How I ODd and nearly died on vacation
My first self induced trip. It wasn’t a good one. I wish I could say it was. I wish I could say I had been looking forward to it. I had been, but for the wrong reasons, I think. Would it have been better if it were for the right reasons? Not sure.
The piece journals my experience as best as I can recall, with the help of eye witness accounts taken post-trip. Maybe others will relate to it, or can explain things I don’t understand. This is not in judgement of, whether to condemn or commend, the use of recreational drugs. I don’t have the experience or knowledge to judge. I know many who are not only functional with the regular use of recreational drugs, but are living happy, satisfied, and successful lives, as defined by their own goals and values.
I will begin with an account of the trip, then details to help explain what went wrong.
I ate a weed cookie at around 8 PM. Just before that I’d had a michelada, a Mexican Bloody Mary. I felt fine for the next 2 hours. I went with two people I’d met at my hostel to a party. I didn’t want to be alone for the trip, which might’ve been what saved my life. I’d gotten to know one of the guys over the last few days, Jaime, and he seemed like a cool cat. At least in this my judgement was correct.
Around 10 PM is when I first started feeling the effects of the cookie. I felt relaxed and comfortable. The pair I was with was a natural comedy duo. They bantered and quipped nonstop, and I was in the back of the car laughing my stomach out. This part I remember clearly. We arrived at Jaime’s house in a building complex where all the houses were on the same floor, separated by narrow alleys and streets inside the actual building. I remember what came next, but my senses started to waver and distort. Time started to slow. I saw things not as they were but conjured somewhere from the dark crevices of my mind. We went to Jaime’s place to drop a case of beers. The party was next door at his neighbour’s. I remember seeing this couch in Jaime’s kitchen-come-foyer, and thought it was much too fancy for the place. It was an expensive looking thing, made of leather or imitation-leather, which didn’t make any sense, considering where he lived and the rest of the décor. I remember the couch being black, with cream coloured round pillows. Even now, I can recall it with accuracy. Back to the couch later.
We went next door to the party. I could feel the effects of the weed escalating. Most of the people there were already stoned. Jaime didn’t introduce me to his friends, but that’s okay. He didn’t need to. I could speak for myself. But I didn’t. Everyone was speaking in Spanish. Which isn’t to say they couldn’t or wouldn’t speak in English. I just never bothered finding out. I mention this because it contributed to my bad trip, if not from a physiological perspective certainly from a psychological one. On the one hand, the weed made me feel relaxed and comfortable, as far as my body was went. In fact, I felt “too” relaxed, for someone not normally considered an extrovert-socialite and who has never associated with the drinking-drug scene. While my body became more comfortable with its surroundings my mind became more self aware. I was desperately holding on to the part of my brain that was still conscious of itself and in control. In control of what? Nothing, except to choose between being cognizant or incognizant. Because of the attention I was paying to this part of my mind, it became hyper aware. It became aware that my body was moving itself to the music — ethnic house music (by the way, the best music to get high on; this was one positive conclusion I took away). It became aware that people were starting at me, wondering who the fuck I was, and could I do those movies standing. It became aware that this really cute girl was asking me something in Spanish, and that I couldn’t string 3 words together, in Spanish or any other language, to give any kind of impression except a dumb one. It became aware that I didn’t understand what anyone else was saying; why were they laughing? Why where they smiling and talking so animatedly? Why wasn’t I in on the joke? Why did I feel so alone? So god damn alone? Did they know I felt alone? How could anyone be surrounded by this many people and feel alone?
I was warned that a trip gone wrong could bring out your worst demons and insecurities. Maybe that’s what this was. And once my mind started swirling down the gutter, I couldn’t swim out of it, hard as I tried. And try I did. The part of my brain that was still self-aware desperately tried to cling to anything that would save me from drowning. I focussed purely on physical sensations. I tried listening to the music. Like, really, truly listen to it. It was fucking awesome! My shoulders, neck, hips, elbows, ribs, all bumped to the beat, moving independently of each other and without consent from my mind. I remember thinking, I’m a fucking awesome dancer! I could do this all night long! That’s it! That’s what I’d do! I’d dance till the effects of the weed faded away, then I’d walk home! I could totally do this! I’d be fine!
