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Setting Goals: Moderating, Abstaining & In-between

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  • gemdropper
    Cameron to someone new to MM

    Welcome to the group. It is a great group, as you have seen. There are number of successful moderators in the group that can help with your transition to moderate drinking. The prevalent goal that I have seen in the group is for each individual to determine the optimal path for him or her, whether that be abstinence or moderation. In either case, those two options are good, while excess or alcoholic drinking is sub-optimal. I thought it interesting the words that you associate with sobriety. Social awkwardness, social stigma, burden, etc. One of the goals of getting drinking to a "small, but enjoyable part of life" is to disassociate negative feelings with sobriety. In moderation, it presupposes that there will be a variety of situations where drinking will be off the table, and ultimately, the idea is to feel equally comfortable whether abstaining or drinking. In other words, to truly enjoy the moderate life style, you will need to learn to enjoy sobriety, because sobriety is a component of the moderate life style.

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  • gemdropper
    Kary May on What Do You Expect from Moderation?

    I think a couple of things we have to look at is what we want drinking to bring us and will it be able to bring us that if we drink in moderation. If you drink to fit in, can you fit in with whoever you're trying to fit in with and drink within MM limits? If you drink to relax, ask the same question. If you drink for taste and because you enjoy trying new beers or wines or whiskey, can you do that and moderate?

    Something I don't think I really sat down and thought about when I attempted moderation is that alcohol couldn't do any of the things I wanted it to do if I drank in moderation. Maybe, if I could have gotten my resistance down low enough, it could have relaxed me when I only drank 2 or three glasses of wine, but I couldn't maintain those low numbers so my resistance went up and down, and drove my body crazy. But as far as fitting in, my friends can drink, and drinking in moderation wasn't going to make me feel like I was one of the crowd, I would feel just as left out as I do when I abs. In that instant, moderation was not much different than absing. If I was drinking to escape, moderation sure wasn't going to take me away from the reality I was trying to avoid.

    One of my favorite fantasies is of being able to drink a couple of glasses of wine at sunset, but I can't say what I want those glasses of wine to accomplish. Celebration? That could be a good reason to moderate. I do miss having a way to celebrate something special, but for me, it wouldn't be wise to start drinking to have the occasional celebratory drink. I think I'd always want it to do more.

    Ask yourself, am I expecting moderation to do something it can't? If not, then you can work on pushing booze back over that line and keeping it there. But if you think, honestly, that you're going to have everything that you had while drinking beyond moderation limits when you moderate, and I'm talking about the things you like about drinking, not the hangovers or remorse, then you really need to look at that.

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  • donna.dierker
    Astrid to a new member:

    BTB (by the book) means drinking within the moderate drinking limits defined by the founders of this program (based on scientific research of what is healthy). At the top of the page you'll see a tab Steps of Change, and if you go there, on pg. 2 the BTB limits are defined. Briefly, though, this is what it means:

    For Men:
    No more than 14 drinks per week, and not more than 4 per occasion.
    For Women
    : Not more than 9 drinks per week, and not more than 3 per occasion.
    For Both
    : Do not drink on more than 3 or 4 days per week.

    These are 'standard drinks' which is defined in the document. It is my belief that to be BTB one must also stick to the rule of not letting your BAC (blood alcohol contenet) exceed .055%. So, in other words, don't chug your 3-4 drinks within a half hour

    Abs (abstaining) can mean for a single day, or during a 30, or permanent abstinence (perm abs). There are a lot of perm abs people here at MM.

    This method (or program if you want to call it that) has specific reasons for doing a 30. It's discussed a bit in the Steps of Change at the top, and in more detail in the book that goes along with the program called Responsible Drinking (RD). The 30 is a time to reflect, with a clear mind, on the problems alcohol has caused you, what you think moderating will bring you, and also give you a chance to practice abstaining and figuring out what triggers tend to make you drink when you didn't plan to or tend to make you over drink. It also lowers your tolerance to alcohol, which makes moderating easier because you won't need to drink as much to feel the effects.

