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Old 06-08-2013, 10:03 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Why do addicts continue to hurt people?

I have been trying to come to some kind of peace about my experience of alcoholics and drug addicts and, as I mentioned in Vale's thread a couple of days ago, I have been trying to research more about the so-called "reptilian brain" often referred to to explain why addicts become as ruthless as they do.

I came across a website in my internet search--www.drugfreeaustin.com--which is the home page of an addiction doctor and contains some easy-to-understand articles by him about addiction. His name is Dr. Masters.

Under "Addiction Explained" he writes that the brain is essentially divided into 3 parts. The earliest formation of the brain was the "reptilian brain" which essentially tells us to breathe and tells our hearts to beat. It has the most power in that we can't over-think those functions. We can't tell our hearts to stop beating. The doctor does not consider this brain as the seat of addiction.

The next formation of the brain was the "emotional brain." This brain is the center of pleasure, of reward. It creates feelings of pleasure in order to ensure survival. So, sex feels like pleasure. Food feels like pleasure. This emotional brain tells us to keep eating, to keep having sex, to keep doing that which is so pleasurable. It is this part of the brain which is the seat of addiction, according to this doctor.

The final formation of the brain is the "cortical brain." This is what makes us very different from lizards and fish. It is our higher brain which thinks, moralizes, reasons, controls willpower and choice. Though it is a quite lovely brain (!) the scientific fact is that of the three brains, it has the least power. The reptile brain is strongest. Then the emotional brain. And both trump the cortical brain. It all goes back to survival of the species.

This doctor writes that when an addict uses drugs, when an alcoholic drinks alcohol, his "emotional brain" becomes the master of his ship. It tells him at his deepest unconscious being that he must continue to use or to drink because, like sex, like eating, it is essential to his survival. The higher cortical brain falls into line by rationalizing and justifying his substance abuse.

The doctor writes that mere substitution therapy with drugs like suboxone or methadone which block the high and prevent the withdrawals, are not the answer to addiction because the disease of the addict is "within the mind". He believes that not only a 12-step program or something like it is essential, but also concurrent treatment of any underlying mental disorder. And the percentage of addicts and alcoholics with underlying disorders like depression, bipolar, and ADHD is significant. If those are left untreated, relapse will almost certainly occur.

He notes that the relapse rates for opiate addicts without treatment with suboxone or methadone is 85%. It drops to 50% with the drugs. He also notes that half of those on methadone are using other drugs to get high.

He writes that the most addictive drug on the planet is nicotine (33% of users become addicted) and the next is opiates (27% of users).

Here is my question to seasoned and educated forum members:

Why, when addicts cease using, or when addicts use drugs which block the effects to the pleasure center (naltrexone blocking opiate effects, antabuse blocking alcohol effects), or when addicts use drugs to prevent withdrawal (suboxone, methadone).....why do so many addicts continue to be selfish, grandiose, bitter, and to treat others so badly? Why do so many continue to display the keynotes of what has been called the "alcoholic personality" when the drugs have stopped stimulating their "emotional brains"?

I ask this because I still struggle with my faith in the recovery process. I still have great difficulty trusting even addicts and alcoholics who are no longer actively using or drinking. To be honest, I am afraid of them. I am afraid their "emotional brain" is still in control, and, if it is, then I can't trust them. I am afraid of people who operate from a basic compulsion for pleasure and reward. Because I will disappoint them. I will not always be a pleasure. I will not always be rewarding. I am human and flawed. And I do not want anyone in my life who will punish me because I do not constantly stimulate his "emotional brain."

My fear continues to be a major block in my faith that recovery from addiction is possible, and if it does happen, it seems to me to be a spiritual miracle. Not the outcome of drug therapy or rehab. A miracle. A conversion experience akin to a miracle.