The music was mesmerising, continuous, like a stream of water over rocks. I remember someone at the party moving the mouse over the computer screen to see how much time was left on the track on the YouTube video. The last time he’d moved the mouse, it had been an hour and 39 minutes into the track. Surely, at least 30 minutes had past. Surely, at least that. It felt like an hour, but I knew pot could distort your sense of time. When he moved the mouse, the tracker showed an hour and 42 minutes.
Fuck. Oh fuck. Oh fuckity fuck, fuck, fuck. Everything that had happened in the last while had only taken 3 minutes. 3 fucking minutes. And I was getting higher. I couldn’t do this all night long. I fucking couldn’t.
My heart started racing. My mind, the self aware part, tried holding onto physical sensations, but it was in full panic mode, clutching and grasping at any piece of stability and familiarity it could find.
Pee. I had to pee. I’d had a glass of michelada earlier, and I had to pee.
I asked the cute girl where the washroom was. In Spanish. It must’ve been Spanish. My speech was slow and slurred. Why was I speaking so slowly? She must’ve understood, because she pointed up stairs. I climbed the stairs. I think I did. It took an hour to get to the top of the flight. Each step, from lifting my leg to placing my foot on the next step, took 5 minutes. My legs were so heavy. So heavy! I was moving mountains! And it was so dark up here. How did I find the washroom? Surely, there must’ve been other rooms up here. I don’t know how, but I made it to the washroom. At least I think I did. I recall yellow incandescent light reflecting off white tiled floors and walls, off the porcelain toilet and sink.
I’m not sure if the next few things actually happened. That’s the truth of it. I know some of it happened; it must have. But I’m not sure how much of it my mind constructed post-trip to make sense of the broken fragments of my memory. The small part of my mind that had been self aware and ‘in control’ died at this moment. Everything else that happened, I merely observed.
It took me a lifetime to pee. I couldn’t feel anything passing through my urinary tract, so I couldn’t control the speed and force at which I peed. So I took my time. I didn’t want to pee all over the bathroom. That was the single most frightening thought in my mind, for all else that was happening to by body. The embarrassment! In front of all these people I didn’t know! In front of Jaime! In front of that cute girl! I’d die of shame!
So I took my time. I peed in bursts and squirts. What my body did it did from memory. Not just muscle memory, but also memories of expected behaviours. For example, after peeing I tugged my penis a few times to get the last few drops out. I’d been doing this ever since I could stand and pee. I didn’t need to tell my body to do it; it remembered. I washed my hands with soap and water. This too I’d been doing for a long time. I could only observe my actions. Had I wanted to, I couldn’t stop myself. The part of my brain that could exert any control over my body, feelings, emotions, thinking, was gone.
When I came back down, shit really hit the fan. I don’t remember the order of events. I only have screenshots between long strips of dark negatives. I cried. I yelled for water, because I was thirsty. So damn thirsty. I felt shame melting my cheeks. All these people were watching me cry. Why were they watching me? Why wouldn’t they turn away? I filled an ice cube tray and a Tupperware to drink water. Why the fuck didn’t this house have any glasses? What did these people drink out of? I couldn’t feel the water going down my throat. Was I quenching my thirst? I don’t know. I cried. I was scared. So fucking scared. Someone — Jaime or his friend — escorted me to his house. I sat on his couch, no longer leather or black, but a scratchy wool and red. I think I threw up on the floor. Or I spilled the water Jaime had been trying to give me. I don’t remember. He bought a red bucket, which I threw up in between my moaning and crying. When I wasn’t throwing up, I rested my head against the edge of the bucket. I felt it press against my face and I knew it would leave a mark. Jaime asked me to sit back on the sofa, to lie down, but I couldn’t move. If I didn’t have the energy to throw up, I didn’t have the energy to do anything. The room spun around me and my heart raced like a horse across a 100m track. Why couldn’t anyone hear it? Why didn’t anyone see it on my face? I was going to die. My heart was going to seize from fatigue and I would die. I’m so sorry mom, I’m so fucking sorry. I fucked up, mom. I fucked up good. My mom would find out I’d ODd and died at some stranger’s house while vacationing in Mexcio. What would she think of me? The shame, the heartbreak brought new tears. She wouldn’t believe the story. She wouldn’t believe her son would go like this. She’d never come to terms with it. And I was so thirsty, so fucking thirsty. Why wouldn’t it go away? I drank a glass of water, I drank a bottle of juice — orange? Mango? — and still the thirst remained. I gagged more than I puked, my stomach threatening to turn inside out. Why couldn’t I smell my own puke, my face being this close to it? Was I not puking at all? Was it all in my head? I couldn’t quench my thirst. Jaime was beside me, asking me questions: What did you take? Who gave you the cookie? Did you take anything other than the cookie? When was the last time you ate? When was the last time you drank? Is this your first time on weed? What’s your name? Tell me your name? What’s your age? Just tell me your age? Okay, just follow my finger. Can you follow my finger? Muneer?
