eight step recovery

Help during the holiday season

Struggling over the holiday period? Or are you just struggling period? Recovery doesn’t have to be a struggle. So why do so many of us struggle?

  • Have you reached out for help?
  • Have you reached out for help again when you didn’t get the help you needed?
  • Have you been to a recovery meeting? 12 Steps, SMART Recovery, Refuge Recovery, 8 Step Recovery? There is so much out there to choose from.
  • Are you being honest?
  • Or are you in DENIAL (Don’t Even Notice I am Lying ?)

No need to be on your own and isolate on Xmas day, Come and join me in a Xmas day 8 Step Recovery meeting 12:30pm Eastern Time, 5:30pm UK time.

And if Xmas day isn’t enough, or you are wanting new tools to help you in 2020, join me in the online 28-day Mindfulness-Based Addiction Recovery Course beginning January 20th. This course is hosted by Wildmind and has been accredited by the British Association of Mindfulness BAMBA. Details here

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Is there an Opiate Crisis? or is it just one crisis after another?

mukul-joshi-718426-unsplash

Hi there, apologies for not being so regular. I’m making a commitment to tune back in once a month. In the midst of a workload full of opiate crisis, a porn addiction crisis, stinking thinking crisis, work life is full. Although, I remind myself that since I was an adolescent I was aware of one crisis after another.

First, it was Shoe Conditioner, then it was Evo Stick Glue, then Slimming Pills, heroin, methadone and the list continues into today. What is clear that while North America may be dealing with a Fentanyl crisis, other parts of the world may be dealing with Benzos or Ketamine. Particular addiction crises are culturally specific, in terms of class, wealth, race, gender, and sexuality. Addiction is part of life, the Buddha taught us that in his first discourse. The Buddha warned that there was an addiction to Hedonism which was lowly, coarse and unprofitable, and addiction to self-mortification which was lowly, coarse and unprofitable. He advised we find a middle way.

Rather than stating we are in a crisis, we could begin to think that addiction is a part of life, an adaptation to our trauma in life, a protection from a world that let some of us down in childhood. Picking up the substance for some people saved their life when there was nobody for them to turn to. Addiction is an invitation, for the whole community to come together and do something different, instead of thinking addiction has nothing to do with them. Every household has known somebody who has been impacted by alcohol, drugs, co-dependency, sex, porn, gambling, food, and much more.

I’m about to go on the road – and wanted to share an interview with me about mindfulness, because more and more we are hearing that mindfulness can be the cure for everything, from increasing production values at work, to repairing a relationship to helping with addictions. Of course, it’s not a panacea, and should be seen as an approach that can be used in conjunction with other modalities.

What’s all the fuss about Mindfulness

My Ebook – Eight Step Recovery – Using The Buddha’s teachings to Overcome Addiction
The paperback copy

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Abstinence or harm reduction ?

What I’m Thinking
Everyone’s recovery is unique. Once upon a time, there was the strong binary opinion of all or nothing. Abstinence or you are doomed. The argument was harm reduction versus Abstinence. While this view is helpful for many, it was a major hindrance for others. If some people couldn’t keep their abstinence for more than a month without slipping, it became an excuse filled with facilitative thoughts like: “What the heck, I may as well keep on using.” Or some people were told there was no hope for them, they were doomed. Abstinence is a concept that needs to be explored with each individual in recovery. The teachings of the dharma make it clear that we are all in training, and we need to start exactly where we are. In the raft parable, the Buddha says the raft is useful for crossing over but not for holding onto. In the same way, abstinence and harm reduction are useful behaviours to help us cross over into recovery, but not if we hold tight to these views. Nobody is doomed in the teachings of the dharma. What works for one person, may not work for another. When you see what the dharma is pointing to – it’s a non-dual reality.

Negative Jargon in the Addiction field Clean, Dirty, Addict, Abuser, Junkie
One of the basic meditations to help calm the mind and the central nervous system is the practice of loving-kindness, traditionally known as the Metta Bhavana. In this practice, we are learning to love ourselves and all other sentient beings. There is so much negative jargon in the field of addiction which is demeaning. This kind of language labels a person by their illness, rather than their potential. This narrative also implies permanency of addictive behaviours and no room for change. The Buddhist teachings can be summed up in two words. “Everything Changes.” We can all change because things are always changing. And we all have seeds of potential within us. These seeds need to be watered with loving kindness.

