My Journey with Porn Addiction Relapse and Recovery

Addiction Help

My Journey with Porn Addiction Relapse and Recovery

Because the average layperson can grasp the idea that addiction is a disease, much of the attached stigma is being lifted.

In fact, the idea of an afflicted person overcoming their chemical demons and living a happy and productive life is such a romantic notion that dozens of movies have been made with just that plot line. It is a well-deserved source of pride when a person can say, “I’m in recovery.”

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, persons with histories of drug addiction who are not currently using and are instead rehabilitated are protected against workplace discrimination.

However, individuals who have an addiction to pornography still face condemnation, shame, and embarrassment from society at large, and no one is writing feel-good movies about them. Whereas a recovering alcoholic/addict is guaranteed equal treatment under the law, a reformed porn addict can be barred from holding certain positions. This is unfortunate, because a recent study has concluded for the very first time that compulsive sexuality can cause measurable physical and anatomical changes in the brain, just as any other addiction can.

In 2010, it was discovered that sexual experiences can induce changes in the brain remarkably similar to those seen with commonly-abused drugs.

In the light of such findings, Dr. Nora Volkow, the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, advocates changing her organization’s name to “the National Institute on Diseases of Addiction”, to encompass all addictions, including gambling, food, and porn addiction.

All addictions occur when the reward centers of the brain are “hijacked”, either by foreign substances such as drugs or by natural survival-based requirements such as sex or food. In the second case, these “natural addictions” can explain such disorders as sexual/porn addiction, overeating, and pathological gambling. Because the path by which an individual can become addicted to and recover from drug and alcohol addiction is well documented, let’s take a look at the journey to and recovering from porn.

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What Is Porn Addiction?

Let’s start with what a porn addiction is NOT. An addiction to pornography is not simply a viewing of pornographic images. A surprising majority of people admit to doing just that.

  • 87% of college-age males look at pornography
  • 50% of them view it at least weekly
  • 20% of them view it daily or at most, every other day
  • 31% of all women look at pornography
  • 40 million Americans regularly visit porn sites
  • In the United States alone, Internet porn generates nearly $3 billion per year

Obviously, there is high consumer demand for pornography in the United States. Societal, moral, and religious aside, the viewing of pornographic images is not, in and of itself, problematic.

So what is the tipping point? What, exactly, constitutes a porn addiction?

As with any addiction, activity becomes a problem when it begins to interfere with other areas of your everyday life.

Project Know, a facility specializing in offering assistance to people overcoming addiction has said, “A large percentage of people who are addicted to porn in any of its forms tend to experience difficulties in personal relationships. It is believed that this occurs because porn addicts tend to isolate themselves from friends, family, and coworkers to continue the behaviors that fueled the addiction.”

Simply put, if looking at “dirty” images is causing a problem in your life and you are continuing to do so, then you might have a porn addiction.

For someone who is addicted to pornography, the condition is reinforced through operant conditioning. This means that their behaviors are rewarded when they’re performed. In this case, this is caused by increased levels of dopamine in the brain. The increase of the “feel-good” chemical makes people want to repeat their actions again and again.

The use of porn can easily reinforce the behavior. This is because of the fact that the reward taps into the person’s sex drive. Sex is a basic human need, which is easily rewarded. As a result, it’s not difficult to get addicted to pornography. The drive itself is natural and very pleasurable. Also, using porn is much more simple than finding a sexual partner.

For someone with a porn addiction, seeking pleasure becomes a compulsion and it is done to excess. It also will eventually occur at the expense of other important behaviors. When this is the case, it is agreed that the individual has an actual pornography addiction.

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What Puts Someone at Risk for Becoming Addicted to Porn?

There are a lot of factors that can influence whether or not someone develops a porn addiction. These are biological, psychological and social in nature.

Sometimes people with porn addictions have higher levels of sex hormones. If your testosterone or estrogen levels are higher than normal, this could put you at risk. This is even truer if you’re someone who naturally has more impulsive behaviors.

It is possible to be genetically predispositioned to be impulsive. You may have a hard time regulating your emotions, or you may struggle with sensation-seeking behaviors. You could also suffer with anxiety and/or depression. Both of these are characteristics that are closely linked with pornography addiction.