I will appreciate thoughts from members on any parts of my post.
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Old 06-08-2013, 10:34 AM   #2 (permalink)
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i agree more with this theory about the brain than i do with theories using the 'reptilian brain' as the seat of addiction. if the reptilian brain is responsible for involuntary bodily activities like breathing and the heart beating than it stands to reason it is not in 'control' of addiction. using drugs/alcohol/nicotine/caffeine, whatever...this is a voluntary activity when it all comes down. i fully agree that there usually is some underlying mental illness present that needs to be worked out, and by saying it's voluntary in no way do i mean to imply that breaking free of addiction is as simple as saying, well, i won't be doing that anymore.

i don't necessarily trust addicts in recovery either. i think they're unpredictable. but then again, so are all humans, i suppose. maybe there is a connection between the percentage of people who will become addicted to a substance and what values people hold and what they find to be their biggest motivators. sounds like it would make a good research topic in sociology or psychology. sometimes i think regardless of the presence of drugs in his life, my addict would still have difficulty with the truth and would still be impulsive and self-destructive.

i agree a great deal with what you said about recovery being a "spiritual miracle". it feels a lot like that to me. especially lately.
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Old 06-08-2013, 10:39 AM   #3 (permalink)
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stopping the drug intake is just the beginning....the brain and the body takes a LONG time to heal. the brain has been rewired, like a house where only half the light switches are connected. no matter how many times you flip the switch SOME just don't work. without a strong desire to CHANGE and a wholesale effort to alter one's thinking, those switches just won't work.

recovery is the electrician.

when the pleasure center has been damaged from ongoing drug use, it has very limited ability to find pleasure in anything other than drugs. and nothing ever WILL give the same sensations. for me, nothing will ever feel like a hit of crack. and that is the jumping off point, IMHO...trading in the artificial stimulation for the simpler pleasures of the natural state. or as they say, life on life's terms.

dealing with feelings, ALL of them...staying in the day, in the moment....being a grown up. letting go of self centeredness, self seeking, returning to right size, just another faulty human.

not an easy task. and some people just ain't interested. peter pan lives. they drugs are but a symptom. and unless the underlying issues are addressed, made peace with, embraced and released, the person remains afflicted.
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Old 06-08-2013, 10:51 AM   #4 (permalink)
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With respect, this is one doctor's opinion, probably a very knowledgeable one and well worth reading. But it isn't the only opinion on addiction, which still remains a mystery to many. I pray one day they will solve the mystery and find a cure or treatment that will save lives from being destroyed.

The brain is affected by drug addiction and it takes a long time to heal. While addiction is active the addict's behaviour reflects the imbalance in his/her brain. When the addict stops using, the brain takes a long time to find a healthy healing.

I believe recovery, no matter what the process, IS a spiritual miracle that comes only when the mind and body are at rest and at peace. I think rehabs, programs, counseling, meditation, and self-help can all bring this peace, and therefore the miracle that follows.

Whether medication helps or doesn't help should be left completely between the doctor and patient and is not up for debate here.

Many do recover, our boards are filled with recovered/recovering substance abusers. Many take years to get there...so the stumbles along the way are each included in the "failure" statistics, even if the person eventually finds recovery and a better way to love.

My son has been to at least 15 rehabs and eventually relapsed every time (once after 3 years recovery). That's 15 failures...but once he stops for good and never ever uses again, that will be considered only 1 sucess. The statistics don't work from where I sit, because in this situation the same person fails 15 time (or more) and succeeds once...what should the statistic say about him...now...in 5 years...in 10?

English Garden, my heart and my prayers go out to you and to every person here who struggles with finding hope. I struggle myself many days but as long as there is breath in my body I will continue to hope.

What I am trying to say above is not to criticize your post, it's a wonderful post and full of good information. What I am trying to say is that statistics are difficult to establish and the basis for what is "sucess" varies from one group of statistics to another.

My son may die from his addiction. Or he may find recovery tomorrow and be fine and happy ever after. Or he may fail 15 more times before succeeding. There is no way I can know, no way statisticians can know. Only God knows and I have to just trust that He can do for my son, what I cannot. That would involve a miracle, but I believe in miracles so there ya go.

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Old 06-08-2013, 10:54 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Dang! Anvilhead said it so much better than I ever could. What she said!
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Old 06-08-2013, 10:59 AM   #6 (permalink)
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addiction and all that goes with it is EXTREMELY hard to accurately quantify...this is why i hardly pay any attention to the numbers that emerge from this or that study. WAY too much room for error.
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Old 06-08-2013, 11:02 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Thank you for the excellent article. IMO, he is right about the addict getting help for the underlying mental illness. That is a huge reason for those folks who continue to relapse for years. Traditional treatment professionals will often claim that all the mental illness is due to drug use.
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Old 06-08-2013, 11:22 AM   #8 (permalink)
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RIGHT ON ANVIL!!!!!

