From what it feels like to what it does for one’s mental state, author and psychotherapist Charley Wininger gives some compelling reasons to try MDMA. Here are some of our favourite quotes from his book, “Listening to Ecstasy: The Transformative Power of MDMA.”
On November 13th, come to the virtual book launch—it’s free and it’s going to be fun and illuminating.
Potentially one of the world’s most beneficial psychoactive chemicals, and one that almost always bestows a secret smile upon its users, MDMA is a much maligned and misunderstood compound often slandered by a media always hot for another scare-the-pants-off-the-parents story. But in fact, MDMA is a sheep in wolf ’s clothing. An angel depicted with horns. It’s an exotic chemical with a devoted esoteric following, and its benefits are a well-kept open secret. Indeed, the closer one gets to MDMA, the better it looks.
MDMA offers information that’s of use to me the next day. Indeed, it offers an entire curriculum, if I care to sit in on the class and pay attention (instead of just itching for recess and the playground). You might say I’m going for my masters in empathic attunement. Courses include Relationship 101: How to Relate to Your Own Body and Self, Relationship 201: How to Relate to Another Person, and Relationship 301: How to Relate to Everyone Else.
MDMA teaches me that the best joy is shared joy. It wishes me all the blessings money can’t buy.
MDMA helps me navigate the tugs and shoves of life. It lifts me from the conspiracy of circumstance, above who I thought I was, and supports that subtle and constant hunch that I’m okay just the way I am—that I really am doing the best I can. And with that, I can relax into the loving and relieving impulse to let myself float downstream a while. Connecting with self, others and the divine…
MDMA is a connectivity device that coaxes me toward others. A chemical coach that seems to help me feel you.
I soon came to recognize that the things I love most about [my wife] Shelley and MDMA are similar: Each inspires the spirit of innocence, play, and pure love. Both remind me of the happy awakenings of youth. And both revitalize me and feel like endorsements of my very being as my heart becomes a font of emotional pleasure, a love-sparked erogenous zone. And sometimes, they connect me to a love that feels at once personal and universal.
As Cupid’s ally, it’s a tender instigator of connection. Adding this chemical to our chemistry adds a new dimension of bliss, peace, and celebration to our union. It’s a different way of making love, meaning that when we’re rolling, we feel like we’re literally making love.
MDMA and psychedelics have enhanced my appreciation of the divine and my connection to everyone and everything. They’ve increased my love of and protective feelings toward the good Lord’s creation and have strengthened my compassion and determination to treat others as I would like to be treated.
MDMA teaches me the ways of peace. Its chemistry cuts the umbilical cord to the world’s mother lode of fear-fueled hate. It reveals the prize so I know what to keep my eyes on. And it leaves me with the inspiration to work my way to it—with others by my side.
Although it’s interesting enough living at this time in a world full of conflict, MDMA is more about confluence and emotional and physical flow. We’ve found it can enhance and add extra flavor to all sorts of pleasurable leisure activities: dancing, singing, showering, swimming, enjoying a spa treatment, walking in the park while listening to music, or just hanging out with friends.
The healing power of MDMA
MDMA helped pry me loose from this grip of shame. It would feel like a loving flush of sunshine after a bitter snow. I feel sad when I think of how much more joyful and how less self-loathing my existence could have been without all this toxicity had MDMA and I found each other when I was younger.
When I feel adrift in a world that I often experience as a traumatizing, isolating place, MDMA serves as an antidote to both. The alienating influence of technology and the sometimes bewildering, scary events unfolding before our eyes at breakneck speed are traumatizing for many of us, the COVID-19 crisis being a case in point. Rolling with others gives me the healing feeling of community, cohesiveness, and connection.
Occasionally I grieve for the time—and for all—that’s been lost. Yet doing a medicine like MDMA has for me been an act of personal restoration, a reclaiming of what I once had and who I once was that nevertheless remains my birthright: To know joy, exuberance, and naked-as-a-baby wonder, to say nothing of great fun and, at times, a life-altering transcendence.
Maybe what is motivating some of the more serious young people who experiment with substances like MDMA, from deep inside their bones, is the age-old evolutionary urge to be of use to the tribe. By venturing into the woods or the psychic void they embark on a kind of vision quest, so as to, in the words of Three Dog Night, “take back something worth remembering.” One might do this to serve as a kind of consciousness ambassador to his or her family, community, and planet. To what end? In Hebrew it’s called tikkun olam, meaning “to heal, repair, and transform the world.” What better purpose can a person serve at any age?