Porn addictions can run in families. However, biological factors are not the only indicators. It’s very possible for someone with a family history of porn addiction to refrain from becoming addicted. This brings us to some of the other risk factors that need to be considered as well.

Sexual abuse continues to be a problem in the United States. It can play a profound role in whether or not someone becomes addicted to porn as an adult. Statistics on sexual violence in America tell us that:

  • Someone is sexually assaulted in the United States every 98 seconds.
  • This means that more than 570 people experience sexual violence in the U.S. each day.
  • It is estimated that 17,700,000 women have been the victims of rape since 1998.
  • 99% of sexual perpetrators will not be caught or prosecuted.
  • 3% of men will become victims of rape at some point in their lifetimes.
  • People are most likely to be sexually assaulted between the ages of 12 and 34.
  • 2,780,000 men are estimated to have experienced an attempted or complete rape since 1998.
  • 7 in 10 rapes are committed by someone who is known by the victim.
  • 93% of child sexual abuse perpetrators know their victims.

Of course, abuse and rape are not the only issues here. When someone has been exposed to any type of sexual content at an early age, they’re at risk. Also, there are certain mental health conditions that can contribute as well. These include people who suffer from:

  • Performance anxiety
  • A depressive disorder
  • A personality disorder
  • Poor impulse control
  • An anxiety disorder
  • A panic disorder

Any number of psychological conditions can be contributing factors. This is so important for you to understand. It’s also why it’s vital to treat these conditions while the porn addiction is being treated. Failing to do so will likely not end in recovery for the addict. All too often, too much emphasis is placed on the addiction and not on the cause. For many addicts, their mental health is something that needs to be addressed.

Finally, there are social factors that also play a distinct role in porn addictions as well. It could be something as simple as being or feeling rejected in relationships or social circles. This can lead people to find other ways to gain sexual pleasure.

Social isolation can lead to a lot of problems. It’s typical for someone to become depressed when they feel rejected. They may also develop physical problems as a result. Both can lead to pornography addictions or other unhealthy sexual behaviors.

Influence from your peer group is also likely to play a role. For instance, if you have a friend who watches porn excessively, you’re more likely to do it too. This is something we often find among teenagers. We’ll get more into the teen pornography problem in our country in just a moment.

No matter what has led to your porn addiction, ignoring it is not going to make it go away. You’re also not likely to stop if you attempt to do so on your own.

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Warning Signs of Porn Addiction Relapse

  • Antisocial Behavior – Often, people with an addiction to pornography or porn relapse will tend to keep to themselves, and will eschew other social interactions because they want to get home and look at porn as quickly as possible.
  • Hiding the behavior – There is a difference between keeping your sexual preferences and fantasies private and actively attempting to hide the activity. If a person finds himself telling multiple, often elaborate lies about their behavior, they might have a porn addiction.
  • Losing Track of Time – A porn addiction relapse can easily consume all of a person’s time. If a person finds himself “losing” hours to viewing, they might have a porn addiction.
  • Interference with a Person’s Sex Life – Oddly enough, excessive viewing of pornography can actually have a severe negative effect on a person’s sex drive. People who watch porn constantly can become desensitized and unable to become aroused without pornography.
  • Unrealistic Expectations – Sometimes, people with a porn addiction will lose the ability to distinguish between the fantasy that they see in the images and the reality of their own sex lives. When their own performance and that of their partner fails to re-create something that they have seen in a video, they may become disappointed or even angry.

Down the Rabbit Hole

A person who drinks too much or who takes a habit-forming drug for too long a time can run the risk of developing a physical dependency and a psychological addiction to the drug/alcohol.

