February 28, 2022
EP. 308 — Warrior Shaman
Years of PTSD nearly destroyed this former Green Beret’s life, until he found a new path. He speaks with Geth about the Ayahuasca retreat that changed everything and how he became a shaman. He also shares how he’s been helping other veterans cope with trauma and why psychedelics should be more easily accessible.
308 — Warrior Shaman
Chris Gethard [00:00:05] Hello to everybody who’s not feeling real estate. It’s Beautiful/Anonymous. One hour. One phone call. No names. No holds barred.
Chris Gethard [00:00:30] Chris Gethard here. Welcome to another episode of Beautiful/ Anonymous. This one means a lot to me. I think a lot of people are going to have strong reactions to it. Before we get into any description of the call, I do just want to say right out of the gate, it includes conversation about suicidal thoughts. So keep that in mind before you listen. And if you need help or someone you know needs help, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is at 1 800 273 8255. So please keep that in mind. I’ll explain more in a moment. Before I do, I just want to say thanks to everybody who left feedback on the live episode. We posted the episode The Guy Who Couldn’t Burp live in Omaha. It was a great show. It was a fun night out, and it seems like that translated. A lot of people like that live energy. And especially in the Facebook group, cannot believe how many Beautiful/Anonymous listeners are unable to burp. There are so many people leaving comments about how they can’t burp. And there were so many people leaving comments about how they also have thought about murdering someone on behalf of their children. Explain that story about the Christmas tree guy. And I actually left a comment in the thread, there’s a whole bunch of people participating, and I said, I can’t believe how the comments thus far it’s like two camps. People can’t burp, people who have felt a need to murder out of protectiveness. And I will say, I laughed out loud, Angela Marie in the group just said, “honored to be in both camps” and that did make me giggle. So thanks to everybody in the Facebook group. Thanks to everybody supporting our caller who can’t burp. Thanks to everybody supports the show. If you’re in Jersey, you want to support me, March 2nd, House of Independence, I’ll be doing another show, my monthly residency there. It’s the only live show I got for you for a while. House of Independence dot com. If you want to come on out, say Hi, hang in Jersey, down the Jersey Shore. OK. This week’s episode, it goes in so many directions. I’m not going to say much except to say that our caller was in the military. Our caller was in a specific portion of the military that’s legendary. Our caller saw a lot, did a lot, experienced a lot, and has also done so much in post-military life to reconcile that in ways that you’ve heard about, probably theoretically or through the grapevine, and now you get to hear about it from someone who’s actually in it. I can’t stop thinking about this one ever since we recorded it. I want to send so much love to the caller. I’m glad the caller has found methods by which to reconcile so many strong feelings and experiences in the aftermath of them. And just really blown away by this one. I hope it helps other people out there.
Automated Voice [00:03:17] Thank you for calling beautiful anonymous. A beeping noise will indicate when you are on the show with the host.
Caller [00:03:25] Hello.
Chris Gethard [00:03:28] Hello?
Caller [00:03:30] Hello!
Chris Gethard [00:03:30] Hi.
Caller [00:03:31] Hi.
Chris Gethard [00:03:31] How’s it going?
Caller [00:03:32] Good, man. Great, great. How are you?
Chris Gethard [00:03:35] I’m pretty good. It’s a rainy day. It’s kind of a gloomy day in Jersey. So I haven’t been outside, but I still feel good.
Caller [00:03:45] Well, unfortunately, in Utah, it’s a beautiful day, so we’re not getting any snow like we need, but it’s still beautiful.
Chris Gethard [00:03:52] Mmhmm. OK, so you’re in Utah?
Caller [00:03:56] I am, yeah.
Chris Gethard [00:03:57] Nice.
Caller [00:03:59] Are we um, sorry, are we on? Is this it? Just go for it? Okay, sorry. No, no. I thought it was like a little prep. Ready?
Chris Gethard [00:04:07] Yeah no we’re solid fifty five seconds into this bad boy.
Caller [00:04:13] Awesome. All right. Well, where do you want me to begin? You just want me to begin from the beginning?
Chris Gethard [00:04:19] That sounds good. That sounds good. And do I- have we talked before?
Caller [00:04:25] I don’t think so. No.
Chris Gethard [00:04:27] OK.
Caller [00:04:28] But my wife’s from Jersey, so that’s what led me to you.
Chris Gethard [00:04:30] Oh, whereabouts?
Caller [00:04:33] Scotch Plains.
Chris Gethard [00:04:34] Hey, great town, great town, one of my best friends is from there.
Caller [00:04:39] Yeah, it’s a great town. You’re right, I love it there. Small, quaint, beautiful.
Chris Gethard [00:04:42] Their little comic book store just announced it was closing after many decades, so it’s a bummer.
Caller [00:04:48] Oh.
Chris Gethard [00:04:49] Always a bummer when a comic book store closes.
Caller [00:04:52] Yeah. Yeah.
Chris Gethard [00:04:54] Anyway.
Caller [00:04:55] Well, yeah, so here’s my story. I grew up here in Utah, part of the, you know, the standard, the Orthodox religion here in the state. Latter-Day Saint. Grew up in a small town. Um was was really um… Struggling to find a way to make sort of any economic viability in that small town. So I decide, you know, I’ll join the army. Um or get out. I joined the army reserves and I was basically a cameraman. That was my first job. I thought, I went away, did that, uh ok, now go to school. I got the college money, got the G.I. Bill. Awesome. So I go to school and I say to myself, Well, shoot, I’m going to take some more of these ROTC classes because that’ll boost my GPA. Never really thought I’d come back in the army, but at the end of my degree, I was like, Well, dang, I actually, I really like this. I’m going to stick with it. So I get commission now as a second lieutenant. I go into the Utah National Guard is a field artillery. This is all about 90 through 93.
Chris Gethard [00:06:15] OK.
Caller [00:06:17] And I sold real estate for a couple of years and hated it. It just wasn’t me. So I decided that I was going to volunteer to go on active duty. Now this was during the Clinton drawdown years. And so the only way on active duty was if you were a priest or a lawyer or, you know, something that nature, or a Green Beret. So I thought, Oh, OK, well, I guess I’m going to be a Green Beret. Not having any clue what that even meant to be honest with you, but still volunteering for it.