    RD also highlights research showing that "large numbers of people with alcohol problems do effectively learn to moderate. Indeed moderation is actually by far the most common resolution for people with less severe problems and for people who do not undergo professional treatment."

    Does that mean that it works for everyone who tries it? No. RD talks about this as well and how for some people abstinence is really what they are going to need to do.

    This method has and is gaining more acceptance. Read some of the news stories on the home page of this website. But AA has been around since 1935 and has grown tremendously. And it does work for some people.

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  • gemdropper
    bruce's "I miss the buzz"

    I will admit that there are times I find myself thinking "I miss the buzz," but I also recognize that my old way of chasing that buzz wasn't working for me. I suspect it wasn't working for you, either, or else you wouldn't be on this forum. I think this is a profound question because it gets at the crux of what so many of us are wrestling with and what led us to MM. I don't know all the answers for myself (and I think we can only answer these questions for ourselves), but here are a few random thoughts:

    I do miss the buzz, but I don't miss all the sh#t that went along with getting that buzz (hang-overs, lost passion, all the stuff that made me want to modify my drinking). You can't have one without the other. What I can do is to hold onto as many of the positives of drinking through moderation (still being able to enjoy the taste and sensation of drinking, social drinking, the warm glow of some alcohol in my system, not having the stigma of "being in recovery") while completely eliminating the aforementioned negatives of drinking.

    Growing older means things change. There's a whole lot of things I used to do that I can't do any more, and I miss them all terribly. I can stamp my feet all I want, but the fact is, things are different now, so I'd better make the best of the reality of my current situation and body. I can't keep drinking the quantities and frequency I used to experience. I just can't. So I need to get over it, and deal with it.

    I DO still get a buzz. I feel warm when I stop after 2 or 3 drinks, I feel like there's a light inside me, I feel like my problems and worries and sadness and all that other crap I feel most of the time is dulled, not like my brain is full of cotton, but like the edges have been polished and rounded, like I can let go of it for a moment and appreciate the good. And now I'm conscious of how I feel. In the past, I'd ride the express elevator to inebriation - and there would be a rush or a thrill involved - but once I was wasted, I was no longer conscious of any thrill. The elevator had reached the top floor, and maybe even started to slide back down a bit. My drinking would become a desperate - and ultimately unsuccessful - attempt to return to the feelings of a few hours ago. And then I'd wake up feeling miserable. If you look at it rationally (and I know the human mind is not always rational), the first "buzz" I described is much more preferable and sustainable than the second.

    I will admit that in the back of my mind I have the thought that once I am successfully and confidently a moderate drinker, I have not ruled out the possibility that there may be some future out-of-the-ordinary celebration or event at which I will drink more than I should. I will probably get drunk again at some point in my life. When I do, I will re-experience that buzz that my former self experienced as a daily thing. And I also suspect (and hope) that once I do, and I deal with the morning after, I'll realize I prefer the new buzz to the old one.

    I am practicing moderation precisely because I would miss the buzz if I had to remain abs, and I see that as the only other alternative. Indeed, as life and my body has changed, I have reached a point where the old way could not continue. That leaves me with the options of either drinking in moderation or not drinking at all. If moderation doesn't work, I'll have to go abs - and I would because the alternative would not be acceptable. I've done my 30, and realize that life went on and I even had moments of pleasure - moments I may have missed if I'd been numbed by drinking.

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  • gemdropper
    RB on aiming for perfection, nominated by several people

    On January 12, 2016, I said I'd join in aiming for perfection, as it's worth having lofty goals to try to meet our highest standards. That way the least I can hope for is "pretty good."

    On reds and perfection: Ok here again with my 3rd red of the year, last night. I still believe in aiming for perfection; or, at the very least, knowing what perfection is, so that I may have it there as the standard to which I'd like to think I want to aspire. I see nothing wrong with wanting and aiming for perfection, while knowing that nothing, and no one, is ever really perfect. Perfection is the ideal, the epitome of success, the ultimate dream. Many human pursuits involve striving for perfection. In so doing, we can always achieve more: greater, farther, faster, higher, better. We can at least be "pretty good" or "good enough," as we continue to strive to do our best.

