Matt's Story - HBO's VICE
Get to know our founder and owner, Matthew Mormello and how he went from being a heroin addict in Philadelphia to learning to become a shaman.
Matthew Mormello, director and partner of New Life Ayahuasca, is slightly intimidating upon first impression at a looming 6’3”, but after spending a few minutes with him, any roughness his physical appearance might suggest is quickly softened by his gentle personality. Matt’s easy going nature and inviting smile make it easy to open up to him, which is a great ability when working with ayahuasca and iboga. It’s important to him to be able to relate to the people that come to New Life Ayahuasca for healing through either iboga(ine) or ayahuasca, and because his history holds a little bit of everything you can imagine, he is usually able to develop a bond quickly and really relate to what drives an individual to seek out these sacred medicines.
Matt’s journey with plant medicine began in 2010, when after years of battling drug addiction and trying every traditional rehab method avalaible without success (i.e. medicated detoxes, 30-day programs, Suboxone maintenance, churches, support groups, meditation and personal development courses) he stumbled upon an episode on National Geographic about hallucinogenic plants and their uses.
The first segment in the episode was about ayahuasca and he was immediately drawn to the sounds and images. He told himself, “This is it, this is what i have to do.”
Then, the following segment, which focused on ibogaine and its documented capacity to effectively alleviated opiate withdrawal and treat opiate addiction, redirected his focus to get ibogaine therapy.
Matt on HBO's VICE
In 2011 Matt went to Mexico with a team of cameras filming for HBO's VICE to document his ibogaine treatment.
From there, he immediately got on-line and spent countless hours researching iboga(ine) from its traditional uses in Africa by Bwiti sects, to its more modern medical use of treating addictions, depression, anxiety and PTSD. He reached out to a number of facilities, sharing his situation and the intimate connection he felt to entheogens and eventually, his persistence paid off. In early 2011, he was offered the opportunity to recieve ibogaine treatment on an episode of HBO’s VICE tv (Season 1 Episode 7) . Within a few weeks, he was on a plane to Mexico for his 1st ibogaine treatment.
Unfortunately, in 2011, Matt was on Suboxone prior to his ibogaine treatment and it was not well known that Suboxone has a binding effect in the brain, meaning the Suboxone stays in the system much longer than a short acting opiate (such as morphine or heroin), making it much more difficult to detox from. We now know that an individual must be off Suboxone (and methadone) for around 30 days prior to receiving ibogaine for the treatment to be effective and lasting, but Matt was treated with ibogaine only a few days after his last dose of Suboxone. So once he returned home and the effects of the ibogaine wore off, he started experiencing residual withdrawals that he endured for over a month before he finally couldn’t handle it any longer, and returned to a Suboxone maintenance program.
Despite this set back, he was still determined that ibogaine could work for him, so he reached out to some of the contacts he had made while filming with VICE, and in late 2013, he flew to Costa Rica for his 2nd attempt at sobriety through ibogaine therapy. His 2nd treatment was an amazing success and he rededicated himself to a healthier lifestyle, losing 60 lbs in 6 months. He wanted to continue to help himself and help others; so the facility that treated him, recognizing his passion, determination and drive, offered him the opportunity to stay and work with them to continue learning about ibogaine therapy.
Over the following year, Matt continued to learn about sacred plant medicines, participating in a peyote ceremony and dozens of ayahuasca ceremonies.
While he had a passion for ibogaine and helping other addicts recover, he felt a connection with ayahuasca unlike anything he had ever felt before, and although he didn’t know it then, ayahuasca would turn out to be the primary path in which his life was headed.
In 2014, the facility he had been working for closed its doors. Matt, never being one to give up, worked diligently with his girlfriend, Jeanae, to create a program that could offer both ibogaine therapy and ayahuasca ceremonies. They spent a few months getting all the preparations in place, and in 2015, they were finally able to open a small facility, equipped to handle just one person at a time.
From there, Matt and Jeanae have been fortunate to have grown from the humble little facility that could accommodate one, to their new location as of September 2015, which can accommodate 10. They have moved from a focus on ibogaine therapy to a focus on providing comfortable and compassionate ayahuasca retreats, however ibogaine therapy is still available through a 2 week program incorporating both ibogaine and ayahuasca. They’ve dedicated a lot of time, and participated in many ceremonies with various Shaman and guides, and together they have participated in hundreds ayahuasca experiences.
In July of 2015 they traveled to Peru, where they got to experience traditional ceremonies in the jungle where indigenous people have practiced using ayahuasca for thousands of years. They visited the shaman that makes the medicine they provide for retreats at New Life Ayahuasca, and got to see first hand how and where the brew is made.
Matt continues to travel to Peru every few months to continue training and learning under the guidance of Ron Wheelock.