The Day a Toad Told me to Quit Smoking
Originally presented as part of WIP magazine issue 04, writer and artist Brad Phillips recounts how he quit smoking with a little help from a psychedelic amphibian.
Words: Brad Phillips
I had my first cigarette when I was 13.
It started with my hiding three of my mother’s cigarettes in the empty battery section of my yellow Sony Sports Walkman when we took a family trip to Montreal. Just me, my mom, and my sister.
I have been smoking, or had been, for 32 years. I am in the midst of wrestling with the fact that I’m now 45.
Talking about our quitting smoking in an interview, my friend Giancarlo said everything that I would’ve said:
“Smoking looks cool.”
“Smoking is cool.”
“Smoking is a fuck you.”
“I want to die with a Marlboro Red dangling from my lip.”
All I could say after was “Fucking A.” Because I feel all those things and always have and always will. Smoking is the way to get onto a balcony at an awkwardly small dinner party in Miami to be alone. Smoking is the way to get outside at an art opening to avoid people talking about art, which is always a smart idea.
Smoking is a way to wait for the bus, get off the bus, walk to the store, leave the store, get off an airplane, mollify stress, and countless other precious moments of experiencing self-control and lack of self-control at the exact same time.
Cigarettes are punctuation marks and quick-release Irish exits.
Across the wall from my bed, I have a five by three foot photograph of frame 313 from the Zapruder film. It’s the frame where John F. Kennedy’s head blossoms into pink cotton candy. I put it there to try and keep myself on my toes. The fact that I only see it while I lay in bed watching YouTube Top 5 most haunting mass disappearances means that it hasn’t had its intended effect. But I actually do many things in bed. Some are laborious, but most are not, although I do write in bed, which feels like labor to me. I think in bed, which also gives me the same feeling of engaging in labor.
Someone I know wrote about this subject, so I’m wary to write about it because of toe-stepping (although this person has assured me it’s okay). I also don’t want to sound like someone on reddit or on psychonaut.com, because I think that’s cheesy and silly, and I also don’t want to sound shamanic, use the word “shamanic” or the word “medicine,” because those words don’t work for me, although I do believe for others those words are suitable. However, I must refer to a psychonaut website to illustrate the distinction between two substances that I’ve been using. I will provide a brief description of each with assistance from the internet.
“Regular” DMT is called N,N-dimethyltryptamine. This is an entheogenic chemical, which we are said to secrete from our pineal gland, although this is “up for debate.” Joe Rogan said he heard it’s in the lining of our lungs and in our liver as well. They say it’s what we’ll see when we die, but I died once for a bit and didn’t see anything. I have taken a fair amount of this drug. I have been shot through a fractalized geranium into the pulsing sonic antechamber that sent me out of our galaxy. It’s always a very intense visual experience, and there’ve been other ontological/psychological/emotional side-effects as well. This is a very powerful hallucinogen. I enjoy taking it, because I enjoy the feeling of being dead/alive that it gives me, as well as taking me to a place that, whether real or imagined, is fairly fantastic.
This drug is sometimes called the “Spirit Molecule.”
On the street, DMT is called “The Businessman's Trip.”
DMT plus is called 5-MeO-DMT, or 5-methoxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine. With this drug, you do not for the most part, experience visual hallucinations. 5-MeO-DMT has a few extra atoms attached, which according to most sources, makes it as different from regular DMT as ketchup is from relish. 5-MeO-DMT is ostensibly the world’s most powerful, naturally occurring hallucinogen. Five to six times more powerful than “The Businessman’s Trip.” Whereas DMT elicits a visual feeling of absorption into the void, 5-MeO-DMT is considered “rougher” and more intense, with a lack of visual hallucinations replaced by what is often called a “perspective shift.” One becomes the void itself. The second most searched question about this substance is whether or not you can die when you do it. I can attest to this being a fair question. 5-MeO-DMT has no street name, which is something to take note of, and is best described by urbandictionary.com:
“While DMT is more of a visual drug, 5-MeO-DMT is more of a ‘mindfuck’ type drug. There are some visuals, but it’s just basically like the universe imploding into your head, a huge mindfuck, which can be extremely scary or extremely blissful. The ‘place’ where you go when you smoke it is often called ‘The Void.’ This drug is the most common drug to cause ++++ (plus 4) experiences (see the Shulgin Scale in TiHKAL/PiHKAL). This drug will either make you shit yourself (not literally) in fear, or give you an awesome, blissful and transcendental experience (if you know how to handle it).”
