Psychedelic Relapse: When Psychedelic Integration Fails

G. Scott Graham
Journal of Psychedelic Support
5 min readNov 21, 2023


You know how the story goes. You identify an event, an experience, or a rite of passage. And, you have convinced yourself, to the depth of your soul, that this particular event/experience/rite of passage will be it. You will be transformed. And every problem, every issue, every character defect in your life will be forever solved.

I can still hear the groans on day eleven of a ten-day vipassanā course (I know, I know, but yes, a 10-day vipassanā course is not ten days — it is actually twelve because the first day, the day you arrive, is day zero).

OK, now that that confusion is dispensed with, many people approach a vipassanā course as this event/experience/rite of passage — a one-and-done kind of thing that will transform their existence.

It is one more in a long list of sacraments, belt notches, and ceremonies that people, who are unwilling to do the real work required by change, lay their hopes and dreams on, and when nothing happens — because in the end, nothing changes — they lay responsibility at the feet of the experience they have deified instead of looking at their own shortcomings and working on that.

Like a sick person seeking a cure through anointment or a sinner looking for divine grace through baptism, these seekers accumulate potentially life-changing experiences, like a boy scout collecting merit badges, then do nothing and wonder why nothing changes, while they concurrently seek out the next magical ritual in their successive string of rituals that holds the promise of a life well lived.

As I said, many people approach a vipassanā course as one of these magical, life-transforming experiences. And it is.

But it doesn’t last.

Real change doesn’t happen by magic. Real change requires real work.

And on day eleven, students hear the work they need to do to sustain the change they had a glimpse of during their ten-day course. During the dhamma talk on day eleven, students are told not only the details of meditation practice to sustain vipassanā but are also given a list of the five commandments (they are called precepts, but think of them as similar to the ten commandments).

Here it is (original is here:

“Sila: In daily life, this is practiced by following the Five Precepts: to abstain from killing any being, to abstain from stealing, to abstain from sexual misconduct, to abstain from wrong speech, to abstain from all intoxicants.”

Meditation. The minimum needed to maintain the practice: one hour in the morning and one hour in the evening, five minutes while lying in bed before you fall asleep and after you wake up, if possible, sitting once a week for one hour with other meditators practicing this technique of Vipassanā, a ten-day course or self-course once a year.”

It should come as no surprise to those reading this; this is one tall order. Goenka advises students to approach their first year of practice with adhiṭṭhāna (strong determination) and let nothing get in the way of following the above-written prescription for 12 months. I can tell you from personal experience it is not easy.

Goenka offers this additional wisdom for those striving to integrate vipassanā into their life:

“Progress comes gradually. Mistakes are bound to be made-learn from them. When you realize you have made an error, smile and start again!”

What Does Vipassanā Have to Do with Psychedelics?

There is a lot we can take away from a vipassanā experience to apply to the psychedelic experience, starting with the reality that the psychedelic experience is not the journey — it is the catalyst for the journey. You then must design that journey — fueled by the insight and awareness you have gained from the psychedelic experience. You then must follow your design — fueled not by the insight and awareness you have gained from the psychedelic experience, but fueled by adhiṭṭhāna — strong determination. You then must have a strategy to re-engage with your journey and design when you have lost your way — fueled by the purpose and motivation you had for taking psychedelics.

The road ahead after the psychedelic experience is not easy. Not because the psychedelic experience is worthless and holds no value. The road ahead is not easy because — surprise — change is hard.

What will you do when you have a psychedelic relapse? What will you do when you have lost your way from being the person you truly want to be and living the life you truly want? What will you do when the person you didn’t like and the life you didn’t want — those things that prompted you to seek a psychedelic experience in the first place — return? Will you blame your psychedelic experience? Or will you take responsibility for your life and your choices and do something about it?

The trouble is…we are looking for magic. Psychedelics are the newest magic that we are being sold. We live in a world where people are looking for the pill, the book, the seminar, the surgery, and the smartphone app to fix all their problems. They say to themselves, “This will do it,” when they really should be saying to themselves, “Only I can do it through daily effort and pushing past the inevitable setbacks.”

Take a lesson from vipassanā. Identify the moral guideposts that will support your transformation, your personal ten commandments, if you will. Identify your daily practice. Identify how you will engage with others for weekly support.

Make no mistake: these actions are not your psychedelic integration plan. They are foundational to your psychedelic integration plan. They are in addition to your psychedelic integration plan. They are critical to the success of your psychedelic integration plan.

What Kind of Person Are You? Are you Looking for Magic?

What are your expectations?

Is a psychedelic experience just one more notch in your belt? Just one more thing in a long list of things that failed to deliver? Just one more magical sacrament?

What do you expect of yourself?

Are you lazy or willing to do the work? Are you arrogant or willing to ask for help? Are you a quitter or willing to persevere?

Do the requisite work before and after your psychedelic experience and transcend that experience.

Remember: The psychedelic experience is not the journey; it is the catalyst for the journey. Psychedelic Support Coaching can help you transcend your experience.



G. Scott Graham
Journal of Psychedelic Support

G. Scott Graham is an author, a career coach, a business coach, and a psychedelic support coach in Boston, Massachusetts. http://BostonBusiness.Coach