How magic mushrooms could become Michigan’s next frontier — and why it matters

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For Lauryn Walters-Tillman, a bad trip in her teens scared her off from ever revisiting psychedelics.

The 38-year-old mother says, up until recently, she had been "rawdogging life."

As a child and teenager, she moved around a lot, attending more than 15 different schools, though rarely straying far from Royal Oak, where she lives now and has, despite the constant relocating, considered the metro Detroit city home for quite some time.

During her high school years, she experimented with acid and says she had mostly positive experiences, though she said she felt more comfortable taking mushrooms. However, it was one bad acid trip that, just three months later, led to a bad mushroom trip.

"I just didn't feel comfortable in myself and my friendships were kind of struggling after being gone for years," Walters-Tillman says. "I was ... just completely unaware when it came to understanding who I was in the world."

Walters-Tillman says she thought, even after her nightmare experience with LSD, that she would be fine to take mushrooms. In past shroom experiences, she remembers feeling like she was more connected to the world and people around her, and recalls forming meaningful bonds with others as a result. At the time of the mushroom trip that scared her off, she says she was somewhat comfortable with the group of friends she tripped with, though admits they weren't what she would consider her best friends. She thought she would be fine.

"It was too fresh," she says of the acid trip. "It was like, still in my brain. I think just having that bad trip bled through into my subconscious."

Many years later, Walters-Tillman was diagnosed with PTSD, following years of childhood sexual abuse, and was prescribed an antidepressant following the birth of her son.

"I wish I would have known what I know now when I was in high school," she says. "Whenever we would take [mushrooms], I would feel a connection to the group I was with, but none of us were really trying to delve into trauma. You think that you know everything when you're that age," she says. "But you don't."

In her 20s she dabbled in what she refers to as "bar drugs" (like cocaine and ecstasy), mainly because of their availability. Walters-Tillman says she hadn't been around mushrooms since her high school days. That is, until the summer of 2020, when she and her friend brought shrooms to Traverse City.

"We set our intentions," Walters-Tillman says, adding that her friend was using this trip to confront a drinking problem. "And we knew what we wanted to do. We wanted to be on a healing trip, you know, so we ate, like, a lot, a lot, like, we weren't microdosing, we were really trying to trip," she says. "And since then, I think I've done them one other time, and I microdose often to maintain. I really try to meditate on what I want out of my experience and think about where I am in my life, and am I happy where I am. Are there things I could change? It's like holding up an intergalactic mirror and sometimes you're not going to see what you want to see, but it can be good."

Though the fear of possibly having a bad trip lingers in her mind, she credits mushrooms for helping her tune into her wants, including what kind of mother she wants to be.

"I microdosed on my daughter's fifth birthday," Walters-Tillman divulges. "It was kind of like a spur of the moment thing. And of course, it was like, everyone in my family showed up, which they've never shown up to a birthday party. My aunts, my cousins, everyone," she laughs.

"I ended up having the most wonderful time," she says. "I remember my daughter saying, 'Mom, why are you smiling so much? Why are you so happy?' Of course, it's kind of heartbreaking to hear that because I want to be like that all the time. I mean, I was way more present that day. I wasn't stressed out about little things, you know, like cutting the cake and that kind of thing. It was just really beautiful."

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