I am Paul Marlow, the founder of Never Alone.
The choice to take part in an MDMA Therapy session was not easy, due to the legality and cost of the therapy treatment. However, the way I had been living my life for the years prior in fear, anxiety, depression and PTSD, I came to the conclusion that all avenues for help must be tried.
This story below is the turning point in my mental health spiral and the reason why Never Alone was created.
I also wrote in our Mental Health Advocate Roundup for their top 3 goals for the year.
The Day I Was Ready To Take Anti-Depressants
I realized days before writing this, that I needed my life to change one way or another to fight these feelings.
I had been focusing on my fitness, work, eating, and sleeping as well as I could yet the grip of despair wasn’t letting go.
For eleven months, I did all this.
As well as therapy two times a month, sometimes four.
The only other thing I could do was to find the right dosage of antidepressants that aligned with me.
Or was it?
*Disclaimer* MDMA is an illegal drug. It is currently allowed in psychedelic research assisting those with mental health conditions. But not currently legal for MDMA therapy like I did.
Multidisciplinary Association For Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) is one of the forefront leaders in working with psychedelics in clinical trials. Their current goal is to have MDMA be FDA approved for prescription medicine by 2021.
I chose a therapist who had an extensive background in this work. Also, there were nine talking therapy sessions before the MDMA therapy.
To keep my therapist safe, we are going to call her Sarah and here are her credentials.
Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology.
Registered Clinical Counselor at BCACC.
Trauma training with Dr. Gabor Mate.
5 years of experience as an underground psychedelic therapist.
Sarah struggled with her own depression. Only to come out of it with the help of MDMA therapy and other guided psychedelic sessions.
Deciding That Taking Antidepressants Could Wait
Keeping honest with those around me I took to my IG stories and laid out what was going on in my head. I want to help people with mental health problems so I post my struggles as much as I can on social media.
I have been an advocate for eating healthy, working out and treating your body right. Because of the realization that I couldn’t do this alone, I thought it was only fair that they hear the reasons why.
The hours after posting what my plan was, many people contacted me. Saying they knew the feeling I was going through and had suggestions on what to do instead.
A reply stood out that I connected with.
“Have you tried doing MDMA therapy before?”
Over the last five years, I had listened to a lot of Tim Ferris ( Podcast #365 With Micheal Pollan ) and Joe Rogan ( Podcast #782 With Rick Doblin ). At first, I was listening to these guys to find inspiration and learn how they got to where they were in life.
As episodes passed, I started hearing about the use of ecstasy, MDMA, psychedelics, 5-meo dmt and ayahuasca. These became a central point for these men and also the guests they brought in.
They were using these drugs as a way to break down barriers while opening up their subconscious. With help from a professional, I pictured myself doing these some time in the future.
And It seemed the future had arrived.
And this is what I did.
How To Find A Psychedelic Guide
Finding a therapist that worked with psychedelics was the hardest part of this journey.
In the last few years, there has been many talked about changes in mental health treatment. Yet most of these are still illegal to do for the general public.
Due to the legality of psychedelic therapy, they don’t go and make a flashy webpage.
I live in a forward-thinking city, Vancouver, BC, Canada. And only when I got a contact through a friend, did I have the first real opportunity to make this a reality.
Word of mouth
Unfortunately, this is the only way I can see others finding someone to help them in this area.
You have to put your trust in the person who connects you. Then do your due diligence to do a check on the therapist and meet with them before agreeing.
You need to feel 100% safe. Until our governments change their laws on these drugs, this is what we must workaround.
5 Ways to Start MDMA Therapy
What Is The Cost Of MDMA Therapy
The cost of doing this will vary between therapists.
To give you an idea of what you could be looking at, I want to share with you what I paid for this experience.
Sarah offered a free initial sixty-minute therapy session. During the session, I gave her the rundown of my life in the last five years.
- Getting my first long-term girlfriend who was battling BPD.
- Learning on the fly how to be a boyfriend for the first time. I wasn’t very good at it, and it put stress on us both.
- Finding out my dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
- Watching him decay as we found out it was most likely Lewy Body Disease. And then finally passing away from a cancerous lump we only saw for the first time weeks before.
- The PTSD and Anxiety were too much to handle.
I told her these stories.
Anxiety gripped me when my ex came up.
I cried when I talked about dad.
I did the things I was getting used to doing when I talked about these people.
She evaluated my situation and made it pretty evident that I was in dire need to have this work done.
I couldn’t have agreed more.
How Much Does MDMA Therapy Cost
Sarah quoted me somewhere around $3000 for three months worth of therapy sessions and one day of MDMA therapy.
12 therapy sessions = $150 each
1 MDMA therapy 6 hour long Session= $1200
This video was made before I walked out the door to meet Sarah for the first time.
*I initially thought I was going to be doing an LSD therapy session, after this initial session it was decided we would be doing MDMA therapy instead.
9 Therapy Sessions Before The MDMA Therapy
The initial therapy session was like every other one I had been too.
You come to an office.
Sit down in front of a total stranger.
Then stab wildly at an emotional topic you feel could be a good starting point.
Trying to verbal vomit enough out to make the fifty-five minutes worth my time.
There is no right or wrong way when starting with a new therapist.
Try to let down your walls and show them the real you.
The difference in these sessions, to past therapists, was that we had a focal point. My dads’ death and the anxiety that still came up 2 years my breakup.
