A Psycho-Spiritual Stay At The Iboga Wellness Center
***New Update 6/22/17! I just finished a book, "Healing With Iboga" about experience with iboga! It includes information about what iboga is, my experience, and my tips to make the most of your experience as well as how to integrate back into everyday life! Available in paperback or kindle!***
Many people have asked me all about my experience at the Iboga Wellness Center. I am definitely going to post more about what iboga is and what it does, as well as my actual experiences on the medicine, but first I wanted to paint the picture of what the stay is like. While I was there for self-healing, which was extremely challenging, they also did a great job of making it feel like a vacation! I came home well-rested and felt like I got to see quite a bit of Costa Rica too! Below is the outline of what my week was like, but keep in mind that the center is always evolving and improving, so they may make changes to their treatment programs! If you have any questions about the programs at the Iboga Wellness Center, click here to e-mail them!
Iboga/Ibogaine is highly effective for anxiety and depression as well as detoxing from opiates. The drug detox program is a bit different from the psycho-spiritual program, so below is my experience with the psycho-spiritual side.
Day 1, Arrival: This is the day I flew into Costa Rica. I would say getting there around mid-day is great because it gives you time to get acclimated to the house and meet everyone. Gary, one of the providers, picked me up at the airport and brought me back to the house, which is about 15-20 minutes away in a gated community on top of a hill with amazing ocean views. After that, they showed me to my room, and I was told to just relax and enjoy myself. There was fish, plantains, and veggies out for lunch along with fresh juice. (The food was amazing). I felt instantly relaxed at the house and was able to eat without anxiety for the first time in a long time. After lunch I laid by the pool, took a nap, and then it was time for dinner. By that time, the other 4 patients in my psycho-spiritual program had arrived and we all had dinner together with Gary, his wife Sandy, and their son Jeff, another provider. They have an internet based phone you can use at anytime as well as Wi-fi, so I was able to call my husband, Eric, that day when I arrived and before I went to sleep.
Day 2, The First Journey: The second day is the day of the first iboga session. I woke up that morning and went upstairs to the smell of breakfast. The chef made me eggs, and there was also bacon, sausage and tons of watermelon and pineapple. After breakfast I relaxed by the pool and wrote out my "intentions" and "questions" for the iboga session that night and relaxed until lunch. There is a LOT of time for relaxing and self-reflecting, which was particularly tough for me. I'm used to being on the go and overloading my schedule. After lunch, Brad, another one of the providers, took us took a local beach. The water was really warm, and the beach was gorgeous! You cannot eat after 2pm the day of a session, so after we got back, we hung out around the house and stayed hydrated! That is the most important part, physically, of preparing for iboga. It was also warm there (90 degrees), so I think I drank about 90 ounces of water a day, haha. Some time during the afternoon the onsite doctor comes around and checks everyone's pulse, heartbeat and blood pressure to make sure that taking iboga will be safe for you. (Nice to have that reassurance!) At 7:30pm we gathered downstairs for the first iboga session. We started with a fire ceremony, and it was all of the patients, all four providers, and Gary's wife Sandy (my iboga mom!). Brad began by telling us his whole story, and then came around with the iboga. The first time they have you swallow it dry to get the "full experience" of what iboga is, but after that they give it to you in capsule form. The iboga reminded me of dry loose tea. Your first time they give you a very small amount to see how you react to it, and then give you more as needed. That first night I was given one additional capsule, and I heard them giving more to other people throughout the night. Then as we were waiting for the medicine to kick in they told us physical effects we might experience (buzzing feeling, tracers, faster heart rate), and talked more about the tradition of the medicine. After you start feeling the effects of the medicine (anywhere from 30-90 minutes) they help you upstairs as you can tend to be a little dizzy and wobbly, and for the remainder of the evening you lay on a twin mattress with your bucket right next to you in case you need to purge. I knew I was feeling it because my body felt tingly all over, and both nights I was able to walk upstairs without any assistance. After everyone is upstairs, two of the providers stay with you the rest of the night to assist with cleaning out buckets, talking you through visions, helping you walk to the bathroom...and really to make sure you are ok. Iboga really slows down time, so while it feels like you are laying there for a REALLY long time, you are only laying there for about 9-10 hours. They wake you up around 6:00am and help you back to your room. The first night I dozed off one or twice, and the second night I feel asleep probably around 5:00am.
Day 3, Recovery Day: So on recovery day, there is nothing scheduled but recovery..and trust me, you need it. I was able to sleep on and off 45 minutes here and there until about 10 or 11am, but after that I laid awake. The iboga is still in your system, and I felt extremely dizzy every time I got up, so I had to stay laying down the most of the day. The doctor and the providers come in and check on you every so often and bring you water and watermelon, and you're goal is to drink sips of water and eat if you can...but it's like the worst hang over ever, and it was tough for me to just get those little sips of water in. I laid in bed for quite a bit of time, and then was able to drag myself upstairs to lay on the couch for a little while too. But don't underestimate the power of the recovery days! They advise that you don't watch tv or do anything distracting like that, because a lot of what you got from the iboga session will start to fall into place. I was blown away by how I felt at the end of that recovery day. The entire day was really tough on me emotionally, as I was putting pieces together and emotionally/mentally purging, but Gary and Sandy were available to talk to me whenever I needed. I can't even tell you how many times I walked over to their detached house to talk to them, and they were ALWAYS there for me...everyone was! But after I got all of it out, I felt AMAZING.
