The hardest part about telling any story is deciding where it should begin. This one starts with a book about food.
In 2011, the Universe felt it was time for me to make a change. In her infinite wisdom, she decided the best way to get things started was to wind up and deliver a 1-2 punch that would knock me on my fucking ass.
The left jab came when I got laid off. Like most shots to the chin, it was a total surprise. My wife had been a stay-at-home mom since 2001. While she worked ten times harder than me, my job was our only source of income. I got a small severance payment, but we were already living beyond our means. I calculated we only had a few months before the mortgage, car payments, medical bills, groceries, and other living expenses burned through the last of our money. My primary responsibility as a father was to provide for my family, and it felt like I had just let them down. I remember taunting fate with a rhetorical, “could things get any fucking worse?”
It turns out things can always get worse. I had only been unemployed for a few weeks when the Universe landed a painful right cross. I had my suspicions of infidelity but decided it was just easier to look the other way. The “ignorance is bliss” approach disintegrated after I found their schmoopy text messages. It was heartbreaking, even for an emotionless robot. That was when I decided to kill myself, but you’ve already heard that story.
In her defense, I was an overworked, stressed out, controlling, depressed asshole who was always in a bad mood. Not exactly a sexy look. I wish she hadn’t cheated, but I understand why she did. She wanted what we all wanted, to be seen and to feel loved. Unfortunately, that was my only job as a husband, and I had let her down.
Being unemployed while navigating a crumbling marriage doesn’t have many perks, but it does have a way of freeing up your calendar. When I needed a break from all the thinking, talking, and crying, I would escape to our neighborhood pool. I was looking for something new to read when I stumbled upon an article from Time Magazine listing the top 100 best and most influential books of all time. I picked #34 – “The Omnivores Delima” by Michael Pollan.
The book was incredible, you should read it. I became an instant Micahel Pollan fan and quickly consumed his entire catalog. No other author has had such a direct and profound impact on my life. I haven’t had a glass of milk since reading “The Omnivores Delima.” “A Place of My Own” expanded my definition of creativity and inspired me to write. His books on food deepened my appreciation of both cooking and eating. Then, in 2018, he wrote a book that would save my life.
I read “How to Change your Mind” while being crushed in the singularity of my emotional black hole. Was this the instruction manual on how to break the chains of my depression? The curiosity that sparked Michale’s research was contagious, and soon I was scouring the internet for any psychedelic content I could find. The science was compelling. Study after study suggested these plants had an unparalleled ability to treat conditions like addiction, anxiety, PTSD, and depression. Something deep within my soul knew these entheogens could help me when nothing else had. I don’t even think I finished reading the book when I decided to try plant medicine. I was cautiously optimistic things would finally change.
And that is how a book about food saved my life. Here is the part that still scrambles my brain. Would I have read “How to Change Your Mind” at the perfect moment in my life if everything hadn’t happened exactly as it did? Getting fired and discovering the affair was objectively horrible. It was such a shitty fucking year that I ordered a custom coffee mug that says, “2011 Can Suck My Balls”. But looking back, I can’t help but think those moments may have been the proverbial “flap” of the butterfly’s wings that nudged me onto an entirely new path of growth and healing.
That also turned out to be my first lesson in the futility of labeling things as good or bad. Most things in life are neither and only make sense in the larger context of our lifelong story. Losing my job sucked, but it created the space I needed to repair my relationship. I’m not sure we would still be married today if I had still been working 80 hours a week during that difficult time. It’s almost as if the Universe had a plan.
The book had already succeeded in changing my mind. Now I was faced with an entirely new challenge. Where does an almost divorced, straight-laced, middle-aged father of two, depressed white guy (who doesn’t own a single piece of tie-dye) do a massive dose of magic mushrooms?