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An awful lot of people hit one AA meeting and never go back.

The 12 steps are not for everyone, some people are never likely to get better following a spiritually based route-map to recovery; but a lot of people that give up early might have found some 12 step answers – if only they weren’t so terminally unique.

Terminal uniqueness is an AA term coined to describe a reaction common to 12 steps newcomers. While a rare few attend their first meeting and feel instantly at home, most, a real majority, suffer through their first meeting thinking, "these people are nothing like me…what can I hope to learn from people like this".

Terminal Uniqueness Is Expressed in Two Polar Ways


These people are nothing like me, I never went to jail, lost my home…lived under a bridge. What can I, a successful_______ hope to learn from people like this?


These people are nothing like me, they've never been to jail, lost a home…lived under a bridge. How can they understand my unique problems? How can they help me?

Terminal Uniqueness Doesn't Help

Any alcoholic would be hard pressed to find a group of people more similar than those found at an AA meeting!

Terminal uniqueness has its roots in addictive thinking, that voice that keeps us drinking or using; sure that no one understands us. It's a voice that protects the addiction, part of denial – a voice that never leads anywhere good.

12 steppers recommend trying out at least a few meetings before making an evaluation. There are differences between meetings, and while one may not suit your tastes, another group might. But more fundamentally, giving 12 steps an honest try requires attendance with an open mind, at several meetings. It requires getting to know a few people involved, and not simply selecting a those few people at any given meeting that seem to reinforce your concept of terminal uniqueness, and lumping all 12 steppers together as far removed from you.

Most people that try AA (or any 12 steps) meetings go with initial trepidation, stay because it seems to help – and stay longer because of the people. Fellowship is an integral and vital aspect of 12 steps support, and you’d be hard pressed to find many long time AA alumni who haven’t made great sober friendships from within the ranks. Friendships made powerful through a shared understanding, experience and motivation. Friendships that turn the whole concept of terminal uniqueness up on its ear!

Go to a 12 steps meeting, and if you don’t like it, go to another, and another. It may not be for you, but keep an open mind and see if you don’t just learn that the people at meetings are a lot more like you than you thought.

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Page last updated Aug 05, 2010

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