I became non responsive. He slapped me. I don’t remember it. He asked me to drink water, but I couldn’t. I heard him, and I responded in my head, but the words never made it to my lips. I couldn’t do it. It was fucking impossible. I’m sorry mom. I’m so sorry. I fucked up good. He brought out a spray bottle with water. He said he was going to spray my face. He asked for my consent. I don’t know if I gave it. He sprayed me, and I felt the water! I felt the difference in temperature between my skin and the liquid! I inhaled my first breath in hours. Life sparked in my brain. He was trying to shock me out of my stupor. I cried. More, please, more. Please, let me feel something, anything. I begged him in my mind. I don’t know if he heard or understood. I don’t want to die, I cried. Please, I don’t want to die here. I was cold. So fucking cold. I shook like a leaf from head to do. I couldn’t hold my own glass of water to drink. I couldn’t hold my head up. Jaime let me rest it on his lap as he sat on the sofa beside me, beside my bucket of puke, which I cradled in my arms. He rubbed my shoulder, trying to keep me warm. He kept asking me questions, trying to keep my conscious. He said I needed electrolytes and water, that my body was dehydrated. He said he was going to get some and that he’d be back in 10 minutes. I didn’t want him to go. I didn’t want to be alone when I died. I didn’t want to die all alone, please. But I didn’t say anything. Was it ego, the weed? I don’t know. Jaime went to get electrolytes. I don’t know how much time passed. He forced me to drink the stuff. Some of it stayed in. Most of it came back out. I asked him how much liquid I had taken? How much? A glass of water, a bottle of juice, a bottle of electrolytes. How much time had passed? Had I peed? Why hadn’t I peed yet? Like my muscle memory and behavioural memory, my brain recalled information vital to survival. I remembered a lecture on how you could overhydrate when on ecstasy and not know it. Your cells would swell with water and burst. My cells were going to burst if I didn’t pee. I was going to die of hyponatremia.
I told Jaime I needed to pee. But my voice was gone. I couldn’t speak. My throat was coated with chalk. Why couldn’t I speak? Oh god, where was my voice? Jaime leaned in to listen. He wanted to take me to the washroom. But I couldn’t get up. I couldn’t feel my penis or my bladder. I couldn’t pee. I was going to die. Oh fucking god, I was going to die.
Time passed like this. Two hours, three hours. My thirst remained and I continued to shiver. Jaime kept asking me to drink electrolytes. Through the fog, my mind was able to reach a single rational thought. I don’t know or remember how; awareness and consciousness had fled long ago.
“Eye. . .vee,” I whispered.
“What?” Jaime leaned in to listen.
“Eye. . .vee.. .”
“You want an IV? It’s just electrolytes, bud. This is the same thing. You need to drink your electrolytes.”
“Eye. . .vee. . .will. . .by . . .pass. . .stomach.” I remember this sentence, clearly, word for word. This was the most articulate, concise argument my mind could come up with in that moment. I almost felt proud.
Jaime didn’t say anything. It was the silence of consideration. “If we call an ambulance, they’re going to ask questions. The police will get involved. Things will get complicated.”
I understood. I understood. I understood. I was going to die here. I understood what he meant. His words settled on my mind, like the soft blankets on my body keeping me warm. I understood what I’d really gotten myself into. I understood. He didn’t want me to get in trouble. I understood. He didn’t want to get himself in trouble. I understood. He didn’t want to get his friends in trouble. I understood.
Don’t judge Jaime for his words or choice. I know now, in hindsight, even in his stoned and drunken state, had he really thought an ambulance would ‘save me,’ he would’ve called it without hesitation. He had weighed multiple ingots of risks and rewards in his mind and made the decision. In the absence of hospital care, it was Jaime who’d saved my life.
