Saying “no” is hard. It is. Humans like to say, “yes”. Oftentimes, we like to oblige others or ourselves. We like to be agreeable. Saying “yes” is easy.
But those in any type of recovery have a conundrum, because our journey is based on saying, “no”. Whether we’re addicted to drugs, smokes, booze, or porn, we’re all forced to say, “no”, and we don’t always want to.
Some of us have not said “no” to our addiction for some time; others cannot remember if they ever have, and still more just want to keep saying it one more day. Wherever you are on that spectrum, you know how hard it is. You usually can’t just say it once and be done with it, either; rather, the desire remains too strong, calling to you again and again. Sometimes resisting is so hard that we collapse under the siren’s song just so that it will shut up.
Saying “no” is work.
If your toil has left you exhausted or feeling more and more defeated than encouraged, I have a recommendation. I’m sure I’m not the first to give it, nor will I be the last. The reason is because it works, and things proven true tend to get said again and again. My advice is not a trick but a philosophy, one that’s been paying dividends to me for almost four years now.
Quit saying, “no”, to your vices; start saying “yes” to something better.
I know this appears to be nothing but psychological deflection, and maybe it’s not, but this mindset works, not only for addictive substances or behaviors but other areas also. At the end of my twenties, I went from 243 lbs. of fat to 185 lbs. of lean muscle not because I said, “no” to carbs and sloth but because I said, “yes” to healthy eating and exercise. I saved money for a cross-country move not by saying “no” to every little consumer good that begged for my bottom dollar but by saying “yes” to a mission. And with my addiction, I didn’t spend every day saying “no” to the temptation of the internet wasteland, I simply said “yes” to marital faithfulness and my spiritual beliefs in Christ Jesus and purity.
Did this solve my problems in any of these three areas? Not entirely; personal issues are multi-faceted. But this helped. I found it far easier to say “yes” to healthy foods when I wanted better fuel for the 5-mile run I had planned. I found it easier to stay off Amazon.com when I was racking up my cash for the big day we’d set off for our new home. And I still find it easier to go through each moment loving my wife and practicing my faith than trying to avoid this or that website (and, let’s be clear, even after three-plus years, I remember those addresses).
When my mind’s focused on the things I really want, then I’m not focused on avoidance, looking for a distraction, or hoping for an escape; I’m living my life well, and my addiction (or daily frivolous spending or constant junk food) have no part in that. I don’t need to refuse the poor thing I want; I’m too busy saying yes to something better.
Now, maybe you’re neither married nor a person of faith, but ask yourself, “what do I want to do with my time and my life more than [insert your vice]?” Sit with that question for ten minutes. You may just get your answer.
Then go get it.