I will answer this in two ways.
First, I was thinking, especially after it appeared I would actually be in the study (a story I will tell in a later entry), “I will write a book about this”. After my first experience, as in “Are You Experienced?” by Hendrix, I had an outline all worked out for what this book would look like. I was thinking that it would be this soaring, vast, mystic testimony to the glittering, shimmering beauty of all creation. After my second experience, everything changed. More on that later.
Second, I was thinking that this Johns Hopkins study would give me a deeper insight into the superstructures and invisible wiring of what we call ‘reality’. It definitely did that.
I was thinking, in the lead-up to the actual experiences, that I had no experience whatsoever with psychedelics, only thoughts and fears. From a very early age, for reasons I don’t fully understand yet, I have been fascinated with consciousness altering substances, even though I had never used them. I was a weird kid and I had many strange and unusual mystical encounters, so while these substances fascinated me, they also scared me.
When I was young, I read That Was Then, This Is Now by SE Hinton. In it, one of the characters goes on a really bad trip on some laced LSD. He is trapped in a world of spiders. That was my first real introduction to psychedelics; or rather, my first introduction to LSD was the story of a bad trip.
Another influence on avoiding this class of substance was a guy who was known as Acid Andy in my hometown. Acid Andy was probably what used to be called schizophrenic, but the story around Acid Andy was that he got into some bad acid, or laced acid, and either never came out of the trip or the LSD triggered his nascent schizophrenia. He was used around my hometown as an example of what happens when Kids Take Drugs.
Acid Andy was probably about 10 years older than I was. At the local downtown McDonald’s, where we used to hang out after junior high school and on Saturdays, Acid Andy would come by to be with the younger kids. The jocks would make fun of him. I felt terrible for him and whenever I talked with him, I tried to be as friendly as possible so that he would know some goodness in the world. I would always address him as “Andy”, rather than his nickname. Acid Andy may have been one of the gentlest souls in the neighborhood, a sort of tripped-out Lamed Vavnik of the Upper Midwest.
I believed the stories about Andy, and I believed that I would not do well with whatever Andy had been given or taken. I suppose I saw some of myself in him. The thing is, LSD and other psychedelics never really do this to people. Like razor blades in apples at Halloween, or tainted Peeps at Easter, these are in the category of “Urban Legends”. I found out a few years ago that Andy had mental health issues since he was very small. Unfortunately, I found this out by reading his obituary. Thinking about Andy brings tears to my eyes. He was not treated well by the community, and to be the poster child for the Bad Trip would have been a huge weight to carry in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
When the Johns Hopkins study was presented to me, I saw an opportunity to take psychedelics in a guided setting with professionals in a safe setting with no possibility of getting tainted drugs. And that is what I was thinking when I signed up for this gig.
Because, to be perfectly honest, I love the idea of psychedelics and am pretty sure if I had been a young adult in the late 1960s and early 1970s, I would have been a constant, unending psychedelic trip.