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Overcoming Addiction: A Journey to Self-Discovery and Recovery

Contrary to popular belief, most people who suffer from addictions, of any sort, actually recover by themselves without the need for any kind of treatment. The majority of these cases are situation related, where people learn to curb their drinking, for example, after leaving university and starting a new job, or having children, or just growing up. The small percentage of people who don’t fall into this bracket, though, will benefit greatly from this blog and from knowing that having a purpose and ambition in life is one of the fastest ways to stop an addiction.

Whatever you or someone close to you is addicted to, this blog is designed to help you overcome the addictive state and gain self-control. Just think about it – whatever you have control of, you decide where to take it. You’re driving a car, for example. If you want to take the next left, you do. If, however, you are on a bus and fancy taking the next left, if the bus is heading straight down the road, there is no way you will be taking the next left. So think of this blog as a metaphorical driving lesson to grant you free rein on the road and give you the independence to take your life exactly where you want it to go, without the dreaded unpredictability of addiction.

I may well be stating the blindingly obvious but before you (or anyone you want to help) can overcome an addictive state and get the best out of this approach, you have to first accept that you are addicted. Acceptance, however, will not help you to modify your behaviour or situation until you have made a concerted realisation to WANT to change. This is a ground rule of my mindful baking methodology – you are the best person to help yourself and you can only achieve your aims if you WANT to. It is imperative that you have the values in place to oppose the addiction and create the ideal situation to move forwards. The more you fight and deny your addiction, the stronger it becomes. As soonas you accept responsibility for it and the state you find yourself in, the sooner you will be able to gain control of it.

If, like the vast majority of society, you see addiction as a disease and therefore take no responsibility for it, believing that the only way to free yourself from it is with medical treatment and professional counselling, because it’s not your fault, then I’m afraid to say that you will always have this hanging over you.

Try instead accepting that you, and you alone, got into this state of mind, regardless of any events leading up to it. Observe your thoughts, actions and feelings and search for the solution to your problems within this blog. Seek help or speak to your other half, they will play an important role in helping you through, but know that it is not up to them to overcome your addiction, it is up to you, alone.

Instead of berating yourself for the situation in which you have found yourself, be mindful about it; it’s happened, there is no point in cursing whatever situation you find landed you in this spot, so try to meditate and clear your mind of all destructive thoughts every time you notice you are lamenting your plight. Try to meditate habitually.

What you are suffering from now is not a disease, it began with choices you made, it continued because of choices you made, but the wonderful thing about this is that it can be overcome through choices you make. You have the power to change everything. You can heal yourself truly, rather than simply suppressing your addiction.

I watched an interesting TED talk by Johann Hari, who brings to light the concept that we are intrinsically designed to bond and connect with our surroundings, which normally sees us forming relationships with the people and things around us. If life deals a bad hand and you find yourself in uncharted territory with nobody or nothing to support you, we invariably end up bonding with something that grants us some form of relief, be that drinking, gambling, drugs, sex etc. It is in our nature, we invisibly find ways to make life easier. The majority of us don’t become addicts because of the bonds and connections we have with work, family, colleagues, friends etc, for whom we want to be present. If you are an addict, rediscovering relationships, bonds and purposes will give you a much higher chance of making a full recovery.

I have used the sessions I had with James (as mentioned in the previous blog) to cultivate and develop coping strategies that anyone will be able to read about and use. If you have someone who you trust implicitly, regardless of their profession, who can earnestly support you throughout the recovery process, I wholeheartedly recommend that you make full use of their comforting ear; because as the age old adage goes, a problem shared is most definitely a problem halved.

Before James met his wife and, after that, before he had the chance to discuss his TF with his therapist, although he always knew he didn’t want to change sex, it sent his mind into overdrive and prevented him from living an ordinary existence. If you don’t have another half, confide in someone close to you who has your best interests at heart. James’s therapist aside, he also found that he received a lot of support from his wife, after confiding in her. Believe me, if you are honest about everything to the person you choose to approach, they will welcome you and your problems with open arms.

The earlier statistic that I mentioned about one in twenty men wearing women’s clothes at some point or another includes the majority of men who have it under control – who never let it take over their lives. If you’re married or settled with another half, the ones who have it under control are the ones who openly share and discuss the issue with each other and who set boundaries and limitations in place to allow it to exist but never flourish or take over. Fetishes are things for the bedroom and that is where they should stay; as a couple you work on keeping them there, together.  