Chris Gethard [00:06:52] I mean, just make sure I’m clear it’s like… Green Beret generally is not a thing most people are just sort of like falling into. Green Beret it’s like-.
Caller [00:07:02] ooh.
Chris Gethard [00:07:02] The green. It’s like you got like the Army Rangers, the Navy SEALs, the Green Berets. And those are the- those are- those are the real badass ones is in- at least that most people like me know about, right?
Caller [00:07:18] True, true. But see, I think you’re also kind of operating in a post-9/11 paradigm where it’s been in social media and media, in pop culture and everything for the past 22 years, a lot.
Chris Gethard [00:07:29] OK, OK?
Caller [00:07:30] Whereas back in 1998, I mean, I knew what the Green Berets were. I knew that they were, like you said, the bad asses. And I was like, Oh, you know, okay, you know, it’s gonna be a bad ass thing. But I didn’t really fully know what I was getting into. I knew that it was my way into active duty and I was going to do this, you know, because I was tired of selling real estate. And so, yeah, I’m going to be a Green Beret. Not really knowing what I was signing up for.
Chris Gethard [00:07:57] There was nothing else on the on the vast spectrum in between real estate and Green Beret that that struck your fancy. That’s a pretty wide swing of the pendulum right there, my friend.
Caller [00:08:09] Yeah, but I mean, honestly, my true love is the military, and I kind of felt that as I was going through college, but I didn’t, I didn’t really follow my path because at the time my first wife was, you know, she was so opposed to me being in the military for, you know, for obvious reasons. Didn’t want me to die or whatever, you know.
Chris Gethard [00:08:29] Or whatever. Yeah, yeah.
Caller [00:08:31] Always in the military into a box where I go and follow it when I had the chance. So now your only way is, you know, are you a doctor or a lawyer or a priest? Because that’s what the army was short of. Oh, and oh, by the way, we’re also short on Green Berets. So do you want to try that? You know, what’s it gonna be? And like, well, you know, I wasn’t going to be a doctor or a lawyer or a priest, so I guess I’ll be a Green Beret.
Chris Gethard [00:08:55] So you did it?
Caller [00:08:57] I did. So I volunteered for it with- I actually transferred to- it was the Utah National Guard unit that was Green Beret, National Guard. And so I volunteered there and I kept my my plans secret. Because my plan was… to go through the qualification course. I had a I had a mentor who sort of coached me on this. He said, Listen, you go get qualified, you do all the requirements, and then when you’re a full blown Green Beret, you can just simply apply for active duty. And so I kept my my intentions concealed from the National Guard unit because there’s actually a transfer of funds from state to federal. So they’re paying for me to go to this training thinking that they’re going to get a qualified Green Beret back. And I was going to pull an old bait and switch on them.
Chris Gethard [00:09:49] Mm hmm. Mm hmm.
Caller [00:09:50] So, so I did. So I. So I finished it. I finished the training in ninety in ninety nine. Yeah. So from 98 to 99. It’s about a year and a half. Finished the training and um… Did exactly that. Did the old bait and switch um and was given orders on active duty. So I wind up at my actually wind up in special forces and and actually on a team by 2000. And young captain, brand new special forces officer and… Then, of course, we know what happened. 9/11.
Chris Gethard [00:10:34] Wow.
Caller [00:10:35] So I would end up spending the next 17 years until I retired, so if you’re doing the math, I joined in ninety. I retired in ’17, so twenty seven years. And, you know, 19 and some change of that as a Green Beret.
Chris Gethard [00:10:53] So you’ve seen some shit? Pardon my French.
Caller [00:10:57] Yes. No. It’s good man. It’s true. Yeah, I, you know, and that’s a great point. Let’s let me examine that real quick. Like, you know, I I want to be real clear about my PTSD and what I experienced. And it’s, you know, like the truth is like a razor’s edge line, right? You know what I mean? Like, like you can easily stray into embellishing and you can easily stray into marginalizing at the same time. And so like my my truth, my reality is I did six tours for a total of forty two months in both Iraq and Afghanistan. I served with the 75th Ranger Regiment. I served multiple tours with Third Special Forces Group. I mean, combat tours. I served multiple tours with what they call the Joint Task Force, which was JSOC, which is the command and control element for SEAL Team six and the Navy, yeah SEAL Team six and Delta Force. And then a final tour with what’s known as NSOC Alpha, which was the Naval Special Operations Command. So now in all of that like that again, I was an officer and officers, you know, they they leave the tactical stuff and they move on to higher staff work and things like that. So. So did I. Did I see as much as my noncommissioned officer brothers saw? No, not at all. Deep respect to those guys who are out there, you know, swinging the pipe, we say. Pipe hitters doing the, you know, doing the heavy lifting all the time. But did I see stuff? Yeah, I saw stuff.
Chris Gethard [00:12:40] Let’s pause there. That’s about as real as it gets. Did I see stuff? Yeah, I saw stuff. We’re gonna hear about some of that stuff and we’re going to hear about a whole lot of other stuff when we get back. Thanks to our advertisers for helping us bring the show to the world. Now let’s get back to this phone call.
Caller [00:13:09] But did I see stuff? Yeah, I saw stuff. So, you know, if you, can you feel me on that where I’m trying to be-.
Chris Gethard [00:13:15] Absolutely.
Caller [00:13:17] Be truthful? Yeah, OK.
Chris Gethard [00:13:19] Absolutely.
Caller [00:13:19] Yeah, like, I don’t want to embellish what I did.
Chris Gethard [00:13:20] Well and, and… I really appreciate that. I also want to say this, too. First of all, before I say anything else. And-.
Caller [00:13:29] Yeah.
Chris Gethard [00:13:31] Uh this this coming from, you know, my northeastern liberal artist that I know that it can be trite and I know sometimes that it can, it can just be- but first of all, like, thank you. Because any any ways in which I might go, you know, my my political leaning is that where we spend too much on the military and we do this and that and why do we go throughout the world…? At the end of the day, what I’ve never had a problem with is any individual human being who goes, I want to help my community, my… country. And I know that you and… all the other people you just mentioned, like, you’re out there doing it for real and I’m not doing it. So first of all, thank you. Before we get into anything else. And I mean that genuinely.
Caller [00:14:20] Well, I get that and thank you, man. I appreciate it. And it’s not cliche. I sincerely appreciate when people express their gratitude for it. So you’re welcome.
