Too often, a person will have a host of excuses as to why certain approaches to their recovery just won’t work. Recovery groups have coined this perspective as being “terminally unique.” Terminal refers to someone that cannot be cured, while unique means to be unlike anyone else. Those who fall into this category often believe their stories, experiences, and beliefs are dramatically different from those who have found success in recovery. By setting this standard, they conclude that proven recovery methods will not work for them. Whether you are seeking sobriety, counseling, group support, or other methods of recovery, this attitude can be detrimental to achieving personal success. Looking further into the “terminally unique” point of view can be the first step toward dissolving those convictions and moving forward in recovery.
Looking For the Differences
Recovery largely depends on our access to support from others.
Whether that be in groups like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, or even therapy, we are relying on guidance from others who have benefitted from these programs. Members of these programs share their experiences with the hope of motivating and connecting to new members. One habit that fuels the belief that we are beyond help is searching for the differences we have with these members instead of our similarities. Upon hearing what their life was like before recovery, what happened, and how they have benefitted from recovery, you may instinctively focus on what sets you apart. You may believe that your situation is too mild or too severe, too specific or too shameful, or that others will be unable to relate to you.
In order to break this habit, start listening to what you have in common with others. Within all recovery groups, there will always be at least one other person who has dealt with similar struggles and possibly even worse circumstances and has found freedom. Pay attention to the stories they share and the way that they worked through those struggles. You will find that every person in your group has had the same feelings and thoughts during their life before recovery. Allow the people in your group who have been exactly where you are to show you how they moved forward.
The Dangerous Territory of “Yet”
Experiences that people share in recovery groups take place under various circumstances. Some members found recovery after one difficult incident, while others have dealt with ongoing difficult circumstances. You may hear members share about overdoses, homelessness, incarceration, grief, broken families, or hospitalization, among many other struggles. By listening to others speak about these things, you may rationalize that your story is not as bad. You haven’t been arrested “yet.” You haven’t been hospitalized “yet.” The “yet” is dangerous territory. The disease of addiction or struggle with mental health is a downhill battle. Every time we relapse or breakdown, we find that the circumstances get worse much faster than the last time. Group members share their hardships as a warning. Although the aspects of their stories may not have happened “yet” in your life, continuing on the same path without recovery can lead you to those same hardships. Relief can become a reality without having to experience the same tribulations of those around you. Find gratitude in your story instead of focusing on the “yet.” Use the stories you hear as a reminder of how bad life with addiction can become, and know that you are still worthy of recovery from your own experiences, no matter what your story looks like.
The Proof Is All Around Us
“Terminally unique” implies that proven methods of recovery will not work for us, that we are the exception to the rule: it works if you work it. You may find every reason to believe that your obstacles are too large, your struggles are too specific, and that programs like Alcoholics Anonymous or even therapy will not be a success. If you attend any 12-step meeting, you will be surrounded by those who have found serenity and freedom. These people all have different stories; no two roads to recovery are exactly the same. Whether they battled with addiction for 1 year or 20 years, whether their drug of choice was alcohol or heroin, even if they didn’t lose their jobs or their families, they had reached a point of hopelessness. They experienced being powerless over substances and many other aspects of their lives. They can now speak about how the program has restored their sanity and enabled them to build a more meaningful lifestyle. Sometimes looking at the bigger picture can provide us with clarity, because we aren’t only focusing on ourselves. If all of the people who have come before you—with a variety of problems and personalities—have worked through the program and found positive results, you can as well. Our differences don’t necessarily bring us together, and our journeys aren’t exactly the same. However, millions of people worldwide have discovered recovery. Those people are living proof that a program can work for you too. Life in active addiction can be filled with darkness. You are worthy of finding the light.
There are more things in recovery that bring us together than set us apart. It’s this unity that gives us the strength and courage to ask for help. No matter what your journey looks like, you are capable and deserving of a healthier and happier life. One day, you may be the person who inspires someone else to take this next step, showing them that they aren’t alone. Searching for our similarities and finding the proof of success in other people can be our first glimpse of hope for our own recovery. Our experiences might seem bad, but they do not need to get worse. Safety Net Recovery is ready to walk with you through the next step and help you find that hope. At our facility in Atlanta, we are waiting with open arms to start you on a new journey. Our staff is excited to provide you with the tools and skills you need to find your own freedom, just like many who have come before you. Call us today at