As incredible as many of us see the technological revolution of the past few years, it won’t be your Facebook or Twitter followers that help you in your time of need, it will be your flesh and blood friends with whom you have deep, resounding, face to face relationships. On the surface, it may seem that this is one of the things that AA does provide to those who haven’t been able to find it elsewhere. However, by joining support groups affiliated with programmes like that of AA, although it seems like you’re all working together to combat an all consuming evil, you’re actually lamenting ferociously about your problems as a whole and not taking care of the only person that needs it the most, you. So read on, take heed of the suggested addiction resolution techniques and then confide in your other half or someone close to you to help implement these strategies into your life.

I, sadly, didn’t get the chance to work alongside Mike on his smartphone addiction, mentioned in the previous blog, but if he was to read this, or if anyone who suffers from a similar affliction to his is reading this, then I can only emphasise the importance of forming connections and relationships with the close friends around you in real life, to conquer your addictive state and gain back self-control; step away from the Facebook.

Invisible Thoughts and Where to Find Them

So what is an invisible thought and how can you establish what yours are? Let’s take tying a shoelace, for example. When you were a child you probably spent many hours trying to figure out which lace went where, and which parts to tighten to create a bow. It was a very complicated exercise. Fast forward to today and you probably don’t even remember tying your laces this morning, let alone the complicated threading and looping motions that made it happen. The act of tying a shoelace is now invisible to you and so you never consciously think about it. It is a skill you have acquired.

Invisible thoughts can formulate through any number of activities and the related manifestations that accompany them. For example, if I was to mention a banana, the immediate thoughts that might follow, along with that of a yellow piece of fruit, might include things like ‘comical’, or ‘phallic’. You might have imagined peeling one, or the actual taste of it. The thought then sparks another, which will normally be linked to it in some way. Let’s say you envisage a man slipping over on a banana skin. This can then activate another invisible thought that should be completely unrelated, diverting your next thought somewhere else. It’s a bit like playing that game where you have to say the first thing that enters your head after hearing the last person’s word. With absolutely everything comes a subjective invisible thought and it is the way we manage these thoughts that dictates how we react to them.

It is the invisible thoughts related to addictions that struggle to find a definitive ending or diversion. The continuous overload of these linked thoughts that keep refocusing on the addiction creates a massive dopamine imbalance in the brain, resulting in a futile quest to satisfy the brain’s desire for the subject of the addiction.

Your brain doesn’t need to use up conscious thought processes for everything that you do, so it puts a shortcut in place for you, making these thought routes invisible, or subconscious.

Within our minds, we are constantly developing new techniques to make life easier. The more we repeat something, the more ingrained it becomes and the less visible, or conscious. Not all invisible thoughts are as favourable as the next; some have the power to initiate and nurture an addiction. Not everyone’s addictions are very clearly initiated and so the establishment of the invisible thought patterns relating to them is often easy to miss.

I watched another TED talk by a chap called Judson Brewer, called ‘A Simple Way to Break a Bad Habit'. Part of his talk focused on how, before the world became such a diverse and busy place, our ancestors had to search for food. They would have seen something that looked good and their brains, would have said ‘calories...survival!’. The food then tasted good and they would have remembered where to find it in order to repeat the process. They therefore laid down a context dependent memory whereby they saw the food, ate the food, it felt good, and so they repeated it. As Judson Brewer puts it, ‘trigger, behaviour, reward’. As our brains developed and we started to evolve, we realized that the ‘feel good’ sensation could override feelings of sadness and so we manipulated the same process to keep us happy, devouring a whole tub of ice cream even though we were not hungry. The trigger changed but the behaviour and reward stayed the same.

He goes on to say that likewise, as we grow up, if we want to be accepted by certain groups of people (trigger) we learn to fit into a certain scene, so start to smoke (behaviour) in order to be accepted (reward). From initially using this process to survive, we have morphed it into a technique that is destroying us. Addiction develops in exactly the same way and, before long, without being aware of its destructive force, we can become hooked.

Invisible thoughts don’t have to stem from your childhood, they can precipitate at any given moment. So, when trying to establish yours, concentrate on every important event in your life. If you do have an addiction and you really want to gain back self-control, I implore you to carry out this next task so that you can mindfully uncover the invisible thoughts behind your problem.

