My Mind Says No, But My Mouth Says Yes

I have a very limited ability to set, or, more accurately, to enforce personal boundaries.  I can imagine all the different, healthy boundaries that I could set, but the reality is that I don’t currently possess the chutzpah to vocalize them to another human being.

Here is a real life example:  I’ve mentioned on numerous occasions (read: every Monday morning),  I started and run an AA meeting.  The meeting takes place in a new clubhouse, less than a year old, where the goal is “to provide a clean, safe environment for recovery, spirituality and fellowship.”

I entered the picture about 6 months into this project.  They had a building, and they were looking for people to start meetings, and so I said yes when I was asked.  And I have never looked back; I am proud of the decision, proud of the way the meeting has grown, and deeply grateful for the personal growth the meeting has provided me.

Other than my meeting, however, I spend little time at the clubhouse, mainly because I don’t have a lot of time to give.  I frequent others’ meetings there as often as I can, and I support events by providing food as they need it.    But as a wife and a mother of 2 (relatively) small children, I have a full life outside of AA, and I got sober so that I could appreciate that life, so I will always opt for supporting my family over supporting a social AA function (please note that I am making a distinction between social AA events and AA meetings themselves, my recovery comes before everything else).

So imagine my surprise when, about a week ago, the clubhouse board members approached me and asked me to help them with their leadership.  I was surprised but flattered, and of course I said I would do whatever I could to help them out.  Then they said they would like me to serve as… drum roll please… the Director of the Clubhouse.

If I could provide an audio right now, it would be of car brakes screeching… WHAT THE WHAT?!?

This request makes sense to me on ZERO levels… I am not part of the original group, I am not even technically a charter member, I don’t attend business meetings, all I do is run one AA meeting a week… how exactly does that qualify me to be a Director?  And of course there are my own personal reasons, such as the time commitment and the fact that I have NO EXPERIENCE with this type of position… I don’t even know what the heck a director does!

So I say to them, “I am happy to help, I will attend the next business meeting, but I do not wish to be a director, I just want to help out where I can.”

My words, apparently, fell on deaf ears.  I have seen one of the board members twice this week.  Each time he jokingly referred  to me as the “head drunk of the clubhouse.”  At the business meeting, which I attended last night, they asked me why I wasn’t sitting behind the desk.  I calmly say, “because I am not the director, I am just here to help out.”  There were several other mini-references, which I largely just ignored.

I left that meeting feeling like a failure.  Why did I not just take the bull by the horns and address the issue as I saw it:  I do not want to be a director, I stated that fact, and my statement has been ignored.  Instead, I joked back with the guy, ignored the other references, and never let them know that I was entirely uncomfortable.  Basically, I skirted around the issue as much as I could, which, in the end, gets me no closer to solving the problem.

Why is it so hard to tell someone No?  I have been talked through this issue numerous times in my life (because this is far from my first experience with not communicating my feelings), and the process I have been given goes something like this:  if you tell someone honestly how you are feeling, imagine the worst case scenario.  Usually the worst case scenario is not so bad, thus prompting me to communicate in a healthy way.

So what worst case scenario can I imagine if I had just spoke up:  “I am uncomfortable with how hard you are pushing me to take this position, and I am unwilling to contribute more than I have already offered?”  I imagine unease, awkward silence, and subsequent internal discomfort.  Now, I don’t know for sure what would have happened in terms of the first two points I just mentioned, but guess what?  That internal discomfort was felt by me anyway, and that was WITHOUT me voicing my concerns!

Here’s the good news:  I will have ample opportunities to correct my behavior in the days to come,  I will keep you posted.  All advice is gratefully welcomed!

Today’s Miracle:

Getting ready to enjoy a quiet, stress-free family night, and I cannot wait!


Posted on May 8, 2013, in Recovery and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. This sounds like no to me: ”I am happy to help, I will attend the next business meeting, but I do not wish to be a director, I just want to help out where I can.”

    You did nothing wrong and maybe it would help to pull one or more of them aside and have the conversation again, but there shouldn’t have been any mistaking the first time you said it. Good luck.


  2. The word “no” is a complete answer.
    My advice (since you asked us) …. say, “no thanks” and then stop talking. Yes, let it go dead silent. We fuel the conversation with any additional words.
    Good luck.


  3. What an honor to be pursued like that. Good for you!


  4. runningonsober

    I echoe bbb and Lisa, sounds like you already said no sufficiently. If brought up again, just say, “I already said no, but thanks.” And just let it go, like Lisa said.


  5. I have had these kind of issues in the past (what am I saying – I still get them), but I have learned a lot about myself and others through the simple act of saying “no” or any of it’s variations “thank you but no”, “not interested, thank you”, “no – that doesn’t work for me”, “sorry but no”, etc. The one thing I learned about myself is that I feel free after making a definite declaration. I learned that the world continues to spin. I learned that I won’t be getting thousands of vile hate emails. I increase my self worth and self esteem by saying no when I need to. What I have learned about others is that they respect someone who is clear. They don’t need to bring up a topic over and over again because I was vague and non-committal. They don’t hate me or wish me dead (well, I could be wrong, but they don’t ACT like they hate me or wish me dead). It’s just a “no”. I know I don’t get bent out of shape when someone declines something form me, so I just now assume the other person won’t. It’s a sign of spiritual growth – staking a claim in myself, when before I thought so little of myself I didn’t care if others trounced me, because I deserved it. We’re not there any more. We have something stronger and deeper. We share that when we have our boundaries. It’s very strange to me still when I am nervous about saying no, say it, and then have the other person say “no worries” and then move on and not hate me. How strange! That is how *normal* do it. wow.

    As for this case, just be direct. As Lisa said, we overexplain and leave the door open. When you see them next just let then know that you’ve thought it over and don’t have the time, you’re not interested. Done. If they have a problem with that, they can put in on their next fourth 🙂



  6. i’m learning how to say ‘no’ as well. When i first started getting involved in the program, i took on a lot more than i could without even being asked! Now, i’ve pulled back a little too far. i still go to meetings regularly and share and will speak if asked, but not really providing regular service.

    i co-chaired a meeting where i also provided coffee service and just that was a lot for me; i can’t imagine the full-on ‘owning’ a meeting. Good for you to know where your limits are!


  7. Time With Thea

    FYI… I pinned your poster on My Inspirations: Poster Quotes on Pinterest. Thank you for sharing you journey so eloquently and honestly! ~Thea


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