I Did DMT With a Comedian And It Saved My Life

A pessimist’s guide to finding humility through the high-powered psychedelic, DMT.
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Canadian Comedian Manolis Zontanos depicted as a cosmic being.

In early 2017 I was in a hard place: I was in a failing relationship. I wasn’t sure of where I wanted my career to go and I was at my wit’s end with life. I was 330 pounds and drinking like a viking. I was suffering from depression and in retrospect, I was borderline suicidal. I wasn’t actively thinking about taking my life, but when I looked in the mirror I’d think, “If I did it, how’d I do it?”

Thank god one of the qualities I didn’t appreciate about myself at the time was procrastination or I may not have made it.

Back then, I was guest co-hosting a college radio show in Hamilton, Ontario with a local punk rock club promoter named Lou Molinaro and a well-known Canadian comedian named Manolis Zontanos.

Manolis had recently introduced me to the idea of microdosing mushrooms to improve mental health. If you know Manolis, you wouldn’t exactly think he’d be the guy you take mental health advice from. Not that he’s not amazing, but his attitude towards life seemed lackadaisical to say the least. He’s the epitome of a surfer dude turned comedian, but a legend amongst his peers. 

Manolis has a natural humility that I admire greatly. Over the course of the show we became good friends. Something that the listeners were subjected to live on the air. Manolis is one of the funniest human beings I have ever met.  He once told us on air that he got stopped at the border when a U.S. border agent asked, “Country of origin?” Manolis heard “Country of oranges?” Manolis must have thought it was a declaration quiz or something because he replied with a question of his own, “Country of Oranges? Florida?” In fairness, this would be confusing to a border cop as Florida isn’t a country. It’s also nowhere near the Canadian border. 

Manolis Zontanos performing on stage at YukYuks.

Manolis and I would fuck around so much on that show I started it to get complaints. Rightfully so. I’d get Manolis so riled up that he’d lose his mind. One time, Manolis performed his rendition of the warehouse scene in Footloose; through the Radio Stations office halls. As funny and energetic as that dude could be, his best work always seemed to focus around his 90 year old Dad. Bits about how his father struggled with technology combined with his unique views on life, showed a side of Manolis that was honest, hardworking, and humble. 

You could see Manolis’ father’s unconditional love carry over to how Manolis would and does help developing comics in the Canadian comedy scene.

How I Learned About DMT

A few months down the road, my career had started to take a turn for the better but I was still depressed. 

I had found a path to my dream job within the cannabis industry. Through running cannabis industry events I befriended a musician, trucker, hippie dude I sarcastically nicknamed Jesse Christ. This nickname was aptly given due to his appearance, gentle demeanor and his spiritual essence. Jesse Christ was in recovery for cocaine and would always tell me to try DMT. He’d talk about DMT any chance he had.

I thought Jesse was crazy but I loved being around him. Jesse would tell me a bit of the basic lore around DMT but I never really paid much attention. I remember him mentioning some people would see beings, and that some go to different dimensions. 

Jesse also claimed it was the drug that flooded the human brain when we died and it was the scientific explanation for people having angelic near death experiences. Admittedly, with my state of mind at the time, this had me intrigued. However, I remained skeptical. A lot of acid dealers in the day told me I’d see smurfs running around my house and that unfortunately never panned out. I was pessimistic to say the least and I didn’t really buy the spiritual side of DMT that had also seemed to empower Jesse. I had little patience for “spiritualism.”

I grew up playing in atheist punk bands that scoffed at the idea of mystical forces. As I grew older, my anger towards religion dulled, but I remained pragmatic about an afterlife to say the least. In my mind there was no light at the end of any tunnel, there was no guide over the River Styx, and I could for sure bluff my way past any of St. Peter’s interrogations. After all, I was a punk. I could sneak past the bouncer into any party. 

While we were still on the air ruining Lou’s radio show Manolis and I had gone off the rails yet again as I was discussing Jesse and the DMT. Manolis responded that Joe Rogen (long before he became so polarizing) spoke about DMT on his podcast and that he too heard it sent you to another dimension. Lou just spun records and ignored us. 

I decided to look further into DMT and started listening to some Joe Rogan. I really wasn’t familiar with him as I just knew him from News Radio and that he got fired from TV for feeding people horse cum or something. There was definitely good content on the subject there, but I wasn’t getting the information I desired.

Joe Rogan is a comedian and podcaster known for taking ice baths and hunting Sasquatch.