How does a normal interest in sexual images turned into a porn addiction? As with many other addictions, the person who developed the disorder often has an “emotional opening” that allows the addiction to take root and to progress past reasonable boundaries. Most typically, this “emotional opening” exists because the person has a poor sense of self-worth. Typically, there are five recognizable stages to an addiction to pornography and porn addiction relapse:

  • Early Exposure – Many people who become addicted to pornography were first exposed at a very early age, usually before they have been able to form a mature understanding of a healthy sexual relationship. This mature understanding can also be negatively affected when a person of any age overindulgence in the viewing of pornographic images.
  • The Compulsion – Because of the warped view of sex caused by the early exposure/overexposure, the brain is “trained” to reward the individual whenever pornography is viewed. Over time, the reward center will produce excessive endorphins when the images are shown, but decrease production at other times.
  • Escalation – Eventually, ever-more graphic images are needed in order to induce excitement. A young teenager who was deliriously excited over the tamest R-rated image can grow into a man with a porn addiction who searches out the raunchiest XXX-rated depictions.
  • Desensitization – At some point, even the most “out-there” pornography will no longer do the trick. At this juncture, the porn addict may be completely incapable of responding to the more pedestrian aspects of a normal real-world sex life.
  • Acting Out – This is the most dangerous stage of a porn addiction, in some ways, akin to a drug overdose. Some porn addicts, once they have lost the ability to respond sexually under normal circumstances, will require that the fantasies they have seen come to life in their own bedrooms in order for them to achieve satisfaction. Naturally, attempting to re-create the artificial behaviors and practices seen in pornographic movies and images can be unrealistic, frustrating, and unhealthy.

The Brain of a Porn Addict

Porn Addiction

Research has shown that the brains of porn addicts are actually a lot like the brains of drug addicts. To learn this information, brain scans were completed on men who were addicted to porn. What they found was that the reward centers of the brain were significantly altered. This tells us so much about how porn affects people who use it compulsively.

The study cited certain porn paradoxes that are typical among these addicts. These paradoxes were simple and they included:

  1. The fact that porn addicts crave porn, but don’t like it.
  2. The fact that cravings are present.
  3. The fact that men who use porn regularly tend to be less attracted to their partners.

In their research, what they found was that porn causes people to change their sexual tastes. The brain itself changes in response to repeated experiences. The reward centers of the brain are what causes these changes to occur.

In short, pornography exposure triggers a dopamine release that becomes addictive. This is what likens porn to drug addiction in so many ways.

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So many people across the United States are recovering from porn addiction. Yet, the question must be asked, is this a true addiction, or is it simply a bad habit or compulsion? The two really are different things.

If you look at the definition of addiction, you’ll find that there are many options. Most would agree that an addiction is a compulsive, relapsing condition that is also considered a disease. However, does pornography really fit that definition? It’s difficult to say.

A habit or a compulsion is a pattern of behavior that is acquired because of repetition or exposure. It happens involuntarily, and it can become an addiction. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is an addiction.

Either way, pornography is still extremely destructive. It hurts the person experiencing the addiction and it hurts the spouse and family.

People also use the terms porn addiction and sex addiction to mean the same thing. Again, these two are very different from one another. Even those in porn addict recovery tend to think that these two are the same.

Sex addiction refers to the act of having sex in a compulsive manner. There are different forms of sex addiction. Some may seek out ways to pay for sex, and cannot get turned on without that stimulation. Others may need to have sex with multiple partners every day of the week.

Regardless of how it manifests, sex addiction refers more to the physical act of having sex. On the other hand, porn addiction refers to the act of looking at pornography. It also means feeling a compulsive need to do so. Today, this is usually achieved through the Internet. In the past, videotapes, DVDs and magazines were commonplace because that’s all that was available.

Sex addiction can give way to pornography addiction eventually. However, once this occurs physical sex tends to lack the luster it once held. This is due to those changes in the brain that occur within those who are addicted to porn.

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What About Teenagers Who are Addicted to Pornography?

Teen use of pornography has become something that’s far too easy for parents to write off. Many will look the other way, claiming that it’s just their curiosity that is driving this behavior. For some teenagers, this may be the case. For others, viewing porn may be the start of a much more serious condition.

The fact is that teenage pornography addiction is becoming much more common than most people realize. According to TeenHelp.com:

  • 25% of teens experienced unwanted exposure to porn during the last year.
  • 23% of them said that they have felt very upset by encountering sexual exposure online.
  • 20% of them have felt embarrassed by pornography.
  • 20% of teenagers reported feeling symptoms of stress as a result of porn.
  • Only 40% of youth said they reported the unwanted exposure to their parents.