What I’m Reading
Recovery Groups by Linda Farris Kurtz. A book looking at the history of recovery groups for addiction and emotional trauma. And although it doesn’t refer to the history of Buddhist recovery groups, there is a lot the Buddhist Recovery world can learn from this book.

Something I’m doing I’m off to Spain to ordain someone into the Triratna Lineage. And will be presenting at the 5th International Mindfulness summit in Zaragoza. As well as delivering mindfulness and compassion workshops for addiction in Valencia. And co-leading a retreat with Kevin Griffin in July, and leading another in September. Join me on retreat.

Back by popular demand, January 1, 2019: The online Mindfulness-Based Addiction Recovery Retreat

New Updated Edition of Detox Your Heart – Meditations on Emotional Trauma 2017

For a free sample of the first chapter, book study and 21 meditations of “Eight Step Recovery – Using The Buddha’s Teachings To Overcome Addiction,” please email: eightstepsrecovery@gmail.com

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Thoughts without a sTinker

Dr Kenneth Hardy

What I’m Thinking
Thinking can get us into trouble. Thoughts without a sTinker is the way of the liberated. When the thought arises, I want a drink, or a line of coke, a cream cake, some porn, another video game, we don’t have to identify with it, we let it arise without a sTinker. When there is nobody to identify with the thought, there is no thinker, no acting out of the thought. This is the awakened path to recovery.

Inspiring Jargon
Do Not Suppress Addictive Thoughts Is the title of an article by Lance Dodes M.D where he explores the Heart of Addiction. This is such wise advice. If we don’t suppress the thought, how do we work with those facilitative thoughts that tell us: “I deserve a drink, I’ve had a hard day, Nobody will know if I just have one?” Thoughts will arise out of the heart-mind, it’s what the heart-mind does. These thoughts can be treated in the same way as a television, or a radio playing in the background. If we are working at home and someone has the tv or the radio on what do we do? We continue working, we might stop for a moment because we hear something interesting but we get back to our task. This is the same with thoughts, we can be busy doing something when a thought pops up. We can just treat our thoughts like the tv or radio in the background, turn your thoughts down by not identifying with them, and they will quieten.

What I’m watching
Socio Cultural Trauma by Dr Kenneth Hardy. In this TED talk, he examines the impact of trauma specific to the People of Color communities in North America. And although it focusses on People of Color, this brilliant talks highlights how trauma specific to a race of people, can fragment and dislocate communities. And dislocation and fragmentation often leads to addiction, violence, and ill mental health.

What I’m Obsessing about
Relapse. I’ve witnessed many people relapse, and sometimes the thought of relapse scares me. A reminder for me to let that thought arise and cease. I’m beginning to see that the word relapse isn’t helpful. When we relapse, what we’ve actually done is picked up our choice of distraction in the moment. If we could admit we have picked up rather than calling it a relapse, it may give us the pause to put whatever we picked up, down in the next breath. Simple as that. One breath at a time. One day at a time can be too long for some people in recovery. And long enough for them to slide into a relapse. If we could just say one breath at a time, and remember with every breath we can do something different, this may put the breaks on using. My Teacher the venerable Sangharakshita says: “Every decision is a good decision, you can always make a new decision.”

What I’m Listening to
Chevala Vargas is one of Mexico’s famous singer. Born in Costa Rico in 1919, she was raised by her uncle due to an acrimonious divorce of her parents. Aged 14 she fled to Mexico for refuge and began singing on the streets. Known for dressing like a man in pants and a poncho and singing renditions of Mexican rancheras, she ended up having affairs with celebrities like Frida Kahlo, Ava Gardener and many other famous women. However, her career took a 15-year pause, where she became a gutter alcoholic in the hills of Cuernavaca. Her story a tragic one, her music melodramatic, however she finally abandons alcohol which was one of the loves of her life for over 50 years. In her 70s becomes an international star, performing at Carnegie Hall aged 83. In 2012 Mexico gave Chevala a state funeral.