Chris Gethard [00:14:30] And I love that you said, like, you know, so you’re higher up in the chain of command and there’s other people out there who are actually, you know, fitting the vision of the things you think of in movies or news clips and and all that. But it doesn’t change the fact that you uprooted your life to go into an area that was actively hostile where there were definitely people who, you know, people who were who wanted the who who would prefer if you were, you know, the people wanted to kill you.
Caller [00:15:08] Yeah.
Chris Gethard [00:15:10] And also, I’m sure people actively, you know, people in your chain of command who are out there dealing with that hands on. I’m sure that in that many years in that area of the world, in that era of history that, you know, when I’m like, Oh, you saw some shit, this doesn’t just mean like, Oh, you’re out here? Like, Oh, I’m going to discount your experience because you weren’t like, It’s not The Hurt Locker. You weren’t the one that defuzing the bomb. It’s like, well, no, I’m also sure you knew a lot of people who were. I’m sure you know a lot of people who are not with us or who were injured, and I don’t care where you’re at in the chain of command. I feel like that can never be pleasant or easy or like a thing that you get to just turn off at the end of the night and move on from when you’re there, let alone ever, really. So while I appreciate what you’re saying, I also am like, I’ve I’ve never I’ve never gone over there. So- and most of us won’t. So I appreciate it. And also, respectfully, I’m like, I don’t discount your experience either, either.
Caller [00:16:15] Thank you. Yeah, it’s you know, I mean, I do try to walk that fine line because even though I was higher up in the chain of command, it was still, you know, I still had some real hairy situations when I was younger. I mean, I was still captain when we deployed the first couple of times and I still saw my fair share. And even though you know you’re right, like just the generally just the generalized like, just deploying, like, puts that pressure on you and changes you. Like, the trauma is real regardless. And that’s a funny thing, too, is, you know, trauma is not linear. It’s not like, you know, like, okay, well, one deployment equals, I mean, there’s a scale where they actually rate trauma I think it’s up to 150 and I get it. Clinicians are trying to, you know, sort of understand each of the patients that come to them. But, you know, it’s kind of like like in, I guess I could use the body as a metaphor, which is funny because there’s a great book called, you know, The Body Keeps Score and talks about the trauma in our bodies, how it gets stored up. But you know, like let’s say, like, you know, a group of us, you know, 10 of us went skiing today up here in the beautiful mountains in Utah. Well, we all might go down the same run and one of us might tear an ACL. Well, that has nothing to do, necessarily with like the run. It’s kind of a combination of both the run, the skill the, you know, the skier. Maybe past injuries that he’s carrying. So trauma is a real fickle sort of diagnosis. It’s a real fickle- PTSD is a real fickle, finnicky mental illness, which is what it is. It’s mental illness. So um if you’re OK, I’ll transition to that real quick.
Chris Gethard [00:17:57] Please. Yeah. Please.
Caller [00:17:58] So… So 2017, I retire, and I would not admit very openly that I had PTSD. Like, the warrior ethos is, I’m not broken. Especially again, like Green Berets, Navy SEALs, army rangers, like it’s a little bit weird. Like, I know the warrior ethos in me is like, you can’t be broken. It’s not allowed. Like, you know, I mean, I’ve seen guys walk 12 miles on a broken foot before they’d be the weak link. You knowlike, it’s it’s it’s that demanding. So I wouldn’t- in 2017, I would not have admitted that I was- that I had PTSD or that I was broken in any way. But behaviorally the out, the outward symbols, I had so many markers. I know I was- I had a real on again, off again relationship with alcohol. Like, you know, like like a lot of people I know, like still like their favorite way to fall asleep with a bottle of Jameson. And that was I was certainly in that space um bingeing, you know, just tons of alcohol. When that wouldn’t work, I would add in opioids, which is, you know, I mean, like, that’s a real deadly combination. Like that’s the first thing they say to you when they hand you an an opioid is don’t do this with alcohol, you’ll die. And you’re like, Well, I mean, I don’t want to get completely dead, I just wanna be kind of dead. So I’ll have a half of one or whatever and so you’re going down that path. 2017, I went through my third divorce. I had children who were- wouldn’t speak to me. Um got fired from my first job out of the military and probably averaged domestic disturbance call outs by law enforcement about every six weeks. I tried counting it up one time. I think I wound up with somewhere in the neighborhood of, oh, 15 restraining orders, I think was the number on me.
Chris Gethard [00:20:03] Wow.
Caller [00:20:03] Like, yeah, like I was, I was that guy like, you know, like if Rambo was a sophomore in high school, like my my shop teacher was a Vietnam vet and he’s like, Oh, this great movie came out called Rambo and like, even that didn’t resonate with me, like when I finally became a Green Beret until much later. It was like, Oh, like, yeah, like, I’m on a very similar path here. You know like Rocky’s a- or Rambo’s a Green Beret. And then when he wanders into that town and he has like, you know, just just leave me alone syndrome. Just leave me alone. Just leave me alone. Like I was. I was law enforcement’s worst nightmare. I really was. Like, I, I was draining mental health providers, ecclesiastical providers, law enforcement at my house, like these like first name basis with me. Like not in a good way. Like they knew, you know, like, what is it this time, Mr. (BLEEP)? Oops.
Chris Gethard [00:20:58] It’s OK. We’ll bleep it. We’ll bleep it.