With MDMA I experience a temporary slowing of that constant torrent. It’s a simple relief that bestows a plethora of benefits. I feel like I’m being gently shaken awake from a long trance. Or like the proverbial fish that jumps a moment from the sea and then understands there’s more to the world than water. Once, while coming down from a roll, I realized what Lily Tomlin meant when she said, “Reality is nothing but a collective hunch!”
MDMA is a gateway drug! It swings open the gate to tactile, emotional, and spiritual exploration and opens the door to the heart.
Harm reduction when using MDMA
Pure MDMA, without any adulterants such as those found in “molly” or Ecstasy, has been proven sufficiently safe for human consumption when taken a limited number of times in moderate doses. It is currently in line, if clinical trials continue to go well, to soon become a prescription medication, according to Rick Doblin of the Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), an organization that funds much of this research.
Although MDMA is slowly being metabolized into the mainstream culture, risks do exist. I’ve seen the rare instance of a person abusing this medicine, and certainly, if one does so, it will do the same back.
MDMA tops the list of “good drugs” because, just on a personal and practical level, it costs me relatively little (usually ten to twenty dollars), the comedown is generally smooth, and I’m left satisfied and can function fine the next day (after a good night’s sleep.) I don’t have the urge to get high again for another month or more. There’s no addiction or dysfunction, at least not for me, nor, I dare say, for most.
Many young people who use substances like MDMA screw around with it and abuse it, not respecting its power until perhaps they get hurt, and then they swear off it for life. The true potential of this drug is therefore wasted on them. In this way and all too often, young people give good drugs a bad name. And, I’m sorry to say, this started with my generation.
Indeed, if you see that someone you care about is intending to experiment with a powerful medicine like MDMA, and you can tell that he or she is not very particular about dosage or purity, treat him or her the way you’d treat a friend reaching for the car keys after having a few drinks. It’s irresponsible use that sometimes gives MDMA a bad name and can understandably lead a person to regard it with wariness and alarm.
The difference between abuse and responsible use can be like breaking in a new car: you can push it to the limit until you burn it out or wreck it, or you can use it sensibly to get around, so it can take you all kinds of places for years to come. It is to that end that Shelley and I and countless others, through hard-earned experience, have come up with guidelines to maximize the potential benefits and minimize the risks of MDMA. We have learned that MDMA tends to reward the prepared journeyer.
Ageing with grace with MDMA
As responsible adults, many of us tend to trivialize and devalue recreation. But these days in particular, as I find my free time melting away like a polar ice cap, with reality slapping me in the face every time I flip on a screen and the world looking like it’s about to explode from fear, greed, and hatred, well, I say extraordinary times call for extraordinary pleasures. So in the face of this onslaught, we’ve found MDMA to be a nectar for the neurons and a tonic for the tense. And as a hard-working dude now in my early seventies, rolling is not only a way of balancing my life but of celebrating it as well. In other words, it’s time for some serious fun
MDMA has helped me navigate my way through the changes that come with age and also to better understand and be at peace with mortality.
Younger people taught me something that neither I nor the first serious experimenters with MDMA knew: how the beat of some good music can pump fresh life into these old bones! My limbs pulse across the dance floor as if I’m being danced, while feeling years younger and pounds lighter.
As Ana.s Nin said, “We don’t see things as they are; we see things as we are.” This medicine freshens my outlook and my inlook. While I may therefore lament, as many of us do, that I didn’t know then all I know now, at least with MDMA I can still know now some of the youthful vitality I knew back then. To put it another way, the first time around, youth chose me. The second time, I make the choice. For Shelley and me, MDMA used properly is our youth serum. The Japanese have a word for this: kanreki, which means “second Spring.”
I have wanted, out of my love of MDMA, to spread the word, especially to members of my generation. (Remember the scene in Cocoon where Don Ameche, Jack Gilford, and Maureen Stapleton dive into the swimming pool where the cocoons are, and how they suddenly felt? That’s how it feels!) I sometimes want to grab my old brothers and sisters and let them know our best days are both behind and right in front of us. And that it’s never too late to have a new beginning, and there’s no new beginning like reopening a treasure chest that one buried long ago.
MDMA for me is a chemical hedge against feeling like aging’s victim. I feel the need to mess with my body’s chemistry—at times, and carefully— because my body’s chemistry sure is messing with me! As we age, the body releases a continuous cocktail of chemicals that makes our hair turn thin and gray and fall to its death, wrinkles our skin, untones our muscles, and dulls our brains. And here we have not an antidote but a salve, a tonic, a rejuvenating vacation that can replenish the fountain of one’s youth.
Brave New World and The Doors of Perception author Aldous Huxley famously requested LSD from his wife on his death bed. I can see why. I look forward to the time when medicines like MDMA, LSD, and psilocybin are as available during the dying process as hospice and morphine. These ways in can help us on our way out.A