Furthermore:

  • 8% of teenagers reported that they had purposefully visited an X-rated website during the last year.
  • About half of kids who found porn online sought it out in other offline sources.
  • Only 7% of them were only looking at pornography online.
  • In 2005, 42% of teens reported that they had been exposed to porn online in the last year.
  • Of that number only 13% of them were seeking it out on purpose.
  • 93% of boys are exposed to porn on the Internet by the age of 18.
  • This compares to 62% of girls.
  • The average age of the first porn exposure was 15 for boys and 14 for girls.

For teenagers, viewing porn can have many negative consequences, both immediate and in the future. It can have a dramatic impact on them physically and psychologically. Some of the issues they may encounter as a result include:

  • Having issues with being able to build and maintain health relationships.
  • The normalization of sexual violence.
  • For boys, an increase in aggression toward women.
  • An increase in high-risk behaviors (substance abuse, alcohol abuse, etc.)
  • A drastically skewed view of the world.

Also, teenagers who are exposed to pornography have a higher chance of being promiscuous. They are much more likely to have abused substances when they have had sex as well. As a result, viewing porn puts them at risk for alcoholism and drug addiction. They are also at risk for eventually developing a mental health disorder.

Porn Addiction Relapse

Getting Help – Porn Rehabilitation

The goal of a good porn rehabilitation and addiction treatment program is to restore an individual to the point where they are able to enjoy and derive satisfaction from a healthy sexual relationship. As with any addiction, the first, most important step is to permit that you are powerless over your porn addiction and that your life has become unmanageable as a result of it. For many people, this realization and request for help comes when they have already sabotaged or at least seriously damaged their own personal relationships.

Although porn addiction treatment shares many of the same approaches to rehabilitation as other addictions, because of its unique nature, the person recovering from porn needs to find an experienced professional that has real experience in successfully treating the disease.

When meeting with the addiction specialist, it is of critical importance to be completely honest. At this point, it is easy to try to minimize one’s actions or leave out certain details because of a sense of shame or endorsement. In this setting, that would be counterproductive, because the only way that the therapist can create an appropriate and properly-effective treatment and recovery plan is to know exactly what they are dealing with.

Do not worry about facing personal judgment from the addiction specialist. They are a professional, and with their training and experience, there’s virtually no chance that you will “shock” them. It is your goal to receive help for your porn addiction, and it is their goal to help you. Because it has been established that porn addiction can change the brain, the best porn addiction treatment programs will include treatment and supervision by medical professionals.

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A person recovering from porn can expect individual, group, and eventually, family therapy sessions, each with their own impact on the recovery process.

  • Individual – This type of one-on-one counseling is most important during the early stages of recovery, because it begins with an in-depth evaluation of the mental and emotional health of the porn addict. Individual therapy also helps a person become more comfortable in speaking about their issues in a group setting.
  • Group – During group counseling sessions, many concepts originating in 12-step meetings are used. Chief among these concepts is helping the porn addict realize that they are not alone in their compulsions or their behaviors. When the porn addict understands this, they are often able to draw strength from that as they attempt to replace their old, negative behaviors with positive ones.
  • Family – Many people addicted to pornography seek treatment in an effort to repair the damage they have caused interpersonal relationships. As new behaviors and ways of thinking are learned, the family is invited to participate so that these new behaviors can be integrated into the family dynamic and so that emotional healing from past psychic wounds can begin to heal.

Fortunately, recovery from porn addiction is entirely possible. However, it does require that you take some key steps. Some of these might be difficult, so be prepared for that. Even so, they will be very rewarding in the end.

First, you need to deal directly with your porn addiction. This means committing to getting the treatment you need. For you, this might mean inpatient treatment, or it could mean outpatient counseling. You need to find the method that’s right for you.

Secondly, be sure that your program is a good one. If you only try to recover from porn half-way, you shouldn’t even attempt it. You need to take drastic measures to be sure your recovery sticks.

Once you have dealt with your addiction, you can begin the work of repairing your marriage. This might be difficult, but if you’re both committed, it can be done. Your marriage needs to be supported, and trust needs to be rebuilt.