What surprised me was as the sessions started to accumulate.
They were having a positive effect on my anxiety and stress in my daily life right away.
I was less agitated anytime they came up, and they also came far less often.
These were my thought after the first therapy session with Sarah. There was a lot learnt in our first in person meeting that made me realize I was on the right path.
Information From The Blogs I read before doing MDMA Assisted Psychotherapy
After reading other blogs on MDMA therapy sessions. I saw most initial contacts were through email.
A few more emails went back and forth, then they met for the first time to do the MDMA therapy.
There was no trust built, nor anytime for the therapist to fully understand what was going on.
I would not recommend this. For these reasons.
Do you trust this person enough to be in a vulnerable drug-induced state?
Can you get the most out of this costly session from telling them about your life in email format?
Will you fully open up to a stranger even with the powerful “tell-all” effects of MDMA in you?
The MDMA Therapy Session
Sarah came to my apt at 9 AM on a warm sunny Saturday.
The other sessions had been at her office, but this experience needed to be in a place I felt safe.
We sat down right away and she went over the critical points for our day.
Start by taking 125mg pill of MDMA
There is the second pill in case it’s needed
Don’t expect anything
It’s approximately a 6 hour process
8:50 AM I documented how I was feeling in the final moments before embarking on the MDMA therapy session.
9:37 AM I took the first 125mg pill.
Sarah got me to lay down with a blanket on top to keep my body temperature up and put on a sleeping mask.
She then went “hippie-dippie” bringing out sound bowls and crystals. But, I was in her world and wanted to jump into the deep end, not dip my toes in the water.
She handed over a rose quartz crystal for opening the heart, and selenite to align my chakras. The sound bowls came next and she chanted a hymn.
As I laid there listening to the low ringing tones, I was in a place of peace and calm and warmth.
I laid there.
And laid for what felt like 45 minutes.
Is the MDMA kicking in?
I can feel it coming … oh wait, can I?
Dammit, I should say something because this is getting awkward.
What the hell do I say?
If I’m high, my first words should be profound and hit my depression on the head.
“Soooo I feel like I should say something, but have no clue what to say “
Nice work genius.
“That’s ok Paul; we can talk about anything, there is no wrong subject. What’s going on in your head.”
The feeling of being unsure washed away and the verbal deluge began.
What Does MDMA Feel Like?
MDMA is the active ingredient of ecstasy and molly. MDMA is the purest form, not cut with anything to alter its effect.
The National Institute of Drug Abuse describes MDMA as…
“a synthetic drug that alters mood and perception (awareness of surrounding objects and conditions). It is chemically similar to both stimulants and hallucinogens, producing feelings of increased energy, pleasure, emotional warmth, and distorted sensory and time perception.”
When it kicks in, the world becomes a bright bundle of joy, where everything is possible.
The blanket that I had wrapped around me became a cloud from heaven.
The desire to talk to Sarah became all I wanted to do. It was the most exciting thing in my life at the time.
Anything that came to my head I immediately blurted out.
The voice in my head that checks every emotional statement to make sure it is”worthy” was gone.
Desires that I had hidden deep down that I had not let anyone know about became the forefront of topics.
The fear of shame was gone.
I could be wrong with no repercussions.
Those dreams I dare not tell anyone came into light.
While the areas I had thought to be my anchors in life, were hardly talked about.
They, in reality, when I could be free to speak, were of no use to me.
The Amount of MDMA That I Took
9:37 AM First Capsule of MDMA 125mg
11:40 Am Second Capsule of MDMA 125mg
Usually, the second dose is 60mg, but due to me being a giant at 6’7 235lbs, she decided a second full dose was needed.
1:40 PM One Capsule of psilocybin ( magic mushrooms ) 250mg
The purpose for the psilocybin was to help connect myself as I came down from the MDMA
How I Felt After The MDMA Therapy
The after-effects will leave you in a low, depression-like place. I did not relate it to the PTSD and anxiety I felt before however.
To get high, your natural levels of serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine get depleted.
Explained here by the National Institute of Drug Abuse.
This can last anywhere from 24-72 hours. By administering 5-HTP for two-three days you will help counteract this.
Video taken 60 minutes after the MDMA therapy session was done
The Day After The MDMA therapy
This morning was … odd.
I wasn’t depressed like I had been in the past when takingMDMA on nights out partying.
Yet, I also didn’t have a ridiculous hangover from alcohol paired to it.
But, I had zero desire to do anything outside of my routine. Making it even more confusing.
I was very contemplative, yet didn’t know what to contemplate.
Was the PTSD and anxiety gone?
Nothing felt bad… just damn different.
Sarah told me the first three days were where I would most likely feel like I wasn’t completely there in the world.
I was there… wherever there was.
7:03 AM the day after the MDMA therapy session.
Post MDMA Therapy thoughts
In the first 48 hours, I found myself coming in and out of that “odd” space. It happened less as the hours passed, and finally, as I woke up the third day after my session, I felt normal again.
Not the same normal that I had known the last 33 years of my life.
Two weeks after the MDMA therapy session and the most noticeable change I have found is how comfortable I am in my skin. I don’t use the words PTSD and anxiety when describing myself anymore.
I don’t feel ashamed about my little imperfections.
I am not making excuses to hide from doing things that are not part of my typical day.
I feel normal… something I have not felt in a VERY long time.