Meditation is Your Number One Weapon

Before completing the following exercise, it is of the utmost importance that you can empty your mind from all the noticeable, destructive thoughts that continue to feed your addiction. In order to do this, revert back to whichever technique you found to be most beneficial in the meditation blog. Once you have done that, dedicate as much time as possible, prior to completing the next task, in silent meditation; noticeably emptying your mind from all of the detritus that is preventing you from finding peace. It may take a long time but that doesn’t matter, this time is for you, you are performing an act of precious self-love and you deserve everything that you are doing for yourself. When the time is right, you will simply know when your mind is clear and ready to continue with the next part.

Get a sheet of paper and draw a big circle on it. In the centre of the circle I want you to write whatever it is you’re addicted to. Now around the circle, I want you to write as many reasons and below-the-surface, invisible thoughts as you can think of, which have developed alongside the addiction.

When James saw a bra, for example, some of the invisible thoughts that entered his mind included: security, innocence, support (emotionally, not for his man boobs), love, relief and importance.

Once you have uncovered the underlying reasons for your addiction, don’t, whatever you do, reactivate them in such a way that they become stronger. Whatever the reasons are, they occurred and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. Instead, use your newfound acceptance of your past to instil a different approach to life that does not allow for the introduction of any addictions to come into play, ensuring the discontinuation of some of the invisible thoughts.

I know I’m not a therapist but since developing and understanding the essence of spirituality and mindful meditation, I can see the biggest problem that James was deluding himself with was refusal to live in the present moment. Mindfulness, as I’ve already explained to you is all about appreciating and acknowledging the here and now, not, as he found himself doing, imagining himself as a member of the opposite sex, due to a situation that should have been left long ago in the past. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think men wearing girls underwear is an intrinsically bad thing to do, so long as you do it knowing who you are, being honest with yourself and your desires, and don’t imagine yourself to be someone else.

This blog has taken a long time to write because there has been so much to research and then put into words.  It has also been incredibly hard for James to be a willing case study, because he had to keep recapitulating something that he wanted to leave behind. He found the more I researched and questioned his addiction, the longer he seemed to spend contemplating his role in the whole affair. He told me that he’s always been pretty good (or bad, depending how you see it) at procrastinating. When dressed in his own little world, though, procrastinating was just second nature, so there was often a lot of radio silence on his part.

Before I met James at the stately home, he had repressed his desire to dress in female underwear for nearly three years, after his second child was born. He genuinely thought that he had cured himself from its steely grip. Only now does he realise that he was sitting on a repression time bomb that eventually exploded in magnificent style, causing him to retrace his TF past. They do say that everything happens for a reason and if it wasn’t for the explosion, he wouldn’t have attended the meditation weekend, wouldn’t have met me and wouldn’t have helped me to piece together this successful addiction conquering strategy.

As you are now well aware, when you repress something, it will return in a frighteningly exaggerated form. Six months after the meditation course I decided to contact James again to get some first hand documentation of how his addictive state had been manifesting. It turns out he had been repressing the TF again, only this time, he felt, because I had shown such an interest in its development. The more he thought about his addiction, the more he started piecing all the threads of his life together, until suddenly he realized that he was genuinely addicted to it and he needed to gain back his self-control.  As you can imagine, the desires came flooding back and within a couple of days he had snuck off to a lingerie outlet and purchased himself some garments. He’d told his wife that it was all for research and so she compassionately agreed to support the activity.

It all came to a head one night when the children had been put to bed and he attempted to entice his dearest wife into bed. After getting a little frisky, he suggested that they bring a little TF into it. She point blank refused and told him that it was starting to get a hold of him again and take over their lives. Being the belligerent male, he told her that it was his way or the highway and sulkily turned on the TV. After about an hour of being a narcissistic child, he apologized for his mercenary attitude and made up with her. It was only later in the night that the answer to addiction dawned on him.

Because of the embarrassing and disreputable connotations associated with society’s view of TF and because of the negative stance affiliated with addiction, James had unwittingly become profoundly ashamed of himself for partaking in it. Yes, he would easily be able to tell himself that it was a completely innocent past time that affected absolutely no one but deep down he was so humiliated and confused by his actions that the only way to console himself was to seek refuge within it. It was like a never-ending circle which kept repeating itself, getting stronger and stronger. The best way to make yourself feel better when you are down is to release dopamine, the easiest way for him to release dopamine was to indulge in TF and so the vicious circle continued.