Caller [00:21:01] OK. Yeah. You know, was it this time, sir? You know? And it’s you know, so and then the worst part, like, Veterans Day 2017, I found myself like so unable to cope with it that I went and found this bar, um drank until it closed, like at two o’clock in the morning. The bar owner was the bartender, so I asked permission to sleep in the parking lot. And, you know, I had a gun on me. And it was like, All right, I just cannot get numb enough. Like…. do I employ the nuclear option? Do I pull the trigger tonight? And I’ve pulled that trigger finger 100,000 times in my career. Can I pull it one more time? Can I end it? Can I do it? And just laying there, shivering, drunk, with a gun in my mouth, trying to get the courage up to pull it one more time. And I didn’t, obviously. So… Then we fast forward. Nothing much changes. It’s still off the charts, and now I go to my parents house and an argument ensues over some silly random bullshit. But yet, like the PTSD in me- see, the thing about PTSD is it’s a it’s an addiction too. Like, most people don’t understand that, but it’s an addiction. So like if I’m in a tricky spot in Afghanistan, let’s say, and I react with extreme violence that I was taught to do. And then I come out of that tricky, delicate situation alive, well, guess what? My brain floods with dopamine, with serotonin, with adrenaline. And it’s the greatest drug cocktail ever invented. And I go, Yeah, man. Love that feeling. So then every time you get on what they call the X, which is the ambush or where, you know the tricky situation, you know your body says, Oh, I know what to do here. Yeah, let’s react with extreme violence. And then let me get that drug cocktail. And so then it becomes an addiction. Like, I can tell you that out of my six deployments, two of them were necessary. Four of them were voluntary because my life was a shit show back home. And if I go to Afghanistan or if I go to Iraq, well, there’s only one thing I- there’s a couple of things I have to focus on. I need to eat. I need to work out. And I need to do my job. That’s it. So so you get addicted to combat, you get addicted to PTSD. And so here I was now 2018 at my father’s house and your body physiologically doesn’t understand the difference between an ambush in Afghanistan or an ambush by your father. Now I use the ambush word with my father because he was trying to walk me off the ledge, but I was sitting in the corner of the living room and in every other corner there was my father, my mother, my sister. So how do I- how does that physiologically feel to me? Cornered, trapped… ambushed. So my body, wanting its fix, says, Oh, hey, I know where you’re at, man. Let’s let’s pour a little extreme violence on this situation so I can get my dopamine. So that’s what happened. I- now I want to be very clear. I’ve never, ever hit a woman. I’ve never, ever- I never hit my parents. But I broke some shit up. And my father, God bless him, God bless the man for courage, said, call 9-1-1. And he tried to contain me until the cops got there and I got arrested. And thank God. That’s all I can say, man. Thank God that man had the courage to do what he did. And it put me in a jail cell. And in that jail cell I had two major realizations. First is, I got a problem that I’m not being honest with myself about. And the second one is I need to find a solution. So I started digging and digging and digging. And the more I dug, the more I got led to entheogens. Plant based medicine, specifically ayahuasca and psilocybin. Veterans were going down to the jungles of South America, to Mexico, to Jamaica. Even Gwyneth Paltrow has an episode on Ayahuasca, where she goes to- her team goes to Jamaica and does it. And all the evidence, I mean, it wasn’t just the evidence and the scientific backing and everything I read, but it was like watching YouTube videos of veterans say, you know, like this, this is amazing. This has cured me. This can work. You know, you’ve got to come to- and it was like, trusting them because of what I could see in their eyes and what I could hear in their voice. And so that began my journey, my search for ayahuasca.
Chris Gethard [00:26:16] That is uh-.
Caller [00:26:17] That’s where it gets- go ahead. Yeah.
Chris Gethard [00:26:20] A couple of things I want to say is, first of all, I’m so glad you’re still here. And I’m so sorry you went through so much hard stuff. And you know, it sounds like, you know, also the people in your life- you mentioned your parents, you know, a lot of the people in your life, you brought a lot of chaos. I’m glad to hear that sounds like you’re on the other side of that. We’re going to hear about how you got there. But also one thing I want to- there’s two things I want to point out if that’s cool? Is like, first of all-.
Caller [00:26:50] Yeah, yeah.
Chris Gethard [00:26:51] One thing that, you know, the stories on the show very often feel extreme. People tell us about circumstances where you go, Oh, that is one in a million. But you have just said something that I think is really important for me to underline. Now you have your individual story. It’s your story. But you said you found, you know, people talking about other veterans going and doing ayahuasca and saying how much it was helping. Because one of the sad things that we got to underline is your story is your individual story, but there’s many veterans who have come back from Iraq and Afghanistan who are walking their own version of this hell. Because it is, it is. And you don’t need to read too much about the facts and figures regarding veterans taking their own lives. Veterans falling into real extreme circumstances to know that, like, your story sounds extreme for me and a lot of people listening to it. But there’s something systemically really not right. And what you and… you know, you and these people who you’re bonded with through your sacrifice are being put through. And systemically, it’s not being fixed. It’s really wrong. It’s really messed up, I see it. Secondly, I want to make a dark joke if that’s OK, which is that if at the beginning of the call when you started talking, if somebody said to me, Do you think this guy is a Green Beret or he’s someone who’s done ayahuasca? I would have said Ayahuasca. And you’ve just proven that you can be both. So kudos to you. You got more of an ayahuasca vibe than a Green Beret vibe.
Caller [00:28:30] Well, yeah, I mean, and amen, because that’s where we’re going in this story, and this is what I try to tell people. Like, you know, I mean, I’m going to cry man. But like my my poor sweet mother, man. She’s like five feet tall and she just she had so much terror being around me because, you know, I like I could I could look back and say she was never in any danger. But like, you know, I mean, I’m a big dude, man. I’m an intense man. And and that’s… dialed down so much what what you’re picking up from what it was when I was in that dark place. Like I said, like I was, I was a ticking time bomb. I was probably- I was definitely suicidal and maybe homicidal. And I was wrestling with the cops like, you know, not physically wrestling, but you know, I was engaged with them just constantly. And I was like, I knew I could see what was coming. I’m like, Oh, I know how this works. Like, every time it gets bigger, like it’s it’s amping up like something’s going to happen. And and so, you know, like, yeah, like, you know, my mother, my dear sweet mother who’s, you know, Mormon all the day long. I’m not anymore, but she is and, you know, like the idea of doing psychedelics, I talked to her about this and she’s like, I don’t know, you know, like because she’s bought into this whole, you know, war on drugs and what the church tells her and everything like that. But now I can talk to her. I can say, mom, and she’s like, No son, I get it. In fact, you know, we’re going to talk about how I became a shaman. And I have these drums. I have a buffalo or, excuse me, a bear drum and a moose drum. And she asked me what I wanted for Christmas. I said, Mom, I’d be so honored if you’d make me two drum cases. And she made me the most hippie drum cases in the world in tie dye. And it’s like she gets it now. She gets it. She doesn’t have to understand where I went and how I did it, but she understands that I’m better now and she supports it. So yeah, you understand. So.
Chris Gethard [00:30:33] You’re a shaman.
