Coming clean | OPINION: Peter Eichenberger | Indy Week

Friday, Feb. 17, 10:03 a.m., I am gliding along New Bern Avenue. It was the kinesthesia, the speed and the sensations of this machine reacting to the surface of the road that really got the squirrels racing around the attic. Just a ride in a pretty nice Saab, but it's the first ride since I'd pranged my gourd off a cold asphalt surface and awakened at Wake Med three weeks ago. After a mile it was becoming a bit much. Each 30th of a second existence/reality packet was laden full of information to the point of rupture and disintegration. The task of sorting through the seconds of experience was complicated by low, late winter sunlight exploding on the roadway, the naked trees gesturing in a light breeze.

I got this breathless feeling like I was heading into an old-school freak-out. "Easy, big fella" I whispered to myself. "Remember the '70s. You have so been to the zoo and have seen the elephants. You know the drill: Take a deep breath. It's just another experience, OK?"

There is the same disassociation, shredding of time, elevated sensory perception and the strong sense of an unbroken connection between people, earth and universe in this deeply familiar sonorous purr—the song of the universe. I reflected that it had been missing from my life. There was no way to hide from it now. That 30th of a second was still the interval of the present, the clock speed of existence/reality, but there was this new, enhanced awareness of the wondrous contents within each interval. Existence was crunching with detail—I couldn't stop; existence became a wonder to drink of. In the first days out of WakeMed, I fell ass over teakettle in love with the world again.

Successive days, all perfect, brought no slowing of the rocket sled. Some events, like when I dropped a pen, for example, evoked giggles elicited via the simple physicality—the trajectory of a plastic pen arcing and striking a wooden floor, the bounce tracked by the sensory equipment. After three days, I made myself sit for an hour to analyze this new neurological state and its reactions to this nutty, newly minted world I'd been spit out into. I kept pulling a three-letter mental slot machine to find out what this stuff I was making in my head was. Finally, cherries popped up: DMT. My state was very like a 10th-strength version of this particularly potent and profound entheogenic (shamanistic chemical compounds derived from plants). Dimethyltryptamine, produced also in the human brain upon death, is short-acting (20 minutes or so), heavy, heavy stuff, impossible to obtain and only to be done under careful supervision of a "watcher" experienced with DMT.

I did some experimentation last millennium and the report from the edge is that DMT is definitely not a party drug. It seems to be some sort of a transporter to the essence of this universe and, by extension, this dimension. The sound of external reality is a lot like that of ripping canvas. For the user, although it is a safe compound, DMT often evokes extreme internal spiritual events wrapped up in a brain-based, non-injurious near death experience ( Some thorough university research on DMT is covered in Dr. Rick Strassman's groundbreaking work DMT: The Spirit Molecule.

The visions I had during the period when I was being trepanned (the millennia-old practice of drilling into the live brain, and the jury is out on this topic: never left me. They couldn't go away for they had been absorbed. It was almost like my DNA had been altered, enabling me to engage in this world made newly rich and imbued with the purest reward of clarity. I am not a different person. All of the memories that affect my reaction to the present, that make me me, are there. But my perception of the present is really ramped up, like all the sensory-gathering capability has been enhanced beyond the five senses, the input receivers tuned to a higher frequency or level of resolution.

If I have to traffic in some lame-ass analogy, here goes: Peter Eichenberger Operating System, release 13.7. This experimental OS release required hardware changes after Traumatic Brain Injury experts and literature taught me that some members of my new TBI tribe from time to time exhibit inappropriate behavior. That was the last thing Mr. Eichenberger needed to hear, like a license to kill.

So I called a meeting with my Swedish genes. Swedes are sensible but fun; still it took some convincing and cajoling to get them to agree with the upgrades. I won, and Sven, Ake and Per set to work installing pop-ups, a twin-magneto ignition, direct mechanical nitromethanol fuel injection, and a positive displacement Roots-type supercharger.

