Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Terminally unique

I have heard the expression of being "terminally unique" which is often an attitude that is used to exempt a person from some of the principles of Al-Anon and the twelve steps.  I experienced that attitude of uniqueness for years.  I thought that I was different from others and that no one else could possibly have experienced the rotten things that I had.  I realize that thinking I was different from others not only isolated me in life but kept me away from the benefits of recovery. 

It isn't unusual to hear someone talk about how difficult their situation is.  Their misery is much greater because they have a child who is on the streets whereas others have a much less burdensome situation with an alcoholic spouse.  I don't have children so I can't identify.  I am sure their pain is a harsh and hard thing.  But I have also heard in Al-Anon that we don't compare our burdens and pain.  To me, living with an alcoholic for many years was very painful. 

Fortunately, when I went to my first meeting I heard others talk about their alcoholic spouses.  I could tell that I belonged.  I didn't think that I was so different because of education, financial situation or any other reason.  I could identify with what I heard. 

Last night, a couple at the Beginner's Meeting shared about how difficult is was for them to let their addict son go.  He is active and living with them.  The father said that having a child who has problems with drugs or alcohol is different from having a spouse who has those problems.  Yes, I suppose it could be.  But isn't the end result the same--that if I keep doing the same things over and over and those things don't work, that perhaps I need to consider other options?

I believe in the end, we have far more similarities than differences in our desire to help those we love.  I think that each of us who come to Al-Anon are there because we are desperate.  Some are desperate to help the alcoholic, while others are desperate to save ourselves from what has become a miserable existence.   I am glad that I was at the point of being desperate enough to save myself.  I had reached my breaking point and knew that I was beaten by alcoholism. 

I suspect that the couple whose son is still actively using were there to save him.  They left half way through the regular meeting.  I was sorry to see them go but perhaps they haven't reached the point where they realize that fixing their son isn't possible.  There is one thing for sure, we are each unique--just like everyone else.


  1. We are all unique, in our own special human ways. I've learned so much being in marriage counseling with my spouse. I used to think his decision making and thought patterns were similar to mine. Not so! He looks at the world entirely different than I do, and it's been eye opening.

  2. Your posts, Syd, are ever and always so readable, interesting, necessary, and so NOW!

    Several boxes in our garage look just like that image...and I guess $1 prices them correctly.

  3. mmm...i feel for that couple...and i hope they get there...tight post syd...

  4. A lot of goodies in that box for only a dollar. A great garage sale find I think. We all have a story that brought us to the place that we found a meeting and began the work. One of the best things about people who work a program is the respect they have for each other and how they got there. I like how you stand back when you describe someone who comes to a meeting, you don't have anything invested in their liking or staying. You are wise enough to understand that people have to do their own work just like you have done and are still doing.

  5. Yes,it takes a lot of insight to realize others suffer too.And that to help , we start by helping ourselves.I find a lot of what has helped me grow , is sharing via a united understanding with others who have had drug and alcohol issues hurt and hinder their lives.
    And/or the lives of their loved ones.
    But beneath each unique story-we all share hope.
    A commonality that is inspired by so many unique stories and lives who share.I am always so touched and moved by reality - and addictions for this very balance.

  6. Syd,
    I hope the couple are able to find some peace.

    Great post!


  7. I believe I know the couple of which you speak. No matter how much you ask someone to keep their mind and heart open to an understanding that will take more than an hour to culminate, some are so absolutely sure of the answer that they are powerless to see outside their own perspective.

    They may be back as he is unable to live up to their expectations and they are unable to continue to support his.

    This disease is so powerful, cunning and baffling, it's horrible to see it spread and develop, and somehow it makes me so grateful for my own parents and for the experiences that allowed me to be separated from dependence upon them to continue to fix or bail me out. Finally I was done and ready to turn and move in a constructive direction, and there I found sobriety.

    Thank God for Alanon and then for AA!

  8. Good message for me today. The more I listen the more I hear, not the exact story of mine, yet a lot of the same feelings. For that I relate. I'm not as different as I think sometimes.

