Losing Everything: Kyle’s Story of Fading Hope

Innocence of Youth

Kyle asked to enroll in our SHOUT Sobriety program for people in early recovery from alcoholism on June 13th. He was in the midst of a two month stint of sobriety and looking for something to help him make it stick. In early July, he was on day one and trying again.

 

Kyle is a few years younger than me, but he is living almost my exact story as alcoholism slowly destroys his life. His two kids are ages five and three, and his wife has run out of love and trust for him as he is losing his battle with the beast of addiction.

 

On October 13th, Kyle told me, “It seems like every relapse is harder and harder to explain. Explain to myself, my boss, family and kids. But most importantly it is harder and harder for me to have faith that I can stop for good and not lose everything.” On October 31st, Kyle drank a pint of vodka in the morning to nurse a hangover from the day before. He was passed out and vomiting by the evening, and he couldn’t even muster a smile for his children when they came home and wanted to show their candy to their daddy.

 

And now, Kyle is trying again.

 

***

 

I don’t know what I’m doing writing this. I want so badly to help Kyle find lasting sobriety that I ache in my bones for him and his beautiful family. I’ve tried everything I can think of to help him, and, as you’ll read, Kyle has tried just about everything, too. I believe firmly in the power of accountability. The day I came out to over 3,000 people about my addiction to and recovery from alcohol, my ability to relapse disappeared. Everyone I had ever known was aware of my disease, and drinking without destroying my family and my reputation was no longer an option. Open, honest accountability was the greatest blessing of my life.

 

A couple of days ago, I offered to write Kyle’s story to give him the same level of accountability that saved my life. He accepted my offer, not with enthusiasm nor hope, but out of desperation and a willingness to try anything.

 

This is Kyle’s story. We both hope and pray it will lead to peace for him and the ones who love him.

 

***

 

The magic offered by alcohol was one of the first lessons Kyle learned in college. This engineering nerd calculated that when he added booze to his shy demeanor, he became the life of the party. Drinking smoothed a lot of sharp edges, but it definitely got in the way of him reaching his academic potential. Still, he graduated with his engineering degree and started his adult life oblivious to the damage alcohol would eventually cause.

 

Drinking moved from a necessary component of college parties to a sort of hobby in adulthood. Kyle became a bit of a mixologist, and he was very proud of his robust liquor cabinet. “Without school and my buddies, drinking sort of began to define me,” Kyle recalled.

 

Alcohol as a defining characteristic, and a source of pride – when Kyle shared that sentiment with me back in the summer, I felt so closely connected to him that I was full of confidence that my method of sobriety would surely work for him. I had made that same association between my drinking and my persona. I wanted people to know of my love for bitter, high alcohol beers and biting, potent bourbon on the rocks. Alcohol wasn’t just a tool for me. Alcohol defined me. Not only wasn’t I afraid of or embarrassed by that association, it brought me tremendous pride, and even arrogance. Kyle felt the same way. I just knew I could save him.

 

Just like me, Kyle met his wife in college. Just like my wife, Kyle’s assumed his drinking would moderate with maturity. They were both sorely disappointed. He explained his near daily happy hours to his wife as an important part of his work scene, and a way to build loyalty and trust with his coworkers. He might have gotten away with that excuse to drink if he didn’t continue drinking at home in the evenings after the bar.

 

Just like my family, Kyle and his have made several cross-country moves leaving the stability of extended family and friends behind. Isolation is the fuel that feeds addiction. Even with a wife and young kids, the pressure to provide and connect can be a very lonely feeling. Kyle drank because he enjoyed the buzz, and to help him relax after the accomplishment of a hard day of work. But now, Kyle also used alcohol to fight loneliness and boredom, and to manage the growing stress booze was putting on his relationship with his wife.

 

Kyle’s wife convinced him that he needed help. “My wife convinced me…” was the start to several sentences when Kyle was telling me his story. Early on, she could see what was so invisible to Kyle. Again, his life and my life were in perfect parallel.

 

Over the years of destructive drinking, Kyle had several stints in outpatient recovery programs, various attempts to connect in Alcoholics Anonymous, an intervention by loving family, and a 30 day inpatient treatment program. He put together 30 to 90 days of sobriety too many times to count, but he could never make it stick.