"As long as dah universal joint don't break and you can keeppa tire on de back of it, it should run in dah uppa mid-sevens and anna 170-plus in the quarter mile," Sven said, shaking his head.

* * *

But I still needed answers about the visions/hallucinations and psychic changes. I engaged in some light research on brain structure, function, injuries and surgery (my new favorite word, trephine: ( There is vigorous research being conducted about the function of the part that took a lot of the focus of the blow: the Parietal temporal lobe of the right hemisphere. I was noodling around the Internet reading the debate about a purported spiritual function of this region and up jumps this really startling paper by a Dr. Melvin Morse of the University of Washington entitled "The Right Temporal Lobe and Associated Limbic Lobe Structures as the Biological Interface with an Interconnected Universe" ( The abstract begins, "Deep right temporal lobe and associated limbic lobe structures are clearly linked to human religious experiences of all types, including conversion experiences and near death experiences."

Explosive reading. I needed answers from experts, so I got in touch with an agreeable neuropsychologist, who did not want to be identified. I have to stress that these theories are hotly disputed. The doctor went along with focal injuries to certain parts of the brain possibly inducing "religious" (the doctor's word) feelings, but that there was also a component of change induced sometimes by the sense that recovering victims have of getting a second chance.

Things were starting to gel. I was beginning to grasp the profound thing that had happened to me, and then I received some horrible, scary information that cemented the necessity of my altered path. Suddenly the changes became a part of a much higher stakes game that could determine my physical existence/life. A member of the trauma team, the substance guy, called me on a follow-up to see how I was doing.

"Doing well, excellent." I told him a condensed version of what was happening up in the attic.

He was interested. We talked for a while.

"So you're doing OK? Any old problems?"

"What do you mean?"

"I am the substance person. We checked your liver. You had alcohol on you."

I really didn't want to know that figure. But I knew for reference, to get a full reckoning, I had to know.

"You have to tell me what the number was."

He did not want to tell me. I persisted. Finally he spoke.


I don't need to tell a drinker what a stratospheric danger level that figure is: over three times what is considered drunk in North Carolina. As much as I needed to hear that figure for reference, it really hurt to hear it and not be able to wiggle out of the reality that something was very, very wrong. "Dumbass. If life sucks that bad, why don't you put one cartridge in a single action .45 revolver, spin the cylinder, put it to your head and pull the damned trigger. At least get some bets going."

There was no place to hide now. I burst into tears when I told my mother, it felt so awful.

* * *

Now the work really started, to discover what within me had driven me so determinedly on the road of masking the world that I almost got that last ride in the long, black Cadillac.

I saw clearly that to me, the individual reality-based details of my existence were too difficult and too frightening to deal with honestly and directly. I was unwilling to shoulder the work and responsibility it takes to fashion reality. Instead, I became increasingly dependent on an invented world many of us employ, where we feed ourselves protective versions about ourselves. Instead of contending with the it of it all, I chose instead a familiar, fuzzy, warm, red, comforting blanket, alcohol, to lay between me and the merciless light of existence. The chest has been open since release 11.1 was superceded. The lid cannot be closed.

I think I am beginning to grasp a small strip of what it is all about. It's just I don't have a clue as to what to do with it. This is like a zeppelin approaching. It is big. My intuition tells me that there is real power here. Not for me so much; I am just a pail full of water. It's like some new job that I didn't ask for and can't quit. That part is not my choice anymore.

Like I said, the human brain has 100 million circuits. That should have a staggering potential assuming all the circuits are focused on the same task. Seems to me 1,000 or so dedicated brain freaks should be able to, I dunno, levitate an aircraft carrier.

I felt the human connection currents at the fund-raiser on my behalf last weekend at Sadlack's, like electricity arcing over the patio. I was there for over three hours until it became too much. David, my boy, looked at me and knew I had to leave. At my house, I prepared to get out of his car. We embraced.

"I love you, daddy." That was where I lost it.

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