What MDMA Therapy Did For Me

Tucker Max
Nov 13, 2018 · 31 min read

I did MDMA therapy. It was a deeply profound and life-changing experience.

I did two treatments, one in early September, another in early October.

I would rank it as one of the top 3 most important things I’ve done in my life, at least in terms of my personal development.

I’m writing about it because I think this therapy could help a lot of people, and more people need to know its an option.

In this piece, I’ll explain why I did it, what it was like, how it impacted me, and resources for how to seek out more info.

I’m not trying to convince you to do MDMA therapy, but I won’t pretend to be objective. I do have a viewpoint:

MDMA therapy fundamentally changed my life, I think it could be impactful for many people, and I believe it will become a major part of the future of therapy.

Disclaimer

Before you go any farther, know this:

MDMA is illegal in America.

I broke the law by doing MDMA (even though I did it therapeutically, under the watch of an experienced therapist).

Everyone’s name in this piece that’s associated with MDMA is changed to protect them — except mine, of course.

Yes, I know I’m taking a risk by writing this — especially under my own name — but I’ve decided to do it anyway, for two reasons:

1. MDMA is already in Stage Three clinical trials , and will probably be legal for therapeutic use (with prescription) within 4 years (or less). No one is coming after people who use MDMA for therapy.

2. Far more important: I’ve spent my life speaking my truth publicly, and will not stop now. This subject is significant, and I think speaking up about this will quite literally save people’s lives. If I have to take a legal risk do do that, then so be it.

1. Why I Decided To Do MDMA

Quite simply:

I decided to do MDMA therapy because I had trauma that I could not deal with, even after trying every other therapy I could.

Some of my therapeutic background, for context:

I spent 4 years in psychoanalysis, going 4 times a week. It was great for me for a long time, and it helped me immensely. It helped me deal with a lot, and taught me so much about myself — how I think and feel, and how my emotions worked.

But after four years, it wasn’t helpful anymore, so I stopped.

I started doing meditation during the last year of analysis, and that helped me a lot. But after two years of meditation, that stalled for me as well.

If I’m being honest, I think I failed at meditation. I could never meditate more than 20 minutes at a time, and I don’t think I really had the patience or determination to do it properly.

Sorry Meditation, it was me, not you.

After that, I tried a bunch of things, and all of them were worthless for me. Yoga, cognitive behavior therapy, EMDR, etc, etc. If there is data that it works, I tried it, and found it to be useless.

Then I met a shaman. And believe it or not, she didn’t tell me to do ayahuasca!

Instead, she said, “We need to work together.”

I laughed, “Yeah, yeah, I have shit to sell too.”

“It’s not like that. You need my help.”

I blew her off, and then she offered a free session. I took it, and it was fine, but I didn’t notice anything.

Then that night, my wife was sitting next to me on the sofa, and said, “What is going on with you?”

I looked at her. “What? Nothing. Why?”

She said, “It’s just…you feel so much lighter and happier today. Whatever you are doing, keep doing it.”

Well…fuck me.

I worked with the shaman for a year. She helped me a lot. I have no idea what she did with all her crystals and chanting — it may have been 100% placebo effect — but for a time, it worked well.

But again, it ran its course, and stopped working, so I moved on.

So there I was, having spent 6+ years doing some form of therapy or another, and I was stuck again.

Don’t get me wrong, I felt good, and I was light years ahead of where I was when I started…but I wasn’t right.

I could still feel that I had a layer of emotional baggage that I was not reaching. It was either too deep, or my defenses were too strong.

I knew I had more work to do…but I didn’t know how to do it.

So I reached out to my network for help.

I have a lot of famous friends who’re into things like psilocybin, ayahuasca, DMT, LSD, MDMA. Not as recreational drugs. They’re into them as therapies and medicines.

I talked to these friends for a long time, and a clear consensus emerged: MDMA seemed like the best treatment for me, at that stage.

Why MDMA, as opposed to the others?

LSD, psilocybin, or ayahuasca are all great and have helped a lot of people, and I’ll try at least some of those in the future.

But they’re hallucinogens, and they have a lot of other side-effects and impacts.

MDMA is specifically used for the treatment of trauma. Getting to core traumas and processing those was my issue, and MDMA is a tool just for that.

In the studies that have been done so far, MDMA has an incredible cure rate for trauma. The data is still new, but early studies indicate that anywhere from 70–85% of people with treatment resistant PTSD are cured by MDMA (I link all the data in the resources section at the end).