 

Kyle and his wife learned that sobriety doesn’t fix anything in a marriage during a nine month period of sobriety. Their relationship really suffered, and they separated in March of 2017. Kyle did what any of us high-functioning alcoholics would have done. He started drinking again. By the fall of that year, he had an alcohol-induced mental breakdown and was diagnosed with anxiety and depression.

 

Where did the fun go? What happened to the tool Kyle innocently used to transform into the life of the party? Where did those happy hours and creative cocktail experiments go? What happened? He has become a desperate drunk at the hands of the very potion he used to make his life better. How did it all go so wrong?

 

Kyle is reunited with his family, for now. When I met him in June, he was preparing for yet another move, this time to San Diego for a new job and a fresh start. Kyle was full of hope and optimism, and so was I since our stories had so many similarities. Surely the method I used to find permanent sobriety would work for Kyle. It just had too. We were so alike.

 

On August 20th, Kyle’s wife called the police. He was drunk and talking about suicide. For the first time in his life, Kyle was handcuffed, put in the back of a police car and taken to the hospital for an emergency psych evaluation.

 

My program wasn’t working for Kyle. Nothing was. Inpatient rehab had failed to get Kyle sober. Outpatient programs were not successful. The intervention by his parents, sister and friends filled Kyle with shame, and Alcoholics Anonymous left him feeling like a misfit. Nothing worked to help him find peace in recovery.

 

Each stint of sobriety has been a valuable learning experience. Every relapse has taught Kyle new lessons. The results are elusive, but progress is being made. But it might be too little, too late. California residency laws are the only thing preventing his wife from divorcing him right now, and in February, the marriage will be over.

 

Have you ever wondered how much power addiction holds in the function of our brains? Have you ever watched someone you love understand the consequences, but be unable to stop drinking anyway? Kyle has two beautiful children with their whole lives in front of them. He has a relentlessly wounded wife who is desperate to love him. He has family eager to sacrifice to help him get healthy, and he has a good job in a field for which he feels a passion. He has a wide variety of treatment history and available programs. All of that might not be enough to break the hold of addiction.

 

Kyle has lost faith, and I don’t know how to help him. It is easy to point to my lack of formal training in addiction recovery, but the formally trained have failed as well. The reason addiction recovery programs have such dismal success rates isn’t for lack of training or effort. It is because alcoholism is diabolical and cunning, and no matter how similar our stories, the cure is unique for each individual.

 

So I’m doing the only thing left that I know to do. I’m sharing Kyle’s story in an effort to help him find the accountability that keeps me sober. This isn’t about shame or stigma. Kyle has suffered more of that than any person deserves.

 

This is about hope. By sharing Kyle’s story, I’m desperately hoping he’ll make the connection required for freedom from addiction. I’m hoping he’ll share this story with everyone he knows, and his reputation – his future – will depend on his sobriety.

 

And I’m counting on you. I’m hoping that this loving and growing community that has supported me and strengthened my recovery and my mission will share your power with Kyle.

 

So please, leave a comment of support. Tell Kyle if you resonate with his story. Tell his wife if you feel her pain. Tell them both they are not alone. Tell them not to give up on recovery. Tell them to keep going.

 

Accountability is about a lot more than taking responsibility for our actions. Accountability requires us to share our experiences for the benefit of others. Hold Kyle accountable – but not for contracting one of the most common diseases known to man. Hold Kyle accountable for sharing his story so others can heal.

 

I am hopeful. I am hopeful that in the process of accountability, Kyle and his wife will find healing, too.

 

If you are ready to stop hurting and start healing, please checkout our SHOUT Sobriety program. As I’ve explained here, it is not a silver bullet. None exists. But I’ll walk the path with you, and I’ll never give up. If AA is not a good fit, and you are ready for a modern approach to recovery, I hope you’ll give it a try. It is free to participants because I don’t think you should have to pay for your freedom, especially since there are no guarantees. If you’d like to support our mission and our work, please consider a donation to SHOUT Sobriety. The program only survives from the generosity of alumni and readers like you. For more information, to enroll or to make a donation, please click the button below.

SHOUT Sobriety

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31 Comments
  • Reply
    Anne Katharine Scott
    November 6, 2019 at 5:43 am

    I feel your pain Matt and I love your best intention to tell Kyle’s story but I get the real power & accountability is engaged when we can tell our own stories. Is that something Kyle can do?

