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Something in the Way-
an excerpt

Chapter 29-

The Entheogenic Bed and Breakfast Detox-
An Amsterdam Redux

by Preston Peet
all photos by Preston Peet
unless otherwise noted

posted at DrugWar.com
Feb. 20, 2006


photographer unknown

"Hey Preston, you can always come here and detox at my home in the Netherlands if you'd like."

The first time I saw this invite from Sara Glatt in my email box, it was way back in 2000 when I was kicking methadone. I had heard of the African root iboga, which is the mainstay of Sara's detox treatment technique, but I'd not been interested at all in leaving the safety and security of my home, as I was already in the midst of kicking when she wrote. I figured at that time that I was already in withdrawals and that it was impossible that there would be any way to entirely eradicate methadone withdrawals, not even with iboga, the whole plant extract, which contains all the plant's naturally occuring chemicals in addition to the ibogaine molecule, that Sara uses to help her guests detox.

Since that first invite, I'd had the opportunity on a number of occasions to take ibogaine hydrochloride, the active molecule in iboga, in my own apartment in NYC's Lower East Side. While very impressed with its effectiveness in making any withdrawals from the painkillers I was subsequently having problems with and trying to repeatedly kick pretty much dissipate, and even though I felt rejuvenated and strong after each experience taking ibogaine, I would still be sitting in my same situation, surrounded by the very same stresses and worries and lack of space. I wasn't giving myself any break whatsoever after such a tumultuous experience as ibogaine is, not to mention my hard-core love of opiate painkillers, and the resulting tolerance and repeated addiction to the same. Dealing with the same situation and tempations over and over, without giving myself any chance to gain a new perspective or to gain any strength at all, I'd revert to the drug abusing behavior I've been troubled with for years.

As Hunter S. Thompson once wrote, a person cannot live with someone using a rig without coming to terms with the needle themselves. I don't personally think that necessarily means that they pick up and use a rig themselves. I believe this can also mean they react in other, equally destructive or self-defensive ways. V is no exception. Strong and loving, V is still no match for the stress and strain of trying to live with an actively using and self-abusing addict, which is how I began behaving. She in turn began to draw away from me, having an easier time of doing so due to my own feeling ashamed of shooting up in front of her or with her in the same apartment even. Each time she would be getting dressed to go out, I'd tell her I didn't want to go for one reason or another, but mainly because I could shoot up in peace and quiet, with much less shame, if she weren't home. But as soon as I'd shoot the drugs into my vein, I'd then regret being home alone and want to go meet her but wouldn't have any idea where she was or not really wanting to go where she was due to not enjoying the clubs she was in. Whether she meant to do this on purpose is not important. The result was that it still put even more distance between us.

Because I felt so bad about myself, she naturally began having trouble feeling good about me too, and because of that, I began to doubt the strength of our love and the stability of our relationship. I began to operate under the assumption that I'd cost myself yet another relationship due to my extremely fucked up drug abusing, and therefore upped my drug intake even further, going so far as to pick up cocaine again, which I'd successfully resisted for nearly a decade, since first getting together with V. Though I tried telling myself I was doing cocaine again to try and fit in with V's new running buddies and with V herself, what was really happening was I was giving up entirely on life, wallowing in self-pity and depression.

In very serious, almost conscious fashion I had decided that it was too late to fix things, that I'd destroyed yet another relationship so had no desire, no will even, to keep fighting. I'd once again decided to die. Having already at various times in my life tried slitting my wrists, intentionally overdosing on pills, and pissing off people who might take it upon themselves to kill me, yet all to no avail, shooting cocaine while eating nothing more than a couple pieces of bread a day or a bowl of cold cereal is one surefire if rather slow way to accomplish my death trip in relatively physically painless fashion. Emotionally though it's one of the most painful things I've ever done to myself and to others around me. It's one of the things I know how to do best, abusing drugs, and can blame my drug abuse for any doubts, fear, worries and failures I might be having or imagining. So I picked up again with a will.

I managed to spend only my own money for what would turn out to be a short but difficult six and a half week run but this took away from cash I could have been handing V to put towards our piling up bills and crushing debt. And, while I never stole any money to obtain the cocaine and even occasionally heroin I'd buy to supplement my painkiller intake, I was still lying my skinny ass off right to V's face each and every time she'd notice I was wired out of my gourd, which only caused further strife and emotional pain for us both. I trust V more than any human on the planet, and care most about her opinion than anyone's- so I lied to her repeatedly in hopes I could cover up what I was doing and not really lose her after all, even though I was already convinced I'd lost her anyway.

