Context: In 2022, exactly a year ago from today, my best friend Rudy opened a door for me, introducing me to an insightful psychedelic therapist. This connection inspired a brief but purposeful trip to London, all in pursuit of "self-healing." I've always harbored a deep-seated ambition to influence life in a way that transcends my own being. At times, the responsibility of this purpose feels both vast and unfathomable. I've come to recognize that to truly navigate this path and mature as an individual and a leader, I must reconcile with past traumas, specifically those stemming from my father's murder. Herein lies the tale of my initial foray into the psychedelic realm, guided by a seasoned therapist. This is a two-chapter story, and you're delving into the first.
Note: Out of respect for privacy and the current legal nuances of psychedelics, I've adjusted the therapist's name.
Part 1: Healing daddy issues
The days leading up to my psychedelic therapy were a whirlwind. After a jet-lagged flight to London, we dashed to Bristol (a 2-hour journey) to visit my family, then returned to London for the session. The very next day, we were off to Birmingham to see my wife's family. The constant movement left me drained, both mentally and physically.
Given the fatigue, I was uncertain about how it might influence my upcoming journey. People kept asking if I was excited or nervous. Honestly, I didn't lean heavily toward either emotion. It felt more like a necessary step I had to take. While I've ventured into psychedelics solo before, this would be the first time I'd have someone guiding me, especially through the maze of my trauma. I aimed to approach it with an open heart, fully aware that my father's loss would dominate the session. It wasn't fear of confronting my unresolved feelings about him; it was more of a resentment that I even had to. But I recognized its importance. This unresolved pain was becoming a roadblock in my life's journey. It was time for healing.
Lexis, my therapist, resides in a quaint town just a stone's throw from London, easily accessible by train. I made it a point to get there half an hour early, allowing myself some solitude to reflect and set my intentions before diving in. Kew Gardens, with its serene ambiance, took me by surprise. I settled on a bench, perfectly positioned so the sun's rays filtered through the foliage of an imposing tree overhead. As I sat, absorbing the sights, sounds, and sensations, a sense of tranquility washed over me. I couldn't help but feel that the universe was signaling its approval, reassuring me that I was on the right path, ready for growth. A silent nod of gratitude to the universe was in order; it gave me the affirmation I needed to continue forward.
Documenting my session with Lexis is a challenge; the narrative might seem disjointed. The lines blur between revelations during the therapy and insights that emerged in the subsequent hours, long after the mushroom's peak effects had subsided. For the newbies, the afterglow of shrooms can linger for days, sometimes even weeks. This mystical remedy has illuminated the guidance and answers already present within my mind, propelling me toward my aspirations. While certain moments are etched in memory, others are hazy. Distinguishing reality from fiction becomes a task, especially given my propensity to craft narratives in my mind that fuel my drive.
We began with a dose of 3 grams of mushrooms, blended into a soothing soup. These mushrooms had a different effect than any I'd experienced before. Typically, there's a peculiar "churn" in my stomach, signaling the journey is about to start. But with these, there was no such feeling, leading me to find comfort in their quality. As Lexis engaged me, prompting me to reflect on events and situations from my past, I found myself reluctant to delve deep or even converse much. Perhaps, subconsciously, I was resisting the mushrooms' effects, especially when it came to discussing my father. Recognizing this, Lexis administered an additional 2 grams, bringing the total to 5 grams. For context, when I'm keen on a profound introspection, I usually consume 3-5g of shrooms on my own. This adjusted dose did the trick, ushering me into the psychedelic space, allowing us to make headway.
Lexis employs music masterfully in her therapy. She introduced tracks I'd never encountered, yet they amplified the medicine's impact. Music holds a special place in my heart; it's woven into my narrative, even now. During my solo mushroom sessions, music is a constant, enhancing the entire experience. To me, music is therapeutic. However, the melodies Lexis chose resonated on a different level. It was refreshing to relinquish control, to not play DJ, and to simply immerse in the chosen soundscape.
The Journey starts
The atmosphere in the room shifted, becoming noticeably colder. I could see Lexis shivering, and I too felt the temperature dip. It was as if an unseen presence had joined us, one that was neither hostile nor elated. Lexis, glancing my way, shared that a young boy of about seven was beside her, clutching her hand. His palpable fear was so intense that it felt like a tangible chill in the room. Lexis identified this young soul as Amin Shamshuddin, my father.
While I couldn't visually perceive him, his presence was undeniable. The young Amin wasn't afraid of me per se, but rather the anger I harbored towards him. It seemed as though he sensed that revealing himself as the innocent child he once was would disarm my defenses. And it did, I love kids.
Amin was a beacon of kindness and generosity. He radiated joy, playfulness, and tried his best to prioritize the well-being of others. A creative spirit, he was a risk-taker and an entrepreneur at heart. His boisterous personality often made him the center of attention at gatherings. As a successful businessman in Pakistan, he would journey to various countries, each time returning with fragments of the Western culture to share with his homeland.