    • Reply
      Matt Salis
      November 6, 2019 at 6:14 am

      Excellent point, Anne Katherine. Kyle doesn’t have a platform for telling his story directly. It takes tremendous effort and time to build an audience like this. This was a way I was eager to share the platform I’ve built over time with Kyle. But maybe it’s not enough. Thanks for giving me something to think about!

      • Reply
        Gina B
        November 8, 2019 at 6:11 am

        Hi Matt: Kyle does have a platform to share his story. It’s called AA. It’s where we go to share our experience our strength and our hope. it’s where we go so we see we’re not alone. It’s where we go to see the similarities not the differences. For years I couldn’t get 24 hours clean or sober. #052409 <3

      • Reply
        Anne Scott
        November 8, 2019 at 10:10 am

        Hi Matt – it is less about the platform and more about Kyle’s sharing his story in his words. That is where the power and the transformation in in accountability. There are two steps in accountability 1. writing the story 2. pushing the button to share it – everyone is powerful (although they may not show up like that) and everyone can do both – Kyle can write/record/relay the story in his words and he can share it with a community that matters to him e.g. email as you did or snail mail. You are on it with accountability but it isnt a task that can be successfully outsourced. Accountability begins and ends with the protagonist.

        • Reply
          Kyle
          November 8, 2019 at 8:43 pm

          Thank you all for the comments. Working Matt’s SHOUT sobriety program has been a huge deal for me in sharing not just my story but being honest about my disease with everyone. That’s how Matt’s program has been for me. Working through the weeks assignments have been about sharing with everyone. All the years i’ve done AA, usually 3 meetings a week, i’ve only shared within those walls (though i’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss my sponsor). It was time I share not just with family, but friends, coworkers, and bosses as well. Come what may. I’m embracing the accountability. 🙂 Thank you all!

  • Reply
    ML
    November 6, 2019 at 5:57 am

    Well, Kyle, you have a task in front of you – admittedly a big task but not impossible. As I read Matt’s words, I teared up thinking of you, your wife and children.
    Did you know that alcoholism can go back 2 generations in terms of heredity? This means your children as well as your grandchildren could face dealing with this disease. No one can make you choose sobriety. I fervently hope you look at your babies and make the choice for them.
    May the Universe (Source, Spirit, God or whatever) give you the strength and resolve to choose sobriety and health.

  • Reply
    Debbie
    November 6, 2019 at 5:58 am

    Kyle,
    Stay strong and continue your battle for life. Change is possible. I have a family member going through a similar story and he is finally opening up to positive change through a faith based program. Nothing else worked.
    I will pray for you and your wife and children. Stay on the path to recovery, one step, one moment at a time.

  • Reply
    Kimberly
    November 6, 2019 at 6:27 am

    No matter how many times you try, never give up on yourself. It may not feel like it now but you’re stronger than you think. Ignore the itty bitty shitty committee in your head and keep trying!

  • Reply
    Paula
    November 6, 2019 at 6:55 am

    Kyle,
    I too am in recovery from this awful disease. Over a year ago I woke up one morning after a night of drinking wine and had a black eye and a huge bump on my head! I don’t remember a thing of what happened! I never want to feel that low in my life again. I am a practicing Catholic who loves my faith but I was not turning to god for help. That Sunday after my fall I went to church and the reading was “ do not get drunk on wine but be filled with the Holy Spirit! 🙏. God was talking to me and had been but I was not listening!
    Every day I pray for God to take away the desire for an alcoholic drink!
    Kyle, please turn to our loving Father for help with this disease. Our God is there for you! I will pray for you and your family that you will be free from this addiction.
    God Bless You!🙏❤️🙏

  • Reply
    Cheri Miller
    November 6, 2019 at 10:39 am

    Kyle, find whatever or whomever it is you believe in and hold on. Do not ever give up on yourself and keep trying. There are so many different programs and support groups out there, hopefully you can find someone or some program that works for you. All my hopes and prayers are with you and your family.

  • Reply
    Frances
    November 6, 2019 at 12:30 pm

    Kyle I wish you well on your quest for sobriety, Please don’t give up, your life I’d precious even though you don’t feel that it is. For you wife, I too have been in your place, I still struggle wondering why I stay, my husband has done the rehab but had relapsed a few times, Even if it’s one or two drinks he thinks I can’t tell, but yes we know, we have been down in the weeds there is nothing and nowhere to hide. I hope you find some peace and I hope the marriage survives. May you know happiness again.