So there he was lying awake after a sensual time with his wife and the penny suddenly dropped.

As the saying goes, the wolf you feed wins. Through the shame, guilt and dishonour that James harboured from indulging in TF, he was feeding the addiction that would take over his life. He might have needed his wife to point out the destructive force it was having on him but, once he recognized it, he learned how to put an end to it and then, with great generosity of spirit, shared it with me.

As completely preposterous as it seems, this is genuinely how he managed to end the addiction almost in an instant: by realising that he had to form an innocent affection for it. In doing so, you’re not feeding it, you’re just appreciating its presence within you. By cultivating an affection for it, you no longer need to devote 100% of your time to it, because you’ve already accepted it.  He was mindfully observing, accepting and discovering its inner workings.The shame doesn’t come from the addictive action or substance you may be abusing, the shame comes from the loss of all control that the addiction has over you. You are at its mercy. Developing an affection allows you to control the relationship.

I’m not saying form an affection for the addiction itself, I’m telling you to form an affection for elements of the activity, which means that you no longer feel ashamed of your actions. The shame was feeding James’ addiction, not starving it. Mindfully cultivate a curiosity for your new friendship and then question its meaning. Because it is now your friend, you can delve deep into its workings and, by being curious, you can question its very existence.

James set his mind on a new train of thought and affection for TF, beginning to replace the time he spent indulging in it with his mindful meditation sessions. As soon as he did this, the addiction loosened its grip on him and granted him the mental space to think about women’s underwear as just another generic piece of clothing and to no longer feel the need to use it in the way he had been doing. For the first time in many years he was able to think nonchalantly about a previously lascivious item of clothing. He was free from its addictive grip. He had gained back his self-control. He never repressed the thoughts and actions of dressing but every time they arose, he set himself specific times to indulge in them, mindful of why he was doing it and what effect it was having on him but always mindfully conducting himself with respect and pride. He lost the negative, shameful thoughts that were previously feeding the addiction. Over time, the desire and yearning for it lessened and lessened and, from what he has told me, I won’t be surprized if it eventually leaves him for good.

What he will never do, however, is allow it to gain control over him again. He now owns his addiction. He is in the driving seat and is no longer ashamed. As long as you don’t ban and repress your desires to indulge in an activity to which you were previously addicted, assuming you have learned to mindfully respect and approve of it, you will never lose control of it again.

This method of thought that helped James to control his TF can easily be shaped to remedy a multitude of other addictions.

Following on from the breathing space meditation discussed in the meditation blog, James’ acceptance and awareness of the TF gave him the ability to notice exactly how his body felt just before the addictive state was about to take control of him, thereby effectively signalling the moment for him to take some time out for himself. He would conduct a mindful meditation, acknowledging and accepting the present moment, preventing his thoughts from progressing towards TF.

He told me that he would get this hollow feeling at the bottom of his stomach, which would invariably slowly move towards his genitals, indicating the start of a period of time before the feeling would eventually transform into a sexual desire. Anyone’s bodily feelings towards whatever addiction they may have may well be completely different to this example but, by mindfully assessing your own state and understanding exactly how your body reacts to certain stimuli, you will be in a far better position to gain control over it. If you’re addicted to eating and are constantly hungry, instead of giving in to it, try observing that feeling instead; spend the time you would be eating to just curiously appreciating and accepting your desire. Remind yourself to always observe yourself before eating. If you don’t feel anything, though, however hard you explore, do not worry, that is absolutely fine and nothing to be alarmed by. Focus, instead, on the thoughts that are activated during the run up to and initiation of the activity, and then piece together a recognizable routine of thoughts that your mind regularly enacts before you get into an addictive state. Learn to use that as a mindful alert to trigger an appropriate response.

During your next meditation session, instead of blocking and repressing any thoughts connected to your addiction, try this time to just allow them to brew for a short while. Look past the addictive state into which it used to put you and appreciate and love its presence. Notice how it affects your body, feel its presence within you. Is it warm, cold, light or heavy? What shape is it? What colour is it? You’re meditating, you’re being mindful, you’re calm and you’re happy, so allow the activity you used to be addicted to into the same peaceful place that you are now in and laugh with it. Know that it will never control you again because it is now your friend and you can decide where to take it.