I don’t know how much time passed. Jaime left at times to rejoin the party. He was by my side most of the time, which is more than I expected or deserved. He told me later that others had also come to watch over me, including a doctor friend of his who’d checked my vitals. I don’t recall any of this. Eventually, I found the will and strength to get up and pee. The world was a savage labyrinth, swaying before me and trying to trip me at every step. But I made it to a washroom I’d never seen or been told of. I peed, slow and uncontrolled. I went back to sleep on the couch. Eventually, as the sun started to rise, I made my way to my hostel, more out of shame than any real need. I didn’t want to face the people at the party when they woke. I don’t know how I got to my hostel. I don’t know how I didn’t get hit by a car. I don’t know how I was able to find my way in a city I’d only been a guest in for less than 4 days. I don’t know how I didn’t stumble on the stairs and crack my chin. I can only assume I was operating on some deep rooted survival instincts that didn’t warrant awareness or consciousness from the rest of my mind.
When I woke up in my bed at the hostel, 5 hours later, that’s when I knew I’d made it. That’s when I knew I’d live.
It’s been 48 hours since I had the cookie. I still feel its effects, or perhaps I am still dehydrated, or lacking proper nutrition. I haven’t had an appetite for the last 48 hours, but I’ve been eating no less. And drinking. Lots of water and electrolytes. I haven’t been shitting enough, and what comes out doesn’t look healthy.
Why did it happen? There are two interpretations to this question. One looks at the pure chemical and physiological cause behind my trip and answers questions like: was that really a weed cookie I ate? Was it laced with something else? How strong was it? What other factors affected the reaction in my body? Was I properly hydrated prior to eating the cookie? How much alcohol did I drink? Did the alcohol interact with the chemistry of the cookie? Did I eat anything before I ate the cookie? Was I tripping on an empty stomach? The other interpretation is existential and answers questions like: why did I decide to eat the cookie? What were my reasons? What state of mind was I in when I started tripping? Who gave me the cookie? Why did I accept it?
I will attempt to answer the first interpretation of the question, then the second.
I was told I was given a weed cookie of low dosage. What that means exactly, I don’t know. The individual who gave me the cookie smoked and consumed weed products on a regular basis. “Low” for him could easily be “high” for me. I took his comments about the cookie at face value. More on this later.
Prior to consuming the cookie, I had been hiking in the mountains at an altitude between 3000 to 2000 m above sea level for 7 days straight, about 4 hours on average (8–10 Kms) on rough and steep terrain. I figure I lost at least 5–10 pounds in these 7 days. I sweated profusely and consumed a lot of energy. Even before the drug trip, I suspected that my body was not in a nutritionally balanced state. On the day I consumed the cookie, I had hiked 2.5 hours up a mountain during the hottest part of the day (~26 Celsius). I’d consumed at least 1.5L of water in the duration and after the hike, but only water (no electrolytes). I had lunch around 4 PM, and that was the last proper meal I had that day. As mentioned, I’d had a glass of michelada (lime, tabasco sauce, spices, beer), before I ate the cookie. In the 2 hours before the trip hit me I only snacked on a bowl of corn chips. During the drug trip, at the party, I’d consumed about 1/5 of a 12oz bottle of beer. I remember reading that alcohol can enhance the effects of weed, so I’d stopped drinking. To the best of my recollection, that is. It’s possible that I consumed more alcohol than I remember. I was unable to verify this information with anyone else at the party. Did I consume anything else at the party? Another drink or drug? I can’t say for certain, but I’m fairly confident with a ‘no.’ My memory is pretty lucid up until I was at the actual party. Jaime knew everyone at the party. He vouched for everyone at the party, and though Jaime is essentially a stranger to me — and my saviour — I trust his word. Plus, my instincts, something as deep as my motor memory and my behavioural memory that were operating to keep me alive during my trip, tell me that this isn’t where my answers lie.