Caller [00:30:34] It’s a different vibe. Yeah. So, yeah, so that’s the next chapter in the story. So the shaman thing. So I finally found my retreat. It took me a long time, largely due to pandemic and largely due to my own thinking because I didn’t understand. You know, so ayahuasca, these these medicines, and I want to make a clear point about this. This is medicine, right? Like the federal, the federal government launched this bullshit war on drugs, man. And it was all about punishing the counterculture, the hippies, the anti-Vietnam protesters in the 70s, and minorities. That was, I mean, it’s documented. You can look up that Nixon’s motivations were to punish those two groups. And then he threw everything in there. So let me give you a real quick distinction. So medicine, entheogen medicine, it is three things. Three characteristics. A, non-addictive. B, nonfatal. And C, it actually cures you. So all the medicines that I could describe to you meet those three criteria. You cannot die from marijuana, you cannot die from psilocybin, and you cannot die from ayahuasca or any of the others. Drugs, however, addictive, can be fatal, and don’t cure shit. ‘Kay? So, so yes, I so I had the mindset, just like my mother had the mindset, just like, you know, like, Oh, this is this is a narcotic. There’s no way I can do it. No wonder everybody’s going to the jungles. I need to go to the jungles. Well, that was really difficult to pull off with the pandemic, so it didn’t even occur to me for like over a year when I finally said, huh, I wonder what would happen if I typed in Ayahuasca Retreat Utah? And I found one. And I was like, What the hell?
Chris Gethard [00:32:35] Well, this is taking a turn. This is taking a for a real turn. And it’s going to keep turning. And you’re not going to believe how far it turns when we get back. Thanks to everybody who advertises on the show and that we get to do this show at all. Now let’s finish off the phone call.
Caller [00:33:01] I wonder what would happen if I typed in ayahuasca Retreat, Utah? And I found one. And I was like, What the hell? What the hell? How is this even possible? How how is the shaman doing this? How how do they get away with, you know, holding this? Like, What about the law? You know, like a thousand questions around that. And I finally just said, whatever, I’m going to do it. So I go to my first retreat… And… I mean, it’s so hard to even put into words. I go to my first retreat and basically my- I started channeling… An ancestor of mine. And my fist forms- my hand forms in the form of a fist. And my shaman says to me, what’s that? I said, That’s me, man. That’s me. It’s my trigger finger. It’s my fist. It’s destruction, it’s fight. And every time somebody pounded me out, I won. That’s who I am. And basically, she sat with me for about an hour, unraveling how my ego was getting in my way. Because ultimately as a child, I was adopted. I was the fat kid. I was the outsider. I was, you know, all these different things that I had told my story, believing that had shattered my ego into a thousand pieces. And subconsciously, how did I react? I corrected. But what happened is that I overcorrected and I became the most masculine- Like, think about that. Like, subconsciously, I became a Green Beret and fought six, you know, in war for 17 years and six deployments. And now that ego was uncontrollable. So we- she unraveled that literally like in under an hour. And then she crawled right up in my face, like six inches away from me, nose to nose. And she looked at me and her eyes were, you know, I mean I understand it was the medicine, but her eyes were like diamonds and sparkling, and she just she held out her hand and put it on my shoulder and said (BLEEP) sorry, bleep me.
Chris Gethard [00:35:18] I got you. We’ll bleep you.
Caller [00:35:34] Thanks. She looked at me and she said, The universe ordained this. You were brought here. And it’s my privilege and honor to extend the call that you become a shaman and step into the role to go heal your tribe. And then she took both of my hands. She said that that ego and that manifested as a fist, she said, because I gripped it and said I will never get rid of this, and she’s like, (BLEEP), she’s like, you don’t have to. You don’t have to get rid of it. It’s your identity. It’s your community. The people you need to go rescue will know who you are through your own authenticity in having been the Green Beret, having been a ranger, having served all those. You don’t have to get rid of it. We’re going to balance it. We’re going to bring it in with the other hand now as the healer and you’re going to, you know, that’s how you call to your tribe, through your right hand. Through your identity. And we’re going to balance it now with a healer. You’re a shaman, (BLEEP). You’re a shaman. And I keep forgetting, sorry.
Chris Gethard [00:36:23] It’s OK I’m gonna bleep it every time. I got you.
Caller [00:36:26] I know. ‘Kay, so she’s like, You are a shaman. You’re a shaman. And I’m like, What are you talking about? The first thought that ran through my head was, I didn’t pay for the shaman upgrade. I paid for the basic package. What are you talking about? But then, like, really, really like mysterious things started happening. And I’m gonna try to condense this some but… like when I was- I had forgotten this, but when I was a child, I had what I felt was like some psychic ability. Like if you spread a deck of cards out, I could find a high card every time. Like I felt it. If you put a pendulum in front of me, I could use it to answer questions yes or no. I could leave my body as a as a kid. But foolishly I asked other kids and adults about these things, these things that were going on in my life. And what do you think that brought, right? That brought ridicule and shame and, you know, like, what’s wrong? So I quickly buried it, and I literally had forgot about that for, you know, over 40 years. I literally forgot about it. Until I stepped into medicine. And then all these things came flooding back to me. Memories, gifts, talents, skills, things that I hadn’t even remembered for over 40 years, now like were unfolding, manifesting… experiencing in my life. And I’m like, what is going on, what is going on, what is going on? I didn’t believe that I was a shaman at first. Here’s how I describe it now. I believe that -and I didn’t even believe in incarnation, reincarnation. I thought that, yeah, some some sort of weird shit over in India. I don’t know, whatever. Didn’t pay any attention to it. But now my truth, now what I believe, what I say, what I tell people, is I went through multiple incarnations alternating between Warrior and Shaman, Warrior and Shaman, and this incarnation’s where I, for the first time, bring it together as a warrior shaman. I lived the life as a warrior. I found out subconsciously. I found my role, my calling as a Green Beret, like I said, sort of on accident. But I knew once I was a Green Beret, I knew that that was what I was supposed to be. I knew that I was supposed to do. And that was part of my PTSD, having that identity ripped away from me in retirement, not like knowing what to do, not fitting in with society, being lost. And so when she said, You’re a shaman, and it took me a while for me to accept it. And frankly, I want to give a quick clarification about shamanism. I don’t get wrapped up on the title and now I’m to the place where I don’t even say it. I mean, I’m saying it in this interview because it’s the story. And in context, the word has, you know, some space, holds space. But I don’t get wrapped up on a title. It- what it is is now, you know, my tribe, these these men and women who I served with, who need to find healing, like my role is to serve them. Um Shamans- I believe in old school shamanism. I have a mentor who I study with deeply and teaches me the the ways of shamanism. I read. I study. I devote my life to this. There’s some of the hallmarks of shamanism are, you know, a vow of poverty and a vow of service and things like that. So I’m not in this to make money. I’m in this to heal my brothers and sisters and to do this beautiful work. But then again, there’s the the moral and ethical dilemma because I’m caught in this place where now I know that this medicine works, that this can put us back, that this can restore our mental health. This can cure our PTSD. And so many other things. And wanting and needing to share that with my brothers and sisters, yet I’m no different than, you know, somebody out there selling meth. Like in the government’s eyes. In the government’s eyes, I’m no different than some guy selling meth, you know, on a corner near a park. So that’s uh that’s my struggle. That’s my wrestle. Um yeah I’ll pause there.
