I always had a secret mission. In it, I took notes on the Earthlings and reported all findings to the mothership. The assignment seemed simple enough, but it was a long, lonely ordeal. You see, living as an imposter wasn’t for the weak-minded. To do what I needed to do – survive – my goal was to stay as separate from the hominids that populated this planet. This sort of science-fiction mentality saved my life…until I found the one true thing that would skyrocket me to my own private Krypton. Alcohol.
Whether it was the bullying or the apathy in the aftermath of the shoving and name-calling, I never felt quite at home in my own skin. Even as a child, I felt that everyone except me had gotten a manual for living – a set of volumes outlining what one needed to do to thrive in life. How to talk to others, how to smile and mean it, how to feel emotions without wanting to hide or wail uncontrollably. How to give and feel love. I felt a large chunk of something was missing in my life, but couldn’t put my finger on it.
If you were to ask me how I was after the bullies went home, I would have said, “fine”. And that was the veneer I put on for the next thirty years. I was fine. But deep down, I was a sensitive, empathetic, gentle boy who didn’t know how to navigate life’s rough waters. I was rudderless, adrift at sea. Whenever I was myself – doing well in school, playing the flute, being a general nerd – I was beaten down literally and figuratively. Grown-ups were either unwilling or unable to help me deal with these situations so they left me to fend for myself. The prevailing attitude of “boys will be boys” carried the day. So I hid my talents, lived my life under cloak and dagger. To be me meant pain. The only way I could feel safe was to picture myself as an alien who had landed here on Earth and stay a dispassionate observer. I played the role well. I shut down emotionally and cast judgements on everyone who darkened my space.
And then came the alcohol.
Alcohol allowed me to play both sides of this spiritual subterfuge. I could find that liquid courage to play the role of human. I could laugh, talk to others, sing, feel good about myself. At the same time, I could continue to isolate, craft resentments and feel victimized. My alcoholism blossomed and the good times ceased. All I could manage was to pretend to play at life while I crumbled within.
There is a term used in recovery, terminally unique, to describe how you’re the only one to feel how you feel and hence resign yourself to a slow death. I was textbook terminally unique. Playing the victim card stamped by memory of those bullies kept me in the maelstrom of self-pity and isolation. Even my role of observer no longer worked. I knew I had life within me, but couldn’t live it or feel it. I was suicidal. Being apart from, and not a part of, was destroying me.
There is no loneliness, isolation, or sense of being different as there is with the alcoholic or addict. We trod about as if we invented those things. Or at least we try and perfect it. It wasn’t until my bottom tossed me about like a rogue wave was I able to break that idea of being different. I found a connection to the Creator which in turn has allowed me to be open to His children. And in doing so, I found that missing piece which had always had me searching for – me. My authentic self, grounded in the love of others and guided by His hand.
I no longer need to observe from afar. I quit my alien job and finally joined the human race, love and spirit intact.
Paul at Message in a Bottle
57 thoughts on “Terminally Unique”
Awesome!! just awesome. He (The Creator) totally completes us
Another good one Paul.
Paul, your words carry me to a different place. Still searching for my authentic self. Trish
Wow! Love these insights, Diana.
This is turning out to be one incredible series, M, with very good response. Props to the guests for their hard work refining their piece but more importantly, for the honesty that is building community and tapping our own struggles. Thx for piping in.
God does not take us only when we are lovable, but more so when we are most in need of love.
I’m so glad you found him, and in doing so, found yourself.
That’s why He is God. He is not like us, though we cast Him in our image.
I followed you over here today, and am so glad I did. Your words as always make me think and consider where I am right now in my various journeys.
I just loved that! What a beautiful testimony. I can totally relate to feeling as if you are a spy on an alien planet, disconnected from everyone around you. “Terminally unique,” indeed. I take comfort in the fact that there is nothing new under the sun. People have been around for a long time, and everything that could be done and felt, has already been done and felt by someone else. So whenever I start to think I’m the only one going through something, I try to remember, nope, a few hundred thousands others have been here and done that, too.
Paul, this post is filled with insight. You allowed yourself the healing that comes from surrender and dependence on a Higher Power. The courage you possess reveals itself through your honest and humble words. This journey is not over until He is finished with us. Thank you for this uplifting visit into your story.
BTW, just read your post, Head Down, Follow Through. That’s also true for us believers, as is your statement, “not conform to some blueprint that is impossible to adhere to.” Didn’t want to comment there, as I wasn’t certain it was appropriate. If we focus on the One we follow instead of the “what,” it’s so much easier to stay on the path, keep love in our hearts. Great blog. What you say has application for our spiritual walk.
