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From Addiction to Sobriety with Psychedelic Therapy Ft. Vanessa Crites 

This article is inspired by our insightful podcast episode hosted by Psychedelic Passage co-founder, Jimmy Nguyen, which you can listen to on all streaming platforms. 

In this enlightening conversation with Vanessa Crites, a psycho-spiritual integration specialist and coach, discover the intersection of psychedelics in sobriety and recovery from substance use. 

Learn how Vanessa’s journey led her to explore the healing potential of psychedelics while preserving her long-term recovery. She delves into Psychedelics in Recovery (PIR), a fellowship that bridges the gap between 12-step addiction programs and psychedelic exploration.

Vanessa Crites shares the power of community, the importance of informed exploration, and how finding your own recipe for healing can transform your life. 

She explains the value of informed decision-making, offering her platform, Sobriety of the Soul, as a resource for individuals in recovery looking to explore psychedelics safely and mindfully.

Key Takeaways

  • Historical Roots of Psychedelics in AA: The article sheds light on the historical connection between Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) founder Bill Wilson and psychedelic experiences, challenging the modern stigma around psychedelics in recovery. Wilson’s encounters with substances like belladonna and later LSD influenced the foundational principles of AA.
  • Psychedelics In Recovery Fellowship (PIR): PIR is a crucial space for individuals in recovery to openly share their experiences with psychedelic practices. Modeled after the 12 steps, PIR provides a supportive community for members from various recovery paths, emphasizing the integration of psychedelic practices into spiritually oriented recovery programs.
  • Sobriety of the Soul: This structured educational platform offers a self-paced online course, rooted in recovery-informed principles, covering a wide spectrum of topics. It serves as a bridge for individuals to explore the symbiotic nature between psychedelics and their paths of recovery, with a focus on intentionality in psychedelic exploration.
  • Psychedelic Passage: Your Psychedelic Concierge — The easy, legal way to find trustworthy psilocybin guides, facilitators and psychedelic-assisted therapy near you in the United States.

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For harm-reduction purposes, we provide links to online psilocybin vendors, local stores, delivery services, and spore vendors for growing your own medicine at home.

The Traditional Path of Recovery

Vanessa delves into her early struggles with alcoholism and the years of attempting to quit drinking before finding solace in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). 

Her journey within the 12-step program brought about significant positive changes, restoring relationships and establishing a self-supporting life. However, after about 12 years of sobriety, Vanessa felt a spiritual stagnancy that traditional methods couldn’t alleviate.

Driven by a lifelong inclination towards spiritual exploration since the age of 14, Vanessa recognized the importance of spiritual wellness in maintaining sobriety. 

Despite engaging in various modalities such as holotropic breathwork, dance, silent retreats, and visits to a monastery, she found herself at a plateau in her spiritual growth

Seeking Beyond Traditional Modalities

As 12 step programs teach, maintenance of spiritual wellness is a necessary component to sobriety, but after 12 years of doing everything by the book, Vanessa recognized her lack of spiritual growth and yearning for more. 

“At the exact same time that I was going through this experience, I had a partner who had treatment resistant depression. 

We were getting ready to hospitalize him for the umpteenth time in his life, just a rotating door of facilities and psychiatric facilities and treatment centers and therapists and medications and nothing was working.”

The turning point in Vanessa’s journey occurred when she was seeking support for her partner and found Johns Hopkins research on alternative treatments for treatment-resistant depression.

Intrigued, she delved into a year-long research journey, eventually leading her to the world of psychedelic medicines. 

Navigating Moral Conundrums

As Vanessa considered integrating psychedelics into her life, she faced a moral conundrum, particularly within the context of her 12-step recovery program, which touts the idea of abstinence sobriety.

Addressing the potential conflict with her commitment to sobriety, Vanessa engaged in thoughtful discussions with her sponsor, seeking guidance and navigating the delicate balance between spiritual exploration and maintaining her recovery.

“She said in the most masterful sponsorship, Vanessa, I know nothing about this path that you’re on. Is it bringing you closer to the light or away from it?”

Vanessa’s sponsor played a pivotal role in her journey, offering a unique perspective that transcended traditional norms within recovery communities.

This open-minded and supportive approach allowed Vanessa to reconcile her spiritual path with her commitment to sobriety. Another crucial aspect of Vanessa’s decision-making process was her commitment to intentionality

She emphasized the importance of exploring psychedelics with a clear purpose, differentiating between seeking higher consciousness and healing versus using substances as a means to numb or escape. 

