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Addiction Recovery & Counselling - How to say no & mean it

One of the tools that addiction counseling teaches you is how to say no. It also helps you realise that saying no can be easy and does not mean that you are selfish.

There are many people who believe that the only way to show someone kindness is to do what they ask of them, regardless of what the consequences will be.

How to say No - Addiction Recovery and Counselling South Africa

Addiction Recovery – Saying no

People who are in the recovery process are vulnerable and faced with making dramatic changes in their lives. The fear of loneliness is very real during recovery and that fear can be the driving force behind relapse.

More often than not, when you agree to something that you did not particularly want to do, it is to your detriment. Saying yes to every request can leave you feeling overwhelmed, stressed and exhausted.

These are all states of vulnerability which foster the desire to look for an escape route or coping mechanism, especially for someone who is addicted.

The inability to say no has led many people down the road of drug use and alcoholism. Consequently, a perpetual cycle of saying yes and further substance and alcohol abuse is created.

The more you say yes, the harder it becomes to say no and this is a sure way to break down your self-confidence. Having self-confidence gives you the ability to establish boundaries.

Saying no is empowering and can often earn you respect. It means that you know where your boundaries are and aren’t willing to compromise your own safety.

Boundaries are extremely important as they bring awareness to what you wish to allow and what you do not welcome into your life. Boundaries help you say no and really mean it.

3 stages of setting boundaries

1) Defining the boundary – What exactly is it that you want to prevent? Is the boundary flexible or negotiable? What are the consequences of the boundary being broken?

2) Setting the boundary – Take responsibility for your role. Be honest about your thoughts and feelings and express them appropriately. Listening and understanding the other person’s outlook or feelings.

3) Maintaining the boundary – acknowledge when the boundary has been either respected or broken. Responding in the appropriate manner when it has been broken.

Effective boundaries foster healthy relationship where trust and respect are mutual and nurtured. Healthy relationships with friends and family play a crucial role in recovery and prevention of substance abuse.

How to say no and mean it

Always remember that saying no means that you have respect for yourself and your boundaries. Someone who truly cares about your wellbeing will not ask something of you that will cause you harm in any way.

Here are some tips to help you say no:


  • - Saying no is in its own, a relevant and sufficient answer. There is no need to go into immense detail about why you aren’t agreeing to do something.
  • - Be polite but still assertive. You do not have to use aggressive communication to effectively convey your message. Assertive communication is healthier and wonderfully effective.
  • - When you say no, maintain a sturdy posture and make eye contact.
  • - Once you have said no, make a healthier suggestion instead such as a walk on the beach, a bicycle ride or a hike.
  • - Say no and change the subject to any topic that is unrelated to drugs and alcohol.
  • - Make sure that when you say no it is in such a way that it encourages future offers or requests of the same nature. Make it clear that you are on the journey of recovery and do not welcome invitations that could lead you into temptation.


During addiction counseling, you will learn practical tools and methods to find the strength and self-confidence you need to say no and mean it.

You will feel empowered and capable of setting boundaries to support and facilitate your recovery process. Knowing what is good for you and what is bad will assist you in your ability to say no when you feel it’s right.

Step Away Treatment Centre - Addiction Counseling South Africa

Step Away is a rehabilitation center in South Africa that offers addiction counseling and rehabilitation from drug abuse and alcoholism.

For more information about our rehabilitation programme, please contact us.

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