A REALLY GOOD DAY: How Microdosing Made a Mega Difference in My Mood, My Marriage, and My Life, by Ayelet Waldman. Alfred A. Knopf, 229 pp., $25.95.
Are you screaming at your kids, carping at your husband, avoiding your parents? Ayelet Waldman was, too. Then she started dropping acid with her morning coffee.
“For as long as I can remember, I have been held hostage by the vagaries of mood,” writes Waldman, mother of four, in “A Really Good Day: How Microdosing Made a Difference in My Mood, My Marriage, and My Life.” She has been through “hundreds of hours of talk therapy” and tried at least 21 different drugs. She’s hardly alone: According to her research, between 8 percent and 10 percent of the U.S. population is on antidepressants. In addition to psychic malaise, Waldman also suffers from a chronic pain condition called frozen shoulder.
Then mother got a new little helper: LSD.
A former federal attorney and a law-abiding citizen, Waldman describes herself as a “nerd” who has never purchased illegal drugs. But inspired by a book titled “The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide,” she decided to become a “self-study psychedelic researcher.” This involved taking two drops of liquid acid (about a tenth of the amount in a typical tab of acid) every third morning for a month.
Each day she documented her mood, pain, sleep, productivity and other indicators. At the same time, she did a nerdly amount of research on the neuroscience and history of psychedelics, debunking misinformation about LSD and other drugs, and turning up gems like the role of LSD in the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous.
As the title indicates, the experiment was a success. Even the shoulder was a lot better. Waldman felt “content and relaxed,” “busy, but not stressed.” She was so much more loving to her children at the breakfast table that one of her kids, unaware of Mom’s experiment, actually asked if she had put LSD in her tea.
How did she get the goods? Of course, LSD is illegal, and not approved for medical or psychiatric use. After a few tentative inquiries, she found a friend of a friend who identified himself as “Lewis Carroll” and sent her a month’s supply of liquid LSD in the mail.
Thanks to the author’s intelligence, self-awareness and wit, this book is a lot of fun. There’s just one thing — the elephant in the room referred to only as “my husband.”
Despite her many accomplishments, Waldman is most famous as the wife of author Michael Chabon. This is her own fault, as she admits. A decade ago she wrote a Modern Love column for The New York Times that proclaimed: “If a good mother is one who loves her children more than anyone else in the world . . . then I am a bad mother because I love my husband more than my children.”
The article was a veritable shot heard round the world, leading to widespread outrage, an appearance on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” a nonfiction book called “Bad Mother” and, for many readers, the conviction that they would never need to know another thing about the incredible love of Ayelet Waldman and Michael Chabon.
Those readers must be warned. “When I gaze at my husband, when I feel his body along the length of mine,” she writes, “I feel a deep, contented joy, a warmth that begins in my belly, spreads out to my limbs and through the top of my skull.” And: “For six hours, we talked about our feelings for each other, why we love each other, how we love each other.” Grit your teeth — it’ll be over in a few pages.
When her acid test was done, Waldman had just one problem: How to get more? After narrowly escaping what seemed to be a DEA setup, she stopped trying. She was unwilling to continue breaking the law.
For now the inevitable take-away from the book is: Do not try this at home.