This approach reconciles Vanessa’s active participation in both the 12-step community and the psychedelic medicine community, fostering a harmonious integration of her spiritual path and recovery journey.

Navigating Stigma and Isolation

Vanessa’s experiences reveal the challenges faced by individuals who choose to explore psychedelic therapy within the traditional recovery community. 

The stigma, judgment, and ostracization that often accompany discussions about psychedelics can leave individuals feeling isolated and alone. This isolation contradicts the core principles of recovery, which emphasize community, understanding, and shared experiences.

The conversation highlights the intersection of intentional psychedelic use and the experiences of vulnerable populations, including those dealing with mental health issues, marginalized communities, or individuals facing PTSD as first responders or veterans. 

The term “psychedelic”, rooted in Greek etymology, signifies “soul manifesting,” emphasizing the profound impact these substances can have on one’s spiritual and emotional well-being.

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For harm-reduction purposes, we provide links to online psilocybin vendors, local stores, delivery services, and spore vendors for growing your own medicine at home.

Psychedelics’ Historical Roots in AA

The Belladonna Treatment 

In the 1930s, Bill Wilson, co-founder of AA, found himself hospitalized for the third and final time due to alcoholism. It was during this period that he underwent what was known as the Belladonna treatment. 

This treatment involved the use of plant medicines such as belladonna, an herb in the nightshade family, aiming to bring about a profound spiritual experience.

During his treatment, Wilson reported a transformative “white light” experience, standing on a metaphorical mountaintop with the “sunlight of the spirit” pouring through him. 

In this altered state of consciousness, he had a vision of one alcoholic helping another achieve permanent recovery. This vision laid the foundation for the community-based model of recovery that became the essence of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Contrary to common perceptions, the roots of AA are intertwined with psychedelic experiences. Wilson’s spiritual awakening during the Belladonna treatment inspired the fundamental principles of one alcoholic helping another, a central theme in the 12-step recovery program.

LSD Experiments and Bill Wilson’s Continued Exploration

Twenty years after the formation of AA, Bill Wilson found himself connected with Aldous Huxley through Gerald Heard, a spiritual mentor. 

Huxley, the author of “The Doors of Perception,” informed Wilson about Canadian doctors conducting LSD experiments on alcoholics and schizophrenics.

Initially skeptical, Wilson’s curiosity grew as he learned about the positive results of these experiments. Seeking relief from his own clinical depression, Wilson participated in LSD experiments in Los Angeles. 

“He had clinical depression where he had recovered from alcoholism. He didn’t want to drink, but he had this outside issue and he was seeking outside help for his outside issue.”

Over the course of six to eight years, he continued this exploratory journey with psychedelics, acknowledging that the LSD experiment helped him overcome clinical depression.

The historical connection between psychedelics and the early days of AA challenges the modern-day stigma associated with the use of psychedelics in recovery. 

Despite the groundbreaking role psychedelics played in the personal healing of one of AA’s founders, this aspect of history is often obscured or ignored.

The Psychedelics In Recovery Fellowship

During the podcast, Vanessa introduces Psychedelics In Recovery (PIR), a fellowship program that provides a crucial space for individuals in recovery to openly share their experiences with psychedelic practices.

This holds true especially for those whose outside issues extend beyond the scope of their primary fellowship. 

PIR is modeled after the 12 steps and serves as a supportive community for members from various recovery paths. 

Members gather to share their experience, strength, and hope, emphasizing the integration of psychedelic practices into their spiritually oriented recovery programs.

The conversation within PIR extends beyond the psychedelic experiences themselves. Members discuss the importance of discernment in deciding when and with whom to share their psychedelic journeys. 

This parallels broader discussions within the psychedelic community about the sacredness of these experiences and the need to share them in supportive and understanding environments.

The Role of Community and Aftercare

Psychedelics, as described by Jimmy, offer a unique opportunity to “come home to yourself,” fostering a profound relationship with one’s mind, body, and emotions. This process often extends to the individual’s connection with the world and the people within it.

Reflecting on her experiences within the PIR fellowship, Vanessa discusses the importance of finding a community that understands and supports the intersection of recovery and psychedelic exploration.

The dialogue addresses the common distinction between a “bad trip” and a challenging experience that can lead to personal growth. 

Vanessa shares a deeply personal and transformative journey she had with ayahuasca, where she experiences profound darkness and a dismantling of her “self”. 