I didn't quit drinking and drugging on June 7, 1981 and on June 8th become a model citizen, roflmao

It took years of hard work and constant vigilance to slowly start to 'rewire' my brain and grow new pathways.

And yes, there are many that truly want recovery, start recovery, and as the road gets narrower and going gets tougher, the 'siren song' of the DOC strikes again.

And EG I don't know if you will ever trust an A again, even if they have been sober and clean a long time. That is your right! Not to be close to someone who could become extremely 'toxic', literally at a moments notice.

There just are no guarantees! None whatsoever. Sure I have 32 years now, however, I do not know what lies ahead, I do not know if there may be some 'horrible' trigger in my future where I would pick up again. True, for me it is highly unlikely, but .................. you never know.

There was a gentleman in the San Fernando Valley where I got sober, that had quite a few years when I arrived, so very sick, at my early AA meetings. He was still alive 8 years ago, and was the passenger in a vehicle that got T-boned. He was in the hospital for almost 2 months, with visits day in and day out from different friends of his in AA and in recovery.

He was not home from the hospital 2 weeks, when using his walker, he walked down to the liquor store in the next block over from where he lived and brought a pretty good supply back with him. Late that afternoon when one of the 'regular' friends stopped for his daily visit, he found him falling down drunk.

His friends stayed with him, kept an eye on him for the next 5 1/2 years but he was never able to regain his sobriety. He died 2 years ago, having had 44 years of sobriety, before going back to his demon for the last almost 6 years of his life.

It seems that although this gentleman had never used drugs all those long years ago when he was still drinking, he had been given enough pain medications those weeks in the hospital to really trigger King Alcohol.

I tell this tale, not only because it is a true story, but to remind me, That There Are No Guarantees when it comes to addiction. None whatsoever. My mom would ask me how could she know if I would continue to stay sober the rest of my life. I had to tell her I don't know, but I would also 'spout' a particular phrase from the AA Big Book:

"I have a daily reprieve contingent upon my fit spiritual condition." to this day I still believe that, and thus I must continue to 'practice' the tools I was given so long ago on a 'daily' basis.

And using those same 'tools' enhanced somewhat by Alanon, they also keep me in a 'fit spiritual condition'. Unfortunately, with my co dependent issues being a bit different than my A issues, and somehow in the back of my mind, not being as 'life threatening' I do 'slip' a bit now and then but even then, get back up and get back on track so that I can kick those alligators biting at my butt, right in the head.

Hope y'all have a peaceful and serene weekend!

Love and hugs,
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Old 06-08-2013, 11:48 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Ann, thank you for reminding us about the statistics. I have thought that before but I suppose assumed they adjusted for that...but how could they know...and how could they account for all of the people who seek recovery on their own without treatment. I appreciate this post and all the thoughts that go with it.... the stats used to really get me down...I will definitely pay less attention to them moving forward.
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Old 06-08-2013, 11:51 AM   #10 (permalink)
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that's it, isn't it Laurie? knowing we are exactly ONE bad decision away....that keeps me REALLY humble. the beast never sleeps.

I remember a member of another sober site who used to say that as long as his feet kept moving in a sober direction, all would be well. simple sober steps. even if the "voices" start back up, like Kaa, the giant python in the Jungle Book.....trusssssst in me, hypnotic, casting his spell, if we keep moving towards recovery, our mind will follow! the danger comes from stopping, listening, moving ever closer to the coils.

Trust in me, just in me
Shut your eyes and trust in me
You can sleep safe and sound
Knowing I am around

Slip into silent slumber
Sail on a silver mist
Slowly and surely your senses
Will cease to resist

Trust in me, just in me
Shut your eyes and trust in me
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Old 06-08-2013, 01:05 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Great food for thought, all.

As far as statistics go, Ann is right. Illiteracy always raises peoples ire
but innumeracy can be far more damaging in a subtler way.

Eat a lot of fruit and you won't get cancer. Nice factoid, but untrue.
What IS true is that you give me a sample set of a million people, and I
can draw some useful data on the usefulness of fruit intake in the avoidance
of cancer.

But that doesn't mean squat to a human being, an individual who (by definition)
is working with a sample set of ONE (himself or herself). Eat all the right things, do
all the right things----and nothing bad gets to happen to me?

Not exactly. In fact......not at all. Eat like an Olympic athlete, gets pats on the
back from all your envious friends for your superb physical state----then die of
lung cancer having never smoked a cigarette in your life. Impossible? It happens every
day.