Day 4, Activity and Spiritual Shower: This was one of my favorite days! We left at about 11am to a place called Vandara Hot Springs that had all sorts of fun activities! They have a pool completely filled with water from a hot springs, a restaurant that is 100% organic and everything is grown on site (including the fish and meat too!). They also had zip lining, and everything was included in the Iboga Wellness Center cost except for massages. It was about an hour away which made me nervous because I was having a lot of trouble being a passenger in cars at the time, but I felt so confident after my iboga session and handled it like a champ. When we got there we had this amazing lunch, and then went zip lining. At first I thought I would have too much anxiety to go, but everyone convinced me to do it, and I knew that I had gone to Costa Rica to grow and push myself, so I knew it was something I needed to do for myself...plus, I may never have the opportunity to go zip lining in Costa Rica again...how could I pass that up? It was so fun, and I only felt anxious a few times, but every time, I knew I was feeling anxious because they were mental patterns I had to break through. I only felt anxious because my brain was telling me, " Hey, this is something you should be anxious about," but I was able to acknowledge and recognize the thoughts as the patterns they were and shut them down. It felt so good to be able to do that. After zip lining we went in the pool, and I got a massage in this outdoor hut with the sound of a river flowing by. Then around 4:00p, we went just up the road to do the spiritual shower. You wear clothes that you are ok with getting rid of, and then bring a change of clothes with you. One by one, Jeff and Steven would bring us into the river where we introduced ourselves to the water, and then told this leaf everything we wanted it to bring to our lives, as well as everything we wanted it to take away from our lives. After we spoke our intentions, we placed the leaf in the river for the current to take away. From there, Jeff and Steven washed your entire body with different herbs. I'm not going to lie, I was pretty cold, but with the candles and African music, as well as the symbolism of it all...it was such a beautiful ceremony. After you are washed, you go behind this huge rock, change into your dry clothes, leave the wet ones there, and walk back up to the car without ever looking back. Then when we got home, we ate dinner, and most of us went to bed early.
Day 5, The Second Journey: This day went pretty much exactly like the first session. We had breakfast, went to the beach, and then came back for lunch, knowing we couldn't eat after 2:00p. I took a nap, and relaxed by the pool until it was time for the second fire ceremony. The second time, they brought around capsules of iboga with different amounts for each person, as they now know what your tolerance is, and I assume they want you go to deeper than you did the first night, because I could tell that I had WAY more then the first night (but definitely not too much...just the right amount to push me to my limit). They really seem to know the right dose for each person, and I actually only took that one dose all night. In addition to the five of us in the psycho-spiritual session, there were two people who had been detoxing from opiates earlier in the week that joined us, for what was their second journey as well. I was really excited for the second session because I was so confident that iboga "knew" what it was doing with me, so I was really able to relax and trust what was to come. That night gave me some amazing insights as well, and I will definitely be writing about both journeys in more detail. That night, I was painfully nauseous for about 6 hours of the journey but I never threw up. I was so dizzy I felt like I couldn't even lift my head up to the bucket, and when I tried, nothing came out. It was definitely not fun physically, but in the end, SO worth it!
Day 6, Recovery Day: Another needed recovery day! Since I had taken more iboga the second night I was extremely hung over the majority of the day. I was finally able to get out of bed around 3:00pm, and that was only to go upstairs to refill my water and lay back down up there. By dinner time, I was barely able to eat a few bites of salad. The providers keep reminding you that once you get a full night sleep you feel much better...and it's true.
Day 7, Fun Day: This is the last day of the stay, and it felt so bitter-sweet. I was SO excited to go home and see Eric, but I knew I was going to miss my new iboga family. I definitely miss all of the providers and the people in my group, but a lot of us are now Facebook friends. I feel like the providers still really do care about me, and have been really supportive since leaving the center. They gave us several options of activities we could do and we all decided amongst ourselves that we would go to one of the other local beaches with shopping, ice cream and massages. The other two options were to go to city of Tamarindo, or this waterfall, both of which were about 45 minutes away. I was still personally a bit hung over, so a massage, ice cream, and a nearby beach were right up my alley.
Day 8, Departure: On this last day, there is nothing scheduled and the providers take people to the airport as needed. My flight was at 8am, so I left around 5:30am, and was able to say bye to everyone the night before since I didn't have a chance to see them that morning before I left. Gary drove me to the airport, and again, it was bitter-sweet. I was so happy to go home, but so sad to leave Costa Rica.
Just writing about my stay made me so happy, as it just gave the me the opportunity to re-live each day all over again! If you have any more detailed questions about how the center runs, don't hesitate to e-mail them at all! And like I said in the beginning, they may change things at some point to improve their sessions, so your stay may not be exactly like what I described above....but if it's not, I know it will only be better!