Drug Treatment Aftercare: Learning To Say NO in Relationships

Drug Treatment | LakehouseRecoveryCenter.comAt the beginning of recovery, your focus was likely on achieving sobriety. In the beginning, you’ve got all your attention, energy, and focus on one thing: getting sober. You changed your schedule to attend AA meetings, you moved into a residential drug treatment center, you cut yourself off from negative influences, you made amends with those you’ve harmed, and a host of other changes to clearly and quickly get on the path to recovery.

How to Be in a Relationship

However, now that you’re safe, sober, and healing, perhaps you’re ready to be in a relationship again. Part of healing the addiction cycle is also healing the process of an insatiable appetite. Often, this ravenous appetite is at the root of an addiction with an unending feeling that you can’t get enough. And underneath that insatiable appetite is trying to feed a part of the self that feels unloved, unwanted.

Learning how to be in a healthy relationship is also part of healing from addiction. It frequently includes learning not to hand your power over the one you love. Just as in an addiction, powerlessness can also get played out in relationships. For instance, the belief in being powerless in life (which significantly contributes to addiction) leads to a dysfunctional relying on the other person for things that one can and should do on their own, such as being financially stable. This underlying belief in being powerless seems to attract an enabler who in turn believes that no one else can perform a task as well as they can. Enablers tend to take control of a situation thinking that they are being helpful without seeing that it would be more healthy to allow the other person to do that task on his or her own.

Learning to Say NO

The powerlessness that you might feel in a relationship can lead to the experience of not being able to say NO to your partner. Furthermore, if you’ve experienced a trauma, which can cause feelings of powerlessness in the first place, then the ability to say NO in an intimate relationship might not be strong. However, saying no in a relationship is setting a limit to protect yourself. For instance, it’s having the ability to say to your partner: “Unless you stop yelling at me, I’m walking out.” Or “If you show up drunk when we go out, I’m leaving.”

Saying no is an important skill for setting boundaries. In fact, setting boundaries is a way of conveying that both people in a relationship deserve care and attention. It’s a healthy way of respecting the boundaries of each you. Situations in which you might need to say no include:

  • Refusing drugs and alcohol
  • Going along with things you don’t feel good about
  • When you’re taking care of everyone but yourself.
  • When you do all the giving in a relationship
  • When you make promises to yourself that you do not keep.
  • When you’re doing things that take your focus away from your recovery.

There are different ways to say NO, and you can find the way that works best for you. For instance, you might try:

  • No, thanks. I’d rather not.
  • No, I really mean it, and I’d like to drop the subject now.
  • I cannot drink because I have to drive. And I’m also five years sober and I want to stay that way.
  • I cannot drink. I’m an alcoholic in recovery.
  • If you keep showing up drunk, I will no longer be in this relationship.

As you continue your recovery and as you enter new relationships, learning to say no is an important way to stay safe and healthy. With this, it’s a way of loving yourself. In fact, part of recovery is learning that instead of seeking for love in others or in substance use, you uncover that the only place to find love is within.


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