To navigate a human life is no different than navigating any vessel. There are
no certainties.....but there are probabilities. In retrospect everything is obvious---
but we don't live our lives in retrospect......we live them in the heat (and fog) of
battle.

Remember the fat guy in the movie "Titanic" who, remarking on the Captain's
"foolish" decision to maintain speed remarks....."Unbelievable!! He's got the ice warning
in his fu**ing hand".

Fat guy seems to have all the answers. Except the ice warning was generic to the
point of uselessness. "Exercise extreme caution as icebergs are possible". Is there ever a
time when they are NOT possible? As useless as a generic warning to the American
public to exercise extreme caution today--so that we can have no auto accidents on
8 June 2013 in the USA.

I can guarantee there will be auto accidents in the USA today, some fatal.
I can also guarantee that not a single one of them woke up this morning
saying "this is the day". Instead, they fear things like flying (there has not been a
large transport jet crash in the USA since November 2001.....more than 11 years ago!)
.......THAT'S INNUMERACY!

Blind faith in statistics is just like every other kind of blind......kinda useless.

On a personal note:

English Garden, you are right to be afraid of people who operate solely on the
basis of pleasure and reward (so am I).....deathly afraid.

Anvil's electrician analogy about the human brain needing rewiring seems spot on
to me.....some drunk took a leak in the junction box---we heard a bang, saw a flash,
and now everything is dark! The only thing for certain is this is gonna be expensive!

But I forgot about Kaa, that silvery tongued serpent! Above all things, I love
rational thought. I love it because it is a machete----when wielded skillfully it is an
amazingly effective tool at decapitating these snakes whose siren call would rob us
of all the REAL things we hold dear.

>>>>>>>Slowly and surely your senses Will cease to resist<<<<<<<<

Kaa must hate websites like this. Informing people that the machete of sobriety
and rationality is just waiting to be picked up-----and that the last thing his nasty
little eyes might see.....is the glint of sharp metal just before his coils and evil mind
find themselves (cleanly) separated.

"hey snake! Come on over here....I want you to see som'thin! Just a little closer,
just a little closer............"

Vale's rule #9684863046..........never fight fair with snakes!
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Old 06-08-2013, 01:15 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Old 06-08-2013, 01:17 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Thank you for such thought-filled responses so far. I like the analogy to the house with the faulty light connections, Anvil. Visuals like that really help.

To use an analogy again, I feel as though I am a plane crash survivor who goes back to the site of the crash. We see those people on TV, and they want to know exactly what happened, moment by moment, every last detail of the plane's malfunction, the pilot's actions, the weather, the angle of the descent, everything. They are trying to absorb what has happened to them which has shaken them to the core and left them feeling they cannot count on anything anymore.

Your story, Laurie, of the AA man who picked up again, after the car crash and the meds. I think we all, after a traumatic experience, want to escape. We all have the small child still in us who is desperate to be held by the mother. To be completely soothed and protected. To take all the bad away. And after the car crash, the emotional and mental trauma that would have followed....the drugs must have been like a mother's lap. And for someone whose "emotional brain" had a long history of taking over the control, it would not have taken long, I guess, for the "higher brain" to say Yes. Let's disappear.

Those of us who have been T-boned by an addict have lingering deep anxiety, I think, about anything or anyone involving addiction, for addiction brought us into contact with the dark Shadow of someone we loved. And it is much harder to handle the Shadow of a human being if it is also the person you trusted, opened yourself to, like a child trusts. It is easier if it is a thug on the sidewalk who bangs you up and steals your money.

So I find I read all the books, watch the documentaries, read SR, attend the meetings, study the science, like someone who walked away from a plane crash but still cannot believe it happened. I understood, many years ago, why the staggering alcoholic was so drunk that he ripped doors off the kitchen cabinets. It is easier to understand "raging drunk." But with drug addicts--especially opiate addicts--the damage done seems to me more like being gassed.


If I came to some peace about it, I feel I could sit in Al-Anon meetings and believe in the message of hope in the opening: "...that no situation is too hopeless...."