  • Reply
    Kimberly Schroeder
    November 6, 2019 at 12:31 pm

    Kyle, You and your wife are not alone! We are all trying to figure this out. Matt this is a beautiful thing you are doing for Kyle.
    My husband is 100 days sober tomorrow, I NEVER thought I would be saying that! We are rooting for your family Kyle, we know your pain. I know how your wife feels. It’s lonely and so consuming to be under the grips of this awful disease. Keep fighting!

  • Reply
    Lois Palmer
    November 6, 2019 at 2:35 pm

    Kyle, you only get so many chances and you never know which one is going to be the last. Matt will not always be there for you, neither will your wife and family and then you will know “loneliness such as none do”. It seems to be that you still have the option of a drink in your mind for when things go wrong and this will continually be your downfall until you surrender and admit defeat. When you do this 100% and accept that your life is unmanageable drunk or sober then the answers will come. But you must do this for yourself and by yourself otherwise you’re setting yourself up for a fall again. Every time you pick up another drink you are hurting everyone around you. You may need more inpatient treatment. Alcoholics Anonymous never makes people feel like misfits, it is my second home, once I dropped my pride and admitted I was an alcoholic. I hope you make it Kyle, I have seen so many people die in my 8 years of sobriety. One day at a time you can do it.

    • Reply
      Matt Salis
      November 6, 2019 at 2:49 pm

      Thank you for your comment and supportive feedback, Lois. I appreciate you reading my work. I don’t understand how you can draw conclusions about how Alcoholics Anonymous makes different people feel. Surely you are aware that personalities clash at meetings, and that which brings comfort to some is repulsive to others. I am so glad you have found comfort in your AA experience, and I thank you again for sharing some great advice. Much appreciated, Lois!

    • Reply
      Jules
      November 7, 2019 at 4:05 pm

      Hi Kyle
      I never usually do stuff like this but hey I feel your tortured pain. It’s hard to stop mate, but it’s even harder not to.
      Now’s the time.
      💪🏼

      • Reply
        Robbin Smith
        November 8, 2019 at 7:54 am

        Acceptance of our disease is not an intellectual event, IMHO. Until I accepted that I was an alcoholic in my heart, i.e. emotionally, I was unable to achieve sobriety. Stop the intellectual mindf### and really accept your disease! Then and only then can you take the next actions.

  • Reply
    Heidi
    November 6, 2019 at 3:30 pm

    Kyle, thank you for being willing to be vulnerable. That’s such a huge step in our recovery! Matt has hit the nail on the head when he shared that everyone’s recovery is unique to them as an individual – it’s maddening, but it’s also reason to hope that by continuing to be open to working on your recovery, you will find it. One thing that has really helped me in my daily sobriety is to ask my “higher power” how I can be useful to others who struggle like I do. Sometimes working and focusing so hard on ourselves can add to that feeling of loneliness. Open yourself up to being available to sharing your goal of sobriety with others and you’ll slowly find that connection that we all seek. I believe in you, Kyle, whether this was your last relapse or if you’ve got more to overcome. You can do this.

  • Reply
    Mark
    November 6, 2019 at 8:35 pm

    Hello Kyle,
    It’s Mark. You dont know me just as I do not know you. We are now, however, connected humans beings. I am fortunate in the fact that I do not struggle with the disease you are afflicted with. That does not mean I don’t understand nor care. For some reason your story resonates with me.
    I’ll keep it simple. Reclaim your strength in order to reclaim your life and peace will follow. Stop drinking. Be accountable.

    My thoughts of strength are with you. I look forward to reading about your recovery and continued progress i life Kyle.

  • Reply
    Jen
    November 7, 2019 at 5:13 am

    Kyle,
    I love you. I want nothing more for you than to get sober and live a life with freedom. I pray you can find what works for you. Addiction is a beast. But, with love, honesty, accountability and support, you can overcome.

