in terms of enhancing empathy and connection with one another, let alone some neurogenesis — like, I'm listening to Paul Stamets talk about how he had a chronic stutter at a young age and psychedelics literally eradicated that. I was diagnosed as having ADHD when I was younger, and I took Adderall, and so I thought, maybe I can reroute some of my neural pathways, or become more creative. Literally all these different aspects of psychedelic experiences sort of coalesced into me really, really wanting to try it."
And so he did. Someone close to him served as his trip sitter and facilitated Charlie's first trip, which he describes as being "a 10 out of 10 experience."
"It was just phenomenal," he says. "I had a full-on trip. It was unstoppable hilarity. I described it as oozing. I was on Belle Isle on a 75-degree sunny day on the beach. And I was just like, totally infused into the sand, melting into it and oozing and laughing and excreting out of my face," he laughs. "It was ridiculous. And it was the best thing ever. And I also got all of that warmth and empathy, and an understanding of my place in the world. It was super, super transformative. After that I thought: This will always be a part of my life."
It took Charlie nearly two years to revisit shrooms. This time, he set an intention, though as with me and my first trip, he sort of already knew what had to be done to get off a path that was no longer serving him. Since his first trip, Charlie has become a fountain of information and curiosity about growing techniques, and the functions of the non-psilocybin chemical compounds found in magic mushrooms, and the impact they have on the brain, body, and general mindset. Despite the societal, financial, and parental obstacles a passion for mushrooms and psychedelics presents, Charlie says he has no plans to stop or slow his psychedelic journey.
"I think that's amazing that there's all these healing properties for specific ailments or pathologies, but just being a human being really requires its own healing of some sort, whether it's a big-T or little-t trauma or just the human experience," he says. "So we could certainly broaden that definition, probably of it being a medicine or a healing agent and expanding our consciousness and having better tools to navigate this world."