  9. Well said, Syd. I have a parent who is recovering, an ex who passed away from the disease, a kid who is trying to find his way and friends that I no longer can be with due to their drinking habits. The common denominator? Me. When that lightbulb went on, I got better.


  10. wow, I've never seen a newcomer leave before the meeting was over. But, if I had a nickel for every time someone new started with, "my story is a little different" and then proceeded tell a story I'd hear many times before...I'd be a rich woman.

  11. I think that the parents situation is most similar to the situation of the child of an alcoholic. There is a family bond which is sacred. Some, but not many married couples experience a bond of similar intensity.

    Most people would suffer for their spouses but they would die for their children.

  12. I guess you really have to be done before you are willing to listen to others.

  13. Terminally different is how I rode through my life. I do believe my sharing at a group level has created an opening in my life connecting to my fellow Alanon members and the world.
    I still find myself looking in, walking the fringes but it's Ok for today I like what I see most of the time.

  14. Amen to that :)

    those parents reminds me of p61..

    "if only his arrangements would only stay put, if only people would do as he wished, the show would be great. Everybody, including himself, would be pleased. Life would be wonderful. In trying to make these arrangements our actor may sometimes be quite virtuous. He may be kind, considerate, patient, generous; even modest and self-sacrificing. On the other hand, he may be mean, egotistical, selfish and dishonest. But, as with most humans, he is more likely to have varied traits.
    What usually happens? The show doesn't come off very well. He begins to think life doesn't treat him right. He decides to exert himself more. He becomes, on the next occasion, still more demanding or gracious, as the case may be. Still the play does not suit him. Admitting he may be somewhat at fault, he is sure that other people are more to blame. He becomes angry, indignant, self-pitying. What is his basic trouble? Is he not really a self-seeker even when trying to be kind?"

    I hope they come back and try again :)
    i LOVE the maxim 'look for the similarities not the differences' bcos i think all differences are ? deluded. we have so much more in common with others than we realise. its all a matter of degree, thats all.

  15. with our kids, it's our "mission" to create them and fix them and save them and blah blah blah blah...

    I see how it can be more difficult to let your child "hit the wall" and find sufficient enough consequences to want to get help. The temptation is so strong to remove all obstacles, to pick up the pieces. But, we're still not doing them any favors when we do this. I want to raise my son to be able to sort through his troubles and solve his problems without me racing in to scoop him up and "make it better." I hope his mom and I can do that, I pray we can do that.

    great post

  16. This was a very well stated post, thank you Syd, much to grow and learn from!

  17. Yeah we're terminally unique,but we have more in common than not.Great reminder.

  18. Oh my, I can totally relate to the reference of *terminally unique*. I love the way you look at things and analyze everything.

    This post made me start thinking, and that, my friend, is a cool compliment - if you're making people contemplate, you must be doing something right!

    And thanks for all your continued support! I love seeing your comments!

  19. obviously, they didn't hear the answers they wanted and there in lies their problem - not being openminded to other solutions. If they only knew that their child has a higher power and that they are not it, maybe then they could let go. Tough stuff.

  20. Another timely great post. I feel for that couple. I have gone down that path of trying to fix and change my son. The one thing that I have always struggled with is the concept of letting them hit rock bottom and then they will seek recovery. I don't know, many of the childrens rock bottom is death. I was told by one counselor that I had to do something or I could be attending his funeral. It is so hard at times to find the balance between helping them while they are in recovery (which he is) and enabling them when they are in active addiction. I find myself struggling with this a lot.

  21. Terminally unique. A-ha. Thank you, Syd. Now I have a name to put to this.

    Yesterday I watched in disbelief as my alcoholic husband told our marriage counselor that he has been "happy with his sobriety" for years and years. Well, I've known him for the past ten and I've never known him to not be drinking. I understand that there is more to sobriety than being dry, but I really thought that was definitely part of it! I asked him about this statement later, and he said something like "for 99% of alcoholics, sobriety means to not drink at all." I guess he still thinks he's different. I guess he still thinks he can somehow both enjoy and control it, even after everything that has been destroyed. This isn't bottom yet, is it. Sigh.



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