Something I’m doing I will be in Mexico this month, exploring Compassionate Inquiry, Mindfulness Approaches to addiction and reflecting on the Buddha’s Parinavana. Nirvana after death, a freedom from Samsara (psychological negative mental states) karma, rebirth and the dissolution of the body, feeling tone in the body, perceptions/thoughts, mental activity and formation and consciousness. Breath by breath, is the opportunity for spiritual death and rebirth. Anything can change in just one breath. We do not have to wait until we die to let go.

New Updated Edition of Detox Your Heart – Meditations on Emotional Trauma 2017

For a free sample of the first chapter, book study and 21 meditations of “Eight Step Recovery – Using The Buddha’s Teachings To Overcome Addiction,” please email: eightstepsrecovery@gmail.com

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Buddhist Recovery Summit

Vimalasara and Noah Levine having a high five moment.

Vimalasara and Noah Levine having a high five moment.

Over a hundred people gathered at the Buddhist Recovery Summit in Lacey, Washington to share their knowledge and passion for the worldwide movements integrating Buddhism and Recovery, on October 20th to 22nd 2017. Dharma teachers, health care professionals, psychotherapists, counselors and people in recovery discussed the future of Buddhist Recovery.

Together we explored a range of recovery styles and practices, including Refuge Recovery, the Eight Step Recovery, Sit and Share, Heart of Recovery, Noble Steps, and Mindful Recovery.

There was a keynote panel including Noah Levine and Kevin Griffin from the USA, myself Valerie (Vimalasara) Mason-John from Canada, and Vince Cullen from Ireland, which discussed “What is Buddhist Recovery?” The summit also explored the intersection of Buddhist recovery and the 12 step recovery model. The summit focused on ways to offer Buddhist recovery in all of its forms to people suffering from addiction regardless of their religion or spiritual traditions.

George Johns, President of the Buddhist Recovery Network (BRN) says: “Over the past 10 years we have seen a plethora of new Buddhist recovery programs contribute to the recovery world. Using mindfulness to reduce stress, depression, anxiety and pain has captured the world’s attention. It is inevitable that Buddhist Recovery would contribute to and deepen this movement. At the core of the Buddhist teachings is mindfulness and the way out of suffering. Buddhist recovery offers a host of teachings and practices to live a life free from the misery of addictions, and BRN is committed to nurturing and disseminating these ideas to help the still suffering addict.”

BRN initiatives include maintaining and expanding their website ( buddhistrecovery.org ) as a global resource for Buddhist recovery, offering facilitator and peer-led training and materials for Buddhist recovery meetings, nurturing regional BRN affiliates, and orchestrating annual Buddhist recovery summits and retreats.
The Summit was initiated, planned and co-sponsored by the Northwest Dharma Association, a non-sectarian umbrella for Buddhist organizations and individuals in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and British Columbia.

It’s hoped that Buddhist Recovery will soon become recognized as a reliable contribution to the Addiction world.

Something I’m doing
I will be delivering an online Mindfulness Based Addiction Recovery course during the month of January 2018. For people in recovery and people working in the field of recovery. For more information please email mark@wildmind.org

New Updated Edition of Detox Your Heart – Meditations on Emotional Trauma 2017

For a free sample of the first chapter, book study and 21 meditations of “Eight Step Recovery – Using The Buddha’s Teachings To Overcome Addiction,” please email: eightstepsrecovery@gmail.com

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Recovery capital

What I’m Thinking
The world needs recovery right now. These past few months we’ve had mudslides in Sierra Leone, Hurricanes in the U.S.A, the Caribbean, Puerto Rico, Earth Quakes in Mexico, Terrorist Attacks in Europe, and Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un squaring up against each other, and the most recent gun killings in Las Vegas. There is a lot of fear in society, and when there is FEAR we can either Face Everything And Recover by dealing with it or Fear Everything And Run. Reality can be traumatic, painful and hard. We can be at risk of addictions when we turn away from reality and fear feeling the excruciating discomfort of life. Addiction, Alcoholism and compulsive behaviors often escalate during the aftermath of a crisis, because people want to try and quickly forget the pain. And why would we want to dwell on the pain? In times of major disasters, catastrophes, terrorism, we need to tap into our ‘Recovery Capital’ resources that will help us during challenging times.