Use your circle diagram to highlight all of the invisible thoughts that have led you to where you are now. Bring these thoughts to the table and visualize how they have led you astray. But also notice how you are feeling in this exact moment and know that you have the power to decide exactly where to take it. Think about the dopamine hit you are receiving from your addiction: can you feel it? Where is it in your body? Know that without the dopamine you wouldn’t have any care in the world for your addiction, so try to divert your attention away from the hit and create some mental space between you and the activity.

I am not telling you to suddenly repress the desire for whatever it is you’re addicted to, because that will not work. Don’t, however, carry on partaking in the activity like you were before you realized you needed to confront it. Instead, set yourself limited access to it, say once a day to start off with, enable yourself to make a choice about it. Enable yourself to control it, rather than letting it control you. Choose it. Then, every time you indulge in it, take note of why you used to be addicted to it and the negative consequences it is having on you.

Slowly begin to replace the time spent on your addictive activities by mindfully meditating over your whole body. Take some time out to do a body scan meditation. If you can feel when it is about to rear its head, take note of how and where you notice it and then learn to devote that time to yourself. Breathe love, joy and happiness into that space. If you can’t feel anything, that doesn’t matter, just notice your thoughts and accept the present moment as it is. Use these sessions to help redevelop a strong love for yourself and to appreciate this new activity. Be proud of yourself for confronting your addiction because this is one of the best things you have ever done for yourself.

The main emphasis of this technique is to foster respect and pride for the activity, whilst accepting its presence within you, not repressing the innocent side of it when in a mindful state. Remember that shame is the catalyst for addiction, so that is what you need to banish – but by giving it no home within your mind, rather than by repressing it.

Straightaway I can almost hear people remonstrating their points of view about how you should never be affectionate and respectful of an activity that is potentially life-threatening like smoking, excessive eating, drinking or drug abuse. That’s just it, though; people don’t take up smoking because it is a foul habit, they do it because there is something enchanting about it. Know that you need to give up but instead of concentrating on the negative effects of the addiction, inciting shame and secrecy, create a fervent curiosity for it whilst partaking it it. Notice how it makes your body feel and learn to mindfully lay to rest early warning signs of the addiction as soon as you feel them. Get to know your addiction; know its weaknesses. Know how the dopamine hit is the cause of the addiction and envisage how the activity is affecting your life. Visualise the invisible thoughts that have led you to the addiction and know that you are now in control of them.

When you’re affectionate with someone or something, honeymoon period aside, you have to work at it to keep the love flowing. This is the one exception that you no longer have to work at. The reminiscing affection you start off with will eventually taper off into a like, to an ‘it’s okay’ to an ‘I can’t be bothered’. But as I said at beginning of this chapter, if you ever fall off the wagon and have a sly cigarette away from your designated time, DO NOT feel ashamed, because that will re-ignite the addiction. Laugh about it, be open with yourself about it, be mindful, meditate to clear your mind and then get back to your day’s activities.  What I am teaching you is how to end an addiction and gain back self-control of your life. You can still have a drink and not be addicted.

During my work on James’ story, he mentioned to me another activity in which he frequently indulged which he found would often intensify the pleasurable feelings he received from TF. This activity was quite simply denying himself the achievement of sexual climax.

I was a little sceptical about including this until I realized the phenomenal power that abstaining from the activity had on his psyche. This particular technique is called ‘edging’, in that it sees the practitioner masturbating until he (or she) nearly reaches climax, only to purposely stop the stimulation seconds before, in order to delay the eventual orgasm. Although James was abstaining from climaxing, it didn’t terminate the pleasure he was receiving from the TF – in fact, it intensified it – and so he was therefore fixed in a state of awe and wonder, often for days (when his wife and children were visiting her parents, who live abroad), without a care in the world for anything else. Because the practise generates a high dose of dopamine, it was enough to keep him transfixed by the state. By purposely abstaining from orgasm, he would never allow the dopamine levels to subsequently reduce, which prevented him from ever reaching a post-orgasmic state of composure (refractory period) and the shame that came with it. This practise alone was a founding block for the addiction.