    My being here is underlain by my desire to stop doing damage to myself. I think I've gotten pretty close to turning around a very long-term, very unhealthy habit of overdrinking almost every day. I guess if anything is my basis for judging whether I'm doing ok or not it's "how am I feeling?" If I'm feeling anxious and my heart is beating too hard and too fast and my mood is in the tank and I'm sniping at my nearest and dearest, then, most likely, I'm not doing well on managing my drinking. If I'm hungover, I drank too much last night. If I don't remember bits and pieces, or all, of the evening, then I drank too much last night. I don't want to do that. I guess that's where I draw the line on whether the Red I committed was acceptable or not. How do I feel? Am I losing out on today because of what I did yesterday? That's kind of it, in a nutshell, for me.

    So, knowing that I've found, through trial and error, that the MM limits are reasonable sideboards for me, in that I feel good when I remain well within them, I consider keeping my drinking levels under those limits to be "perfection" in the Alcozone. And, although this week I'm beyond those limits and will continue to abuse them because of a social event coming up tomorrow, during which I've been planning on drinking wine, I do intend to recommit, every Sunday morning, to attaining perfection where my drinking is concerned. I'm going to just keep on trying, on a weekly basis, to attain that perfection and be happy that I'm so much healthier and so much happier than I was before I started dealing with this situation.

    Thanks for listening, everyone! And keep on making progress! And whether you aim for perfection, or simply improvement, whether you're standing in the winners' circle or just stopping the bleeding, keep on being happy and healthy and spreading joy in the world.

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  • gemdropper
    Kary May on predicting the future, nominated by dld

    THM, the thing about MM is it is going to give you plenty of experiences on which to base your decision of whether you can moderate or "need" to abs, but it's also going to give you the opportunity to decide whether you "want" to moderate or "want" to abs. There are people out there who could probably moderate (I'm not one of them) but, through their exposure to abs days here, have decided that they prefer to perm abs. They couldn't embrace that choice before because they hadn't had any long term or regular experience with absing.

    Don't try and predict your future right now. Just do the work and enjoy the ride and see where it takes you.


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  • gemdropper
    Kary May on choosing abstinence, nominated by dld

    I like that word "chose". I like the fact that I "chose" to quit striving for moderation, that perm abs was something that I chose. It didn't choose me and it wasn't chosen for me.

    That brings me to one of the reasons I finally decided to quit trying to moderate. In my year of trying to moderate here on MM and in all those years when I tried to moderate, once I started drinking, my choices were wrested from me. Alcohol took control. It was okay for a lot of years. For a lot of years, even though alcohol still had the upper hand and I was unable to drink at the levels that I wished I could, I could still function. I still worked, I still maintained relationships, and although they were tainted by my drinking, I didn't lose any family members or friends because of my drinking.

    But then, about twenty years into my drinking, in my early 40's, booze started calling in my debts. I started getting sicker and sicker after my drinking bouts and I could no longer be counted on. I'd always been a person you could count on. I looked into the future and saw a life without the people that mean the most to me in it. My kids and my grandkids. And most importantly, me. I was losing me. I was becoming more and more unrecognizable to myself every day.

    The thing is, I spent another nine years trying to hang on to alcohol. Trying to gain that control that I had never had. Finally, someone was kind enough to point out that I was getting nowhere, in fact, I was getting further and further from myself.

    Luckily, I had found MM. And in my year of trying here, I had gotten some glimpses of a person I recognized. I liked her. As a matter of fact, I loved her. She was worth giving up drinking for. She was going to be fifty years old and I owed it to her to give her a chance at another fifty years.

    So I did.

    That person was me.