Inspiring Jargon

Recovery capital is the contemporary jargon that refers to the internal and external resources necessary for an individual to achieve and maintain recovery from substance misuse as well as make behavioral changes. Coined by (Granfield & Cloud, 1999. People are beginning to realize that recovery can be jeopardized by an individual’s social networks, lack of community support, cultural and racial barriers and taboos. Mindfulness and the language of the heart is what the Buddhist teachings offer. The breath and the heart are internal resources we can tap into 24/7. When we get in touch with breathing and loving kindness our external resources begin to flourish

What I’m reading
In the Realm of the Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction by Gabor Mate.

Gabor Mate takes us into the dark grimy places of addiction with some of his clients he has worked with. And then he juxtaposes his own addiction to Classical Music, with the addictions of his clients. And the startling truth is, you wake up to the fact that this too – could be a matter of life and death. He left his eleven-year-old child stranded in a comic shop for one hour while going off elsewhere to buy music. He was lucky to find his son bemused and still waiting for him an hour later. He left a woman in the hospital while in labor, and ran over a bridge to buy music. He missed the delivery and made excuses to his disappointed patient and colleagues. He spent $8000 in two weeks, and while he never took his life over the debt he was running up, others may have in this situation.

What I’m Obsessing about
Raw Cashew nuts. As my friend Gabor says, Cashew nuts are really tough to eschew. Much easier just to chew.

What I’m Listening to
Listening to Prince EA’s Jim Carrey “Crazy” Behavior Explained!!! Prince EA asks has Jim Carrey Lost His Mind? Or Has he uncovered a truth about the nature of reality? This is my favorite populist creative piece of art on the concept of anatta, non-self. A Buddhist teaching that can help every suffering addict, begin to maintain their abstinence and sobriety of mind.
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What I noticed
While sitting doing my daily meditation to help maintain my abstinence and sobriety of mind, I was confronted with the noise of power tools. After 35 minutes of oscillating between peacefulness and slight frustration. I began to laugh. My thoughts had become louder than any lawn mower I’ve ever heard. It was a subtle reminder that the power tools was not the issue, it was the agitated mind. When I’m triggered, it’s helpful to realize it’s not the trigger that is the issue, it is the stir crazy narratives that arise, in trying to avoid the discomfort of the seeing the trigger, or in my case this morning, trying to avoid the discomfort of the sound I did not want to hear.

Something I’m doing
I will be delivering an online Mindfulness Based Addiction Recovery course during the month of January 2018. For people in recovery and people working in the field of recovery. For more information please email mark@wildmind.org

New Updated Edition of Detox Your Heart – Meditations on Emotional Trauma 2017

For a free sample of the first chapter, book study and 21 meditations of “Eight Step Recovery – Using The Buddha’s Teachings To Overcome Addiction,” please email: eightstepsrecovery@gmail.com

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Step eight: Helping others to share the benefits we have gained

Eight Step Recovery

When the Prince Siddhartha glimpsed the Fourth Sight, a mendicant begging for alms in the streets, he was inspired to go forth from his life in the palace. You could see this as literally going forth, or the prince going forth from the palace of his mind that had kept him in imprisoned in deluded thinking.

Until he was able to go beyond the four walls of the palace that the King his father had built for him, Siddhartha thought he was never going to age, get sick or die.

Upon seeing the first three sights; an aging person, a sick person and a dead person, he experienced a spiritual crisis and felt compelled to find the way out of all this suffering. The mendicant offered him a way out, the Prince witnessed somebody radiating stillness, simplicity and contentment. This mendicant did not seem concerned about worldly attachments or worried about the demise of his youth, health and life. Siddhartha thought this person may have the answer.

The Eight Steps

This mendicant was sharing the benefits he had gained. And we too can do the same. Just as this mendicant will never know that it was he who inspired the prince to go forth and attain Buddhahood, we too can inspire people by the way we live our lives.