Many of the words and phrases in the urbandictionary.com description are unknown to me, but I would say in general they’ve got it right. I’m assuming there are entries for the words I’m unfamiliar with on their site.
5-MeO-DMT is sometimes called “The God Molecule.”
I think this is accurate, because I most certainly, under the influence of this substance, have died and been reborn, or have been half-dead/half-alive, or been a single-celled molecule. I have been God, maybe, or I have seen God, maybe, or seen the absence of God, or the God in all things. Or I’ve been to a place where language is a joke and insult, so I use the word God, but that’s not the right word.
DMT was fun, and I will do it again, but this other DMT, the one with no street name – well, I have taken many many drugs, but this one did things to me I never imagined possible.
While the DMT I’ve smoked has been produced chemically, I was fortunate enough to obtain 5-MeO-DMT that’s natural. It is secreted, then scraped off of the skin of the Bufo Alvarius Toad onto a piece of glass. Once the mucus is on the glass, it dries and can then be transformed into a powder that one can smoke out a meth pipe.
If it was anyone’s “trip,” I would call it “The Assassin’s Trip.”
The Last Time
I wanted to write about the big event (the second last time), which remains the most intriguing and healthful experience I’ve had with this frog, but I think I’d be remiss if I did not also mention my most recent encounter with the DMT of the Bufo Alvarius toad, native of the Sonoran Desert.
I took three large hits of what was basically a key bump-and-a-half. The previous time, I took two large hits, but had trouble taking a third. The reason I had trouble is that for the most part, I wasn’t there to smoke it and couldn’t recognize the pipe in front of me, nor the room, the person holding it, or the mouth of the self reaching out to take it in.
When you smoke 5-MeO-DMT, you tend to keep your eyes closed out of sheer terror. This is what I’d done before. You do not hallucinate, although sometimes, you will see blinding whiteness. What you notice is that your arms, and then the rest of your body, turn to sand and vanish. You can still cognize and conceptualize, but at a certain point, you realize that you are not present, and therefore cannot cognize or conceptualize. Strangely, you will say to yourself, “I am unable to cognize or conceptualize.” Typically, these are your last thoughts. This last time, I noticed I was unprecedentedly high, and became somewhat afraid. I touched my chest to make sure I was breathing, and I was. I was relieved that I was alive. Then I decided to do what frightened me most, which was to open my eyes.
When I opened my eyes, I was above my bed. People talk about out-of-body experiences with these drugs, and again, I’ve died for a bit before and didn’t have one. I don’t know what defines an out-of-body experience, as everyone’s relationship to the word “body” means something different. I was hovering in my bedroom, and I noticed my bed was rocking back and forth gently like a pool toy. This made me smile. The “perspective shift” people described was definitely happening in that I had no perspective. I watched a statue of the Virgin Mary levitate off my bookcase, turn mid-air to face me, then slowly float out of vision. I saw my room tilting back and forth. When I saw my arms, there were many of them. I said: “Those are your arms. You have many of them.” Then I lifted them, and they continued to rise of their own volition. I noticed I could float and direct my body around the room by subtly manipulating gravity the way one does in a pool or float tank. I saw the bed, but I was not there. I saw the room, but I was not in it.
When I came down, which seemed to take a long time but most likely didn’t, I said something out loud I don’t ordinarily say. More than three times I said: “Holy fuck.” I was still being manipulated by gravity and felt myself rocking back and forth. This was an enjoyable feeling that I stayed with until it dissipated.
When I went into the living room, my wife Cristine was buying two tickets for Wet N’ Wild Waterpark, and I simply told her,
“I just experienced being in no gravity.”
Cristine said, “That sounds fun.”
I’m still trying to come to terms with my experience. I’ve found that I can now anagram words much more quickly, both while playing one-minute Scrabble games online and in my head throughout the day. Cautioned is Education. Collapsed Atrium is Musical Droplets.
The Penultimate Time
On June 1st, 2019, I smoked DMT secreted by this crafty, enlightened frog of the Sonoran Desert.
Maybe not enlightened. Most likely a dumb frog that often gets squashed by Hyundai Elantras, who at its death spurts out a message from beyond our galaxy.