I visited https://www.erowid.org, a donation-based educational site where drug users share their experiences in an effort to “document the complex relationship between humans and psychoactives.” There I learned that DMT naturally occurred in many plants, like mimosa, or could also be replicated in a lab. Most of all I learned that it wouldn’t kill me and it was deemed “safe” by the site.

Dimethyltryptamine or DMT is a hallucinogenic tryptamine drug. Sometimes referred to as Dimitri, the drug produces effects similar to those of psychedelics, like LSD and magic mushrooms. DMT is also the active ingredient in ayahuasca. Rudimentary speaking for the sake of this article, think of DMT as the THC to ayahuasca’s cannabis.

How I Did the DMT (Which Saved My Life)

DMT in its raw form.

There’s a lot of ways to do DMT, but the pros will tell you not to burn it directly. Decarboxylation, like cannabis, should still be considered when taking raw DMT. Some people prefer vape pens, but “gassing” DMT at a lower temperature would seem to be the most effective method if the user’s goal is to achieve a “breakthrough” experience.  

I had decided to go for it. I had recently moved into a new house with my partner at the time and Manolis and I had continued to grow close. He had become dependable and a thoughtful friend when I was going through a rough time. I called up Manolis and told him that Jesse Christ had hooked me up with raw DMT and a little “how to” kit. At the time, Manolis didn’t know he’d also be doing DMT for the first time that day. 

In the kit was: 

  1. One glass bulbed crack or “rose pipe” 
  2. One small butane lighter 
  3. One gram of DMT 
  4. Directions

.The instructions were as follows: 

  1. Put .2 of a gram of DMT in the bulb of the rose pipe. A little goes a long way. 
  2. Light the butane lighter and hold it two inches below the pipe. 
  3. Do not put the flame directly on the glass pipe. 
  4. As the DMT begins to gas it will swirl around the bowl. 
  5. Wait until the pipe is completely full and remove heat. 
  6. Inhale from the pipe three times. Each time holding the vapor in as long as possible.
  7. Make sure to be seated. 
  8. Write down your experience post. 
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DMT in 510 cart form.

I recently caught up with Manolis to revisit this experience. We picked up where we left off not having spoken much in a few months. When I asked about the experience he said laughing, “You called me up and said you were just going to do it.” He continued over the phone, “So I drove down to make sure you didn’t do it by yourself. It was like 3:00pm on a Wednesday, dude.” Manolis explained in a tone that was both loving and expressive to the situation. “I wasn’t supposed to do DMT that day.” he continued, “I was supposed to be doing an open mic set later that night.”

That’s just who Manolis is. The kind guy who’ll bring you an extension cord to help you fix your new house, or make sure you don’t die while depressed and taking high-powered psychedelics that zap you across the universe. If they don’t kill you, he just might do them too.

Video Evidence

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Comedian Manolis Zontanos and writer Ben Rispin try DMT for the first time.

Manolis arrived and we decided to document the experience. I later learned he had saved video footage of the experience on a private YouTube link. I hadn’t watched the original footage since 2017, and even then, I was so uncomfortable with my weight, I don’t think I could ever finish the 10 minute ordeal. However, revisiting the footage was cathartic to say the least. A friend mentioned I look like a completely different person and I realized I was. The person in the video was about to change forever. 

Watch my first DMT Trip here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fgFOWlzs2uE

Watch Manolis Zontanos’ first DMT trip here: 

The DMT began working almost immediately post-inhalation. Needless to say, Manolis and I both got blasted to what we felt was another dimension that, in turn, we both described as feeling “realer” than our normal dimension, and that it felt like “home.”

As the DMT was taking hold, I described it as tasting like “mothballs” while I continued to try to narrate my experience. Little did I know, the ancient shapes, kaleidoscopic hallways, grids, and even locations I was seeing were all experiences that thousands of other people had also had.

Excerpts from My Unedited DMT Dream Journal

In the footage, I stop narrating my experience to Manolis and I can be heard saying, “Hi” or “Hey” to something. This is the moment I met the fabled “DMT beings.” I kept a journal of my experience and described the adventure in great detail. 

I went through a kaleidoscope hall of crazy geometrical shapes, sounds, a lot of colors, kind of like a psychedelic poster you may find in a head shop. I then went through what seemed like a green grid, similar to Tron. 

I ended up in a pitch black room, other than very little thin green and red lines, which seemed to dance and make geometrical shapes, they seemed to float in the background.”