  • Reply
    Anonymous
    November 7, 2019 at 8:57 am

    Reading this has been extremely difficult for me because it brings me back to a place very similar. I was once too a struggling alcoholic. I drank every day, dry heaved every morning, lived in a fog, hated myself and my life ( I also had children) and I just wanted to die, daily. I couldn’t look in a mirror and see myself anymore, I was completely hollow. I was suffering from a soul sickness and I felt that there was absolutely no cure, other than death itself. I knew people who were sober and I fucking hated them because I couldnt keep it together. I could not string more than 14 days together at one time. I inevitably lost my amazing job, my health declined so fast (I was only 25 btw) and I was preparing for death. I did not care about my family or children any more or myself for that matter. Any time I was sober I was so ashamed, all of the crazy shit I did was just hanging out on the surface of my mind waiting for me to sober up to absolutely crush me and fill me with shame that was so overpowering I could not bare it. The point of me telling all of this to you is that I did recover and I continue to recover every single day. It’s been 6.5 years now that I haven’t had a drink. Alcoholism runs thick as thieves in my immediate family as almost every person other than myself is either in prison, has died from alcoholism or is really fucking close. The success rate for me achieving sobriety was like 0.00001%, but I did. Listen, I’m not telling you that you need find religion to do this but you have find something bigger than yourself and you’ve gotta believe it can remove this addiction and obsession from alcohol. On my last night drinking I was so drunk, driving of course, because I always did and I was at a fork in the road. Drive off this bridge and hopefully die OR live. I remember screaming in my car, crying out to the universe saying that I cannot do this anymore. Either “you”step in and save me, because I literally cannot do it for myself or I die. And it was an honest request because I was at my bottom. The only thing lower was being 6ft under and I was ready for that. I’m not sure who heard me, god? The universe? Something deep inside of me FINALLY, but The next day I woke in my bed. With the worst hangover of my life and my kids jumping up and down at the side of the bed and I realized I was alive. I understand different things work for different people because I’ve seen it. But for me, I forced myself to get uncomfortable and get into A.A. for 90 straight days in a row and was honest in every meeting about wtf I was going through and I still attend meetings weekly today. I can’t tell you what will work for you. All I can share is my experience and I was right there with you, in the trenches. Life or death. It didn’t matter that people loved me and depended on me. I didn’t give a shit, not one bit. I had a love affair with alcohol. Jameson neat, at the end. And I don’t have that anymore. You need to know Kyle that there is hope for your future and your marriage and the life you’ve always wanted. It is 100% a reality that you recover. You’ve gotta unpack a lifetime of shit that you’re holding on to and accept all of it for what it is. There’s so much ugly shit that happened to me as a child and early adulthood that I thought I could never face sober. Molestation, physical and mental abuse rape, suicide attempts etc etc. it was all so fucking ugly. But I am here today and I am sober. Living a life I could have NEVER imagined. You have to fight for your life dude. You have to fight so hard, go to bed sober, wake up and do it all over again every single day and with time and honesty, it gets easier. It might take a year, it might take two years, maybe more, maybe less. But if you choose sobriety things will begin to materialize for you that you never thought achievable. I promise. You got this. So grateful I stumbled across this story and article. I will be rooting for you and your family from a distance.

    • Reply
      Matt Salis
      November 7, 2019 at 9:04 am

      Thank you for sharing this. It is powerful, and you are an inspiration!

      • Reply
        Anne Scott
        November 8, 2019 at 10:13 am

        Thank you for sharing your story and the reality and the hope of what it takes. Good on your for fighting for your life x

    • Reply
      Mslil
      November 8, 2019 at 1:07 am

      Wow such a powerful story of victory. It was raw and honest.
      I can hardly believe I am sober at 60 year’s of age. My outlook on life is so far removed from where I was 2.5 years ago.
      Kyle you don’t need booze – it is a false belief.
      You will be so blown away by how good you will feel.
      I started running as soon as I put down the booze and it has changed my life. Park run really helped me to get well.
      Keep putting one step in front of the other. Do whatever it takes to not put a drop of alcohol in your body. You will get through this my friend.

  • Reply
    Mark
    November 7, 2019 at 9:19 am

    Kyle, those of us that have been where you are have a deep understanding of the doubt and despair you are feeling. As much as it may sound trite to say, all I can tell you is that you must just never give up! Easier said than done I realize, but I have been exactly where you are, and at the end of the day that is rule #1 – the only other alternative is to give in, which in the end is almost always eventually fatal for folks like us. I feel your pain and am with you in mind and spirit, but this is something that unfortunately is entirely up to you. I know the love of your family and friends is there and will help sustain you, but nobody can do this for you. The demon is not invincible…you have it in you to win this! I pray that you are victorious, my brother! NEVER GIVE UP!!!

