What it's like on kratom, I tried it so you don't have to

What it's like on kratom, I tried it so you don't have to

VicesSeptember 06, 2018 By Sean Lawlor

Recently, I heard the DEA is trying desperately to make kratom illegal. And since I believe the DEA is more than likely evil (far more evil than a plant, at least), I figured kratom must have too many therapeutic benefits for public consumption. It struck out on weed, why not this?

So before the office makes it as illegal as heroin, I ordered a kratom variety pack online. The night it arrived, I scooped about 3g of the green powder — the “Red Vein Kali” variety that promised “euphoric sensations” — into a glass of water. (Since it was insoluble, I essentially chewed what tasted like a disgusting vegan superfood while chugging fluid to stifle arising dry-heaves.)

Thirty minutes later, I was feeling damn good. Like, Man! I forgot how great life is! good. I felt the reason why people are claiming kratom gets them off heroin and opioids. But unlike scripts like Hydrocodone — which, years back, I was known (by my conscience) to gank from my parents’ bathroom— I could still function. I read philosophy. I wrote. I joyously planned how to accomplish all my existential dreams, because everything was possible in this awesome universe.

What a phenomenal plant medicine I’d found!

Eventually, I closed my eyes for bed. To my dismay, I couldn’t fall asleep.

It seemed I’d entered some limbo zone between dreams and reality. Intense paranoia crept in. I wasn’t paranoid that some slick agent was about to boomerang through my window and crash a knee down on my throat; I was paranoid that the weird alien beings I was hearing inside were taking over my mind. …

Trying to describe that experience now was like describing a distant dream. So I sought veracity and opted to go all Huxley and take kratom a second time. This time, I attempted to describe the effects of what could be a tremendous medicine or something capable of unhinging a largely-in-tact millennial mind.

A (SECOND) NIGHT OF KRATOM

8:00 p.m.
I take kratom. It is equally disgusting the second time. Very soon, pleasant sensations move through my body. Fear arises regarding what happened previous, so I focus on my breath. I feel a strong desire to play my Nintendo Switch and travel deeply into Hyrule in Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Focusing on writing this important testimony becomes increasingly complicated.

8:30 p.m.
Everything seems a little brighter. I’m more aware than usual of sounds. This may be because I’m focusing more, like some quantum mechanics “act-of-perceiving-changes-object-perceived” thing. Regardless, I’m certain the effects are kicking in, cause I feel like Link paragliding over the vastness of Hyrule. I feel exceptionally loving, so I text my girlfriend how deeply I care for her. Our recent arguments feel like a distant lifetime.

8:35 p.m.
You know, I’d love to ride a horse through Hyrule and shoot arrows at monsters’ faces. But this nasty inner-voice says going to Hyrule would be cheating. Of course that’d be pleasurable, it’s Zelda! If this piece is to be worth a damn, I must sit, close my eyes, and breathe into the sensations like Huxley did. I inhale, and powerful euphoria moves through my body. Things are definitely blurrier than usual. It would be unwise to operate heavy machinery right now — though a Nintendo Switch feels doable. If I had pain right now, I’d be feeling it to a much lesser extent. When I broke my patella in 2011, I was prescribed Oxycodone. Stoned, I read Hunter S. Thompson and watched all six seasons of Lost. The effects were so mind-numbingly blissful I thought the Desmond time-travel stuff was genius. When the prescription ran out, I felt more depressed than I had ever felt. So I started stealing my parents’ leftovers, and I didn’t stop until shame overcame me.

8:47 p.m.
I discover my roommates are doing arts and crafts in the den while That ‘70s Show reruns play on the unwatched TV. They do crafts on a semi-regular basis. They’ve invited me to join, but I’ve always refused under the pretense of having ‘things to do.’ Tonight, I accept, not because I feel I should, but because in this state of mind, art feels very appealing. I recall senior year of college, when I took Percocet with two friends before a mandatory religion class. As a Middle-Eastern priest talked for three hours, I drew a detailed cartoon of a hipster stoner giving a peace sign. The picture remains taped to the record player beside me right now. I consider it the best drawing I’ve ever done.

