In so many ways, addiction is defined by isolation. It has its beginnings in a sense of disconnection from the world and the people around us, and becomes a form of controlling and perpetuating one’s own isolation by shutting life out. Ibogaine, ayahuasca, psilocybin and other psychedelics are all amazing tools for raising one’s level of consciousness, but the bottom line is that it is impossible to heal one’s sense of isolation by attempting to heal in isolation. Using plant medicines alone is not enough, and real recovery requires community.
For thousands of years, indigenous communities worldwide have used visionary plants for healing, yet the entire tribe must participate in the process in order for it to have any real value. When a person is suffering from an emotional imbalance, the understanding is that some part of their psyche has remained stuck in childhood and has not managed to grow and develop into adulthood. For this reason, healing always occurs in the form of a rite of passage, during which a person can re-connect to the inner child and nourish it to adulthood. Yet these wise cultures also understand that it takes a village to raise a child.
Therefore, when a person undergoes a visionary rite of passage, the tribe comes together to witness the ritual separation of that individual from the group, so that he or she may be released from all ties, statuses and social identities, and journey alone through the spiritual realm in order to rediscover their true self. Upon their return, the entire community welcomes them back and acknowledges that they have reached a higher level of spiritual development.
Integration then occurs as the community confirms and reinforces this development by treating that individual differently. In some cultures they may be given a new name that reflects their spiritual journey, while in others they may be assigned new roles and responsibilities, transforming their personal relationships and social status. Thanks to the participation of the village, the individual has become a new person.
However, in Western culture, people who suffer from addiction may use visionary medicines in order to connect to a deeper and more authentic self-image, yet the people around them cannot be counted on to participate in the healing process. An individual may have learnt to see themselves differently, but their community continues to view and treat them as they did previously. Sadly, the stigma of addiction, the dysfunctional relationships and the lack of meaningful responsibility are often still waiting on the other side of treatment.
For this reason, aftercare communities are of priceless importance to those who undergoing ibogaine or other forms of psychedelic treatment for addiction. Membership to a group of people that recognise and value the journey that a person has been on is vital to the creation of a new, meaningful identity. It provides an antidote to the isolation and disconnection that perpetuate addiction, and enables the completion of the rite of passage on both a social and spiritual level.
Thankfully, there is a growing network of aftercare communities worldwide, and technology is making it easier for this global tribe to remain bound together. Regular group meetings on Skype, Whatsapp and social media are playing an ever-increasing role in the integration process by helping people remain connected and develop meaningful relationships. Anyone considering psychedelic treatment for addiction is therefore strongly advised to speak to their treatment provider about how to get involved with an aftercare community.