As you can see, the thinking of a typical self-destructive junky is not always rational nor intelligent nor kind. I am somewhat simplifying the confusing situation between V and I, but the above really is the bottom line of what was happening between us. And I chose to react to everything, no one forced me into my patterns but me.

As the tracks on my hands and wrists grew longer and more apparent to both V and to the world at large, as my lying grew ever more rampant and my desperation more intense, I grew to treat myself as though I deserved nothing better than pain and misery. Hard as I tried to reach the point of death though, I'm a survivor. I've survived the worst life could throw at me, including everything I myself threw. As noted, I've tried suicide, survived a serious car accident and a motorcycle accident, woken up in the park with a needle still in my arm after passing out from a shot, shot poison into my veins, slept outside in sub-freezing temperatures without a coat, picked fights with people much larger and meaner than me, yet I've survived all this and more.

This time 'round, as with every other spell of black depression I've gone through in my life, I suddenly reached what felt like absolute bottom. I felt like I couldn't go lower without really dying, and for some reason, when faced with this reality, I once more chose life.

Did my sudden awakening come too late? Had I in fact done so much damage to my relationship that things were unfixable? Would I have to face moving to a new place, figuring out how to face life alone once more? I didn't know, but I did know for a fact that I was extremely tired of feeling like shit. I've felt this before, but never so close to 40 years of age.

"I'm too old for this shit," I thought to myself. "I love V way too much to just give up on things now." I realized with a start that it wasn't just V I was thinking of, but myself too. I have way too many things still to do to just quit now.

So how do I begin fixing my life when I've so craftily, so determinably managed to light it afire? I told V I was stopping all drug use other than the barest minimum of painkillers, and that I was throwing out all my rigs and never buying them again. She didn't believe me of course, but I did, and I'm really the only one I have to worry about, especially when first picking myself back up again.

I began seeing a counselor a friend turned me on to, mostly to show V that I meant what I'd said, that I was willing to do anything and everything to get back up again, and to save our relationship from the same disastrous results I'd accomplished in so many other relationships in my life thanks to my affairs with hard drugs and needles. I handed over my cell phone to V, and spent the next three weeks staying indoors at all times. This still didn't stop V from accusing me one night at her Saturday night dj gig of being high on cocaine, at the two-week point of my getting clean. Innocent as I was and shocked at the vitriol from V, I put this down to my karmic debt, something I had to expect as I'd been behaving in such incredibly thoughtless and asinine fashion. But damn it, it hurt more than I'd really care to admit.

The main thing I did right at the end of my run was to pick up the phone and give Sara a call.

"Hi Sara, I'm in serious trouble and would very much like to come visit you for a couple of weeks," I told her when she picked up her phone. "The only problem is, I can only afford my round trip ticket and to pay you for just one week at this point in time. I do have a book check coming in March or April so can pay you further down the road, but not at this time. Still, as I said I've really put myself in a bad space here and need to get my head and my life back together."

"Sure Preston," Sara told me. "Feel free to come anytime."

Now I had to get my passport. I'd already decided on this plan on New Year's Day, and had applied for a new passport the first week of January, while still shooting up on a nearly daily basis. I discovered when first trying to apply that I was considered a second-class citizen in the US- not due to my drug abuse but because I don't drive. Even though my ID is issued by the NY Drivers License bureau, the US State Department doesn't consider a state issued ID as valid as a drivers license. So I had to go a second day and try to apply a second day with all kinds of documents that verified I am who I was telling the State Department I am. I paid for expedited service so I could get my passport within three days of applying but then spent the next three weeks on the phone trying to find out why the State Department had placed a hold on my application the very first day. I finally discovered it was over the ticket the State Department had paid for me to return to the State from London so many years previously. I knew for a fact that the State Department had already garnished my income tax returns in 1998, but had to get confirmation from the Repatriation Loan office, then have them notify the Passport Application office of this fact, which for some reason took two weeks total. But finally the hold was lifted and my passport arrived in the mail.

I was feeling hesitant about going so far away from my home and my love, feeling that perhaps leaving things in such straights at home wasn't the best idea, that I might come home to find the locks changed or my girlfriend gone. I was also feeling trepidation over going to take strong psychedelics in the country where I left behind the last woman I had destroyed a relationship with over my drug abuse. I kept imaging having a classic "bad trip," but Sara reassured me on the phone that the iboga she gives her clients is not nearly as strong as the ibogaine hydrochloride that the underground ibogaine treatment folk are giving people in the US, the same stuff I'd already taken five or six times to no ill effect in my own home (other than a bit of puking once).

