Learning to say “No” is one of the most difficult parts of recovery, but it is also one of the most effective ways to take back control of our lives. Think of “No” as equivalent to owning a power tool. Failure to say “No” is equivalent to giving up our power.
We all have our own power. No one can take it away. Only we can give our power away. By not saying “No” when we need to, we give away our power; we let someone else have control.
We should never feel guilty about saying “No.” If we’re going to feel any guilt, we should feel it when we fail to say “No” when we should have. But truthfully, it doesn’t do any good once we fail to say “No” to be angry with ourselves. Instead, we must learn from our mistakes and make sure we say “No” the next time.
Think about a time you didn’t say “No.” Wouldn’t it have been easier to say “No” in the first place than to be miserable later as you saw the consequences of failing to say what you should have?
Often, not saying “No” leads to numerous consequences we later regret. For example, your irresponsible neighbor asks to borrow your car because his is at the local garage. He wants to take your car to a party where you know he’s going to drink. Obviously, you should say “No.” I don’t even need to tell you the consequences of your failing to do so. At the very least, you are going to have a miserable evening, being on pins and needles, until he gets home safely with your car. Other scenarios range from his damaging your vehicle, to his deciding he can ask to borrow your vehicle anytime he wants, creating a domino effect of your failing to say “No” and your becoming more frustrated, to his driving drunk and hurting or killing himself or someone else. As hard as it might have been at the moment, saying “No” would have ultimately been a lot easier.
If we have difficulty saying “No,” we can make it easier by saying, “I’m not sure. I’ll get back to you on that.” This often just delays the agony of saying “No” but in some cases, you may not be sure and decide later to say “Yes,” or you may think of an alternative. In the example above, you could offer to drive your neighbor to the party and pick him up later, or perhaps you ask the neighbor whether you can go to the party too, and you become the designated driver, as well as having some fun yourself and meeting new people.
Remember, “No” belongs to you. Don’t give away your power by saying “Yes” when “No” protects you from bigger problems. Practice saying, “No.” Create potential scenarios in your own life to practice how you will say “No.” Be prepared to say, “No.” Don’t give away your power.