In about 20 hours I will be taking the first steps, albeit, first literal ones, in the middle of a journey that started a good number of years ago. In two days I will get on a plane with my girlfriend and travel partner Jamie. That plane will be headed for Peru and we will be going to meet with some ingenious medicine men to hopefully help my physical and mental health. I’ll be 100% out of my comfort zone. An American, who grew up in New York City, headed to the jungle. No running water, no power, no computer, no cell phone.
The journey itself started back in 2005. I was 25 years old and working in a pseudo-management position in a cubicle farm at around 75 hours a week. I hated it. I hated it so much, I became physically ill. Like a good little worker I pushed through it. My cough became as full time as my job. I didn’t have a regular doctor at the time (something that I could never imagine now at this point in my life), so my medical care was all though urgent care walk-in clinics. I was always diagnosed with a cold or cough, given some meds and pushed off. The problem was, the cough never went away, and it only got worse. The sinus congestion never went away, only got worse.
I eventually moved on to a job with a big health care provider in the Midwest (funny how that happened, huh?). I had excellent health insurance at that point, and went to the best doctors I could. After the easy diagnosis of Asthma I was referred up the ladder until I eventually saw an ENT (Ear Nose & Throat) doctor that diagnosed me with sinus polyps and told me I needed surgery to have them removed.
The results from that first surgery lasted less than a year. At that time I was sent to the best of the best and he suggested an even more invasive surgery to help my problem. The procedure was longer, more painful, and took longer to recover from. Once again, the results lasted about a year. Getting used to the game of “pass me off” I fully expected to be seeing a new doctor soon… which I did.
This new doctor, who I am under the care of to this day, is an Asthma, Allergy & Immunology specialist. He’s a great guy, but also out of ideas to help me. He has me on a “maintenance dose” of Prednisone, a medicine that helps the initial problem while causing many severe side effects. Oddly enough upon spell checking this entry, prednisone was not in the dictionary, and it instead suggested “Prisoner”, which is exactly what I feel like when I am on it.
I’ll get into details of all this in future posts over time as there is, of course, only so much I can say in my first entry! But to bring the epic tale to where I am now, I’ll continue:
In January my girlfriend and I started talking seriously about doing something that I had first heard of many years before from a dear friend. This dear friend said a word to me that at the time I forgot, but now fills my waking thoughts and dream world in anticipation: Ayahuasca. It was suggested to me as something that may be able to help my physical health as well as my state of mind which has become more and more unraveled as time moves on.
Ayahuasca is a medicine, a psychedelic one that enables you (as I’m told) to travel into your own mind and start problem solving from there. It helps you figure out who you really are. Down to your core. I’m also told it can heal you. Done properly, one goes to South America (in my case – Peru) and takes part in ancient ceremonies with native medicine men who guide you through the experience.
For both Jamie and I, after many long years of physical and emotional trauma, we decided it was time; we had been called to the jungle to work with this Sacred Medicine.
Back in February of this year I came down with a nasty case of food poisoning. Nasty in the sense of: “Girlfriend dragging my almost unconscious body to the urgent care, I thought I was going to die and started saying my goodbyes” – kind of nasty. After a week of recovery and less solid food than I ever want to think about again, I decided to swear off the culprit: Fast food!
After some months of improved health I realized that quitting fast food was actually good for me! I took that thought further. I had been tested in the past for all kinds of food allergies, and celiac disease but I’ve become distrustful of the tests and medical world. I started an elimination diet, cutting out various foods until I improved. It’s also at this time that I really started to accept the phrase “Paleo Diet”. Cutting out wheat, dairy, soda and processed foods have made my life so much better. My symptoms are less. I have been able to lower my medication doses. I have even been able to stop using my CPAP machine for my snoring!
So here I am. Feeling somewhat better, but still suffering from my conditions – I am still always congested with no sense of smell or taste. Now that I am cleaned up from the typical American diet of crap food, ready to go to the jungle to commune with nature, ready to sit with shamans in thatched roof huts to drink a sacred medicine that has been used for countless generations to heal. A medicine that is virtually unknown, and if known, not acknowledged by Westerners. I am excited and terrified at the same time. To drink Ayahuasca is no small task. It tastes foul (not a problem for me at the moment). It can cause a violent purge from all ends of your body. It can cause you to see things you don’t want to see, to confront things you don’t want to confront.
I have the support of my closest friends and family, and the company of my best friend and companion Jamie. I have been preparing physically for months. I have also been (unknowingly) preparing mentally for years. I am ready to step out into the unknown, and return a new person.