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  • gemdropper
    Pono on Acceptance, nominated by Kurt

    Just going to abs. I don't have any desire to drink. Frankly it scares me. I'm not under any illusion that just because I was able to moderate once, I am cured. Nor do I want to plan drinking, keep track of drinking, obsess over when how I will drink...It's easier just not to drink. I haven't thought about it at all until I read the list, actually. I have no illusions that I will ever be able to drink safely like normal drinkers. And I can never afford to forget that. So I will continue to keep it at an arms length in general. But I need to understand this anxiety thing and get to the core of why I have an innate belief I am not a worthy human. I have to fix that, because it's bullshit. Alc might lubricate social situations, but I don't want it to be a mandatory part of them. I don't want to end up a hermit a hermit either...but more than anything, I don't want to be a drunk. That persona I reject completely. The others I will work on.

    Acceptance is kind of my focus these days. It's as close as I can come to developing the loving compassion that CP talks about. It's at least solid ground from which some sort of new foundation can be built.

    In a word, it's not so difficult to understand the idea of "acceptance" on a cerebral level, but I find myself continually having to remind me to practice it, like taking clothes off and on trying to figure out what to wear for a big date, and finally slumping on the floor naked with a sigh...and more recently even a chuckle and a kind word or two.


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  • gemdropper
    SBRS on The Post 30 THIRTY, nominated by dld

    for those that wonder how to approach life with drinking follwing a 30, here's my suggestion:

    The basics: when you get back from your 30 sticking your toe in the water rather than diving in is the way to go. If this is about habits, maxing out 4 days a week as a goal is just going to put you back where you started. If you take the 30 and slowly phase in some drinking, say over a month after the 30, you're going to develop some good habits.

    I advise a very slow re-introduction of alcohol into your system over a month:

    Step 1: Pick a day, have one drink. Drink it like it will be the last one you get in your life. Careful which you choose and how fast you drink it. It's going to be a while until your next one.

    Step 2: Do a 7 day ABS. And go do something good for yourself that you wouldn't do otherwise like a massage. Or in my case, work on the Todo list and remember to congratulate yourself.

    Step 3: After the ABS, Repeat Step 1, but this time take 2 days, but one drink each day.

    Step 4: Repeat Step 2 and cycle weeks 2/3 for another 2 cycles.

    Depending on when you took that first drink, this should take you out to about another month.

    The endgame: It's a recipe for success. At the end of this, you have been mindful for at least 60 days.

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  • gemdropper
    sup on Scared for perm abs, nominated by Kurt

    I'm only on day 43 of my abs so I can't give a long-term perspective,
    but I have been mulling over my abs versus moderation goals. I like
    the idea of moderating and permanent abs also scares me, but I'm
    finding the vague concepts of 'like' and 'scared' aren't enough to
    make my decision. I'm keeping an open mind based on a few things:

    1. No decision is permanent. If you don't like moderating, you can
    abstain and vice versa. Even if you commit to a day, week, month or
    year, it's only a commitment to not consider it for that time. You
    don't need to abstain 'forever', but can find a timeline for
    reconsideration that is less stressful than a daily decision as you
    find in moderation.

    2. I've had to ask myself why I 'like' the idea of moderating. What
    does that mean? I'm my head, I have an image of me dancing and
    drinking, it's very fun and sounds good. Okay, now a more realistic
    image of drunk me... not social, not fun. If I'm going to moderate, it
    can't be code for "I want to get drunk" and it can't be code for "I
    want to live a tv beer commercial life." It has to mean a commitment
    to drinking moderately... maybe a few drinks a month, always with
    friends, in a social context. Aside from whether that's possible, is
    it even desirable? Knowing the risks, does that sound like any fun?
    I'm waiting for my idea of moderate drinking to solidify into
    something more realistic before making any commitment longer than a

    3. What scares me about abstaining? Really, it's that I lose my coping
    mechanism of last resort. The thought of facing down life's crises
    with no soft cushion scares me. Something terrible will eventually
    happen and I won't be able to drink and I'll just... explode and die?
    That's what it feels like. It's not rational, although yes, that will
    be a big challenge for me, but facing my problems without alcohol is
    part of moderation AND abstinence. Crisis drinking is not BTB. I need
    to learn the skills to cope better with life, whatever my choice. I
    can focus on building them and hope that they will endure. It will
    either work or not, and no prior decision is going to hold in any
    event, not without the skills to underpin them. Crises are scary and
    will always be scary. Let's face it, if I really can't cope then I'll
    break any and every rule I've made because I will always try to
    survive - just like I always have. I don't need to wait for my fear of
    crises to go away, because it never will, before I start nurturing the
    skills I need to survive and thrive in whatever else life decides to
    throw at me.