Yet, beneath the vibrant exterior, Amin grappled with profound loneliness. Childhood abuse had left scars on his psyche. The weight of unmet expectations and unfulfilled dreams, especially in a new land he had migrated to in search of better prospects and the elusive "American Dream," weighed heavily on him. He sought solace in alcohol, a mask for his underlying depression. The true essence of Amin, the warm-hearted, generous, playful, and creative soul, went unnoticed, even by those closest to him—his wife and children. In his time, alcohol and its ensuing outbursts became his coping mechanisms; he lacked the resources and avenues for mental healing that are accessible today.
It was at this juncture that the gravity of my father's pain truly dawned on me. For the first time, I allowed myself to empathize with his anguish, an emotion I had long chosen to overlook. I felt the depth of his desolation, his sense of alienation. The sting of disappointments, both from failed ventures in the U.S. and from perceived betrayals by those he considered friends. The humiliation, perhaps even from my mother. Never before had I genuinely said, "I understand" when it came to matters concerning my father. My perception had always been tinted with resentment, viewing him as a weak figure who deserted his family. This revelation marked a significant turning point.
I want to emphasize that understanding my father's struggles doesn't excuse or justify his actions towards my mom. His abusive behavior remains inexcusable. However, I'm beginning to grasp his perspective, recognizing that I could have easily treaded a similar path. The distinction lies in the societal and mental tools available to me, which he lacked. He didn't have the same opportunities or the supportive circle I'm fortunate to have today. As I work through my anger towards him, it's crucial for me to remember these disparities.
It's also worth noting that I can't definitively say this was my father's reality or what he truly felt. The young boy didn't directly convey these insights to me; they came through Lexis. Yet, even without explicit messages, I sensed these emotions. Tapping into my empathic abilities, I tried to step into his shoes, attempting to fathom the choices he made in life. If embracing this perspective brings me peace with my father, then I accept it. I'm at peace with my version of the truth, even if it diverges from reality. We each find solace in our own ways.
We next explored the ancestral lineages from both my parents' sides, given that they both contributed to my existence. From my dad's lineage, I discerned a strong sense of pride. Their ego and showmanship took precedence over all else. They were entertainers, often the life of any gathering. These traits, the ego, the pride, and the ability to captivate an audience, are legacies they've passed on to me.
Turning to my mom's lineage, I discovered they embodied strength and stability. This revelation was initially surprising, especially since my dad had always preached about male stoicism. But in retrospect, it was my mom who had been the bedrock of our family. Her resilience ensured our family's survival until my sister and I could step up. I deeply value the strength and stability she's instilled in me. I wonder if she realizes the depth of my gratitude. I should express it to her.
The night of the murder
Then came the moment to delve into "the night" – the night of my father's tragic end. As Lexis played a poignant track, I tried to recall the events. A memory surfaced, perhaps real or imagined, of my dad inviting me to spend time with him that evening. I had declined, choosing to be with friends instead. I expressed to Lexis my guilt, pondering if my presence could have altered the night's outcome. Maybe I could have shielded him, now that I was old enough and strong enough to do so.
The narrative I've held onto about that night is, admittedly, uncertain. I've often shied away from confronting the actual truth about the events surrounding my dad, opting for only my version. In my account, he tried to mediate a bar brawl between acquaintances, which tragically led to his fatal assault by the aggressor of the 2 who ended up beating him to death.
Attempting to connect with that fateful moment, I envisioned my father's pain. I felt he reached a point where he no longer wanted to bear the weight of his internal struggles. I felt in his deepest subconscious he no longer wanted to be a burden to his family. He no longer wanted to feel the loneliness and shame that he felt his entire life. He didn't want to be perceived negatively by his maturing son. No father wishes for disdain from his child. Deep down, he believed that for our family to thrive, he had to step aside. So, he made the ultimate sacrifice, he passed.
Before delving deep into this part of the journey, my view of my father was clouded with judgment and anger, seeing him as a coward who had left his family behind. However, as I navigated through my memories and emotions, a new image emerged. I began to understand Amin not as a deserter, but as a soul who, perhaps mistakenly, believed he was doing right by his family through his passing.
It's as if he intuited that our destinies, both mine and our family's, would unfold more favorably without him. And he was right. I recognize the profound influence his sacrifice has played in molding my life's achievements and the abundance it has ushered into my family's life. It's uncertain if we would have experienced this level of blessings had he remained a part of our lives.
Actually, if I'm being brutally honest, I know we wouldn't. Some would call this person a hero for his sacrifice, not a coward.
Thank you, Dad
It's hard for many to fathom our life before I found success. I was once a child who shoplifted because we couldn't afford things other families could afford. So, it's with a heavy heart that I say this: Thank you, Dad, for your sacrifice. Our past was filled with hardships and fears that I never want to relive. I'm committed to ensure we never go back to those times.
Lexis conveyed that my father departed with his pride intact. While this brought some solace, I can't help but wonder how different things might have been had I been older, more present for him during those crucial years. As I was coming of age, he was fading away. I often pondered the conversations we might have today if he were still with us in person. That was until I realized very recently that I am still able to speak to him...
Stay tuned for Part 2, and maybe Part 3 if Part 2 wayyy too long.