"Maybe you should wait until you get your book check," said V when I first opened the package containing my passport, expressing my hesitations to her as I did. But as soon as she said this I knew it was wrong, that I couldn't put it off, that I simply had to make this journey as soon as possible, to prove something not only to her but most importantly to myself, that I could still make such a journey, that I was not a cripple nor a failure, that I was still alive and wanted to be. I immediately got on the internet and bought a cheap ticket through an online service, making my reservations for just two days hence. Then I called Sara to tell her I was on my way.

Flying out of Newark, New Jersey's Liberty International Airport on Jan. 26, I had by then managed to cut my painkiller intake to just four 60 milligram MS-Contins a day, and had not used a rig in three weeks. The flight was uneventful, flying into Amsterdam's Schiphol airport bright and early on Friday morning. I arrived a good hour before my appointment with Sara at Schiphol's Meeting Point, I bought my first warm Chocomel, Dutch hot chocolate, in 14 years. Then I had a seat and began the short wait for my hostess.

"Preston?" Sara asked as she approached with a big smile. Nervous though I was, Sara had a calming effect on me. About five foot four, with wild curly brown hair, she radiated a serenity and peace that put me immediately at ease.


DrugWar.com editor with Sara Glatt

Driving through the light snowfall out of Amsterdam to her home in Breukelen, Sara described how she ran her treatments to me, which consists of not much more than giving iboga to her clients as soon as they feel they are in withdrawals from whatever substance or substances they're there to detox from, then eating and resting for the duration of their stay with her and her family. This was exactly what I needed, the peace and quiet of the Dutch countryside, out of the hustle and bustle of the Big Rotten Apple, where I could smoke as much pot as I needed, and think about what I wanted to do when I returned to the reality of my life in the world.



Sara's house with traditional thatch roof and surrounding canals

Being at Sara's was helpful not only in allowing me the peace and safety to get my strength and resolve back, but also in how she treated me and others who come to visit her. She doesn't believe in handing out valiums and other Benzos willy nilly as the underground treatment providers do in the States and in the legal clinics around the world. She gives her clients as much marijuana to smoke as they feel they need, saying "Marijuana is medicine."


Can of Cinderella 99 and Religious Use card

There is no dehumanizing tearing down of the addict in Sara's home, just the opposite in fact. She treats each and every visitor as a human being deserving of care and compassion, regardless of their past indiscretions and fuck ups. The point is not to force an addict to change but to give addicts to the chance to decide on their own what it is they want out of life, to give them a chance to eat, sleep and think without outside interferences.

The fact that Sara lives in the Netherlands makes it much easier for her to treat clients in her home with the iboga and for them to use the marijuana almost freely availible there in that civilized country. MUch of the smoke is 100 percent organic, I can only imagine such a setting in the prohibitionistic, warmongering US.

My bedroom's window sills were entirely covered with small black flowerpots in which were little green, growing peyote buttons, "filtering out the negative energies that might come through the windows," said Sara. I didn't eat any of those while there, nor did I try the San Pedro cactus that was growing in the hallway, but I did get to try some shroom tea that had some ten different hallucinogenic mushrooms in it along with cinnamon, mint, and other delicious spices that made it one of the most palatable shroom teas I've ever had the pleasure to drink.


Peyote


San Pedro

As Sara explained it to me one day, "taking entheogens such as igoba and mushrooms and LSD, to name just a few, serves to squeeze the sponge that is our mind, forcing out all the negative thoughts and energies that we have accrued over time, allowing us to empty our heads of such destructive and distracting vibrations and to start with a fresh, clean head when we return to our lives in the world."

During one week of my stay, there was a couple also visiting, Dan and Ellen from Bristol, England, who were there to kick buprenorphine. After they'd been there five days or so, the three of us took a train into Amsterdam proper to spend a day out of the house, seeing the sights and smoking hash in the coffee shops.

On the train into the city, Dan said that he thought Sara was "working magic," with which I can only agree. I myself keep imagining Sara as a midwife, offering her clients, through her plant potions and hearty meals, the opportunity to gain a fresh start in life. I can imagine the Spanish Inquisition coming down hard on her a few hundred years ago, just as I can imagine the US government coming down just as hard on her today were she ever to try what she's doing in the Netherlands here in the US.

The entire time I was living in Sara's house felt like a dream. The time crawled past, each day feeling like a week at least. While I spent most of the time constructively, writing and practicing my guitar, which I lugged all the way there from NYC, I spent the first couple of days completely out of my skull from the iboga I ate at around 3PM the first day I was there, not eating painkillers and getting through the worst of the withdrawals.

