Developing Refusal Skills
When someone is recovering from substance use disorder, one of the first steps of therapy is to learn WHY they are drawn to substance abuse. What situations make them want to use most, and are there certain emotions that can be linked with abuse? Identifying these factors, or triggers, can help a person learn specific ways to deal with the cravings that may surface and make a plan on how to respond to each trigger.
It has been estimated that approximately one in three substance abuse relapses result from not knowing how to say ''no'' to peer pressure. Like anything else, saying ''no'' gets easier with practice. Refusal skills are methods and strategies for saying ''no'' and can help to avoid situations a person doesn't want to be a part of or prevent a person from relapsing. Needless to say, these are pretty powerful skills to develop.
There are two types of social peer pressure, and both can be important factors in a person's commitment to recovery. Direct social pressure is when someone openly asks if you'd like to participate in an activity. Indirect social pressure is when you are surrounded by other people doing the activity without anyone directly inviting you to join them. It's best to be prepared for either scenario.
Successful responses include practicing drug refusal training. It is almost inevitable that a person in recovery will have to face scenarios of temptation; having a plan in place before being in a pressured situation increases the likelihood of staying committed to sobriety. Practice and assertiveness are critical components of these skills.
Refusal Skill Techniques
There are a number of techniques that can be used to help someone refuse opportunities to use.
Be Prepared Beforehand
- Remember WHY you want to avoid using this particular substance. Working with a therapist can make this easier.
- Avoid troublesome situations when possible and learn to cope when they can't be avoided.
- Set goals to practice these refusal skills. If you will be in a situation you know is one of your triggers, role play the conversation ahead of time so you feel prepared.
- Form at least three ''go-to'' refusals so you are never caught off guard.
- Be proactive—leave before you find yourself presented with temptation.
In a Peer Pressure Situation
- The first goal when refusing anything is to have ''no'' be the first word you say.
- Don't hesitate before answering. Stay committed to your decision.
- Make eye contact and ensure your tone is serious.
- Be direct.
- Avoid long explanations. Keep responses short, clear, simple, and unambiguous.
- Repeat yourself if necessary. Don't be afraid to sound like a ''broken record.''
- If someone is badgering you, turn the tables and ask why they care so much.
- Be blunt and verbally comment on the pressure you are feeling.
- Ask the person never to ask you again—make sure they know you are in this for the long haul.
- Change the subject.
- Walk away if you have to.
- Ask for support if you need it.
- Use body language to back up your ''no.''
Some final helpful advice when developing and practicing refusal skills is to plan ahead to stay in control. And remember, if someone asks you to do something you don't want to do, it's okay for you to accept the person but reject the behavior. Just because you are turning the activity down does not mean it's a personal attack on them.
With almost one-third of relapses caused by inadequate responses to direct peer pressure (when someone explicitly asks you to participate in an activity) and indirect peer pressure (when other people are doing something, even though you're not directly asked to), refusal skills are required learning for people who are serious about their recovery. These methods are some of the most important taught to people recovering from substance use disorder, as well as people who want to avoid doing some activity in the first place. They can be helpful to deal with or avoid triggers, factors that increase a desire to use substances like alcohol or drugs.
Refusal skills are techniques to use before and during a peer pressure situation. They include making ''no'' your first response, being direct and concise, and staying committed to your decision to refuse. Remember, practice makes perfect.
Medical Disclaimer: The information on this site is for your information only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.