Terminal Uniqueness: What It Is & How It Can Undermine Your Recovery

During quarantine, you have had to spend a lot of time with your thoughts. These thoughts could range from feeling anxious and afraid to angry and impulsive. Any contributing factors to your situation, such as unemployment or financial worries, could also be causing you to feel resentment toward your fellow friends in recovery. This resentment might have you isolating yourself from the rest and left to think that they do not have it as difficult as you — as though your situation is harder to bear.

This frame of thinking can pose a fatalistic threat to your well-being and may be the result of a concept known as terminal uniqueness. However hard it might be for you to accept, you can benefit your recovery by taking the time to evaluate the struggles of everyone else in your situation and realizing that you are not so unalike after all.

Symptoms of Terminal Uniqueness

This concept suggests that you think that your history with your addiction is different from others who struggle with addiction or substance abuse. When you focus on the differences between yourself and others, then you are exhibiting this idea of uniqueness.

For example, you might compare yourself to others to help validate your beliefs, or feel a sense of superiority around others because you believe you have been through more. These are all signs that you feel terminally unique — and therefore, you need to begin to try to understand those around you. If you believe that others will not be able to relate to your experiences, this is also a symptom of feeling unique.

The Danger to Your Recovery

Thinking that you are experiencing addiction differently than your peers — or even dismissing their struggles — is very dangerous for your health and recovery. This is because you are not only isolating yourself from those who can help, but you have a skewed perception of addiction and are creating the idea that you cannot be helped.

The relapse associated with those who suffer from feeling terminally unique is more aggressive, more destructive, and in some cases, fatal. They adopt a Me vs. Them attitude, develop a false sense of security, and fail to realize the consequences of addiction, causing the demise of their recovery. If you are exhibiting any of this behavior, you need to start being honest with yourself and correcting the problem.

Contentedness in Recovery

Everybody is unique in their own way, including their quirks, beliefs, and personalities. However, when it comes to addiction, you likely have more in common with others who experience addiction than you realize. The similarities are what brought you together with the people from your recovery in the first place.

These shared experiences are what you can use to benefit your own recovery. While you and others might not make the same mistakes, that’s okay. Your mistakes and the differing mistakes of others are why you share stories — so that your lessons could help prevent others from making the same mistake, and likewise for you.

The reason you may be setting yourself apart is that you are only looking for the differences. Next time you get on a video call or attend a meeting, make a promise to yourself that you will listen for the similarities.

This is about addiction, not always life experience. Try not to dismiss someone who is younger or from a more privileged background than you. While the paths of others might not be the same, that doesn’t matter. The common thread is that everybody around you is struggling with addiction.

Contentedness Outside of Recovery

This concept extends beyond recovery as well — especially given the current situation in our world. You might feel a strong sense of resentment toward those who don’t have addictions who are also navigating these difficult times. Understand that you are not unique right now, but this situation is.

Like your addiction, instead of separating yourself from everybody, look at how you are connected to your friends, families, and neighbors. To make light of anybody’s struggles right now is selfish, and you would not want them to make light of yours either.

The pressing uncertainty, the unstable leadership in our country, and the countless people who have lost their livelihoods should be what you focus on to help you grow and heal with your peers during this crisis. Certainly, your addiction should not be dismissed and it probably has added another layer of difficulty to this situation, but your experience with addiction and recovery can help you and others.

You understand the power of connectedness — therefore, you can help those who might never have experienced a loss of control or feelings of isolation before now. Use your knowledge to help identify and connect with others, not push them away.

Accept Guidance

Perhaps the biggest detriment to the quality of your recovery is your stubbornness. You are never too experienced or exempt from needing help. You need to practice humility and understand that there are others who have more experience and good advice that you should listen to.

Just like you cannot control what is currently happening around the globe, you need to accept that you cannot always control your addiction. Give up your sense of control to those who can help guide you. Open yourself to learning from others — young or old, there is always a lesson to be learned.

Be courteous and listen to others share their experiences. If you feel their experiences cannot help you, instead of dismissing them, help them. Continue to participate in meetings, whether online or in-person, and continue to stay in touch with friends and family. Recovery is a team effort, not an individual act.

Adopting terminal uniqueness can advance the process of relapse, causing more occurring and aggressive episodes of substance abuse. If you are experiencing thoughts of superiority over others who are struggling, or believe that your situation is different and therefore you cannot be redeemed, you need to seek immediate help. True Recovery offers 24/7 care that specializes in alternative treatment methods. When you open yourself up to new experiences, you will find the guidance you are seeking. To learn more, call us today at (866) 399-6528.