Upon rewatching the video my body language indicates that I’m not scared, or taken aback, but almost comfortable when greeting what some people consider inter-dimensional entities. In the journal, I continue to describe the encounter.

“I was greeted by two beings who felt like representatives of this place. They were kind of dressed like clowns or something, with pointy hats, and striped garb. Their faces had very little detail, similar to pantomime masks you might find at a theater. One was male, one was female (presumably). There was children’s laughter, or giggling in the background. It sounds terrifying but it wasn’t.” 

At this time in the video, I’m sitting with my eyes closed, silent, and you see me reach out for something. In my journal I describe a moment similar.

“The ‘representatives’ of this place knew I was there, and the female offered me to take her hand, she seemed to shape-shift and my hand passed through hers. I opened my eyes briefly then went back in. She seemed to be inviting me to a tunnel or place that was filled with windows or doorways to memories and dreams alike. As if they were categorized and I could just hop back in. I heard her say ‘Come on.'” 

It’s important to remember that wherever DMT takes you, most users describe the DMT realm as a place where time moves differently. Similar to a dream. In this space, you also feel lucid. In my journal I mention that in this other realm, moments feel like hours. 

While I was there, the beings showed me several memories and images from my past. I felt like they were presenting places they could easily take me. They then showed me an image of my deceased father, which still to this day gives me equal amounts of confusion and comfort. Could these creatures really take me to meet my Dad who died almost 30 years prior. Was this drug making me insane? 

When I got back from that initial trip, the DMT took less than thirty minutes to completely wear off. The entire experience was under an hour. Still reeling from my experience, I looked up DMT beings. This is where I discovered famed psychonaut, Terrence McKenna. On Terrence McKenna’s Wikipedia page is where things began to get weirder. Terrence McKenna had drawn the same DMT beings I met, only decades earlier. He described them as “Machine Elves.”

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Terrence McKenna’s illustration of a Machine Elf.

It shocked me to my foundation. I couldn’t and still can’t grasp why a person, decades prior would see the exact same shape-shifting entity that I did. A very peculiar image I’d never seen before. Why was his recollection almost identical to mine? What the fuck was going on?

How I Processed the Trip

After a few days, Manolis and I were still trying to process what we had experienced. Manolis had had a very similar experience he described as, “going to a different dimension that felt way realer than here.” Manolis also met “beings” which left him with some mild paranoia: “I feel like when you fuck with it, the way we did, now they know that we know that they’re there. I feel like I’m being watched but I also always kind of knew I was being watched.”

At the time I felt skeptics couldn’t possibly understand. I honestly felt like I had gone to another dimension. I still didn’t believe in a “God,” but I was now entirely open to the idea that there may be other dimensions our conscious could travel to. 

I desperately wanted to experience it again.

My original DMT journal was dated May 17, 2017, and by June 5th, I’d already done the drug 5 more times. I had continued to keep notes but started sounding more and more like an obsessed architect.

“Since my first experience in May I have tried DMT 5 more times. At this point, I have read a lot about other people’s experiences who were similar to mine. If someone has had different experiences, I’ll stop listening or reading immediately to make my next experience less corrupt by suggestion. 

After several failed attempts, I eventually recreated my original circumstances, and figured it was the best way for me to break through again.

“This time around, the re-creation worked. I smoked about .1 of a gram, took three huge pulls and again, was blasted off. I hit the kaleidoscope almost immediately. I felt my body twitching and shaking. It was scary at first. The kaleidoscope quickly turned into a checkered box, there were a ton of clowns peeking in at me, some were scary, some even looked horrifying, peaking at me from behind checkered walls and out of boxes. The place constantly moved, but I was definitely in this jack in the box apparatus. None of these clowns were the beings I met before. I was there though. It was extremely vivid. I could still feel my body shaking or being uncomfortable in my chair when an arm came around my chest from behind, hugged me and said, ‘You’re okay, you’re okay.’ I instantly felt better. I thought maybe the arm was the girl representative who had reached out to me before, but I can’t be certain.”

My journals began to get more detailed the more times I went in. I began seeing more entities and locations, I would again later learn that all of these hallucinations had been reported on by other DMT users. 

“I started to hear loons in the distance and nature sounds. Then I heard an owl. Clear as a bell I heard an owl. At this point, the jack in the box was to my right, and I was sort of floating next to it staring out into a purple cosmos. It was beautiful. Tons of dancing stars and lights. It was very euphoric. Then a glowing pink cloud butterfly appeared before me and in a puff of smoke, showed itself in a humanoid form. She had a calming, loving and motherly vibe. She then puffed back into a cloud and flew off into the purple cosmos.” 