Given the data, and the first hand accounts I heard from several friends, and the fact that nothing else was working anymore, I decided to try it.

2. How I Found My MDMA Therapist

Quite honestly — I got lucky.

I founded a company that helps people write and publish their book. It’s called Scribe, and we’ve done over 1000 books in the last 4 years, including some pretty big books (like Tiffany Haddish’s, The Last Black Unicorn, and David Goggin’s, Can’t Hurt Me).

One of the books we did is called Trust, Surrender, Receive. The author, writing under the pseudonym “Anne Other,” came to us to help her write a book of case studies about the people she guided through MDMA therapy (she’s been guiding people for 15+ years and treated over 1000 people).

One of the people she worked with on my team, “Chris,” did two MDMA therapy sessions with her. He was incredibly moved by the impact MDMA had on him, and I saw the profound changes, so he connected me with her, and I booked my session.

3. How I Prepared For My First Session

I did a call with Anne prior to the session. She first asked me questions about whether I was taking any other medicine (I wasn’t). You can’t take SSRI’s and do MDMA therapy.

Then she asked me why I wanted to do it. I told her basically what I told you above. This seemed to satisfy her. She gave me her office address, and the instructions, which were simple:

  1. She told me to eat a very light breakfast, as little as possible, and arrive at her office at 10am.
  2. Once I got there, I would take the first dose of 125mg.
  3. Then I’d put on an eyeshade, Anne would put on some relaxing music, I’d lay back on the therapy sofa, and I’d let whatever comes up, come up.
  4. The instructions for “the medicine” are the same as the book title:

Trust the medicine.
Surrender to the medicine.
Receive what comes up.

5. Then, after an hour, if I felt I needed it, I could take the second dose of 75mg.

6. She told me not to set an intention, and not to expect to do anything but take a “5 hour meeting with myself.” She does not believe in actively doing talk therapy while the MDMA is in my system, nor does she believe in setting intentions. She sits there and says nothing.

7. She said if I felt the need to talk, she’ll talk with me. But if I don’t, she doesn’t initiate conversation. She does this because she feels the body and the medicine can work together, and for most people, they will heal you without requiring any outside intervention.

8. She’s said she’s not opposed to talking if I really wanted it. Or to holding my hand or supporting me in any way I need. But she feels that the best work with MDMA therapy is usually done with patient introspection, not talk therapy.

I had no idea how right she would be.

4. The First Session

I’m not going to talk about Anne, or her office in the West Village where I did my treatment, or any of that. It was a cool office, and helped the experience, but honestly, it’s not that important.

What matters is the experience.

I took the first dose (she insisted I use orange juice to wash it down), put my eye shade on, and laid back on her sofa.

And promptly fell asleep.

Like, within 5 minutes, I was snoring.

Obviously that wasn’t the MDMA, it can’t absorb that quickly (it takes about 45 minutes to hit the brain). I was just the dumbass who fell asleep in his MDMA session.

I woke up around the hour mark. I had the “three beer” feeling — you’re not drunk, but you’re definitely more open and happy.

Anne told me not to judge the experience yet, so I took the second dose, put my eye mask on, and laid back down.

And then, about 20–30 minutes later…

It hit me like a Cat 5 hurricane, and everything in my life changed.

Trying to describe the MDMA experience to someone who hasn’t done it, is like trying to explain The Matrix to someone who hasn’t seen the movie.

The best way to describe it: I felt true love.

I felt the purest, most true, most deep love I’d ever felt.

Not the love you’re thinking about. Not love for other people, or even love for yourself — all of that implies that we are all separate things that I treated as outside objects.

This was different.

This is going to sound stupid, but it felt like…I became love itself.

I know, I want to vomit that I wrote that, but again — this is a place where the words don’t exist to describe it.

I sat up, took my eyeshade off, and said to my wife:

“Oh my god. I get it now. I get it all. This is amazing. You have to do this.”

She laughed and said, “I will one day honey, we talked about this. But you know I’m pregnant.”

“Yes, yes, of course, I know you can’t do it now, but baby, you HAVE to do this. This is incredible.”

“I will. This is your time.”

And then I started thinking about everyone else in my life I cared about who should do it. I started rattling off names, thinking about how amazing it would be for all them.

“Oh my god, Granny has to do this! This will turn her world upside down!”