This is one of the main reasons I'm so enthusiastic about ibogaine and iboga- because they're the only substances I've yet found that stop my muscles from kicking and my skin hurting during withdrawals in 23 years of battling drug addiction, ever since first experiencing morphine after my car accident at 16 and subsequently kicking cold turkey in my parents' house in Florida. Besides allowing me to get through the worst of the kicking, iboga acts to realign my brain and body in some mysterious way, giving me an entirely new, fresh perspective on things and on what I want for myself and those I love in life.

Although each time I've eaten the hydrochloride in my own apartment I've only managed to get through the next month or two clean, then revert to my old habits and doubts, this time 'round I sincerely feel a difference. I don't know if it's my age, unfounded optimism, or simply the fatigue of seeing the pain on V's face and my own when looking in the mirror, but regardless of where this resolve is coming from, I feel much stronger, more centered and balanced after this latest experience.

That said, those first couple of days were hard, even tripping as hard as I was. I was lonely, depressed, and more than anything wanting to go home and see my girl. I even had the phone in my hand that first Sunday evening, planning on calling Continental airlines to change my ticket to go home early. But instead I called my friend Anna, a.k.a. Lady Ace, a burlesque dancer and friend I know from NYC who now lives in Berlin. I'd told her I was coming to Amsterdam and asked if she wanted to meet up with me while there. She'd already agreed and told me she was definitely coming, but now I made sure before doing something rash like changing my reservation. As soon as I got her on the phone I knew I'd made the right decision by calling her, because now I had another reason to stay and ride through the natural depression that comes from kicking and detoxing narcotic drugs. I thouroughly enjoyed meeting up with Anna on the second day I traveled into Amsterdam, where she and I spent a day running around the city eating and smoking, but not buying cocaine or heroin.

At one point during our day, we suddenly found ourselves walking up a street and crossing a bridge where I once would cop my heroin when living in Amsterdam 14 years previously- and nothing had changed about the place. It was still overrun with dealers, even as cold as it was that day. I'd been living in Amsterdam, homeless and playing guitar on the streets to make my heroin money, right through the Winter so long ago, and here I was again, but not at all feeling any urge to buy dope. I never cease to be amazed, even though I sometimes do forget, how magical and bizarre life's spiraling path can be.

That same evening, after saying goodbye to Anna, I met up with Sara at the owner of Soma Seeds home, and got to sample some of Soma's latest strain of marijuana, Hash Heaven, some of the most potent pot I've ever smoked in my life. Sara has successfully treated Soma's daughter for heroin addiction too, among what Sara says is over 220 clients since she began taking drug abusers into her home in 1999.


Soma shows off his latest strain, Hash Heaven

Sara insists that she was told by her visions during her own ibogaine experience, when she was first considering her idea to treat addicts with iboga at her home, that it was not only a good idea to do so but that it was imperative that she did or she would die, as helping addicts with iboga was her life's mission now. Whether it was actual entities, as describe by many human beings who have ingested strong entheogenics over the past thousands of years, or if it was only her own mind telling her this, is not important- what is important is that she believed it and began her mission to help any and all addicts she can.

I flew back to NYC on Feb. 12, having spent 18 days away from my home, landing at Newark at the tail end of the worst blizarrd in the NY area's recent past. I was the only one on the entire plane who was pulled aside and searched by a customs official, but he did the very worst searching I've ever had to suffer through. This only served as an irriation as I'd really wanted to bring loads of smoke back with me yet had resisted, knowing the chances of getting searched after returning to the US from Amsterdam were much greater than not. Obiouvsly, had I done so there would have been dogs and men with machine guns and the most detailed search ever, so it's probably best I resisted tempation.

I know better than most people on the planet that the story of drug abuse never ever really ends. I know that the entire War on Some Drugs and Users is a mess, more destructive and horrifying than any drug abuse ever will be, that police involvement is never the answer- but I also know that drug abuse has its own inherent horrors and destructive patterns. I know that I must always remain vigilant, ever watchful for those triggers that might give me the excuse to pick up a rig again, or to eat an extra painkiller I don't really need, and be right back where I was at my worst stage, alone and lost. There's almost never a happy ending to such a tale, only a reprieve that goes on day by day, one day at a time, so long as I don't succumb and place something in the way that only serves to destroy me, along with my hopes and dreams.

Sara Glatt can be reached by email at:

sara119@xs4all.nl


An optimistic editor of DrugWar.com with Sara in her grow room.

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