Trips large and small

Me post-nos. It’s small for obvious reasons.

Had me a little nitrous the other day. I guess it was almost a month ago now. Time flying when the fun is had and all that…

The nitrous in question was administered at my request as prelude to an extraction. You see, while I’ve had a tooth pulled before–without much ado–I was having the teeniest bit of dental anxiety, as this little extraction was preceded by five weeks of oral misery. Five weeks of oral misery tracing its origin with painful clarity to the last dental visit, the one with levels of dental incompetency heretofore not seen in America, practiced that fateful day with a guileless ignorance that chills the bones*. Hence, anxiety. Just a bit.

* For the record, I’ve had plenty of dental work done through the years. Plenty. Like a lot. What I’m saying is that I have a somewhat extensive library of experience alongside which to compare this last visit. I never enjoy my forays in the chair, but I’m not altogether a dental crybaby. This guy should have his little mirror revoked.

Sigh. And so the tooth crumbles…


A new dentist, and a healthy dose of nitrous on board, and we were ready for that poor, assaulted tooth to go.

Our little adventure was then followed by an expectedly unpleasant 5 or 6 days, upon whose heels the searing pain of the dreaded Dry Socket nipped. Two weeks of blinding pain. Blinding.

This is me around day seven, poring over the extraction literature time and time again, hoping it was wrong. For the record it was. It took far longer than 10 days.

What would have been excellent during these two weeks, when no amount of Tylenol and Ibuprofen could keep up with the Dry Socket Desolation, is a little personal tank of nitrous, there at my side. Is that a thing? I don’t think that’s a thing. But I could have used it as a thing.

A portable cylinder, regulator wide open. A direct line. A two-week fogger.

So here we are, finally past the aching desire for intravenous nitrous, which surely isn’t a thing, and I am here to tell you that:

  1. Dry Socket is the work of the devil, and to be avoided at all costs. Good luck.
  2. 10 days for ‘all the pain to be gone’ is insanity. I’m almost a month past extraction, and I still haven’t kicked the pills.
  3. Nitrous oxide is the nectar of the gods, and it’s possible that my dental record is soon to include the default presumption that the pumps should be primed.

The thing about the nitrous is that it takes your mind down a peg, knocks out its all-powerful ability to keep you fully amped up. It’s like an hour or two of killer meditation wrapped into a neat little gaseous package. You get the tingling, you get the spinning (alright, my meditation doesn’t often include the spinning, and for that I am grateful), and you get a monkey mind that can actually take a break.

That damned monkey is still there, don’t get me wrong. I was finding it alarmingly easy to freak out. But the monkey has lost his fight. He’s all drunk on fermented bananas.

Doc Yang saw my clench and furrow when he started in, and he reminded me to focus on my breath–and here is the monumental miracle–I just did. That, my friends, is not natural. He spoke, and his wee little far-off suggestion was greeted with my internal, ‘oh, yeah. I forgot.’ and then a full release. Thanks Doc. I don’t know what I was thinking.

(The other thing about nitrous is that it makes all communication in the room sound like that teacher from Charlie Brown. Waa-wa-waa-waa-waa. I’m not sure why they even talk to you, because certainly they can’t expect you to listen. Thankfully, I hadn’t totally given up and resigned myself to the alien world until after hearing the good doctor’s garbled suggestion to relax.)

That’s it, there towards the bottom, the Pollan book. Right there by the graham crackers in the firelight. I think you’re going to have to trust me on this one.

The morning of the nitrous, I had coffee with a couple of friends (Lie. I had hot cocoa. Coffee is torture.), and the subject of psychedelics was touched upon, you know, as you do. Specifically the promising use of psychedelics, used therapeutically in the treatment of major depression (important note: therapeutic use is a bit of a different animal from recreational use). For the uninitiated, Michael Pollan’s How to Change Your Mind is an excellent, if already outdated, primer.

I was engaged in some amateur pontificating** on the varying ways that psychedelics work in the brain to help with depression, PTSD, and all sorts of other stuckages.

** Pontificating because I’m very interested and excited for the possibilities, and have, it seems, read more than the average Joe on the subject. Amateur pontificating because A) it had been a while since my reading, B) my brain isn’t very sticky to begin with, and C) my continuing ed wasn’t at all up to date on the progress of the last 8 months, and that is a long time. Basically I’m an ignorant pontificator. But amateur sounds better, and I’m feeling generous with myself.

The whole thing is fascinating, how these psychedelic compounds seemingly hold the power to not only affect our seratonin uptake, but also can physiologically change connectivity in critical brain networks, sharply increasing neuronal synapses, and most shockingly, even triggering neurogenesis, something that wasn’t really thought possible. Hallucinogens like psilocybin can actually rewire the fritzed-out parts of us that hold us captive.

There’s also the God factor, and I don’t think that is to be discounted at all. For most of these substances are entheogens, and bring what people can only describe as a direct experience of the divine. And from my understanding, that is a thing that changes you. Talk about an altered state. Regardless, both scientifically and spiritually, this stuff is intriguing to say the least.

Anyway, from our coffeehouse discussions on altered states and the rewiring of a brain, I drove straight to my appointment with the nitrous mask, and now we’ve come full circle.

So naturally, as the nos was wending its way up into my noggin that day, I was immediately wondering how this little trip compares with some other, let’s say, juicier trips. Now I am certain that anyone who has taken a proper ‘journey’ would have a good chuckle at the very thought of little old me, all happy with the laughing gas, thinking I’m even operating in the same planetary quadrant, but come on now, give a gal the space to grow.

You know, different trips. Not that juicier necessarily has to mean more terrifying.