Anne laughed, “It’s great that you’re thinking about these people, it speaks to a deep connection you have to them. But you need to focus on yourself at this point.”

As the medicine settled in me, I had these waves of love come over me. It was hard to even process the emotions at first, I’d never felt anything like this, ever in my life.

I should note, I was totally lucid the whole time. MDMA is not a psychedelic. It is a totally different class of medicine, and it has a different impact.

Honestly, I felt super sharp mentally. Yes, it was definitely an altered state, but I felt full of ideas and totally clear headed.

Also, the thing to know is that though MDMA is very intense, it feels like your friend. When you take other things like ketamine or ayahuasca, they can be very rough and you are along for the ride and you can’t get out (at least, that’s what everyone tells me).

MDMA is not like that. It feels like you can modulate it and pull back when it gets too intense. With the eyeshade on and surrendering to it, the intensity is a 10, but take it off and sit up and focus outwards, the intensity is a 2. You can , to an extent, control it.

And the intensity is not bad or forced on you. It’s hard to explain, but it’s not a negative, punishing intensity. It’s more of a good intensity, like a really hard workout — but you can rest during if you need to.

And this is where I missed an opportunity.

I kept sitting up, taking the eye shade off, talking, asking questions.

Had my talking been related to my trauma or releasing trauma, that would’ve been fine.

But it was not. I was talking about all kinds of things; how amazing MDMA was, who should do it, asking where it was legal, businesses to set up around it, the research into it, how to market it to help make it legal, etc.

I went into “intellectual” mode. I was avoiding all the emotions that the MDMA was trying to bring up.

This is how MDMA works: it brings up all the old trauma, so you can process it, release it, and then move on with your life.

But I wasn’t letting it. I was fighting it.

My wife even called this out in the moment, “Honey, please stop. You are just distracting yourself and deflecting. Put your eye shade on and surrender to the medicine.”

She was right.

I put it back on, and stopped fighting the emotional releases, and let them come.

And man, they came.

A lot of people on MDMA have flashbacks, or relive negative experiences, or even see things in their minds-eye , or will talk aloud. I didn’t do that at all.

All of my emotional release was somatic (meaning, physical). It started in my legs and hips. If you have ever done electrical stimulation for physical therapy, you know what it felt like, but basically — I got jimmy legs. My thighs and legs shook for literally hours.

It wasn’t involuntary — if I focused on it, I could stop it. But when I relaxed and let my body do what it wanted, it came right back.

And I would breathe out really hard. Sort of like a loud, almost obnoxious sigh. Over and over.

Oh man, the jaw clenching is no joke!! I kept biting down relentlessly.

If you read Trust, Surrender, Receive, you will see — this is pretty rare. Many people have somatic releases during therapy, but it’s rare to ONLY have somatic releases of trauma.

I did have one vision, more like a prediction than a vision. As the session wound down, I saw in my mind how MDMA was going to be received, the media battles, the political battles, the underground spread — I could see it all. It’s not going to be easy, but this is the future of mental health for humanity.

I shot up on the couch, took the eyeshade off and said to Anne, “Oh my god. I can see it. This is going to change everything. The world is finally ready for this, isn’t it?”

She looked at me for a second, then said, “I believe it is.”

5. The Aftermath of the First Session

I went back to my hotel room with my wife, and loaded up on 5-HTP. What MDMA does is dump all your reserve serotonin in your brain at once, and 5-HTP is a serotonin precursor that helps your body replenish it.

I felt great for a few hours after the MDMA, then started to feel drained. I fell asleep and when I woke up, I felt really drained.

The next day, I kept releasing trauma. I was breathing deeply and releasing hard, and still had jimmy legs (at times).

And then I started processing and integrating what came up.

After my session, I took notes of everything I felt (I posted it in a Slack group I am in with people I know who want to talk about what we are learning and doing in our various therapies).

I’m going to post my notes from this period, so you can get a more real experience of what it was like for me:

Two days after Session 1

-LOL — Rave culture makes perfect sense now. The dancing, the colors all of it. I could not understand it before. Now it’s obvious. Don’t worry, I’m not going to dance around with fucking glow sticks, but now I get why people did it.

-The more I sit into it, the more I realize I have so much unprocessed emotion to deal with. I knew that was true, but damn, I had no idea.

-I feel like my brain is different. Hard to say how right now. I can feel my aggression way reduced. Like a lot.