  • Reply
    Kyle
    November 7, 2019 at 11:31 am

    Hi Everyone,
    Thank you all for the encouragement and advice. I’ve read every comment and I feel it from each of you, the sincerity. This feels good, really good. Working with Matt, and having him share such a vulnerable part of me has filled me with strength. I have a lot to live for and a lot to look forward to, you’ve all assured me of that.
    From the bottom of my heart, Thank you!

    • Reply
      Anne
      November 8, 2019 at 10:19 am

      Kyle so good to hear your voice on this thread. I am so sorry to hear about your job but so glad that you have Matt on your Team. He is a voice of hope and a buddy in the trenches. I love that Matt champions everyone to find their own way to rediscover the power, the meaning and the love that is deep down in side you for you and for the life that you want to create moving forwards. May all our comments be little glimmers of light for you whenever you feel that darkness descending. And may you eventually find the magic in you to find your way through the dark patches that always come and go. As the Neil Young/Crazy Horse song goes – rust never sleeps x

  • Reply
    Jen M.
    November 7, 2019 at 5:16 pm

    Kyle,

    I would recommend you start reading The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. While I understand that you tried AA and didn’t feel like it was the right place, the literature is great at helping you understand more of your disease and the commonalities that those of us, who are afflicted, experience. It’s been my experience that only those that have the addiction, fully comprehend what you are going through. You are not alone. Hope is in recovery. I know from my own previous experiences, it gets harder and harder when I’ve tried to stop and restarted. It is doable and life will become more worth living and the shame that Matt discusses will disappear and a new purpose will take over. All of our journeys have the one thing in common, which is that we were powerless over alcohol and that our lives became unmanageable with it in our body. I will keep you in my prayers as I do all of my brothers and sisters who are bound by addiction. Keep fighting…you are worth it!!

  • Reply
    Patsy Lavinia
    November 8, 2019 at 7:11 am

    I am truly sorry that Kyle lost his job. Obviously his employment does not support his health issues. There will be a much better job waiting for you, Kyle, who is supportive of its employees.

    I am a former wife of an alcoholic. Yes, we were married 22 years and over those years he lost several jobs…I believe his alcoholism/alcoholic behavior played a huge role. It’s now been 20 years and he has been sober for 15 years and we are the best of friends. We have both remained single and share a wonderful relationship with our two daughters and their families.

    Hope and ‘stick-to-i-tive-ness’ and patience with yourself will play a huge role for you.

    Bless you and your journey.

  • Reply
    Suzanne
    November 8, 2019 at 8:56 am

    Hi Kyle,
    Two “out of the box” ideas that may be worth your exploring:
    1) Kundalini Yoga (works with the Central Nervous System to basically RE-wire your brain). It’s kinda out there but it is powerful. Lots of meditation, breathwork, mantras. Usually 1/2 the students and probably 3/4 of the instructors are recovering
    2) Ayawasca – never done it, also out there, but I have read and heard many accounts of people who have had major healing – physically, emotionally, mentally and have been able to walk away from addictions immediately.
    I wish you much success in your recovery!

  • Reply
    Pat MacMillan
    November 9, 2019 at 11:31 am

    Kyle, you are not alone.
    There are many who will stand with you without shame. You must be one of them who stands for your sobriety by dropping your self-shame. No one need be ashamed because he has diabetes or cancer. You need not be ashamed for your addiction disease.

  • Reply
    Lois Palmer
    November 9, 2019 at 11:34 am

    I’m aware that personalities can clash, but AA is about principals not personalities. I tried every other way before swallowing my pride and stopped judging the weirdos in AA. Once I had a bit of humility everything started making sense. As I heard, some people show you how not to live. Kyle needs to do this on his own for himself, he obviously hasn’t had enough pain yet. I have brought many people to AA and helped them, yet I know I haven’t got them sober. I appreciate what you’re trying to do Matt but Kyle needs to take responsibility for his disease/illness/addiction whatever you like to call it. Once you know what is wrong with you you need to take action.

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