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  • gemdropper
    Charlie on the power of the sticky, nominated by Gary
    (The Sticky is a daily roster of those who are not drinking that day.)

    I am in. Thanks again for being here. It is a great help just to say I'm in and of course thanks to everyone. As always, be well. Have a great weekend.

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  • gemdropper
    CalJim on the power of your own path, nominated by Gary

    I sincerely wish that no one here is letting any written, religious or dogmatic view of your contest with alcohol has reverted you to a state of blind submission to a "one size fits all" view of taming of alcohol in your life.
    It's very easy to believe that you are've had the same habits for years. so if "they" tell you you're diseased or powerless, it can be very easy to believe.
    It's my hope that you are in MM to find your own path. One that you believe in and would bet "all your chips" on following. One path that you would be willing to start on, fresh in the hope that moderation might just be for you. Maybe it isn't, but at least you can make your own decision about.
    Sure, you'll fail, slip, whatever you want to call it. But the key is to keep going. No, you don't lose your chip for having a lapse.
    Lol, ha ha.....guess what? all you have to do is win today. Forget yesterday, and the future is a huge unknown, in fact it might just end in the next 5 minutes. So make today count, make NOW count. it's all you've really got. The keys to liberty and illumination are just hanging on the hook in the corner of your mind next to the door.


    Last edited by gemdropper; 11-03-2014, 02:29 PM.

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  • donna.dierker
    ksusier on the benefits of abstaining, nominated by Donna

    I am going to post to both lists because I hope that someone can relate to my struggles (on the main list) with moderation and it might (?????) help them and I truly in my heart want to be perm abs - I am still really working towards this and I need the support of the

    I did not drink last night. Not because I couldn't, but because I didn't want to. This was a big accomplishment - I think the first time in 20 years to do so without a glass of wine in my hand. Just another occasion to drink in the past. I made a couple of interesting observations.

    1. We put up our Christmas tree and I did not get in a fight with dh - that is a first!
    2. He thought the tree was crooked so we took it back and got a different one - that would have pissed me off if I would have been drinking - who cares - it is fine - if we leave, I have to take a break form my wine! (I would have thought that one to myself - probably on a subconscious level)
    3. While we were getting a new one - I saw 4 people I knew - I wasn't trying to avoid them bc they might smell the alcohol or I might act stupid. I don't even think they had been drinking! Hmmmm - I thought everyone drank on Saturdays.
    4. We decided we needed more lights at 7:00. Dd and I went to get more. That would have pissed me off in the past - It's fine - who cares
    - Why do I always have to do it! - I shouldn't be driving anyway! (I would think that one to myself - probably on a subconscious level)
    5. We stopped right in the middle - ate dinner and watched a movie - that wouldn't have happened in the past. I get a little hell bent on getting things finished when drinking. Let's just get it done even though dh wanted to watch a movie.
    6. I did not wake up this morning to a sink full of dirty dishes - I actually did them before I went to bed.

    Interesting .......

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  • gemdropper
    These replies followed a declaration by a MMer that he was going to permanently abstain from alcohol, and thus was joining the MMabsers list.

    Carloss wrote:

    I'm new (a month or so) and truly appreciate this post, because I know
    complete abstinence may be the final result for me, too. I have been
    abusing seriously for 15+ years, and trying on-and-off again to try
    something. I was diagnosed by my MD and an Alcohol Counselor that I was not
    an alcoholic, but I did have choice, habit and other issues (at the same
    time I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety, and a bit of OCD,

    I'm on a second 30 (successful the first time almost 2 years ago, and will
    make it through this one, too). The real test comes when I do begin
    drinking again, and what kind of plan I have for btb mods. We'll see if I
    can do it. If I can't, I'll know (I'm done rationalizing and lying to
    myself). Then I'll know abstinence is the only route for me.

