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Ten Ways to Say No (And Why You Should)

No. A very powerful and important word in sobriety. And, not just for when it comes to saying no to alcohol, but saying no to people, requests and activities is so vital on this journey. If you are a people pleaser and struggle with the idea of saying no, then let’s look at ten ways to say no and why you should.

ten ways to say no in sobriety

Why you should say no

When you say no to someone or something, what you are really doing is saying yes to yourself.

This comes down to what we’ve talked about many times, self love, self care but above all recognizing that you are important, you are worth it and your needs deserve to be taken care of.

This is especially important in sobriety. You are doing a wonderful thing for yourself and making some pretty big changes – you need to put yourself first.

However if you say yes to things when you don’t really want to, you are reinforcing the fact that you think you are not important, that your needs are worth less than the needs of others and that is simply not true.

It is not easy saying no, I get it. And I too find myself running around after my family, squeezing in appointments or doing other bits and bobs when really all I want to do is relax, go to bed early or indulge in other nourishing activities.

This very topic has come up in our membership support sessions lately and while it makes us feel resentful to take on extra work to help a colleague or cook dinner for the eleventh time in a row when somebody else can do it, the thought of saying no makes us feel uncomfortable, like we’re letting people down.

But it comes down to the old saying, ‘you can’t pour from and empty cup.’ Self care is key and you must put yourself first in order to be there for the people and things that matter to you and of course, be there for yourself.

Before we get into ten ways to say no, ask yourself…

Have I been saying yes to people when I really don’t want to?

Write a list, and get clear on the areas where you are letting the needs of others get in the way of your own needs. This will give you a starting point of where you can begin to create some healthy boundaries.

Ten ways to say no

Be honest with yourself

Before saying yes to anything such as committing to someone, doing a favour or even buying something, ask yourself some honest questions, ‘do I really want this, is it serving me and am I doing it for the right reasons?’

Leave the guilt

You are a good person and you will help someone in their time of need, but never, ever feel guilty about sticking to your own plans because someone springs something on you at the last minute, or if the request will put you out of your way or mess up your day.

Keep it short

No is a complete sentence. Don’t apologise, make excuses or say you will think about it (when you know you won’t) You can be firm and polite and actually by being clear, it shows the other person that they just can’t expect you to drop everything and run whenever they want you to. It also shows yourself that you, your needs and your time are important.

Say yes to you

Always remember that by saying no, you are saying yes to yourself. Your plans and time are important so enjoy the walk, the chat with a friend, the yoga session or just some well earned space to relax and do nothing. There is more to life than what is on your to-do list so honour the appointments you make with yourself, even if it is to stay in and wash your hair.

Practice saying no

If you struggle to say no, then this is probably the most useful thing to do. Practice saying no to a range of different situations. Have your response ready for when someone asks if you’d like a drink. Practice saying no to spending time with someone who makes you feel uncomfortable. Practice saying no to a night out at the pub. Practice, practice, practice.

Remember it is better to say no now than feel resentful later

Often we say yes to something because we don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings or let them down. But if you do say yes, knowing that you will feel resentment later, then that is just causing you more pain and also it’s not fair on the person you said yes to. They will think that you did the thing gladly. It’s not their fault you said yes, when you really meant no. Be kind to yourself and the people involved. You will both feel better and know where you stand.

Put yourself first

This is the mantra of the work we do in the Virtual Sober Retreat.  Putting yourself first, always, is at the very core of a happy, healthy alcohol-free life. That doesn’t mean you are selfish, it just means that you appreciate and understand that you are important, because you are.

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Before agreeing to anything, make sure that you do what you want to do first. Create a morning routine that allows you to spend time on yourself first before you jump into your day caring for others.

Take a moment to think

You don’t need to respond to every request straight away so take your time. Ask yourself the questions we looked at above and know that it is okay to think first. If you don’t mind doing something, or would actually quite like to meet for coffee or whatever, but it’s not the right time, then suggest another day or time. Saying no doesn’t have to mean you won’t do the thing ever, it just means that you will do it when you are able and it is convenient.

Turn your FOMO into JOMO

Often we agree to something because we are afraid that we will be missing out and after saying no, we then might spend the time wondering what others are doing, what they are saying, are they having fun and what am I missing out on? Turn your Fear of Missing Out into a Joy of Missing Out, by doing something you love, something that makes you feel good and is supporting your recovery and commitment to yourself.

Listen to your heart

ten ways to say no

Take a breath, put your hand on your heart and listen. What emotions come up when you think about doing the favour or committing your time and energy? Is it something you want to do? Will it make you feel good or mess up your plans? Can you do it at another time.

A really good way to tell if you are about to do something that you perhaps don’t want to, is to notice how it feels. If it doesn’t feel good to say a big fat ‘yes!’ Then the answer should perhaps be a firm but polite, ‘no.’

Do you struggle with saying no in sobriety? How would you feel if you were able to say no more often? I’d love to know your thoughts, so leave a comment below.

Remember that by saying no to other people, means saying yes to yourself.

If you are ready to say yes to yourself and transform your relationship with alcohol, come and join us in the Transform Membership Support Space. Saying no to alcohol and yes to you is the most empowering yes you will ever say!

1080 1080 Gayle


Hi, I’m Gayle. Mum, teacher and living a life of sober bliss. My mission is to help you change your relationship with alcohol to help you rediscover your true self and live a life of sober bliss.

Written by: Gayle

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