We’re all familiar with the phrase “Just say no”. While the campaign might have failed to initially resonate with those of us in recovery, there’s another way we can use the word “No” to help us maintain success after treatment. When we first leave treatment, every inch of us is pre-occupied with just staying on track and avoiding relapse. While over time we may get stronger and more able to help others, it’s still important that we practice the proper amount of self-care. This means that, as much as we’d like to think otherwise, we still might not be able to help everyone who asks for it.
Our inability to say “yes” to every favor that is asked of us is not an indictment of our character, it’s a reality of life and recovery. While helping others is an integral part of our recovery, whether it’s something little like helping them move or something bigger like helping a fellow addict find recovery, we cannot emotionally or logistically over extend ourselves. If we spread ourselves too thin, we can quickly get overwhelmed and stop taking care of our own needs. We can’t jeopardize our own recovery to always help others, as much as we’d like to be there for everyone who asks for our assistance.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but many more of us have problems with saying no than we realize. Whether we feel like it’s our obligation to help to atone for what we did when we were abusing substances, or that we’re just inherently helpful people, it’s often our first instinct to say yes to every request that we hear. If we take on too much, we wind up short-changing the people we promise to help and depriving ourselves of some much needed self-love when we need it the most. This can only lead to dysfunction, confusion and the heightened possibility of relapse.
When someone asks us for a favor, we simply need to honestly assess whether we can help without taking attention away from ourselves or a previous promise we made to someone else. If we are realistic and honest about our ability to help, we can scarcely go wrong. Those closest to us will understand that we have to remain mindful and attentive to our recovery, and understand when we choose to acknowledge our own limitations. The people who matter most will never hold our recovery against us.