I know about the controversy--to shift gears--about statistics. I usually don't cite them, but the doctor had very high credentials, so I decided to include them.
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Old 06-08-2013, 01:28 PM   #14 (permalink)
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>>>>>>>>>>But with drug addicts--especially opiate addicts--the damage done seems to me more like being gassed.<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

EG,
THAT was powerful. I've often thought that, but was afraid (or not talented enough)
to put it into words. Just WHAT is so appealing about that CRAP that you would
voluntarily (and by extension have your family, involuntarily) ....walk into that gas
chamber.......and go to sleep.

I don't understand. I don't want to understand. I will never voluntarily understand
---this slow, pseudovoluntary suicide.

SR is the crash site we keep returning to----trying to understand----


(here's hoping for spiritual miracles!)
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Old 06-08-2013, 02:19 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Beautiful Post English Garden. I just wanted to comment on statistics. I whole heartedly agree you have to be wary, and if a person chooses to believe in statistics, we each have to decide what organizations, groups, clinics, whatever are most reliable based on our own concepts and beliefs.

I know when I was researching stats from Nationa Institute Drug Abuse; I felt comfortable with what I was getting because they are worldwide leaders in the science of drug addiction. Their summary of the brain is on point pretty much with your article also EG.

However, if you look at their stats they state clearly what they are based on; individuals who have obtained professional treatment for all of their needs including mental health issues, emotional issues, and not just drug addiction.(I agree people need the whole package for best chances of recovery). Patients are interviewed to determine if/how many times they have had professional treatment in the past, etc. I recall when I first came to SR there was a figure of 10% that seemed to float around a lot, and I was never able to find where it came from. I never put stock in it, because for me I needed something solid that I could analyze.

Also going along with what Anvil was discussing, when you look at pictures of MRI studies on meth users, the before pictures, and 6 months later – it clearly shows progress in ‘rewiring’. I find it amazing the brain can be so resilient.
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Old 06-08-2013, 02:56 PM   #16 (permalink)
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No matter how much I read and read and read and research and research and research I will NEVER understand. EVER! I can't imagine something so strong that it could take me away from my family and child. JUst can't understand. I have accepted this.
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Old 06-08-2013, 03:09 PM   #17 (permalink)
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Quote:
To use an analogy again, I feel as though I am a plane crash survivor who goes back to the site of the crash. We see those people on TV, and they want to know exactly what happened, moment by moment, every last detail of the plane's malfunction, the pilot's actions, the weather, the angle of the descent, everything. They are trying to absorb what has happened to them which has shaken them to the core and left them feeling they cannot count on anything anymore.
English Garden, this really hit home with me. I studied my son's addiction and addiction in general, I worked for 2 years in a rehab where I learned so many things that I had not known before. Coming here and listening to recovering addicts here taught me even more.

But the most important thing I learned? I learned that even when I think I know all the answer, even if I really truly do, the question that always remained was "Why?". Why would someone destroy themselves like this?. Why would they not stop when they saw the path of destruction they were on? Why me? Why my son? Why?

There is no answer to "Why?". Those who think they have the answer are mistaken, because it's not "my" "why".

So I understand what I can, I accept what was previously unacceptable, and I pray a lot....and pray again...and keep that candle of hope glowing in my heart, right between the candles of faith and love. Nothing can ever extinguish that light ever again.

Statistics be damned, my son may fail 1000 times but the time that really matters in the end is the time he succeeds. The odds are not 1000 to one against him, they are exactly the same, identical to, the odds for any addict out there. The same odds as Anvil faced, and Laurie and look at them today! (I love you both dearly).

Screw the statistics and embrace the success of those we love right here. That's where I get my hope. That's what keeps my candle glowing in my heart. The odds are identical for my son. Thank You God.

Hugs
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Old 06-08-2013, 03:24 PM   #18 (permalink)
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Everyone knows Yoda's quote:
"Do, or do not.....there is no try"

Vale's corollary to that gem is
"Live, or live not.....there is no why"

( I want FULL credit for this one.......I don't want to
overhear someone in a coffee shop 10 years from now
attributing it to that weird-eared sawed-off little green
hobgoblin!)
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Old 06-08-2013, 03:32 PM   #19 (permalink)
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Yeah, we'll be sure to attribute that one to the decapitated stuffed duck.
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Old 06-08-2013, 05:17 PM   #20 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by cynical one View Post
Yeah, we'll be sure to attribute that one to the decapitated stuffed duck.
Ahhhhh a giggle. I needed that after reading this thread.

I'm going to read it again.
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