My initial silly little ponderings about bigger trips were quickly interrupted with electrifying Novocain checks (did I mention it took 6 loads to numb that b**** up?), but once things finally settled, and once I was reminded that I didn’t have to shove my fingernails through my palms, I was free to enjoy the ride.

So what was I thinking about while on the nos? It’s hard to remember, but of course it was profound. Of course it was.

I don’t think I was realistically in an active state of nitrous-ness for more than a few minutes, but it felt like hours. It felt to me, as the world spun and Peppermint Patty and I dozed off to the wa-waa drone, like I had time to work out all the answers. I knew, even then, that it was going to be like a dream, and it would all pop as soon as they subbed a little more pure O2 through my mask, and I remember trying to think things out loud, so I wouldn’t forget.*** This was life-altering stuff, after all.

*** It is entirely possible that the sly little grin Doc Yang gave me over the last few check-ups had something to do with this thinking out loud. God only knows if I was keeping it neatly contained inside my head.

So I thought a lot of stuff,**** primed as I was with that whole cocoa-fueled discourse on psychedelics and two hours in the car to continue said discourse with my own self. And I succeeded in remembering a pretty good chunk of things I think.

**** It should be noted that I’ve had nitrous before, quite a few times (though most of them as a kid), and have never noticed anything more than Hey, that took the edge off. The critical difference here, I think, is that this time I was more intentionally involved. I paid attention to what was happening. I was curious, interested, open. And I’ve had some (sober) time to contemplate it since. I think that’s all kind of interesting, because they say that the critical things with therapeutic use of psilocybin (or ket, or peyote, or ayahuasca. I could go on.) are intention and integration. Setup. Setting. Intention. And then afterwards, downloading, processing. Integration. Key components of healing trips.

Anyway, what I remember:

I know that I relished the tingle, and even the spinning to a certain extent. I know I was simply astounded when I took Doc Yang’s advice with nothing more than a nice deep breath. Blew my little mind. Which got me wondering about the feelings in my limbs, and really everywhere, and how like meditation it really was, like meditation on the ‘roids. How I, apparently, had the ability to totally relax (who knew?). Not that total relaxation that was inevitable, but that was possible, with just the tiniest hint of effort. Not even effort. More like letting go of the effort.

And here we are, back at meditation again. But after 6 years of meditation, I have to admit it still takes me some serious time to reach any decent level of relaxation. I remember thinking this was key. That this little molecule was somehow allowing things that weren’t easy to be easy. That the stuck could be unstuck just like that. And not just the tooth.

And then I was thinking about letting go, which is not an uncommon thought in my head in recent ages, but the thought is definitely more colorful when the room is spinning. I was thinking about letting go, and how hard that is. How rutted we are. Grooved. Well-worn. (Yes, there was a spinning LP at this point. Or maybe I was the LP…)

We know how this goes, and we find our stride with no effort. Unfortunately the stride we find generally looks like grabbing on for dear life. Which–maybe I don’t have to say it, but I will, you know, anyway–Doesn’t Help. Holds us back. Holds us down. May even be–say it isn’t so–the tiniest bit of a hindrance.

Yes, it’s hard to relax when we know horrible things are happening involving needles and pliers and crowbars in our mouths. Those needles are the size of Seattle’s, after all.

But if we extrapolate a little, maybe generalize a bit, isn’t it the same with the rest of our lives? It’s hard to relax when we know that we’re in pain, when we know that someone we love is suffering, when we know that we don’t measure up to the beautiful people and fall somehow painfully short of living a good life. Pick a thing. It’s hard to relax when we want things to be different. Our poor minds and bodies hold all that tension, the winch that is the difference between how things are and how we want them to be, and in our efforts to get away from it all, we just give the whole works yet one more crank.

The fact of the matter is that all the clench and furrow isn’t helping matters. It isn’t helping to alleviate anyone’s pain, least of all ours, and if we’re honest, we know it’s doing the exact opposite, but still we cling to it. Like life itself. We cling to the only rut we know, because… well, because it’s all we know. It’s the way we tick, no use trying to change that.


Well, maybe there’s some use in trying to change that. And meditation is a great way to go. It takes some serious time, but we can train our poor tired minds to abandon the ruts, little bits at a time, and respond in gentler, more productive ways to all those things that summon the clench and furrow.

But I’m getting off-track (if you could kindly unroll your eyes…). Meditation***** isn’t what I’m talking about here.

***** Though I do heartily recommend. Don’t know where to start? Headspace is kind of wonderful (and all these asterisks are getting a little absurd).

What we’re talking about here are psychedelics, and why on earth they might help someone get unstuck.

The brilliant minds are spending a lot of time these days trying to figure out exactly how certain hallucinogenic compounds ‘magically’ help us through our stuckages. How and why and what it all looks like inside of us, chemically, physiologically, emotionally, spiritually. It’s very exciting stuff. Much of the science is a few steps beyond me, but that does nothing to dampen my curiosity.

And after the nitrous, after my little micro-trip, if you will… Nano-trip. Baby trip. Whatever. After that teensy weensy little taste of something that must be in the slightest way just a little like a big ol’ groovy trip, I feel like it makes a little more sense.

I’m not really going anywhere profound with all of this. I’m not saying that my little nos journey has cured me of any major (or minor) ailments. But it’s had an effect, nonetheless, and it’s made me even more curious.

I guess all I’m saying is, I wonder…

Kinda’ makes ya’ wanna’ take a little trip, doesn’t it?

If you need me… 😉

2 thoughts on “Trips large and small

Add yours

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a website or blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: