I've been taking psychedelic mushrooms with my mom for 14 years. It's brought us closer together.
- My first experience with psychedelics was with my mom when I was 22.
- We decided to grow our own when we couldn't find mushrooms in Alabama.
At 22 years old, I had my first psychedelic experience. My self-appointed trip guide gave me a half-eighth of psilocybin mushrooms. I figured the few dry stems and one button-sized cap weren't enough to do anything. But I trusted my guide. We had shared quite a few joints and even tried MDMA together before. She was my mom.
That first trip was only a microdose. During the peak, my mom set up a ring with chairs and let loose two dozen robotic bugs that skittered like cockroaches onto the floor. Even though I wasn't visually hallucinating, it freaked me out a little because I didn't know what had possessed her. Minutes later, I'd settled in, enjoying the lifelike and hypnotic rhythms of the robot-insects. It was enough to tease my imagination for more.
We started growing our own mushrooms
My mom had received that first baggie of mushrooms as a gift from a friend. After that, we were dry, and procuring something like that 14 years ago in Alabama, where I was born and raised, wasn't easy. Not long after that initial trip, while working as a magazine manager at a bookstore, I saw an ad in "High Times" for an at-home "EZ Grow" mushroom kit. It was $120 for a grow bag and some spores.
I shared it with my mom, and she was into buying it. Since I didn't have the money to pay, she bought it for us.
While I was never close to my father, my mom and I had a lot in common — we're a couple of country hippies, word geeks, and theater nerds. We drifted apart somewhat during my adolescence, but my mom and I had reconnected in my early 20s over sharing a joint on her porch in the muggy summer evenings and sitting on the edge of her bed guessing prices on "Antiques Roadshow."
When the grow kit came in the mail, Mom and I began to connect over that, too. She got me to spread the spores in with the rye berries, then mix that mushroom substrate into a compost bag for germination. Flash forward a month, and that bag brimmed with the curvy, gold-capped fungus that bruised blue — almost indigo — wherever we pinched or picked them.
After we had dried the first batch in a dehydrator, my mom asked, "Who's going to try them first?"
"I'll be the guinea pig," I said.
We took mushrooms together often
Like my mom, I'd always been open to trying new things. The first time I did a full dose — up to two dried grams — I understood why people called this unassuming fungus magical. There were no wildly out-of-control visual hallucinations or animated wonderlands, as media often depicts. It was subtler than that. Psilocybin seemed to heighten all my senses at once, making them more intense and synesthetic.
I went to the bathroom to pee and noticed the green nautiluses on the wallpaper spinning and spiraling. I ran outside to discover a beautiful windy evening, the leaves of the sycamore trees crisply breathing in the breeze. The psilocybin woke up a part of my brain that said I was a part of this nature, not separate from it. It said that I was an animal of this Earth, and that's a beautiful thing.
The following weekend, when my mom and I tripped together, she turned off the lights, played some rock music, and told me, "If you sit in the dark and close your eyes, you'll start to see things." In her earlier days, my mom had tried hallucinogens. She was right. Out of the darkness, mandala-like patterns blossomed on top of each other in endless tessellations as Mom and I listened to her generation's music exactly as her generation would've experienced it.
Even my sober siblings decided to try mushrooms
It didn't take long for my straightedge brother and sister to also want to try. My siblings are fairly conservative regarding substance use, but my mother was their "trip guide" as well. She measured the amounts for dozens of psychoactive journeys, putting the straw-like stems and caps on a paper towel or plate with a soda for digestion — the dried mushrooms can cause some mild tummy issues.
I had a blast watching my sister and her best friend burrito themselves into a blanket while we laughed uncontrollably, and having an all-night "Star Wars" marathon with my brother watching all six-and-a-half hours of the original trilogy.
In some studies, magic mushrooms have proven effective in treating depression, PTSD, and anxiety. They've become so popular that I know someone who had their house declared a church so they could offer psychedelic therapy.
Over the course of a dozen years, I must've tripped — including microdoses — more than 100 times, including once while watching the New York City Ballet. I look back on those experiences with incredible fondness.
For me, the greatest value of the mushrooms was in creating unforgettable memories and, in the process, tearing down walls between my family and me. Best of all, I don't even need the mushrooms to do that anymore.
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