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May 26, 2023 4 min read
We recently got put in touch with the Heroic Hearts Project, a non profit that provides support for veterans healing journey after they serve. It is something that resonates with me deeply as a believer in the right to have access to medicines and opportunities that quickly promote better mental health and healing. Life is short we have to not only make the most of it, but feel the best we can during it for ourselves and the people around us.
Now that I find myself in a position to give back and share this non profits mission through the SLNT channels it two fold makes our team feel great and allows SLNT to close the loop on how we serve the modern warfighter on and off the battlefield. It is just the beginning, excited to be apart of Heroic Hearts Project’s journey.
We wanted to take a moment to share Phil's incredible story and highlight the impact that Heroic Hearts Project has had on his life. Through their dedicated healing programs, courageous individuals like Phil have found renewed hope, healing, and a brighter future.
Together, we can honor and support those who have served our country.
In life, we all face our own battles, carrying the weight of our experiences, traumas, and struggles. For Phil, a former special operations soldier, the burden almost became too heavy to bear. Phil found himself in a dark place both physically and mentally after leaving the Army, even though he had been excited to return to civilian life. “I knew how to function in the military. When I got out, I didn’t know who I was or what I was doing,” he shared. He had so much to give, but “outside of the army, I no longer knew what I was running towards.”
As Phil transitioned out of the military, he began exploring the pairing of psychedelics with therapy, seeking a pathway towards healing. He embarked on a series of personal journeys with psilocybin, which proved to be powerful, helping him lay the groundwork of accessing his feelings. He also explored EMDR, sound healing, and other healing modalities, both traditional and alternative, but continued to hit a plateau.
Although he had started an apparel and lifestyle brand, American Yogi, focused around yoga and wellness, he had been unable to escape deep pain he didn’t realize was weighing him down. In his lowest moment, he thought about swimming out into the sea so far that he’d never be able to make it back to shore, but the thought of his wife and three young girls kept him grounded in his effort to continue on and to pursue healing.
Serendipitously, Phil had begun collaborating with Heroic Hearts Project to help promote veteran mental health and healing through psychedelics. Heroic Hearts Project is a nonprofit organization that provides veterans who’ve suffered military trauma with access to psychedelic programs that include not only retreats, but integration coaching and community support to help them find hope again. When Jesse Gould, the founder of HHP, offered him the opportunity to attend an ayahuasca retreat in Peru with other veterans, there was no question that the timing was perfect. Without hesitation, Phil seized this opportunity and now notes that “nothing has been the same since.”
Phil's journey to Peru proved to be the hardest thing he had ever done. Immersed in the traditions surrounding ayahuasca, he was confronted with the pain and trauma that he had successfully suppressed for two decades. His experience was intense, and ayahuasca guided him through feeling and releasing every instance of pain that had never been fully expressed or felt. Through his own perseverance and the guidance and support of an on-site facilitator, Phil began to release layers of emotional weight he hadn’t realized he’d been carrying, shattering the walls that had kept him trapped for so long. “Someone took a photo of me on the last day, and I looked like a completely different person than I had before. There was a new light behind my eyes.”
Returning home, Phil found himself needing to take his re-entry into the normal day to day slowly, but the seeds of transformation had been planted. “It’s been nearly a year since I got back, and I’m still learning and integrating new things every day.” So much about how he shows up in his life has changed. He tapped into a deep well of gratitude and can quickly move through stresses of everyday life that may have held him back before. He connects with and is present for his three young daughters in a whole new way. “I see them now as their own little souls each having their own little ceremony. They just need to know that I’m here and that they’re safe and that I love them.”
Phil's journey not only transformed his own life but also inspired his loved ones to embark on their own healing journeys. By living his truth and showing up earnestly in relationships, Phil has been a catalyst for change in the lives of those around him. His wife participated in a retreat through The Hope Project, an HHP program aimed at providing psychedelic retreats and support to veteran spouses. His father, witnessing his son's incredible transformation, embarked on his own ayahuasca journey, opening the door to his own healing which has had a ripple effect on their family.
Phil’s story highlights the power of embracing vulnerability and lends credence to the idea that “the only way out is through.” By connecting deeply and honestly with his emotional experience, Phil was able to release an emotional weight he no longer needed and undergo a profound shift that not only changed his life but inspired others to embark on their own journeys of healing and self-discovery. “I write love poems now,” he remarked, and the world around him is all the more beautiful because of it.
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