Drug Refusal Skills
This is an actual skill. Whether you want reduce your use or abstain, you will confronted with being offered more Tina. Simply saying “No” once or twice, may not be enough. Sometimes we think we have been assertive in saying no, but the people in our life don’t seem to take it seriously. We might be too passive in our own refusal, and not have effective communication skills – most of us don’t! Very few people are taught effective communication skills for turning down unwanted requests.
Becoming more assertive in saying No to unwanted behaviour, whether it is turning down the offer to do more Tina than you set out to do, or turning down an out-of-the-blue invitation from an old party friend, is something you can develop, practice and get good at.
Principles of Effective Communication
When making a request from someone to change their behaviour, whether it is to not offer you more drugs, not invite you out to party, or to assist you with healthier choices, it’s important
- Be Brief: Don’t dump a laundry list of all the bad things they’ve ever done. Stick to one request, here and now.
- Be Positive: it is easier for most people to help you with something they can do; it is harder to help you by simply NOT doing something. When asking someone to refrain from doing something, add in something you would like them to do instead. Start with your wish for them to NOT do something (not offer me Tina), and then add to that something they can do instead (call someone else instead, delete my phone number for now, ask me how my recovery is going with sincerity…). Another way of saying this, is to suggest an alternative for them.
- Be Specific: make your request clear, firm, to the point, not general or vague. Do not hint, imply or be sarcastic, hoping they will “get it”.
5 Steps in Saying No to Unwanted Requests
Sometimes we avoid being assertive, because we confuse assertion with aggression,and worry that asserting ourselves requires we get into a confrontation with someone. Follow these steps when making a request, or saying No to unwanted behaviour:
- Accept Partial Responsibility for their reaching out to you. Changes are, you have a history and used to use together. It sort of makes some sense that they will call you up. Naming this helps avoid a power struggle. This usually sounds like a sentence beginning with “Even though we went out last week and used together….”
- Offer An Understanding Statement, such as “…and I was a part of that, I was there, we partied together and said we’d get together again….” Don’t attack them pushing previously agreeable dynamics on you.
- Label Your Feeling. “…right now I feel sick, and scared that I’m using to much. I feel that need to cut back/I feel that I need to take a break.”
- Clearly State Your Request: “…So I need you to not call me right now to party, and call someone else instead. Can you delete my name from your cell phone for now?”
- Offer To Help: “…What can I do to help you with that?”
Practice the Principles of Effective Communication along with the 5 Steps in Saying No to Unwanted Requests with subjects that are of lower intensity to you with a friend, as a way to warm up to requests that are more emotionally charged.
Assert Your Boundaries
When someone doesn’t hear you, after you’ve made your request for a change, it’s time to take things up a notch, and be more firm in your boundaries. When someone continues to pressure, persuade or tempt you…
- Restate “No Thanks” simply, clearly.
- Mind Your Body Language. While you say “No,” your body language might suggest you are unsure. This might be inviting continued requests. You might have to physically move away from the person.
- Suggest an alternative activity to them after you’ve said No.
- Change the subject. Start talking about something else.
- Confront the person: “Look, I’ve said I don’t want to party tonight, why do you keep pressuring me? It sounds like you are not interested in my health.”
If after this, they continue to pressure you, this person does not care about your well-being, and is only interested in meeting their needs at your expense.
It may take some ongoing effort to communicate your need to cut back and build healthier habits, especially if you have a network of dealers, party friends and fuck buddies who you used to party with. Be prepared for persistent requests from various people to use more. Additionally:
- Enlist the support of friends and family: ask for help
- Review and identify high-risk situations and times where you are tempted to use
- Practice Refusal Skills
- Reframe your negative thoughts about not getting to have fun using anymore to thinking about all the sober activities you will now have time for.
Imagine a situation where you anticipate being offered Tina where you might have trouble refusing. Make a little plan, and rehearse this situation using these skills. What can you think, say and do in this situation that will make it easier to refuse and stay on track with your health goal?