I had never heard of ‘edging’ before, so I was genuinely fascinated by how such a seemingly innocuous distraction could near on (temporarily, at least) control his whole existence. After a lot of research, I found a website that recognized it as a sexual practise. This website, which is called, classes the act of masturbating as ‘fapping’ and urges people under the influence of a sexual addiction to ‘reset’ their sexual clock by abstaining from ‘fapping’ for ninety days. It mentions that although edging does not incite an orgasm, it is effectively the same as fapping, owing to the resulting mass production of dopamine. As a result, to reset your sexual clock, any form of genital stimulation is banned.

Although James had not heard of this website before, his attempts to keep the addiction under control were very similar – he just tried to stop masturbating. Coupled with the extensively trialled aforementioned techniques, he is now in full remission.

As much as I wanted to make this blog as child-friendly as possible (oops) I thought long and hard about whether or not I should include the edging/fapping accounts in it. ‘Yes, it may seem a bit crude to be discussing masturbation but, hearing how after only a couple of weeks of abstaining from it, James was transformed from an irritable, self-possessed, resentful and addicted man into quite literally the opposite, I decided to include it. I figured this section will help anyone who is having trouble conquering a sexual addiction.

“TF, as I mentioned earlier, is known as a paraphilia. Although a paraphilia is not an addiction until it takes over your life, the controlled abstention method, coupled with the addiction strategies I set out earlier, are a strong hold way to get it under control. Although TF is a completely innocuous past-time while you have it under control, not all paraphilias are as innocent.

I must reiterate that if you happen to be partaking in an addictive activity that is illegal, be that taking drugs or sexually dominating another person who is either underage or has not given you their express consent, then you have to put an end to it now and seek professional help. The strategies I have explained to help you conquer an addictive state have been devized in such a way to help you gain pride in yourself for facing up to it, and then taking control. The approaches I lay out in this chapter are designed for situations (within the law) that are yet to reach the stage where professional help is necessary and to help prevent sufferers from reaching that stage. Establishing an affection for your addictive activity is part of the The mindful baker's path to gaining control of it, but it is impossible to be profoundly affectionate towards an illegal activity, because you are either endangering the wellbeing – or even life – of you or someone else in the process. This type of activity needs to be stopped immediately. You have to seek professional help, now.

It is also very important to note that if you have successfully conquered an addiction by completely cutting out whichever activity it is that was controlling you, do not partake in it again under the premise that you are in control. It could more than likely overwhelm you without your consent and take you back to your addictive state. Congratulations for conquering it but do not even attempt to indulge in it again.

The next time you find yourself smoking, drinking, trying on underwear of the opposite sex or eating far too much, pause for a moment and take the time to question and be curious about your motives, while you are indulging. You’ll be amazed with how prudent you can be when facing your emotive desires, head on. Even if you simply prove to yourself you are not addicted, you will learn something about yourself. Gain back your self-control.

To gain control of an addiction you have to face up to it and never try to repress it.

When you have achieved a state of acceptance within yourself for the addiction, mindfully observe how it makes you feel, how does it affect your body, where can you sense it? Work out the shape, size, colour, scent and position of it; and then actively respond to any warning signs it might be approaching, and lay it to rest with meditative love.

  • Develop an affection for your addiction, because the friendlier you are with it, the friendlier it will be back to you

  • Shame will reignite the addiction. The more open you are about your journey, the easier it will be for you

  • Every time you partake in the activity, be curious with it. Know that you now control it, not the other way around

  • Remind yourself of the list of invisible thoughts you compiled that led you to the addiction, and then methodically create ways to change them

  • Do not try to replace one addiction with another

  • Regardless of how hard it is, learn how to deal with any situation involving your addiction calmly and effectively.

  • Set yourself achievable start and end times for partaking in the activity, lengthening the time between each episode and shortening its duration

  • When you find yourself engaging in the addictive activity, make a point of ceasing it without anger, resentment, apathy or depression

  • If you slip up and resume the activity out of your scheduled time, do not punish yourself. Maintain your dignity over the addiction. You are in control.

  • Develop positive, effective motivation, and keep good relations with all your friends, family and colleagues. They are the ones who will be there for you when the addiction has abandoned you.

  • Form bonds with your close friends and family to help you rise above it.

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