I continued meeting new entities in the DMT realm. 

“I was still floating as if tethered somehow to the jack in the box, like an astronaut to a ship kind of. If I looked to my right, the jack in the box vessel was still rapidly changing; inviting me to go in. To my left I saw an owl fly out of a picturesque earth like nature setting, over mountains, and into the DMT cosmos. The owl was huge. Flying through space with purpose towards a destination which wasn’t at this time revealed to me.” 

This time I had gotten further than I ever had, but something made me open my eyes and I felt like I was woken up from an amazing dream. I quickly hit my pipe again and this time I was beamed back way faster. I immediately heard the frequency in my ears change and I was hurdled through the “Tron Grid.” The DMT beings were there again. 

“I could see them more vividly, the male anyway. He had more of a human face than the last time, the female was still more of a presence. I could feel the ‘light being’ from my previous trip’s presence. They were all so happy to see me. They said, ‘Hey, Ben,’ very lovingly. I replied ‘Hey, guys.'” 

“They then commented on the music. I asked if they liked it and they said they loved it, even though it was a bit tacky. They danced and flipped around and offered me to join them. Then, for some reason I asked them if I was one of them. This made the male stop and say, You could be,’ as he lifted his arm to present to me a kingdom or place off in the distance. It was the same purple cosmos sky as before, and it felt like that may be where the owl I saw previously was and it felt like it was where I came from. Like, I just had to go back there. The kingdom was a silhouette, surrounded by silhouette mountains with a white warm light coming from the Center.“

I had realized that in this place you’re stripped of your Freudian ego and id. The lucid being experiencing a new universe is given the terrifying gift of not being able to lie to themselves for the first time in their life. I had big questions and I felt like I needed them answered. I needed to kick this depression. Without actually bringing up the topic, the beings addressed it. The beings told me that I needed to stop spreading myself too thin, and that I needed to address my relationship. That I needed to do right by my partner, who we knew was also suffering. 

How the Trip Saved My Life

At the time, I was convinced more than ever that the DMT realm existed. The conversation I had about anxiety and the people around me with DMT beings was the catalyst to saving my life, and how this psychedelic changed me profoundly. 

I realized that what was haunting me wasn’t work or my failing relationship. It was my inability to not be honest with others and myself. I wanted to die because I wasn’t being honest with anyone. I was ruining a person’s life because I was too weak to be honest with myself and her. DMT prompted me to have the hard conversations, and while no one wants a marriage to end, I’ve never been more confident with a decision in my life. 

At the end of the day, a Wednesday to be precise, I had dragged Manolis into my hell so I could learn what he already had, humility. DMT taught me that self-righteous people were a waste of time. We know nothing. 

When discussing Manolis’ experience he claimed that it helped him grieve his father’s passing. He told me, “I feel like I know I’m going to see him. It made my dad’s death easier. I know I’m going to see him again. DMT definitely made the world not as important as before. It made me not get so wound up about nothing.”

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A picture of Manolis’ Dad, who might be the only person ever to prepare and maintain their own gravestone.

While I hope Manolis is right, it’s hard for me to take such a leap, even now. But these experiments or experiences allowed an atheist to consider that there may be something else out there, but more importantly that there was a universal irony to life. 

There was a punchline at the end of it all. 

If speculators are correct, and DMT is the drug that floods your brain when you die, then there’s a cosmic joke left out of most scripture. The joke is that at the end of the day, when it’s time to meet your maker, you’re your own St. Peter. The irony of life is that we qualify ourselves. The cosmic joke is there’s no bluffing your way past St. Peter, because you’re him.

I do love the idea that if there is an afterlife and guys like Jesse and Manolis are right, then there’s some all-loving place we all go when we pass. A place where we’ll see our loved ones again. A kingdom in the cosmos

However, the pessimistic punk in me has a hard time believing that DMT is the gateway to another realm but that it’s just a high-powered psychedelic. If it is in fact the drug that floods your brain when you die, then by doing so I know that in that moment you’re going to be the one who holds yourself accountable and imagine that your last thought in existence was: You’re a real piece of shit, kid

Then you die, shit your pants, and become worm food?

That’s not how I want to end my story and DMT taught me that I don’t want my story to end.

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