If you’ve been down the rabbit hole enough times you’ve probably, at one point or another, been in need of some navigation.
For sure I’ve been there myself—tripping without a guide, and needing reassurance. It wasn’t too long ago that I found myself on the other side of the globe, in Goa, India, having ingested the strongest “75” micrograms of acid (in the form of a gummy bear dosed with liquid LSD) that I’d ever had in my life. Perhaps it was because I wasn’t expecting to trip so hard, or that I was far from home, or that it became nighttime and my friend and I were too high to find our way back to where we were staying, that I realized during this experience how desperate we were to have someone tell us that however we were feeling was “okay,” that we’d be back to ourselves in good time.
And so we called a friend in Tel Aviv, another in New York, then family in California—seeking what’s now provided by a new platform called Fireside. The “psychedelic peer support line” aptly boasts the tagline of “real-time support—when time doesn’t seem real.” Write down the number now: 1-833-2FIRESIDE. On the other side of the phone line, a text message, or a live chat, volunteers are there to help you get through a trip, to help you trip sit if things get tough, and even to process former psychedelic experiences.
“Say you had an earth shattering LSD experience last week or last year and you can’t afford to go to a psychedelic integration therapist, or you don’t have psychedelic-friendly friends or family—the hope is that those people would reach out to us, too,” says Joshua White, founder of Fireside Project. “We’re careful of not calling ourselves a crisis line or hotline even though, yes, a person in a psychedelic crisis could reach out to us—but it’s much broader than that.”
With 40 hours of training behind them, volunteers will meet clients “where they are” and to support them however needed—whether that’s talking about a current trip, or integrating a past one. And the difference between Fireside and other support lines across the country, White explains, is that Fireside volunteers will also offer weekly follow-up text messages to those who initially reach out, with the intention of building long-term relationships with clients. That’s essential to integration.
“We’re not therapists,” White distinguishes—himself a practicing lawyer from San Francisco. “But it can be incredibly supportive to have someone who checks in with you every week. Say you had a powerful psychedelic experience and you had all these thoughts about the direction of your career, relationships, gender, sexuality, or the way you move through the world—if you just go back to work the next day and don’t keep the experience alive, there’s’ a risk that you just forget, so we’re supporting people on their integration journeys.”
Read: How to Trip Sit
If you’re planning your next trip, however, and think you may want to use this platform, hold on just a bit. Fireside Project officially launches in April around Bicycle Day (the official LSD holiday), and until this volunteer-based nonprofit is more fully staffed (with the eventual goal of 24/7 support), it will be operational 12 hours a day.
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Indeed, by the time it’s up and running, there will be a robust, and continuously growing market for Fireside. As California State Senator Scott Weiner, who just introduced a statewide psychedelic decriminalization bill, pointed out in a panel discussion about Fireside, with access to psychedelic medicines expanding across the country—thanks in part to the decriminalization movement and Oregon’s latest measures to legalize psilocybin therapy and to decriminalize small amounts of all drugs—more and more people may be intrigued by psychedelics like shrooms, but may lack friends or family who are well enough versed in psychedelic terrain, or supportive of psychedelic use, to help folks along their journeys. While psychedelic community will inevitably evolve—perhaps to include psychedelic safe zones (akin to safe injection facilities) for those who are actively tripping, in the meantime, virtual support is a must.
“The other part is the fact that the pandemic has exacerbated an international mental health crisis,” says White. “There are anecdotal studies and evidence about the effect the pandemic has had on mental health generally, as well as depression, anxiety, suicide, and substance abuse. People are suffering, [more] people are turning to psychedelics, and there’s also the fact that people are reaching out to emotional distress lines more and more.” In fact, one federal hotline has seen calls go up by 1000 percent since the pandemic started. With the confluence of all these factors, says White, “our hope is that we can not only help people avoid some of the risks of taking psychedelics alone or without proper support, but maximize the benefits of their psychedelic experiences.”
Lord knows, there’s a definite need for this. Looking back to that trippy night in Goa, having the support of friends on the other side of the phone line brought my friend and I back to ourselves, and turned our trip around. It can’t be overemphasized just how impactful a friendly, listening ear can be—especially when you’re on acid!—and how a simple phone call can make the difference between a challenging experience and fun, transcendent psychedelic journey.