After her journey, she describes being held in a container of facilitators and friends. This intentioned aftercare strategy allowed her to give meaning to her experience and to investigate it in a loving and patient container.

Vanessa emphasizes the role of support and integration in shaping the perception and interpretation of psychedelic journeys. The quality of the experience is significantly influenced by the conditions and intentions set within the container of support and aftercare.

Jimmy emphasizes that the process of integration extends beyond the psychedelic experience itself, encompassing the merging of insights and revelations into everyday life. 

Sobriety of The Soul

Vanessa has further contributed to the intersection of recovery and intentional psychedelic exploration through her creation of Sobriety of the Soul

Recognizing the need for a structured educational platform, Vanessa curated Sobriety of the Soul to empower individuals in recovery who wish to make a safe and informed entry into the realm of psychedelic medicines. 

The platform offers a self-paced online course, rooted in recovery-informed principles, covering a wide spectrum of topics, from sober identity and core beliefs to the nature of psychedelics, intention setting, preparation, navigating the psychedelic experience, and integration. 

Vanessa’s platform provides a bridge for individuals to explore the symbiotic nature between psychedelics and their paths of recovery, with bonus materials specifically tailored for those engaged in 12-step programs.

“Like Timothy Leary said, right? Find other people who are having this conversation so that you can sidle up alongside them and find people who have the quality of life that you want.”

In the intricate interplay of recovery and intentional psychedelic exploration, the crucial role of community stands as a steadfast foundation, providing the understanding, connection, and encouragement needed for the transformative journey towards healing and self-discovery.

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        Frequently Asked Questions

        1. How did Vanessa’s journey within the 12-step program contribute to her recovery?

        Vanessa initially struggled with alcoholism and found solace in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Her engagement in the 12-step program brought about significant positive changes, restoring relationships and establishing a self-supporting life. 

        However, after about 12 years of sobriety, she felt a spiritual stagnancy that traditional methods couldn’t alleviate, leading her to explore alternative modalities.

        2. What led Vanessa to explore psychedelic medicines, and how did she navigate moral concerns within her 12-step recovery program?

        Vanessa’s exploration of psychedelic medicines stemmed from a year-long research journey prompted by her partner’s treatment-resistant depression. Facing a moral conundrum within the context of her commitment to abstinence sobriety, Vanessa engaged in thoughtful discussions with her sponsor. 

        Her sponsor’s open-minded and supportive approach allowed her to reconcile her spiritual path with her commitment to sobriety, emphasizing the importance of intentionality in exploring psychedelics.

        3. How does the historical connection between psychedelics and Alcoholics Anonymous challenge modern stigma?

        The article highlights the historical roots of psychedelics in AA, specifically the Belladonna treatment and later LSD experiments conducted by AA co-founder Bill Wilson. Despite the groundbreaking role psychedelics played in Wilson’s personal healing, this aspect of history is often obscured or ignored, challenging the modern-day stigma associated with the use of psychedelics in recovery.

        4. What is the Psychedelics In Recovery Fellowship (PIR), and how does it support individuals in recovery exploring psychedelic practices?

        PIR is a fellowship program introduced by Vanessa, providing a space for individuals in recovery to openly share their experiences with psychedelic practices. 

        Modeled after the 12 steps, PIR serves as a supportive community for members from various recovery paths, emphasizing the integration of psychedelic practices into spiritually oriented recovery programs. 

        The conversation within PIR extends beyond psychedelic experiences, discussing the importance of discernment and sharing journeys in supportive environments.

        5. What role does community and aftercare play in shaping the perception of psychedelic journeys in recovery?

        Reflecting on her experiences, Vanessa underscores the importance of finding a community that understands and supports the intersection of recovery and psychedelic exploration. 

        Vanessa shares a transformative journey with ayahuasca, highlighting the crucial role of support and intentional aftercare in shaping the perception and interpretation of psychedelic journeys.

        Jimmy emphasizes that the process of integration extends beyond the psychedelic experience itself, merging insights into everyday life.

        Looking for a professionally supported in-person psychedelic experience?

        Take the first step and book a consultation call with us today. We'll walk you through every step of the process after getting to know you and your unique situation.

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        At Psychedelic Passage, we offer professional 1-on-1 guidance and companionship on your journey of healing. We simply can't sit back and let Americans continue to sit in silent suffering trying to battle mental health issues within a broken health care system, all while knowing that effective alternatives exist. We stand for the sacred, at-home, ceremonial use of psychedelics for consciousness exploration, which we believe to be a fundamental human right.

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