I had not been thinking about quitting smoking. In fact, I had told Cristine a few weeks earlier that I would never quit smoking because I was so good at it. Cristine was not pleased to hear this, because of reasonable concerns about lung, tongue, and mouth cancer. But she’s never pressed me to change my behaviors or vices, and since I put so many vices behind me, I did the addict thing of justifying my smoking as “the last thing I can enjoy.”
I love smoking. My ex-wife felt I smoked too much, and in my thirties, I was a hypochondriac. I attempted to quit many times. From experience, I’d say the attendant stress from trying to quit is more inclined to give you cancer than smoking itself. Here are things I did attempting to quit:
- I read the book Alan Carr’s Easy Way to Stop Smoking, which is popular and thanks to which many people have quit.,
- I went to a seminar conducted by Alan Carr acolytes who instructed dedicated smokers to quit according to the Alan Carr method.
- I received a refund of 450 dollars when this seminar failed me. I smoked as soon as I left.
- On the Downtown East Side of Vancouver I used to buy packs of cigarettes, smoke one, then throw the almost full pack away in the alley behind my house.
- I would soon be in the alley scouring the pavement with crack addicts to find the pack I’d just thrown away. The crack addicts were always one step ahead of me. The crack addicts were my friends, and they began to make fun of me, begging me to try and quit again.
- I would go to the store to buy single cigarettes. I would do this forty times a day.
- I would buy packs of cigarettes, smoke one, then run the pack under water and throw it in the garbage.
- I would fruitlessly attempt to dry out the drenched cigarettes and render them smokable.
- I was hypnotized eight times.
- I wore over half a dozen nicotine patches on my body while also smoking.
- I learned that when you adhere a nicotine patch to your body, if you scratch at it or scratch at the skin it’s about to be stuck to, you get a wicked head rush.
While I certainly have more stories about different techniques, these are the ones I remember. I never lasted more than a single day. I am 45 years old today. My death is now closer to me than my birth. I can see it happen daily and view my advancing age as neither positive nor negative.
Smoking was “all I had left” and “my most stable long-term relationship.”
Addicts are adept at letting bullshit travel straight from their minds to their mouths.
On June 1st, 2019, I was ready to smoke the 5-MeO-DMT I had been given. I asked Cristine to help me. I was able to take two very large hits, then waved her away the way one waves away food when one is full. I felt myself vanishing and did not need to contend with even a tiny bit more of my own unraveling.
She left the room, and I lay on the bed. I did not open my eyes. I could not understand what I was experiencing.
I was high for who knows. Ten minutes, six, eleven.
When I came down, I was very quiet, which is unusual for me. Cristine came into the room. I drank my purple Gatorade and held my head in my hands. I said nothing.
When I opened my mouth, it wasn’t my choice. The first words that exited the hole in my face felt unlike my words. I said to Cristine,
“I’m supposed to stop smoking now.”
I did not say “I’m going to,” or “I want to,” but, “I’m supposed to.”
After that, I did not and have not smoked a single cigarette. I have experienced no cravings, desires, or symptoms of withdrawal. Today is day 61 without cigarettes. When I smell them on the street, I feel slightly repulsed and in no way nostalgic, although I will always feel nostalgic identical to the way my friend Giancarlo described. I think smoking cigarettes is very cool and a good look.
I am not so smart, I just know that I no longer smoke, and there’s no reason whatsoever I can think of or entertain having caused this except the effect of the Bufo Alvarius toad of the Sonoran Desert.
I have no explanation as to why I stopped smoking outside of my experience smoking 5-MeO-DMT. The God Particle. The Assassin’s Trip.
I think that when a frog led me by the hand through a rip in the space-time continuum, I encountered my future self. I believe this version of myself had either suffered from the deleterious effects of smoking cigarettes (perhaps lung cancer), or knew that my smoking would only end in grief.
I believe my future self told me that I needed to “stop smoking now,” because while I travelled through a gravity and self-free pocket of ineffable universal acreage, I encountered Brad Phillips aged something older than 45, who told earlier Brad he needed to get his shit together.
Alan Carr recommends that smokers going through cravings tell themselves, “I am a non-smoker.”
This did not work for me and is bullshit.
Today I just say: “Fuck, Cristine, I’m still not smoking. I’m in shock.”
Then Cristine will say, “I’m also in shock.”
If we fool around or play scrabble or wait for the bus, I now hold her hand instead of a cigarette that would be actively yellowing my right forefinger and fingernail.
Originally presented as part of WIP magazine issue 04, available at select Carhartt WIP stores.