-But it’s not romantic or sexual or love like that at all. It’s love in the Buddhist sense of understanding the oneness in all of us

-Another thing — I bet if I’d done it when I was younger, I would have felt a lot of this as sexual. But it’s not a sexual feeling. My wife was in the room and I wasn’t horny or anything like that. I was feeling deep love.

-And I think the reason so much of this is in my legs is because it’s fight or flight response coming out. Flight response is literally running. The trauma is stored there for me. I never let any of it out.

Seven days after Session 1

“I want to mention what is becoming clear to me now that the effects of it are settling in:

You know most people would rather live with the pain they know, than let that go, and have the joy they don’t know?

Well, it’s the truth. I have seen that in a LOT of people, but I never thought that was really the case with me.

Now I’m thinking it is. I was just really good at hiding it from myself.

I think part of the reason I feel so weird is because I let so much of my pain go with this MDMA therapy.

And with this pain/trauma gone, I feel almost hollow in a sense. Not hollow in that I have nothing in me, but hollow, like — the only metaphor I can give is the feeling you have after a huge shit. Even though the shit is literally poison that must get out, it’s kind of painful coming out and you feel hollow afterwards. Like your body has become accustomed to the poop, and is slightly sad to see it go.

I think this feeling is me getting used to living without a large portion of my pain and trauma.

And honestly, that feeling, at least at first, is this weird mix of terrifying and exhilarating.

Terrifying because I have known it for so long, I don’t even know what it’s like to not have it anymore.

And it kind of just makes me want to cry.

Not a cry of sadness.

More a cry of release and a cry of happiness.

I can describe how the unconscious works, and I know this makes sense. Basically, to the unconscious, Change = Death.

So I get why I unconsciously held onto this pain. Even when I KNOW that, and I fight it, and I work to get rid of it, when you’ve had something for so long, you almost can’t let it go — good or bad.

That’s basically what MDMA does — it forces both the conscious to turn off, and lets your brain/body release what it’s trying to get rid of.

That’s probably why I was so resistant and chatty during it. That was my subconscious defenses.

I don’t know, I am still working through this.”

Eight days after Session 1

We had a meeting at my company about something, and afterwards, a bunch of people gave me feedback on what I was like. These are the posts, I edited them into dialogue style for brevity/clarity (note: I told my team I did MDMA therapy, we have that kind of open, transparent culture at Scribe):

Mark “I don’t know if others noticed this, but I could really feel a difference in your energy on the call just now. You were great.”

Tucker “Really? Like what? That felt normal to me.”

Mark “Yep. You went out of your way to be generous and compliment people. But you were still authentically yourself (like with the hilarious Stoic thing).”

Tucker “No shit I didn’t even notice.”

Nikki “100%. You seem lighter.”

Kayla “Your intensity was still there but it seemed happy and fun, less stress and pressure.”

Katherine “Totally agree. I thought maybe I was imagining it, but I felt like you were enjoying it more as opposed to driving because it was needed and that is what you do — drive.”

James “This may be out of place and or completely wrong, but….Every time I’ve seen you speak before there seemed to be an underlying sense of discontentment in your eyes. As if you’d rather be anywhere else but in the moment, speaking with this person. It can be perceived in the viewer as anger or aggression or distain. As if it’s a chore to be in the conversation and/or beneath you.

That was gone and replaced with a sense of genuine care for the individuals you were with in the moment. The fact that it was so shocking speaks both to how palatable it was prior to your session and how deep the change was.

It’s like the difference between a parent when they have the flu versus when they’ve just got back from a week-long kid free vacation. Even if they’re saying the exact same words the perception is vastly different in the eyes of the recipient.”

Tucker “Wow. No, for real, that meeting didn’t feel any different to me. I mean, I thought it went well in terms of engagement and learning, but all of this stuff about how I felt to all of you is news to me. I swear to god on my life I didn’t do any of that on purpose. I don’t think I could.”

Two weeks after Session 1

“Here’s another thing I think is coming up:

I think a big part of the “hollow” feeling is the fear of letting go of my anger.

Yes of course it’s easy to look at me from the outside and see the negatives of my anger, but here’s the thing: you know why I do it?

I do it because it works.

It’s not a conscious choice, mind you. I don’t decide, “You know what? I haven’t yelled at Brittany in weeks, lets go freak out on her.”

It’s much deeper than that. The anger served me in the past, and to an extent, it continues to serve me.