    I don't know anything about MMabsters, though. I guess I'll cross that
    bridge when I get to it.

    Caljim wrote:

    When I first joined MM, the abser group seemed foreign and scary. I
    read some horror stories, and comforted myself that I'd never gone
    *that* far off the deep end! Well, deep ends are sort of a relative
    thing. And falling on our face or our ass enough times it is a very
    personal assessment. When I did my 30, it taught me to live with out
    drinking, to lose the daily habit and urges. But it also teaches us
    how to live a live where alcohol just isn't a factor and it can be a
    good life without wine/drink of choice. My goodness, we make drinking
    out to be such a holy grail sometimes, when really it's just a nice
    beverage to enjoy (thanks Dean) it a part of a balanced life or
    The decision hits home especially when the alcohol use causes way
    more harm than good. The life without drinking is not punitive, but a
    blessing, a new gift of appreciation for a life lived authentically
    and unmedicated. And to top all that off, it's still a choice, still
    not a disease or situation of powerlessness. In fact, its the ultimate
    expression of power we do have. We still retain the right to drink, we
    just choose not to. Maybe we'll choose to not drink for every day to
    come, forever, but a day at a time....Absing is integral to
    moderation. I respect the hell out of these friends of ours who fight
    thier battles in deeper trenches, talk about power.
    I'm realistic, I keep close to them, lol, them are us! MM is a process
    where we can make intelligent adult informed decisions about removing
    drinking from our lives from our lives without feeling like it was a
    court injunction....the force is powerful and strong with such as
    these. After all it's all about doing or not doing....the trying part
    is where we have to decide how much wear and tear our lives and livers
    can take. Yoda was frustrated with Luke, for him it was always how it
    cannot be done with that one. With us it's how it *can* be
    done....yeah, we have the Force.
    May the force be with you....

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  • gemdropper
    colparker on morning drinking, nominated by JJ

    Hi Dina,
    When I drank in the morning it was to try to forestall what I knew was going to be
    more than a hangover. It would be full blown withdrawal. Like you that would be during
    a period of drink, sleep , wake up , drink.

    There are several things that hit me from your email. It brings back some memories.
    When you say your husband will freak when he discovers you already drinking are
    you concerned about yourself ? Trying to keep him from finding out , so you don't have
    to deal with the consequences ? Or are you concerned about your husband. About the
    fear and probable anger that he feels. The feeling of utter loss of control in the family.
    The worrying if his wife will be safe and ok ?

    My drinking only began to change when I became more concerned about others and honest
    about myself. Being the true and honest YOU to the world entails being true and honest with others. It is not about being selfish..

    How I stopped drinking in the morning was to stop drinking. Period. There is nothing social about morning drinking. Do not let the addicted mind find excuses for this type of thing. If you are seeking to learn about moderation then morning drinking has no part of that. Don't misunderstand me , I am not talking about a bloody mary with brunch in a circle of friends or family. I am talking about swallowing vodka until the pain recedes. You are already doing as MM suggests , attending meetings and learning about MM. Perhaps the next step is exactly as MM suggests : Abstain from alcoholic beverages for thirty days and complete steps three through six during this time. I am aware that my words may sound harsh to the ear. Trust that there is no judgment nor criticism intended. I know as I have been there.

    When one is drinking to the extent of morning drinking there will be no easy way. It will involve a certain amount of pain and suffering to change. There will be sacrifices to be made. To think that it will be any other way is to delude oneself. That being said , because you will have made great sacrifice you will gain great rewards. So last thing I will close with is that I agree with Old Salir in that moderation or abstinence will not be a matter of luck. In fact , I will be so bold as to say it isn't about hope either. It is about setting your intention, and being willing to do whatever it takes to reach your goal . To that end instead of wishing you luck I will instead keep you in my heart and offer prayers that you may quickly feel peace and joy and a release from slavery .

    From my heart to yours,


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