Helping others to share the benefits we have gained does not mean we have to write a book, or set a meeting up or blaze the trail. This is a difficult task, even Shakyamuni when he gained enlightenment hesitated to share the benefits he had gained, as he thought nobody would understand him. Nobody would believe how simple it was to find a way out of suffering. Thankfully he did share the benefits.

All of us are teaching. We teach by the way we live our lives. We teach by the way we integrate our talk with our walk. When we help others we help ourselves. And when we help our selves we help others. This month I am helping others by teaching an Tricycle Magazine Online Retreat. I hope some of you will join me. I continue to help others so I can help myself. Helping others brings my recovery right to the for front of my daily practice. I thank you all for this gift.

For a free sample of the first chapter, book study and 21 meditations of “Eight Step Recovery – Using The Buddha’s Teachings To Overcome Addiction,” please email: eightstepsrecovery@gmail.com

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Going forth: a look at step six again

Eight Step Recovery

Watch your thoughts; they become stories.
Watch your stories; they become excuses.
Watch your excuses; they become relapses.
Watch your relapses; they become dis-eases.
Watch your dis-eases they become vicious cycles.
Watch your vicious cycles they become your wheel of life.

Quote by Vimalasara 2016

Going forth is an aspect of step 6, placing positive values at the centre of our lives. Siddhartha the prince went forth from a life of indulgence because he could see clearly how it was hindering his growth. He could not find the answer to the end of suffering if he stayed in a hedonist world that was at the centre of his Mandala. When he left the palace that had imprisoned his mind, he placed renunciation at the centre of his life.

The Eight Steps

We too have to go forth from our lives. And our lives are created in our minds. So you could say we need to go forth from our minds. We must stop believing what is arising in the mind. We must stop identifying with what is in the mind. We must stop placing our stinking thinking at the centre of our Mandala. When we leave the prison of our minds, we to begin to place renunciation at the centre of our lives.

If we can’t do this, we continue to be the deluded person who when they experience pain in the body – unpleasant, pleasant, neutral, they groans, grieve and grasp. The deluded person constructs mental feeling out of physical sensations, creating two kinds of feeling bodily and mental. Thinking that both are fact.

If we become a liberated person, we will experience pain in the body, pleasant, unpleasant or neutral. There will be no construction in the mind of mental feelings. No grabbing, grieving, grasping. Just one kind of feeling that is bodily. Only equanimity arising in the mind that is not graspable.

Placing renunciation at the centre of our lives does not have to be daunting. We are all renunciates, one day we will have to renounce everything at the point of death. So we can begin to renounce now, or hang onto the bitter end, creating a life full of misery.

We can renounce by just reflecting on the three jewels, the Buddha, the dharma the sangha. Ehipassiko, ‘go see for your self’ and see what happens to your addiction.

For a free sample of the first chapter, book study and 21 meditations of “Eight Step Recovery – Using The Buddha’s Teachings To Overcome Addiction,” please email: eightstepsrecovery@gmail.com

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Accidents, slips and relapse

Vimalasara

I had an accident early December. My doctor prescribed me some medicine for a tongue fungus, that caused a numbing sensation at the back and the side of the tongue, making speaking quite difficult.alco

When I took the first spoon of medicine, I exclaimed to my partner: “oh no it has sugar in it”. She said: “Just know it’s medicine, and it’s going to make you better.”

I told my sponsor too, he said something similar too. And although it made sense, I wondered how on earth was I going to cope with putting four spoons of sweetened syrup in my system and survive?

Well I did, and began to delude myself, after the 5th day of thinking, oh I can eat sugar after all, I’ve not binged or reached for any other sugar at all. Ignoring the fact that my teaspoon of medicine seemed to get bigger and bigger, until I began swigging it from the bottle. Yes swigging it. Sugar is my alcohol, and if I consume enough of it my head ends up down the toilet. I have a physical allergy to the poison and when in my system I can’t stop.

I wanted to come off it, but I wanted to be able to move my tongue and speak without lisping too. But I deluded myself. I had googled the medicine on day two and saw there was a capsule form too, but had the mediating thought: ‘I will be a pain in the butt, if I go and complain to my doctor.’