I noticed that in your comment the minute I posted! Yes, it definitely resonated, Paul. So glad we met. I’ll be following for more seeds of light. Thank you so much for your light and wisdom that all come from Him.
Yeah, Paul! This is beautiful, as always, so glad that a whole new audience gets to experience your awesomeness 🙂
“so glad that a whole new audience gets to experience your awesomeness ”
Yep, that was the plan. =)
Hi Paul, This is a very touching, honest and clever look at your (our) isolation from hurts, drugs and missteps, and how you found your way back home. Welcome and congrats. I still dance between the worlds. blessings, Brad
Well written Paul. You were concise and complete. I find it interesting that although many who are dependent run from God, as you say, a lot of the principles, as I understand them, that help to deal with addiction are religious based. What are your thoughts on this – or is it even true? I know the “alien” feeling and although I did drink heavy for a while, I have cut back a lot to maybe a bottle of wine a month. I feel safe there as I am sure I was teetering into a dependency. Which is to say that my experiences weren’t as strong as yours, but I can empathize. Faith is something that has grown stronger in my life as I grew older. It has been a progressive process over decades – different than you but no less eye-opening.
Your open and honest account of your journey is very impactful. Thank you.
You sound so much like a friend of mine – he says the same thing he was convinced he wasn’t of this planet when younger. I didn’t quite think that way but I sure didn’t want to be part of the human race and partake of the world – it was too difficult… actually no it was too painful… emotionally for me.
Hi again Paul! Well, I hadn’t read your post until after replying to your wonderful message on my post so of course now I read this with amazement. I only wish that my dad had been able to find his way and live his life without the bottle and be the man I know God wanted him to be as you have done. What a powerful and incredibly moving story you tell here. Thank you so much for sharing this very personal story, but I am so sorry for all the bullying you had to endure.
My Aspie daughter has suffered bullying and as a result carries so much anger inside which doesn’t come out too often, but usually if she she thinks someone is looking at her in a funny way when we are out. This is part of the reason she rarely leaves the house. She doesn’t drink though, although when she does she says it helps her feel calmer and more able to handle social situations.
I can really resonate with your description of being ‘terminally unique’. I think this is definitely what is behind the ‘victim’ mentality, as in, “I’m the only one going through this, nobody understands.” This certainly does create an alien existence and so to further isolation and buried emotions, hatred and anger towards the rest of the ‘hominids’.
‘ All I could manage was to pretend to play at life while I crumbled within.’ You write so eloquently, so much pain and truth in few, perfectly crafted words. This sentence, along with many others, but this one especially, jumped out at me for this reason. My dad knows all the right words and when to say them but all his life he has ‘played at life’. Or, in his case, I would say, ‘played the game’.
Paul, I am so happy to know that you found your faith and you found Him. You found what I prayed a long time for my dad to find and now, at the end of his life, all I can pray is that he will find peace and salvation.
You have written a startlingly honest and raw post which brings us through a horrendously painful journey to one that ends happily with you the owner of a new passport, stamped and welcoming you to the world that was always yours for the taking. Those alien spaceships can go back to where they belong 😉
I’m looking forward to visiting your blog as soon as I can – Sherri.
“I can really resonate with your description of being ‘terminally unique’. I think this is definitely what is behind the ‘victim’ mentality, as in, “I’m the only one going through this, nobody understands.”
I just love how you two set everyone straight to get up and onward and get it together by modeling it. Man, you guys are awesome.
You make me laugh Sherri. Yeah, I hope you bid the mothership farewell, Mr. Shoo! Off with you. *Hoisting Paul, CARRYing the messenger away with us far from them aliens as we sing*
“For he’s a jolly good felllllllow………la la la la la la”
Love it… haha 🙂
You mentioned that you wished for a guidebook or manual to show you want to do in life. There is one you know. If only someone had given it to you much earlier…
That manual says (among other things), “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
“Hebrews 11:6, KJV).
” A manual for living!” I wish I had one even for the age I’ve reached.
wow…incredible post….you should share information of india…
Great story! Thank you for sharing this uniqueness we all have knew and many still carry even into our recovery. Not finding a place, a home, or even truly friends or fellowship.
This is inspirational Paul. What I love about your writing is that you are so positive about recovery yet very honest about the challenges. So glad you found your way into sobriety – the way you share has a unique quality – you make me feel proud to be part of the recovery journey. Thank you!
Regarding: ‘There is no loneliness, isolation, or sense of being different as there is with the alcoholic or addict.’
As a catholic priest, three years after ordination, very active 3 years, I started feeling the ‘loneliness of the diocesan priest!’ In India We have a saying for this: ‘The Walls come around to Bite You.’ I felt that.
Alcoholics or Others. Loneliness can be overcome once We realize that We are Loved, that Love IS there.