This is a truism: if you can’t understand why someone is doing something, look at the consequences of their actions, whatever they might be, and then infer the motivations from their consequences.

For me, my anger not only helped me deal with my trauma/fear/pain in the past, it continues to help me now.

Anger chases away fear. It makes me feel powerful. It helps motivate me. It bends people to my will. I use it as fuel to succeed.

Looking from the outside, if you only see the negatives of it, you blind yourself to why it continues. How it still serves me.

And if you don’t know how something serves you, you can’t really understand why you keep doing it. It’ll seem like a mystery to you.

[BTW — you can sub “anger” for your issue, and maybe change a few benefits, and probably still apply all of that reasoning to you, whatever your issue is]

That’s why our problems are so hard to let go of: because we’ve made them work for us — at least in a way — and by letting them go, yes you let go of the negative, but you also lose the positive.

And THAT is the most fearful thing, and THAT is why most people are so resistant to deep change, and to letting go of things.

I’ll tell you a story that reminds me of this:

Like, almost 20 years ago, I was in a strip club. This stripper was teasing my friends, playing the normal stripper games, and in a flash, I saw into her soul. I stopped her:

“You say you don’t like it…but you actually do, don’t you? You like the money. You like the attention. You like that men come to you. You like that you can control the relationship. You like that you feel like you can reject them, that you have power over them.

Your boyfriend says he hates that you do this, but you don’t believe him do you? I mean, he seems to like sitting on the couch all day doing nothing as he spends your money, doesn’t he? He’s says he hates it, and then he watches you go every day. And he’s never once told you not to go. Not sincerely, has he?

You don’t mind actually, because you like splitting what you get from men — money and adoration from the clients, safety and comfort from the boyfriend. That way, you don’t have to really commit to either. You can keep your true self back from both, all while telling yourself that you aren’t doing that. That pretty close?”

So yeah, you can guess what happened: she crumbled. I saw directly into her soul, and called her on it, and that truth was too much for her.

I haven’t thought about that for years until now — because this same analysis can be applied to me, of course. It’s why it took me years to start therapy, and years to do MDMA, when I could have done both far sooner than I did.

It wasn’t the fear of addressing the issues.

It was the fear that THE TREATMENT WOULD WORK, AND I WOULD LOSE MY SUPERPOWERS.

Well, here I am. I did my therapeutic work. I took MDMA. It really works. And my trauma and emotional pain — which in me, expresses as anger (but in you probably expresses as something else) — is largely gone.

This really brings up the big question for me:

What now?

Because I could probably get that anger back if I wanted. It’s not all gone.

I guess the ultimate question is: what do I replace my anger with?

That is where the hollow feeling is coming from. I think. I’m so used to using that anger as fuel and as substance that I almost don’t even know how to operate without it.

I do not know the answer.

I know the answer from mythology: you reach deeper inside of you, you find the original things that gave you power — the pure things, not the reaction to the trauma — and you recommit to those, and you reconnect with those.

So I guess that’s what I have to do now. Reconnect with my superpowers that come from pure, positive places.”

Sixteen days after Session 1

“My MDMA experience was entirely somatic — meaning all physical. That does happen, but it tends to be uncommon.

So why was it this way?

I have been thinking about this, and I think it’s because for me, I’ve already done everything that my rational, thinking, word based mind can do. I solved those problems and dealt with all of those issues.

The only stuff left for me is the feeling parts. The parts my rational mind cannot access. The trauma that is beyond words or rational understanding.

You have to remember, my childhood was different than most. My trauma is not a hidden one, a secret one. It’s not physical or sexual.

Mine was neglect. But it doesn’t even read like normal neglect, because it’s rich white people neglect. I had food and shelter and all that.

I had almost no one around who actually loved me or cared about me.

I was very alone as a child, especially a very young child. And that can be terrifying and incredibly emotional, and if you feel all of that when you are pre-verbal — then there is no way to get to that verbally. It’s far deeper than that.

Now that I get it — at least I think — I can see how MDMA is so helpful, and why my experience was entirely somatic.

Because as a child, with no way to deal with this overwhelming neglect and loneliness, I stored it all in my body. Thus the somatic release.

BTW — I didn’t just figure this all out myself. I have read deeply most of the great psychologists and thinkers in this area long before I took MDMA. Carl Jung, DW Winnicott, Otto Rank, Alice Miller, Peter Levine, Gabor Mate.