Commit to telling the truth in everything in your marriage. Your marriage cannot survive constant deception. By this time, it might seem normal to you to deceive your spouse. That can be habit that’s hard to undo, but it can be done.

Finally, invest in marriage counseling. This will help you learn better communication skills and conflict resolution skills. There is so much healing that needs to take place in your marriage. Counseling can help you get that process started.

One of the issues that porn addicts often run into is feeling OK with sex after porn recovery. This might be something that you’re concerned with as well.

Porn addiction wreaks havoc on a marriage, and it’s normal to have some emotional scars. However, you want to be able to move forward and enjoy sex with your spouse again.

You may want to consider that you need to be treated for more than just your porn addiction. This type of addiction often has accompanying problems that go along with it. These are often manifested as co-occurring disorders.

Some experts believe that there is so much more that goes along with porn addiction than just porn. You may be suffering from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). This is a condition that is often seen in soldiers returning from war. It can also be seen in people who have lived through traumatic events.

While it might not seem like it, your porn addiction has caused you to experience a traumatic event. There may even be other circumstances in your life that contribute to it.

In the end, it takes time to reconnect with your spouse and resurrect the intimacy that you lost. Ensuring that you’re being treated properly for your porn addiction is an excellent start.

There are, quite literally, millions of pornographic websites on the Internet, and sex is everywhere in advertising. It can be daunting and even overwhelming for a recovering porn addict to be faced with such blatant temptation everywhere.

Cravings for porn can develop even years after a porn addict has recovered. Relapses with addictions are very common, and the same is true for porn addictions. Sometimes there is a triggering event, such as a spouse being away on a business trip. However, the fact is that anything can cause a recovering addict to go back to his “drug” of choice. This is true even if the “drug” is porn.

Preventing a Relapse After Porn Recovery

Luckily, there are some practical steps that can be taken to minimize the danger of relapse.

First and foremost, the recovering porn addict should make a Relapse Prevention Plan in preparation for those occasions when they may feel compelled to view pornography. Some strategies might include avoiding becoming too bored, lonely, or tired. A person in recovery should always have healthy distractions and hobbies, positive relationships, and should take good physical care of themselves.

In the event that the person recovering from porn addiction faces an overwhelming temptation, they should have a friend/sponsor that they can call or somewhere that they can go to get away from that temptation.

  • It may be a good idea to install tracking devices and/or programs on the recovering porn addict’s computer, phone, and electronic devices. This will allow a trusted friend or family member to monitor the online behavior of the person in recovery. In turn, the recovering addict can deal with their own sense of discipline and self-esteem by demonstrating that they are not relapsing.
  • It is an extremely good idea to actively participate in ongoing long-term outpatient porn addiction therapy conducted by a trained professional staff. 12-step meetings can also be an ongoing and positive source of support.

Like other addictions, porn addiction cannot be “cured”. Addiction is a lifelong disease that must be dealt with one day at a time, and sometimes, one hour at a time. Porn addiction treatment will teach an individual different ways of thinking and behaviors that can replace their old, self-destructive methods. There is much work to do, but there is hope in recovering from porn addiction.

Luckily, there are some practical steps that can be taken to minimize the danger of relapse.

First and foremost, the recovering porn addict should make a Relapse Prevention Plan in preparation for those occasions when they may feel compelled to view pornography. Some strategies might include avoiding becoming too bored, lonely, or tired. A person in recovery should always have healthy distractions and hobbies, positive relationships, and should take good physical care of themselves.

In the event that the person recovering from porn addiction faces an overwhelming temptation, they should have a friend/sponsor that they can call or somewhere that they can go to get away from that temptation.

  • It may be a good idea to install tracking devices and/or programs on the recovering porn addict’s computer, phone, and electronic devices. This will allow a trusted friend or family member to monitor the online behavior of the person in recovery. In turn, the recovering addict can deal with their own sense of discipline and self-esteem by demonstrating that they are not relapsing.
  • It is an extremely good idea to actively participate in ongoing long-term outpatient porn addiction therapy conducted by a trained professional staff. 12-step meetings can also be an ongoing and positive source of support.