Chris Gethard [00:41:08] This is this story has taken so many turns. So many turns. So I really love it. Have you wound up in this shaman era of your life, do you do you generally work with other veterans?
Caller [00:41:24] So, yeah, again, the beauty of this being anonymous, because frankly, the funny thing was is I just did an interview in the state where I’m at, where they’re trying to pass some laws about this. And so I went to an interview and I was willing to be on camera and be myself and tell my truth. But I didn’t talk about- all I did was talk about the retreat. You know, that was way in the past. So this won’t- that will invite any law enforcement. This interview, I’m giving you the juicy bits because it’s anonymous. So you know, I I won’t invite any law enforcement to my house. But yeah, so so… I like I said, I became a very quick student of multiple teachers. It’s funny, like I never even said the word shaman before going to this retreat, and then I met one and then then I met dozens. And so I have a beautiful community that that helped me, that teach me and work with me. I learn from them, I learned from the medicine. I have a single mentor who I study with, who- she’s not involved at all in the entheogen or plant medicine space. So she teaches me the old school shamanism, which is, you know, shamanic journeys and shamanic healing and energy work. You know, it’s kind of like reiki on steroids, things like that. And yes, I hold retreats right now, probably on average of about, you know, I’ll probably- I think- I looked at my schedule, I’m probably going to do about 20 this year. So a little bit less than every other week I hold a retreat. And it’s underground. You know, you got to come to me through word of mouth. I need somebody to vouch for who you are. I use divination, which is, you know, a couple of different tools. I use a pendulum and are you familiar with runes? Do you know what- maybe I’ll just say what it is for audience sake.
Chris Gethard [00:43:25] Sure, I know what they are I think, but explain.
Caller [00:43:30] Yeah, it’s basically Nordic pagan divination. So it’s like tarot where the runes are, you know, carved into stone or bone or whatever. And so, you know, you use that to sort of protect yourself to know like, you know, is there an undercover cop in- sitting in my ceremony? And that’s what was used on me. My, the one that held my ceremony, she, you know, she did a number of readings and tarot readings and things like that. That’s how she kept her- and that’s why- so I use that. But yes, I, you know, I I hold about, so 20 this year is what I have on the schedule. And it’s such a beautiful experience. I’ve seen people break meth addiction, 30 years of alcoholism, PTSD, um… you know, both from the military and, you know, young ladies from some sexual trauma, just the list goes on and on and on and, and so, yeah, that’s that’s kind of how I operate is under the radar and by word of mouth. And, you know, keep my fingers crossed that hopefully someday the federal government will realize that these medicines- again medicines- because they cure, because they’re not addictive, because they’re not fatal. Like we should have access to Mother Nature. The metaphor, I say, is like, you know, like… if I want to go swimming at the lake, like why, why do you- why do you as a government,, a state government, a federal government, try to regulate that? Why are you- you wouldn’t stand in the way of me going swimming at the lake. Why are you standing in the way of me using cannabis, mushrooms, ayahuasca or any of the others? Because the truth of the matter is… more people die in drowning than ever died from any of those medicines. No one, in fact, has ever died from those medicines. So why are you trying to regulate that except for wrongful perceptions, incorrect paradigms and, you know, like some junk science that the war on drugs threw down our throats?
Chris Gethard [00:45:57] Now here’s something that I imagine has to be difficult for you. When… When, you know, you’ve mentioned there’s people who… are you know dealing with all sorts of things coming from all walks of life. When other military veterans show up… Do you- I imagine it has to break your heart. And I guess my question is… are there commonalities? Or is each person on their own individual story? Or do you look at veterans and go, Oh, systemically, so many of us wind up having a void of a certain type. Does that make sense?