9:15 p.m.
Since I’ve abandoned my meditation, I’ve decided to draw a mandala. It is very difficult. At some point in the drawing, I feel a strange sense I am depicting the alien beings I thought I encountered last kratom experience. I desire nothing more than to take more kratom and kill monsters in Hyrule. I’m engaged in a mental battle over whether or not this is a good idea.

9:41 p.m.
I take more kratom.

10:04 p.m.
My roommates go to bed as I start feeling lightheaded and distant from reality. I’m not remembering things well. I’m feeling both energized and lazy. And itchy. But this is still not as intense as a prescription opioid. Nevertheless, I’m sick of focusing and feeling guilty for taking a break. I’m playing some fucking Zelda.

10:09 p.m.
Paragliding off a Hyrule mountaintop, I pause the game and close my eyes. My body floats just like Link’s. Light chimes from the TV waft over muffled bass from my roommates’ bedroom TV. Behind my eyelids, I see forest imagery.

11:00 p.m.
A bird creature is talking to me about bird warrior mythology. I am retaining none of it. In truth, I’m not really trying. I’m just feeling mindless pleasure—although I also feel very itchy and the increasingly-frequent panic the effects are fading. I am urinating once every ten minutes. I dread going to sleep, but I can’t keep destroying monsters forever.

1:13 a.m.
I’ve been lying in bed for 10 minutes. I sense something bubbling beneath the surface. A strange stream of consciousness flows that doesn’t feel like my own. It is definitely happening again — though I can’t define what “it” is. It’s like some disconnected jumble of nonsensical words spoken by people I’ve encountered today, echoing through a metallic room. When I try to let go, panic arises, like a warning of what’s to come if I submit.

1:20 a.m.
I’m becoming aware of a strange phenomenon. I’m able to stay in rational mind if I want, directing sentences where I wish them to go. But then I can’t sleep. When I release control, jumbled mind enters. It feels like I’m choosing whether to stay conscious or go unconscious — but it’s intoxicated unconscious, which is why it feels alien. It’s uncomfortable to experience. Weird fears arise that my body’s about to have violent involuntary reactions. Vivid visualization of my body convulsing. But my body isn’t convulsing. And I’m getting the sense this kratom is simply revealing my own messed-up mind in unique ways, forcing me to confront this discomfort I hardly realized I’ve been carrying.

2:44 a.m.
Whoa. Where have I been?

2:45 a.m.
Not sure what just happened, but my mind now roams through the green fields of Hyrule on a sunny day. Seems I’ve made peace with this unconscious strangeness. Finally drifting off to sleep.

The Next Morning
I wake up sluggish after dreaming I was reading Joe Rogan’s tarot cards and explaining Aleister Crowley’s significance while riding a helicopter over a Vietnam village in which alien-esque Viet Cong suffered grotesquely with faces painted beige amidst mud-brick homes whose walls bore posters advertising a new Leonardo DiCaprio film while a jet fighter spiraled closer each revolution. It felt very real, and I felt I was staring death in the face. No clue where to even begin interpreting any of this.

I scramble eggs and roam Hyrule on the TV controlling an imaginary computer character again, collecting Spirit Orbs from ancient shrines. My guilt over playing has significantly lessened. But the sun is shining today, so I summon energy to travel to a cafe outside of town and sit out back, gazing at the mountains. My mind roams pleasurably through creative realms, and I write more lucidly than I have in what feels like months, cause that nasty internal critic is nowhere to be seen. My body feels strong. My mind feels sharp. I feel very grateful to be alive.

Though I hesitate to give some final verdict, I can’t help but feel kratom provided an arena to work with unconscious baggage that’s been bugging me more than I’ve realized. Seems maybe it was just reminding me to slay those bastard monsters of the mind and paraglide through those ancient fields of inner bliss.

Or maybe, all along, those alien thoughts were guiding me to just chill the hell out for once.

[originally published March 14, 2018]