I often wonder if anyone has heard of the expression “terminal coolness?”
I am familiar with the phrase “terminal uniqueness,” which is a term we use in the recovery field and at 12-Step meetings.
When an individual is in denial of their addiction and reluctant to engage in the recovery process, such a person could be heard minimizing and justifying their case. They also tend to project all wrongdoing onto others instead of focusing on themselves.
“My family made me go to treatment.”
“The probation officer forced me to come here.”
“I’m not as screwed up as you guys.”
“I don’t need to work those idiotic 12 Steps.”
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Their case is different. They are indeed special.
Special my ass!
Any of us talking like that is headed for disaster if we argue for the differences versus noticing the similarities we have. The terminally unique person, more times than not, doesn’t want to look at their part of the sh*t show they are living in. There is no customership (willingness) in them toward getting clean and sober.
I get it. No one who starts drinking and drugging wants to be a failure at it. We just want to have fun. Sorry Cindy Lauper, but boys too just want to have fun. However, the progressive nature of addiction sometimes gets in the way.
Here is a quick example of the progressive nature of most addictions:
>> First, there is Fun.
>> Then, there is Fun plus Problems.
>> Finally, there are Problems.
If one is fortunate to jump off this train wreck and get into treatment or recovery, they may return to a normal semblance of fun again. However, the drugs and drinking may have to end for most when it becomes mostly problems.
Now, here is where “terminal coolness” comes in. And, it does not have to be a substance abuse issue.
It’s about prioritizing being cool at all costs. It’s something I noticed growing up. I was fascinated with all the cool kids in grade school. They were popular. They were rebellious. They were skinny. They were hip. I would have given anything to be that cool.
I would have sold my younger sister if I knew anyone would say, “Damn Danny, you are so cool!”
One day in eighth grade, one of the coolest kids in junior high, Andre, came up to me and said, “Danny, you smoke weed?”
What was I supposed to say?
“No Andre, I’m a nerd. I would never smoke the Devil’s Lettuce.”
I replied, “Of course I do, I smoke a pound every day.” I had no clue what I was saying. Andre stood there and said, “That’s cool man.” Oh My God, Andre called me cool!
Hey everyone, check it out! Andre called me cool!
At that time, I had never done drugs. However, I am sure I felt extremely euphoric being called cool. It was a dopamine splash of epic proportions. I was going to be popular.
Then, Andre handed me a joint, “Here, smoke this.”
Sh*t, I did not think this through. Again, I could have told Andre I never smoked, and I was only saying I did so that he would think I was cool.
I tried to smoke the joint. (Which end do you light up?)
I must admit the event was a disaster. I did not look cool coughing my guts out with watery eyes and snot coming out of my nose. Andre got a good laugh and my desire to be one of the cool kids in junior high was thwarted. Fortunately, or unfortunately, I made up for that debacle when I got into high school. I smoked a lot of dope, and I thought I was freaking cool. I arrived.
My coolness hit a brick wall in 1982. The fun stopped—no thanks to law enforcement, unreasonable employers, boring professors, disrespectful friends, and family. I know I am projecting wrongdoing on others, but that was how I perceived my situation. It’s all their fault. Due to my own adverse childhood experiences, I was fixated on something on the outside to fix me on the inside. It was not low self-esteem; it was no self-esteem.
I tried so hard to resist and deny I had a problem. The consequence of not being cool was overwhelming.
“What will other people think?”
When I look back, I wish I had the courage and bravery to tell Andre I was not comfortable trying to smoke weed. And then I laugh at myself. What eighth grader has the ability to humble themselves and be honest? Humility is just not cool.
And humility is a lifesaver.
Today, I work with a lot of young people who suffer from terminal coolness. Those kids are willing to go to any lengths to be cool. For example, they will drop out of a sport they were good at because going to swim practice, dance practice, or football practice is not at all cool. For them, cool is hanging out with friends at the park, smoking weed, and mindlessly scrolling on their phones.
Hell, they don’t even talk to each other—but they believe they are cool.
I know there are other variables that contribute to the fixation of being cool to the detriment of living a healthy lifestyle. I would need to draft a book on terminal coolness to explain.
Hmmm, I may be on to something here. Right now, I am laughing at myself because the first thought that came up regarding drafting a book on this was, “I hope they would think that I’m cool.”