Caller [00:46:38] Completely. And and the answer is yes and no. And so here’s one of the beautiful things that happens in space. When I say space in medicine space, in the journey, in the ceremony, like, I never stop being amazed because there’s two things that are unfolding simultaneously, and my role as the facilitator is to be able to balance that energy, to help draw, you know, like not let- to help them if they’re stuck, to help them move through that, to help that energy to unravel, just like she did with me, sitting with me and unraveling me. So I have a responsibility to all of them. And I meant I maintain a four to one ratio. So like, I have people who I work with, if we’re going to do 20 in a group, I will have five staff there. So like, I mean, we take care of all of your needs. Like it’s very, very clinical. If you’re throwing up, we got the bucket. If you need a blanket, we got you. You need a pillow? We got you. You need someone to help you up to go to the bathroom? We got you. But I’m working on the energy individually. They’re on their own journey. And I’m working with that. But collectively you find certain threads unfold. And I I believe in the divinity and sacredness of this space to the point that I know that whatever happens in those journeys will happen just like she said. She said, You were brought here. This was orchestrated. The universe brought you to me. Welcome to your role. So I understand that when I hold space, when I conduct ceremony, that that there will be commonality. There will be themes and threads unfold. And I start to see it before the others in the group do where like, Oh, okay, this person… Like I can give you a recent example. This person, I knew he was there because he was trying to connect to his son who committed suicide. Okay. Oh, wait a minute, this this person over here, oh yeah, they have a loss with a son. Oh, this person has a broken relationship with a father. Oh, there’s a massive Father-Son thread running through the container tonight. Okay. Got it. And then I can work with that. So there’s an individual journey and then a group journey that are unfolding simultaneously and being able to know that and balance that. And then further to your point… You know, like and that was what my shaman, when she called me, when she said that to me, like later we were talking about, she was like, Listen (BLEEP), like, yes, you need to balance your ego and you need to get that under control. And that’s what you’ll do in the medicine with integration, which I need to focus on. Integration is huge. Integration is the after ceremony, after medicine, you know, learning how to implement into your life the the the answers that you were given in medicine. So she’s saying as you integrate, as you figure this out, like, yeah, your identity is what it is. And truthfully, I mean, think about this. And this is what she said. And I know it’s true and I believe it. She’s like, who out there in the veteran community can look at you and say, you have no idea, man. You’ve got no idea. Really? Tell me what I don’t understand. Tell me that you don’t understand being fired from my job. Tell me that I don’t understand homelessness. Tell me that I don’t understand suicide. Tell me that I don’t understand being arrested and locked up. Tell me what I don’t understand. Oh, you want to talk about combat? Okay, let’s go toe to toe on that. I got six deployments. I got 42 months. And again, what, what units are we talking about, right? The Joint Task Force on Terrorism. You know, the combined Joint Task Force Afgh- I mean, like all special operations. It’s like, do you want to go toe to toe there? In other words, like anybody that wants to push back on me when I say, if I find somebody who’s hurting, through, again through word of mouth or whatever. Someone connects us and I have a phone call with them and I say, Listen, man, trust me- because this- here’s the thing, too I love about plant medicines. I believe in- I don’t believe in a silver bullet. Plant medicine is not a silver bullet. It is a strand in the rope. And all the cords are important. Because that’s where the rope gets its strength, right? Like the sum is greater than the parts. So, you know, it involves sound and breathing and yoga and proper diet and exercise and continued work with therapists and integration and all that. But the one thing that I love about plant medicine is I can say to a guy who’s literally like me where I was at the very, very end of his rope and I can say, Listen, man, give me a weekend. Because it’s that quick. I can cut through everything. I can crack open and show him the vastness of the universe and dive him into his heart at the same time. All at the same time. And I can literally cut through his all of his doubts, all of his fears. In a weekend. And so I can I can say so first of all, in this conversation, I say, Listen, man, give me a weekend. And second of all, if they’re getting super aggressive, you don’t get this, you know, like really? Let me tell you my story. And I’ve done this. They like, I don’t know, you know, like so-and-so says, I need to talk to you. All right, man. I mean, really, you know, let’s do this. Let me tell you my story so that I can open up a safe space so that you know that you know that you can share my story. I share my story. And then they say, Well, you got a lot more shit than I ever have. So, you know, maybe Joe or, you know, whoever it was that connected me, maybe Joe’s got a point. Let me, I’ll listen to you. Yeah, okay. Yeah. That answer your question?
Chris Gethard [00:52:33] It does. Beautifully, beautifully. Um. I have to wonder. I mean, we’re going to be dealing with this for decades. The you know, you could you could argue that we already are. That 9/11 was, you know, twenty-one years ago and that we’re- and that this is all an extension of a story and it’s going extend even further into decades. I have to wonder, though, all of us recently saw footage of what it looked like when we got out of there. It wasn’t easy to see. And I think, you know, on one level, I sit there and go, well, we had to leave some time and it was a hard choice, and I I give credit that we just said we have to go sometime and that time will be now. On another side of it I go, this footage is scary and it seems like a lot of- there’s so many people that are- there’s a real human cost to this and you can see it in actual footage that we all got to see on the news. I have to imagine it’s even more layered for you and your brothers and sisters who are over there. And I have to wonder if, as a shaman, if you’re seeing like another wave of trauma based on the exit or if there’s some healing that came with the exit that you’re noticing? But I feel I feel like your perspective will be different than anyone else I ever get to talk to.
Caller [00:54:02] I didn’t see any healing from it. I saw massive trauma from it, including my own. Like even though I was in the space, even though I was in, you know, shamanism, even though I was doing this and like, I had to tell my wife, like, baby, you got to give me some space. I found a veterans like, like, here’s the deal. I had- you know, you end up serving with these Afghans, and I had an interpreter who had reached out to me before I found this. When I was still in my PTSD space. And he’s like, Will you help me, you know, process? And I was like, No. I ain’t helping you. Not because I didn’t love him, but because I knew what a trigger that that was going to be like. I just wanted to bury it, man. I just wanted to bury it. I don’t want to be in this. And so finally, reluctantly, I was like, Yeah, I can’t turn my back on this guy. I owe him my life. And as I started helping him back in July or, excuse me, January of twenty one. And so we were nine months into the process of getting him out of Afghanistan when we did what we did. And withdrew. And so I went from talking to him once a week, maybe filling out a form for immigration once a month, to hundreds of text messages a day trying to navigate him from safehouse to safehouse, working with non-profits, you know, volunteers, all the people that were on the news like that Pineapple Express thing, working with all those to try to get this guy out. Now he’s sitting in the UAE, and he’s on the short list to get over here soon. Thankfully, he moved it, but like my trauma, my triggering- even though I had processed almost all of this PTSD, and was in a really good place, like it found unresolved stuff inside of me. So I said to my wife, I’m like, baby… I need to go away. I called a veteran friend that’s in this circle with me. I