Now if I was an alcoholic, and I came home with medicine loaded with alcohol, I would not take it. I choose not to have alcohol in my system, and I know for sure I would have been marching back to the doctors waving the bottle saying give me something else.

What I’ve learned from this is: I need to take my sugar addiction and allergy of the body seriously. Because nobody else is going too. Nobody see’s the mad woman, who came of the medicine after 10 days, and on the 12th day was eating one bar of chocolate, four cookies, four toffee’s. Not much you may think, but it’s enough to have me back on the vicious cycle of addiction.

This time of year for many people around the world is a time of accidents, slips and relapse. But it can also be a time of abstinence, sobriety of mind and recovery.

  • If you slip and or relapse get back on track immediately.
  • Take a breath. Just one breath and Pause.
  • It may be you get down on your knees literally and pray to your God of Understanding
  • Recite – Grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change. The courage to change the things I can. And the wisdom to know the difference.
  • Reflect on the misery of what it would mean to be back on the cycle of addiction
  • Accept the experience of your slip and or accident, by staying with the feelings arising in the moment.
  • Be aware of self pity, blame and distractions, as they may well just induce another slip and or relapse
  • Be aware of isolating, lack of sleep, hygiene. Ask for Help
  • Go to a meeting
  • Remember your thoughts are not facts
  • Know that everything is impermanent
  • Reality is perfumed with compassion

For a free sample of the first chapter, book study and 21 meditations of “Eight Step Recovery – Using The Buddha’s Teachings To Overcome Addiction,” please email: eightstepsrecovery@gmail.com

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Step seven: Making every effort to stay on the path of recovery

Eight Step Recovery

Once you think you’ve got recovery, you’ve lost your recovery. Because what is recovery? It is a path that can take us to liberation and freedom. Recovery is always changing. What it looked like when you first had one week of abstinence, is very different to what it will look like after one year or after 30 years.

‘Once an addict always an addict’, is often a saying we hear. There is good sense in this phrase, because it reminds us not to delude ourselves, and think: ‘Right, I’ve not picked up my choice of distraction for six months, I’m okay now’.

Let’s not delude ourselves because we can think the same after 20 years of recovery too. This saying does have its pitfalls because we can hold onto an old identity that does not serve us anymore.

The Eight Steps

In Eight Step Recovery: ‘We ask if you really want recovery are you prepared to go to any lengths to let go of your self view?’

This is the first of the mental bonds that bind us to human suffering. Thinking we are a fixed self, and that we are our body, feelings, perceptions, mental formation and sensory consciousness. The Buddha taught that all these five skandhas are empty of self. He taught that nothing among them is ‘I, or mine or me’.

If we want recovery we do have to let go of the identities that created the addicted self. We stay on the path of recovery when we realize that the only thing we own are our actions.

There is also a Buddhist teaching that says ‘guard the sense doors’. What this means is that we don’t deliberately put ourselves in vulnerable places. For example if you are a sex addict you don’t go to a sex show. If you’re an alcoholic you don’t put yourself in situations where alcohol is being rammed in your face. If you’re a coke addict you don’t stay in a room where people are white lining. We guard the sense doors by not putting ourselves in situations where we will be easily triggered.

There are enough triggers out there in the world that we will have to practise loving kindness and mindfulness to keep us sober and abstinent.

The good news is, it is possible to have disinterest in our distraction or substance or behaviour of choice. But we still need to be vigilant by preventing, and eradicating unhelpful states of mind.

In the rooms of 12 steps we are told to HALT. If you are aware of a subtle craving, ask if you are hungry, angry, lonely or tired.

We need to maintain helpful states of mind by cultivating and maintaining our abstinence and sobriety of mind. Making every effort to stay on the path of recovery is a lifetime practise, and one well worth living. The more effort we make, the easier it becomes, but there is not time of the path of recovery, if we want to liberate our self from suffering.

For a free sample of the first chapter, book study and 21 meditations of “Eight Step Recovery – Using The Buddha’s Teachings To Overcome Addiction,” please email: eightstepsrecovery@gmail.com

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