The point is, I went as far as thinking could get me.

And the hard reality is, in humans, I believe that thinking gets you no more than halfway.

And as much as I love thinking and rationality, we are missing at least half the human experience if we stay there.

So you all know, this “storing trauma in the body as energy” is not some mystical BS. It’s still early, but lots of science backs this up. Mechanisms are still very unclear, but this is not just made up. This book is a good start to understanding this.”

Three weeks after Session 1: The Southwest Incident

“This was one of those small things that told me everything:

I had to fly to Nashville yesterday. On Southwest.

And because I did not register in time, I had a C22 boarding ticket.

Which means I had a middle seat. In the back.

And I was not angry about it.

Very annoyed, yes. It sucked.

But no anger.

A month before I would not have gotten on the plane. I would have screamed at people, etc.

The response is the same. It’s just that there is no emotional charge behind the response.

Annoyance used to = angry Tucker

Now, no. Just annoyed.

That to me was astounding.”

6. The Second Session

I knew, even before the first session was totally over, that I needed to do this again. I did not go deep enough and I needed to go back in.

I talked about this with Anne, and she gave me a 200mg dose to take home after the first session. She trusted me to do my second session at home (with my wife there with me).

I scheduled my second session almost exactly one month from the first.

I have to be honest: I was afraid going into the second session. As the days came closer, I was short with my wife, and even short with my kids, which I never am.

I didn’t realize it at the moment…but I was scared.

I think it was anxiety that I was not recognizing, and it bubbled up to the surface as anger — which is super common for me.

Around 9am or so, I put on calming music, put in the mouthpiece I use for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, took the medicine, and laid down on my bed.

This time, I followed the MDMA instructions:

I trusted the medicine, surrendered to it, and received what came up.

And I had an incredible somatic release. I was all over the bed, sweating, gyrating, and flailing my arms. The first time was just my legs, but this time my legs AND arms were fully engaged, as well as hips, hands, and feet.

MDMA has about 4 active hours in your system, and I was moving almost the whole time. No images in my heads, no scenes, no memories. All physical.

I did keep wanting to tell my wife about how much I loved her, and all kinds of stuff like that. I even brought up an old argument where I said something kinda mean to her, and I apologized to her, and we talked about it. But that was very little of the session.

I was probably deflecting some still, and I know I have to do it one more time, at least. If I went 20% deep the first time, I probably went 50% deep this time.

The thing that was similar to Session 1 is that, though my release was totally somatic, at the end, I had a massive revelation. It’s hard to describe it, and it took me a day to really understand it, but the next day I wrote it out. It’s connected to what I realized in the days after session 1, but expands on it.

7. The Aftermath of the Second Session

The next day after Session 2

Please know: these notes were written stream of consciousness, when I was still recovering from session 2, and might not make a lot of sense to people who don’t know me. The notes after this are much clearer:

“So here is the big revelation for me. It was not what I expected. Everything came to me, almost at once:

I’ve been playing small and afraid.

It’s been 13 years since IHTSBIH was released and ten years since my movie came out, and in that time I’ve taken an ungodly amount of abuse and shit from so many places.

Some of it I deserved. Some I even brought on myself.

But most of it was bullshit. It was other people dumping their fear and regret and shame on me.

And I took it. All of it. I backed down from nothing and no one. I fought every fight, including a bunch I didn’t need to.

What I never did was deal with any of the pain and the scars.

I just took it, and told myself that it didn’t matter. But it did.

I didn’t have a team or a tribe behind me, just a few scattered friends. You can’t do that alone.

And MORE IMPORTANTLY, what made this so much harder is that I didn’t stand for anything beyond me. I could have, mind you, I easily could have created my version of TheChive or Barstool or any number of other things with my platform, but I did not.

I made it about me.

And I took the shit.

And I let it get to me, because I had no real tribe and no real purpose to help me both deflect and heal.

I was out there by myself. Even the people who were around me trying to help — I did not let close.

Here’s what the MDMA helped me see:

Even though I do have a great tribe and a world-moving purpose now — I’m still acting as if I don’t.

Basically, I’m playing small. I’m letting the fear trolls win.

I can create worlds with my words — and I’m not doing it.

I’m hiding.

I’m hiding behind my tribe, my company, my CEO, my family, everything.

It’s my job in life to stand up, say the things that are true but no one will say.