Finally, was that really a weed cookie that I consumed? Was it laced with something else? I have shared details of my trip with others who were at the party, and those more experienced with the use of recreational drugs. Here are two theories I am suggesting, based on the information and opinions I have gathered: 1. it wasn’t a weed cookie, at least not a 100%. It was laced with something else, likely hallucinogenic mushrooms, which are common in that area. This theory is suggested based on the symptoms that I experienced, normally not associated with weed consumables: throwing up, headaches, unquenchable thirst, hallucinations, paranoia, uncontrollable shaking, cold in extremities, and unresponsiveness to physical and audiovisual cues. 2. Assuming it was a weed cookie, a combination of my baseline physical state (prior to consumption) and mental state contributed to the bad trip: I must’ve already been dehydrated and flushed of electrolytes prior to the trip, I only had alcohol in my stomach to cushion the cookie, this was my first time taking a marijuana edible of unknown concentration, and I was never a 100% comfortable with my social situation (leading to paranoia and insecurity). Some of the symptoms I experienced (shaking, headache, disorientation, cold in extremities), are associated with an electrolyte imbalance and dehydration. The weed cookie, of unknown concentration and strength, might’ve enhanced these effects greatly.
Now to the second interpretation of the question.
I don’t know why I took and ate the cookie. I have always had an experiential curiosity for recreational drugs, but I’ve rarely felt safe or adventurous enough to try more than just a joint, and that only a total of 3 times in my life. This was certainly not the place for me to feel comfortable with trying a new substance. I was in a foreign country and city. I was physically, and in some ways mentally, exhausted. I was surrounded by strangers. Good strangers, which I still maintain, but strangers no less.
The night before the trip I’d actually had one of my best nights in Mexico. Without going into details, I’ll say that I’d met a girl and we’d spent a memorable night together. We’d been intimate, in a meaningful and in the obvious way. In the morning when we parted, we both took a part of each other with us. I’d set out on a hike that afternoon to forget about the previous night. The physical challenge of the hike succeeded in doing that. But come evening, memories of the previous night loomed again. That night was an unusually quiet one at the hostel, with not much going on. Most of the guests I’d gotten to know over the last few days were elsewhere or had checked out. The only people I had to socialize with were Jaime and his friend. In hindsight, I know I didn’t really want to go to the party, no more than to simply ‘check out the scene.’ I didn’t really want to eat the cookie, given to me the day before, other than to simply find a way to be in the moment and not think about Her. I didn’t want to be alone with my forlorn thoughts that night. Now, in hindsight, forlorn thoughts don’t sound so bad.
Why did I take the cookie in the first place? I don’t know this one ether. I’d received the cookie from another stranger, one who’d left a positive impression on me. I know I sound stupidly naïve, like a newborn calf let out onto the Serengeti without being taught any better. In honesty, I’m not sure what I was thinking when I accepted the cookie. Everyone who knows me will say it’s not like me to do so. It isn’t. Yet I did. The only explanation I can come up with is being caught up in the drunken joy of traveling, so much so that my sense of good judgement was lowered. Even this explanation is hard to swallow. Regardless of ‘why,’ even now I don’t necessarily doubt the character of the individual who gave me the cookie. We have been in touch since my trip, and he has expressed sympathy and bewilderment at my story, and he has tried to come up with an explanation for my experience. He also consumed cookies from the same batch and reported none of the effects I experienced. He is a regular consumer though, has been for many years, and probably has a much higher tolerance to weed, and other recreational drugs, than someone as fresh as me. While I’m refraining from doubting his character and sincerity, I think there is still a possibility of negligence and oversight. The individual who gave me the cookie did not bake the batch himself. He might not have known the complete contents of the cookie.
In conclusion, I realize I ate the cookie for the wrong reasons. I ate it to feel something. Something strong and overwhelming, strong enough to make me forget the pain and yearning in my heart. I ate it to escape a darkness. Instead, I was plunged into an even deeper and deadlier dark. I was too weak to face my feelings head on, too weak to look my demons in the eye and challenge them. Instead, I tried to run away and forget they existed. I was never in the right mindset to trip. If I had been, would it have made a difference? I’m not sure. I doubt it. The physical effects felt too strong, too unstoppable. I think I would’ve ended up experiencing what I had more or less. But if I had been in the ‘right’ mindset, I would’ve never eaten the cookie in the first place, at least not in that given situation.
I hope others are able to relate to my experience in some way, and in so doing, maybe find some solace and strength. Maybe someone is able to understand my situation and provide me with a more concrete and scientific explanation for why my trip went as badly as it did. Understanding won’t necessarily bring any (more) closure at this point. But learning as much I can is the best I can make of this situation.