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” It opened me up to infinite possibilities of life “

I grew up with a lot of violence in my family. My blood father was fairly abusive towards my mom, and while I wasn’t aware of it back then, I grew up with a constant fear in me. I had an image of what a tough man was, and wanted to become someone that others wouldn’t want to mess with. I started gravitating towards darker people, and I fell onto a rough path. I got deep into alcohol, dropped out of high school, and started hanging out with the wrong people. When I was 17, I was incarcerated for the first time. I met people in county jail who were heroin addicts, and I was almost attracted to that. I’d always considered heroin something only the worst of the worst people do. I wanted that toughness; I wanted people to fear me because I had fear inside of me. That was when I became physically addicted to heroin, and the next ten years brought me to my knees. I realized a couple years into using that I didn’t want to be a heroin addict, but it was too late. No matter how strong my mental will was, my physical addiction was stronger. Something inside of me didn’t want to live in this dark lifestyle forever. I wanted to get clean, but every time I would, it was so physically painful that I would go back to using. The same cycle repeated for almost eight years. I was in and out of jail and rehab, and was almost sent to prison. But every time I was finally able to get clean, I ended up going back to my addiction. I became so deeply desperate to the point that I didn’t want to live any more. I started praying to something, anything, for a way out. Around this time, my mom tried ayahuasca for the first time. She told me, “I had the most profound experience of my life. I really, really want you to do this; I think it might help you.” I was sure that the facilitators wouldn’t want a heroin addict in their ceremony, but I had made the decision to get clean and I was at the point in my life where I would do absolutely anything. I went to my first ceremony a few months later.

I was very nervous, and didn’t know what to expect. When I took the medicine, I didn’t feel much at first. The facilitator came up to me and asked how I felt, I told him that didn’t really feel anything. He recommended I take some more medicine and asked me to come lay down on the healing mat so they can do some work on me. The medicine washed over me while he and his assistant were doing energy work on me. I felt wrapped in pure love by these people that I had never met. All they knew about me was that I was a heroin addict, but they were there to help me heal. I felt so much immense gratitude and love in that moment, it was almost overwhelming. To this day, that was one of the most profound moments I’ve ever had on the medicine. It showed me a different way of existing. As I dove deeper into my journey, I watched myself sitting in my car on the edge of death. I was shooting up over and over again. I had to watch myself shoot up about a thousand times. The medicine showed me myself as a young boy, scared and alone. It showed me all the damage that I’d done to myself and to this little boy who was hurting. It then showed me that was another way that I could live, and how much I had to look forward to.The medicine opened me up to infinite possibilities that I didn’t know were options for me. It showed me that I am beautiful and capable, and that I wasn’t just a broken heroin addict. I was so blown away that this way of life and this beautiful community existed. I suddenly had a group of people that I needed to show up and be a good person for, that I knew loved me and respected me, and who I loved and respected. It was the most beautiful heart opening experience of my life. And I left knowing this was the way. I’ve been clean for three years now, and fully dedicate my life to serving other people, supporting the community, and giving love to my family and beautiful daughter. 

Interviewer: Kirill Ignatieff (founder of 22STORIES)

Photography: 22PORTRAITS

Story editor:  Seema Seraj


Project Description

Ayahuasca is a psychoactive medicinal mixture of plants used for healing purposes in a ceremonial setting. The next morning after each ceremony a “Sharing Circle” takes place where all participants share their spiritual journey from the night prior.  The stories that come out of those sharingcircles are very profound and life-changing, but only very few have access to them. This project is about sharing those stories with a broader audience and help people understand the power and the benefit of the medicine and it’s community.