I’m not doing that. By not doing that, I’m letting everyone — myself most of all — down.

Why?

I’m afraid.

It has to be. You can only take so much before it gets to be too much.

But that’s the thing: yes, I am ALWAYS going to have haters and naysayers.

But they don’t really matter.

What matters are the people on my side. Who are following and helping me, and what we are doing, and how it actually makes the world better.

Fuck man, I thought I had learned this lesson. I hadn’t.

I need to stop using Hollywood as a proxy for my dad, and media as a proxy for my family, and stop fighting all of those old battles. That shit is tiresome. Done with it.

I need to focus on one thing only: what are we doing that matters, and who is helping us get it done.

It boils down to this:

I used to be a warrior. And I was a very good one. I still love it.

But that time has passed.

Now, I have to be a builder.

And that requires a very different type of courage. And a different mindset.

A warrior needs courage to storm into the breech and face the shit. I did that, in the sense of media & writing.

A builder is different. You need patience, vision, and persuasion. And most importantly, you need a lot of people to help.

Warriors — even in armies — fight alone.

No one builds alone.

A visionary builder needs the wisdom to see far, the persuasion to convince others to join, and the courage of his convictions to stay true to the path through the hard parts.

I have all of that.

But I’ve been playing small. Playing like a warrior.

OK, exhausted again. Fuck man, this takes it out of you.”

Two days after Session 2

“I never admitted to myself that any of that shit hurt. Or that it bothered me. I knew I was strong enough to handle it, and I am, so I assumed I just handled it.

But I didn’t.

And as a result, I think I internalized all of that trauma. I never dealt with it, I just — ate it. But never digested it.

And so it sat in me. And festered. And turned outward on people around me.

I remember when I started writing how happy-go-lucky and fun I was. And a big part of that was emotional dissociation, no doubt. There was a bill to pay for my childhood, and I had not paid it yet.

BUT — there was also a playfulness in me, a joy, a curiosity that got lost in the last decade.

You can tell in the difference between IHTSBIH and my other books. The other ones are better written, but IHTSBIH has a joy and an urgency that nothing else I’ve ever written has.

That’s what’s so shocking about the MDMA — literally NOTHING is coming up from my childhood. I guess I have done that work and processed all that pain.

Maybe I’m not even to the childhood stuff yet. Or maybe that trauma is dealt with.

What’s coming up now is either preconscious memory stuff, or stuff from the last 15 years that I took and never processed, so to speak.

But this whole session showed me so clearly how I was playing small. How I was not stepping into my power and not being who I really am, because I was letting all the shit I took hurt me and stop me and not deal with it.

Honestly, this frustrates the shit out of me, because I both did not want to be doing that, but also I know it’s true. It SUCKS, but it’s true.

I have an ability in me that I am not using, because I let all of that shit pile up, unprocessed, and it choked my life force. It made me question myself and my abilities and my purpose.

Fuck that. No more.”

A week after Session 2

“I feel so much better. I feel so much calmer, so much more settled, more at home in myself.

I can’t even believe how I used to be on a day to day basis. I can see it in other people now, and it makes me sad.

For them, and for the way I used to be, and how unnecessary it was, and how painful it is, and how hard it is to see it when you are in it.

I think, for the first time in my life, I really “get” what the Buddha means by “There is no self.”

I feel way more detached from my “identity.” Like, so much of what I used to feel about who I was and what I was and how I related to the world has just…fallen away.

Not in an emotionally dissociated way, and not in a disconnected way.

It’s just that what I felt about who I was and what is me has totally shifted. The volume has been turned way down on not just anger, but also…I don’t know how to say it. My emotional reactivity?

Here’s what I think is going on, in the very simplest terms:

The unprocessed trauma in me was far bigger than I realized. We think of trauma and PTSD as physical events, and it can be, but social trauma is just as impactful, and in fact, the science on this is clear — the brain treats social trauma the same as physical trauma.

I knew this intellectually, but I had not really worked through the implications for me.

Trauma will try to process itself out in whatever pathway is available. I had tapped out talk therapy and shamanic energy work and everything else. I had processed a lot of it, but not all, and I guess I was using my normal life to work out my trauma — my interactions with people, with my family, my dogs, whatever. Everything we do is for a reason, whether we get it or not, and I don’t think I understood how much of what I did was unconsciously about working out the trauma of the past.

Now that I released that trauma, I can see how much free space I have in my life — which means it used to be filled by unconscious trauma work.

