When I was drinking I was the worst ‘people pleaser’.
I was so scared you wouldn’t like me, that I would do whatever I could to please you.
Because then I believed I would have your approval (whoever you were) and everything would be ok.
That was my formula for life. Be liked, no matter what.
My self-esteem and entire sense of wellbeing became based on other people’s approval.
So I never said ‘No.’
I said ‘Yes’ and often regretted it.
I’d often have to back peddle out of my ‘Yes’s’ because I rarely meant them. Or I’d just lie, or not show up, or avoid you or, manufacture elaborate reasons that sadly, unfortunately and regrettably I couldn’t do what I had so fervently agreed to just a matter of days (or hours) ago.
Saying yes when I didn’t mean it made me a liar, a manipulator, a false friend, a time waster, an idiot and unreliable.
You know the sort of person I mean.
I was also very easily manipulated, because it was so apparent that my desire for you to like me, was so much bigger than my desire to be true to myself.
When I got sober I soon realized that saying yes when I didn’t mean it caused me all sorts of problems and quandaries. That if I continued behaving this way it would become so uncomfortable I’d drink again.
So I had to learn to say ‘No’.
My ‘Yes’ had to mean ‘Yes,’ and my ‘No’ had to mean ‘No.’
Easier than it sounds.
The first thing I learnt was I had to learn to like myself. That what I thought of myself was actually far more important than what other people thought of me.
So I had to learn to say ‘No,’ because when I said ‘Yes’ and didn’t mean it, I liked myself less. I became uncomfortable in my own skin and that is a dangerous place for alcoholic to be.
I had to take a deep breath and say ‘No, thank you.’
When I did this, I learnt that your feelings were your responsibility, and my feelings were mine.
That if you were upset by my ‘No,’ that as long as I’d said it politely, how you felt wasn’t up to me.
It revolutionized my life.
Firstly, I began to like myself more. By uttering this one small word honestly and were necessary I began to become a person of integrity. I became reliable, I showed up when I said I would, I did what I had agreed to and I meant what I said.
You could trust me.
Now after 13 years it’s easy, but at the time it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
I know I’m not alone. Lots of people get sober and discover there’s a whole bunch of life skills they missed out on developing. Staying sober isn’t just staying away from alcohol. It’s learning a whole new way of living in the world.
And learning to say ‘No’ can be one of the most lifesaving.
Because one of the best things about getting sober is all the wonderful things you can say ‘Yes’ too.