Like other addictions, porn addiction cannot be “cured”. Addiction is a lifelong disease that must be dealt with one day at a time, and sometimes, one hour at a time. Porn addiction treatment will teach an individual different ways of thinking and behaviors that can replace their old, self-destructive methods. There is much work to do, but there is hope in recovering from porn addiction.

What to Expect if You Continue in Your Porn Addiction and Don’t Get Help

Far too often, people will just continue on in their porn addictions and don’t get help. They may be in denial that they have a problem that requires professional attention. Sometimes they will be afraid to let anyone know that the compulsion to use pornography is present. This condition does carry with it the stigma of shame and embarrassment. Unfortunately, this isn’t something that is likely to change.

The worst thing you could do would be to put off getting the help you need if you’re a porn addict. Waiting could lead to a host of other problems, in time. For instance, men who continue in this addiction run the risk of experiencing sexual dysfunction. They may eventually become impotent. This means they no longer have the ability to form or maintain an erection. Men may also suffer from premature ejaculation as time goes by.

There are other effects of continuing in an active porn addiction without getting help as well. They can be both psychological and social in nature. The psychological ramifications include:

  • The risk of developing anxiety, depression, or a host of other co-occurring disorders.
  • A preoccupation with sexual thoughts all day long.
  • Confusion, guilt and shame.
  • Becoming ambivalent about stopping the use of porn.
  • An increase of impulsive behaviors that aren’t related directly to using porn.

Socially, you may experience:

  • A decreased need for real life sexual contact.
  • A decrease in your patience for sexual connections.
  • The inability to become aroused with your partner.
  • An increasing need for more aggressive sexual behaviors.
  • Becoming emotionally detached and aloof.

You may find that you constantly feel lonely. You may begin having trouble sleeping at night, or you may even eventually lose your job. This addiction is serious, and it should be taken seriously. Turning a blind eye to it isn’t going to change the fact that it is an addiction. Any addiction needs to be treated properly; otherwise, it will only continue and get worse.

But, isn’t Pornography Really Harmless?

In many ways it seems as though pornography is completely harmless. This is often referred to by experts as The Great Deception. You love the rush that porn creates for you. It provides you with a euphoric feeling that you enjoy. Eventually, using porn is going to do exactly the opposite. Many people who frequently use porn admit that it’s not something they really enjoy. They just feel compelled to do it. Furthermore, it eventually causes them to feel numb inside, and it isn’t enjoyable for long.

There is nothing harmless about pornography, and it is actually toxic. The fact that it is an addiction means that it will become worse unless something interrupts the cycle. What once seemed like an enjoyable way to spend a weekend can escalate quickly. It often doesn’t take long before the porn that once excited a person to seem mundane. To compensate, they may begin viewing things that most would agree go too far.

This is the truth about porn addiction. If you’re someone who suffers from it, getting help is the best gift you can give to yourself. It’s not easy, but it will change your life.

Your Recovery from Porn Addiction Starts Here

The hardest thing you have probably ever done was admit to yourself that you’re addicted to porn. The next step is admitting your porn addiction to someone else. No one wants to have to do that, and you might be at a critical point in your life right now.

It’s so important for you to recover if you are a porn addict. For most people, that means professional treatment. This might surprise you because you never thought you’d need professional help for this problem. Even so, please realize that this addiction is a powerful one. With any addiction, relapse is an absolute possibility. More often than not, it’s a certainty for most people.

At Northpoint Recovery, we offer help to those who suffer with porn addictions. We understand the pressure you’re feeling. We know how badly you want to recover from your addiction. We also have the tools that can help you.

It’s possible that you can’t imagine a life that doesn’t include porn. You may have been dealing with this for years. Help is available for you to recover.

Do you have questions about porn addiction recovery? If so, please contact us today.

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By |2019-09-04T02:55:41+00:00August 30th, 2019|

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3 Comments

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    Nirav January 10, 2018 at 2:40 pm - Reply

    Very nice article i like it

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    Ryan Sirois May 10, 2019 at 8:55 am - Reply

    This is excellent information. It is amazing and wonderful to visit your site.Thanks for sharing this information

    • Northpoint Recovery
      Northpoint Recovery May 15, 2019 at 8:20 pm - Reply

      So glad the article resonated with you!

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