Anyway, I think all MDMA does is literally the exact same thing that meditation does. And even talk therapy and energy work — it gives an avenue for the trauma to be processed.

What’s so amazing about it, is that it “tricks” the brain into feeling safe (the brain is safe, it just never thinks it is), so it can process and release all of this trauma so quickly.

And not only that, but it drops your defenses, and it lets you see these things that your brain won’t normally let you see — and the way it lets you see them feels so beautiful and safe.

Like Anne says, “The medicine is always your friend.”

IMPORTANT POINT:

When I say it “processes the trauma” understand that there is cost to this. This is hard work. It is painful. You have to be willing to face hard truths. You have to have courage. You can be afraid going in — I was both times — but you have to go in anyway, knowing that.

MDMA does not just “get rid of” the pain without having to do all the other work associated.

Part of trauma release is placing your trauma within the context of a story you can relate to, and live with. You all know the famous quote, “Whoever has a why, can endure any what.”

That is why talk therapy or breath therapy is so important prior to MDMA therapy. You have to have a place to put this trauma, to understand and place them in your life, so that you can then release them.

Let me sum it up even better:

MDMA does not “release” the trauma.

MDMA makes your brain feel safe, so it drops its defenses and enables you to much more easily process the trauma.

THAT’S THE KEY:

Your brain is ALWAYS processing the trauma.

You CANNOT AVOID processing the trauma. There is no other way past it.

The ONLY question is do you process it consciously or unconsciously?

You WILL do the work either way.

If you do it unconsciously, you’ll probably do things that are destructive to your life. Addiction, anger, self-abuse, overachievement, etc, etc.

MDMA just helps you process it quickly and consciously, so you can release the negative feelings around it.

You cannot avoid the processing work though.”

I really want to emphasize this last part of my note:

MDMA is not a treatment for trauma by itself.

What it does is help the body put down it’s guard, so old stored trauma can come up and be processed and released.

It’s not a magic pill that cures everything. You still have to do work before it and after MDMA to really get the impact.

In short: if you want to treat your trauma, you still have to face the pain. MDMA just makes it much easier to do that.

8. What’s Next?

For me, I will do MDMA at least once more. I know I have more trauma to process.

How much more? No idea.

My guess is that as far as I have come with MDMA, I have at least that far to go. Maybe much more. I might realize a lot of I think now is wrong.

And though I can’t say for sure, I would bet that I end up doing MDMA at some sort of regular intervals, maybe every 6–9 months. Once a year, for sure.

After that, I think I will try some psychedelics.

As to what is next for MDMA, well there is a great saying that my angel investor friends use:

“What the rich do for fun in their spare time today, everyone does in a decade.”

I’m not that rich, but I hang do out with a lot of rich and famous people. I can tell you with authority that right now there is no subject more widely discussed privately — but not publicly — these sorts of alternative medicines and therapies.

I live in both worlds, and it’s astounding the difference between them.

If I go to an event at my son’s preschool and talk to the regular parents, they talk about all the normal bullshit. Politics, neighborhood stuff, whatever.

But when I go to a mastermind or entrepreneur event, everyone is talking about psilocybin, ayahuasca, DMT, LSD, MDMA.

One event I was at a few months ago had multiple panels about it, and then a guided session for a few dozen people the day after the event.

Another event I just went to, it was all anyone was talking about in the hallways and corridors. It was hard to even talk actual business, because all people wanted to talk about was my MDMA experience, or their, or some other form of new therapy they are doing.

In those circles, it’s everywhere.

There are so many people in pain, and so many people that this can help.

MDMA is the future of trauma treatment, and honestly, I am really excited about it.

9. MDMA Reading & Resources

If you want to understand more about the efficacy of MDMA in treating trauma, this is a great list of some of the major MDMA studies.

This is the MAPS protocol for MDMA-assisted therapy.

If you are thinking about taking MDMA, make sure you understand the risks and how to properly do it.

If you are thinking about taking MDMA for the treatment of trauma, I would highly recommend reading Trust, Surrender, Receive. This is the book that started it all for me. Written by the woman who led me through my MDMA therapy, it contains case studies of some of the PTSD victims she has worked with, including many war veterans and assault survivors.
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Tucker Max

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Co-founder of Scribe (www.scribemedia.com), Author of four NY Times #1 best sellers [contact: tucker@scribemedia.com]