On a chill fall day in September of 2021, I took my usual microdose of LSD before heading to my favorite outdoor space to run the trails. At that point in my life, I considered myself an experienced psychonaut. After all, I had done psilocybin, LSD, or MDMA dozens of times in settings ranging from casual to almost clinical. Little did I know that this would be the worst LSD trip of my life – and one of the most powerful and important that I’d ever experience. It would be something that would change the way I viewed psychedelics, especially LSD, forever.
If you’ve ever tried microdosing LSD, you know that it requires precision. And while I am usually the kind of person who is extremely careful about my doses, that morning, I was in a rush. In my hurry to get out the door, I had forgotten to let my liquid LSD tincture (usually kept frozen) sit on the counter to thaw for as long as needed. Instead, I took a shortcut and only let my little vial of wonder thaw long enough to get a single, presumably microdose-appropriate, drop from the dropper.
As it turns out, I was wrong.
Instead of my normal microdose, I had taken a super concentrated dose of LSD. The tincture wasn’t fully thawed, and the small amount that contained the majority of the actual LSD in the vial had sunk to the bottom. Something that I would not learn until I had reached the trail. Within roughly 15 minutes of arriving, I felt the beginning of what I knew would be a powerful psychedelic experience. I began to have tunnel vision, with the trail appearing to narrow and extend into a long, ominous vegetal passage. The ground seemed to move up and down as if the earth itself were breathing, and the sounds of other nearby hikers became weirdly distorted or, in some cases, seemed amplified.
It was at that moment that I realized what had happened: I had messed up, big time. My tiny little microdose was anything but. To hazard a guess, I’d wager that I had accidentally consumed somewhere in the range of 500 micrograms of LSD.
I was in for one hell of a ride.
Calling My Psychedelic Life Line
Once I started to realize just how badly I had miscalculated, I started calling friends and family who I hoped would be able to get me through the impending psychedelic storm. One of the first people I called was my partner at that time. Unfortunately, I didn’t receive an answer. I then defaulted to calling one of my best friends from my time in the military, while also attempting to reach another local hero to come and save my wayward self. Fortunately, he answered and spent about 30 minutes attempting to talk me down while I waited for someone to come and sit with me. These were some of the most intense and scary minutes of my life. I could feel the trip rapidly intensifying, and I lost track of time. I began to compulsively check the time on my phone as each minute seemed to stretch into infinity. I also developed a severe case of social anxiety, feeling as if every other person on the trail knew I was on something and that they were all secretly judging my very obvious (in my mind) state of intoxication. To put it plainly, I was pants-wettingly terrified of the people around me.
After what felt like an eternity, my lifeline finally arrived. One of my oldest and closest friends had come to the park to sit with me for a few hours while I fought my way through the trip. During that time, we talked about… everything. At one point, I was sitting cross-legged on an overlook, doing my damndest to hold onto my ego and sense of self, and watched as a man in a red shirt riding a bike flew by. And then he flew by again, and again, and again, until there seemed to be a thousand versions of himself trailing behind, each one a ghostly but beautiful imitation of the first.
Right after that, my friend wrapped her arms around me and said, “Breathe.” I didn’t realize it, but I had been holding my breath as I watched the phantom biker fly by. I took a deep, beautiful breath of cold fall air, let it out, and the world exploded. I had hit ego death. I laid back, resting my head in my friend’s lap, and let myself slip away. Unfortunately, I don’t recall much from that part of the trip. When I try to force myself to remember anything, I feel that whatever I had experienced wasn’t meant for my waking mind. Instead, it’s a piece of the puzzle that will likely be lost in my subconscious forever.
Once I exited my egoless state, I woke to my hero setting out an array of well-timed and much-needed refreshments. The water she set out was the coldest and most refreshing I had ever drunk. There was also a scrumptious peach and some blueberries that my brain was convinced were anything but safe to eat. While we sat, we talked about the experience, which was still very much ongoing, life, the state of the world, and all of those quintessential “LSD topics,” as I like to call them. Around this time, after nearly four hours, my partner finally returned my calls.
Lessons Learned from LSD
Within 20 minutes of my partner calling, he finally showed up. I remember watching him walk towards me, head slightly down, shoulders squared, and clearly not too happy to be rescuing me from a psychedelic-fueled misadventure. As I mentioned, we had been on the rocks for several months, and things didn’t look like they would get any better. Once he was with us, we spent another hour or two making not-so-small talk (the kind of small talk one can manage on a large dose of LSD), and I tried my best to just be in the moment.
Unfortunately, or maybe not, the drug had decided that I required a few more lessons. After my friend left us, my partner and I sat in a nearby field, watching as the myriad hikers, bikers, and fall revelers slowly made their way to their cars and headed off. There was a sense of finality in the air, and something was about to happen that I still appreciate.
I lost my mother in 2018. Since that time, my already existent abandonment and attachment issues had gotten worse, and although my partner and I were heading towards a breakup, I had been holding on with everything I had. Even after learning about months of lying, cheating, and other not-that-great things, I loved this person and wanted them in my life. But I had forgotten something while trying to hold on and keep this connection. I had forgotten to love myself, to take care of myself, and that I didn’t have to accept indifference and abuse so that I would have someone to come home to.
All too often, children who come from broken homes or who have lost parents (even as adults) develop attachment issues that can lead us to hold on to others after the time to let go has long passed. While my now ex-partner and I sat in that field, we talked, and I finally realized that it was time to let go. The wave of grief that washed over me in that instant was almost as powerful as the grief I felt when my mother passed away. I was finally letting go of someone I had lost a long time ago, whether I really wanted to or not. But I was also doing something else. By letting go, I felt the sort of self-love that I didn’t think I had anymore. I knew then and there that this had to be done for myself and for him. It was well and truly time to move on.
That LSD trip will always be the worst and most significant psychedelic experience of my life. Not because it helped me get out of a toxic relationship, but because it helped me reconnect with a part of myself that had been in hiding since my mother died. The part of me that stands up for myself, loves myself, and knows what’s right and what isn’t. It also came with a healthy dose of humility and an enduring message: Respect the medicine, and above all, respect yourself.
This material is not intended as a replacement or substitute for any legal or medical advice. Always consult a medical professional about your health needs. Psychedelics are widely illegal in the United States, and readers should always be informed about local, state, and federal regulations regarding psychedelics or other drugs.