said, Brother, we need to go journey. We need to go journey. And I did a heavy journey and processed all that. So there’s there’s not a lot of people who will tell you it was healing for them. Like everybody I know, it was triggering. And here’s another reason why. Have you ever heard the analogy like, you know, like holding a wolf by the ears? Like you don’t dare hold on, but you don’t dare let go. Like, I understand what you’re saying about like Afghanistan, like, you know, we had to let go at some point, right? But here’s the reality. We should have never grabbed the ears in the beginning. Like, did we need to go to Afghanistan? Yeah, we did. Did we need to, you know, like, you know, set a tone so that the rest of the world wouldn’t like, encourage terrorists to come over here and kill Americans on sovereign soil? Yeah, we needed to do that. Did we need to be there for 20 years? Hell no. That was the industrial military complex milking that cow forever. And and that’s part of my trauma that I’m probably still releasing, like my sort of my frustration and anger over general officers, which- I got friends that are generals. Because like I said, I mean, I’ve been out for five years and I was a lieutenant colonel then. So some of my peers stayed in and they’re generals now. But some general officers and politicians, because really generals are just that- they’re hybrids between soldiers and politicians. So, you know, you got general officers and politicians that, like no one could ever explain to me, like, why are we here? Like why? Oh, we got to get Bin Laden. Really? Because he’s hiding out somewhere. He’s so hidden that we can’t find him? So I’m pretty sure he’s marginalized right now. Like, why are we here beyond- beyond 2002, maybe 2003? Why are we still here? And then watching friends die over, over what I feel was pretty meaningless. Now I will say, you know, I appreciate that you’re, you know, you’re liberal, you know, liberal arts, East Coast leaning. And frankly, politically, I’ll just tell everybody, like, I feel like this is an important distinction. I’m a libertarian, man. I hate Republicans and Democrats alike and equally, man. Like they both sold out, sold us out. But… oh, where was I kind of going with that? Anyway, just to say that, like the politicians, like, they just… They just they just kept us there for so long, and no one could ever explain to me like why. Like why or what is the objective here? And no one ever had had a good answer. Oh, but yes, so so militarily speaking, soldiers like me, you know, they’re good, and I hope your listeners will understand this. Most of these kids are good, honest, good hearted men and women. And what do they want, you know? You know, you might have one percent that’s like, Oh, like, oh god, I can’t wait to get a gun and go kill people for America. That’s not the reality, man.The reality is like kids like me, they’re like, Oh, I am economically doomed, man. I got to do something. And they sign up. And you know, they find purpose and they find meaning. They mature. It’s a beautiful experience. And then they’re put into the to the Crucible. They’re put into war, and no one, no one will ever tell you that they’re out there fighting for democracy or the Republic, or to establish democracy in Afghanistan or some political aim. The reason you fight, the reason you fight is for your brother and your sister on your left and your right. That is it. You all want to come home. That’s all that counts. And so to hear people say, Thank you for your service, like I get it, man. Like, Thank you. You’re welcome. I’m going to honor that and I respect that. But you gotta like, everybody’s got to know that the reason that these young boys and girls go and do and they do what they do and me even staying in as long as I did, it was like economic. It was like, Oh, OK, well, if I can survive this, if I can make it to 20, I’m going to get a paycheck for the rest of my life. And I agree. Like our budget, our military budget’s enormous. As long as you keep my military, as long as you keep my retirement in the budget I’m OK with reductions. But you know, it wasn’t- it was nev- it’s not about the Constitution. It’s not about democracy or spreading it. We we wasted eighteen years, countless… countless treasure and more blood than I can than I can express in that country for no good goddamn reason.
Chris Gethard [01:00:45] I tell you, this is one of my favorite conversations I’ve ever had. We got three minutes left and uh…
Caller [01:00:54] Time flies.
Chris Gethard [01:00:55] It does. It does. And I got to tell you, I keep thinking of where you were at and the uh the idea that you found your way out of it is miraculous and that you now are working through the system that helped you and you’re helping and other people, and many of them are people who walked the same path you did, it’s uh it’s really, really… It’s like jaw dropping. I’m just glad you made it. I’m glad you made it through. I’m glad you made it out of there. I’m glad that you made it through everything you went through when you got back here, and I’m so happy to hear that there’s someone there who really understands people and their pain who is dedicating himself to to helping other people try to get to the other side of it too.
Caller [01:01:43] I’m trying, man. I really am.
Chris Gethard [01:01:43] And there’s going to be people out there who go, ayahuasca is a drug and there’s going to be people who argue that. But I would challenge anyone hearing this to say that your- if they don’t agree with that as a methodology, how could you ever disagree with your goals as far as the humanitarian side of it, of trying to help individuals get on the other side of life disrupting amounts of pain? You can’t argue with that.
Caller [01:02:10] Yeah. It’s- the mental illness crisis in this country, not just in the veteran community, but far and wide, is is massive. It is massive. And these these beautiful plants, these entheogenic plants, they hold the keys to our mental health. And it’s been that way for tens of thousands of years. That’s what shamans, old-school shamans did. They knew. That’s what the word shaman means; the one who knows. He knew how to come in and say, You know what? I can help you, brother. Here’s some psilocybin. Let’s take a little journey. And that was that was the history 10,000 years ago. Why have we- we why have we departed from that? Because the science is pouring out. Overwhelming science, saying, Hey, we might be on- there might be something in this. Yeah, you think? Maybe there is.
Chris Gethard [01:03:03] I I feel, I mean, I think there are more and more people who agree with you. I agree. And I feel lucky. I feel lucky knowing that you’re out there. I feel lucky and I and I hope that if there’s anybody out there who’s got their own version of PTSD, who’s been through their own trauma, I hope that you think about finding paths that can help you through it. And it might be something like what you’re describing. It might be a traditional therapy. It’s probably some combination of a lot of different factors, as you mentioned. But I like knowing that you’re out there and that this is an option for people and that people are finding healing in it. I think it’s really, really commendable.
Caller [01:03:48] And you too. You’re doing good work. You’re letting people tell their stories, and that’s important. So thank you.
Chris Gethard [01:03:55] I do my best. I’m I’m I’m the luckiest guy in that I get to hear all the stories for sure. So thank you for telling me yours. And our our time together’s up. Thank you so much.
Caller [01:04:06] Alright, brother. Yup. Bye.
Chris Gethard [01:04:14] Caller, thank you so much. I know I said it a number of times throughout the episode but, so sincerely, thank you for sharing your story, for dedicating yourself to others in so many different phases of your life. And uh lucky, I’m lucky that you’re still around and that you were able to tell this story because I feel very inspired having heard it. So thank you. This show is produced by Anita Flores, engineered by Marcus Hahm. Our theme song’s by Shellshag. Go to chrisgeth.com if you want to know more about me. And hey, wherever you’re listening, hit subscribe, favorite, follow. There’s a button that says something like that. It really helps us when you hit it. To find our latest merch at pod swag dot com, we got mugs, shirts, posters, more. You can find ad free episodes of Beautiful/Anonymous and tons of other shows at Stitcher Premium. Use the code: Stories and get a month free. Stitcher.com/premium.
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