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How going on an LSD trip with my family brought us closer than ever before


There are two kinds of people in this world: those who dread family gatherings, and those who eagerly look forward to them.

Luckily, I’m part of the latter. That’s probably because I come from a family just as bonkers as I am.

Throughout my many years of living away from home, I’ve learned to relish every moment I get to spend with my family in the Philippines.

My husband and I came to the happy compromise of alternating Christmas and New Year between the English and Filipino sides of our family.

Last year was a Philippines year, and so we swapped Christmas jumpers for tie-dyed sarongs and spent the holidays on the tropical island of Boracay.

Growing up I spent the better part of fifteen years enjoying New Year’s Eve in Boracay; so much so that I thought I knew exactly what to expect.

Fireworks display to ward off evil spirits – check, extensive buffet setup in a beach resort with a seemingly unlimited food selection – check, an overly enthusiastic singer belting out Rolling in the Deep (segueing into someone skilfully playing the guitar with an empty beer bottle) – check and check.

What I didn’t expect was that, on this particular New Year’s Eve, we’d go on a trip none of us would forget.

We’ve never been a traditional family. When a family member told us that he’d sourced each of us a tiny square of LSD laced paper for Christmas, no one seemed to bat an eyelid.

From left to right: Hannah’s mum’s partner Sassan, her brother Keith, her mum Lynley, Hannah, and her husband Liam, who was the only one who didn’t take LSD (Picture: Hannah Tan-Gillies)

We’ve experimented with recreational drugs in the past and my mom’s motto is that it’s always better we’re open about it, rather than hiding things from each other. That said, we’ve always known our limits and would never cross the line, such as doing anything that could harm ourselves or others.

None of us ever had any experience planning a family LSD trip before. After all, it’s not exactly a common family activity. But one of the first things we discussed was where the acid came from.

LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) is a powerful hallucinogenic drug, and, as with anything you intend to put into your body, it’s extremely important to know exactly where your drugs come from.

It was like my inner monologue was unfolding in real life

This is no joke. If you are planning to experiment with psychedelics, you need to know that they came from a safe and reputable source, preferably a close friend.

We decided the best time to take the Christmas acid would be during our New Year’s Eve dinner, and that my husband would be the only one who wouldn’t partake. When planning a psychedelic experience, it’s important that one person remains completely sober and responsible throughout, and that you are all in a safe and comfortable environment. 

With that sorted, we sat down for our dinner and perused the aforementioned culinary treats on offer. At around 9.30pm we collectively dropped the tiny LSD squares, together, as a family.

You only live once… so why not have a mind-altering experience with the people you love most? (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

After all, ‘you only live once’, so why not have a mind-altering experience with the people you love the most?

Based on prior research, a standard acid trip generally lasts for eight to ten hours, and so we were ready for a long and eventful night. What I didn’t expect was that the LSD would take effect so gradually.

It was like a gentle wave slowly washing over my body. I became more aware of the feeling of the warm breeze on my skin, and of the sand under my feet. Slowly, I became more attuned to my surroundings. At once fully immersed in the universe, yet at the same time completely aware of my own consciousness. It was like my inner monologue was unfolding in real life.

A few minutes to midnight, I glanced towards the beach to see my mum and her partner dancing together by the shore. My typically shy brother performed a light show on stage, to the utter delight of myself and other intoxicated partygoers.

None of us knew exactly what was going on at any given point in time, but at the same time we knew everything that was possible to know. We were unusually optimistic about where the night would take us.

Once the party inevitably coasted towards a serene conclusion, we found a few quiet moments to let our own fluttering energy calm as if we were connected in some way, interlaced with the situation we inhabited.

That night, my brother, usually the picture of restraint – tore up the dance floor.

My mum and her partner had a long talk about their future, and I had an open and loving conversation with my husband.

I took a look at myself and decided to make a resolution to be a better person, a kinder human being to myself and others. I fell asleep with the utmost confidence I could achieve that and so much more.

We became kinder, more loving versions of ourselves (Picture: Hannah Tan-Gillies)

The next day, over breakfast, we all joked about how the LSD made us much nicer people, at the very least for one truly incredible evening.

My mum, usually the dominant force in any situation, surprised herself with a new-found ability to compromise. My brother showed us a side to him that we never knew existed. My husband even joked that I should incorporate the blotted paper as part of my daily vitamin intake, because it helped me step out of myself and look at things with a renewed sense of understanding and openness.

Looking back, as the experience clearly warranted, a part of me wanted to hold on to that feeling for as long as possible.

As a family, our LSD journey showed us a glimpse of the people we could be. People not muddled with anxieties and judgements.

During our experience we danced, laughed, and talked about drugs, life, love, and opened up about our own individual struggles.

Even today, we look back on that unforgettable evening with no regrets.

We know that we came down from our ten-hour psychedelic adventure as a more loving, more understanding family and there’s no going back.

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