Q: I've decided to stop drinking for a while - and my friends are being weird about it. One minute they're encouraging me, the next trying to pour me a drink. Is it me?
A: Well done, it's never a bad decision. Regardless of your reasons, change can be hard - and what you're describing with your friends is not unusual.
You've decided that your drinking is a problem for you, and made a change. Your friends consciously or not are likely to feel quite challenged by this.
They're faced with a choice: either accept that your drinking was a problem and that, given they likely drank in similar way to you, their drinking is a problem too, or they can reject that and the idea any of you have a problem with drinking and encourage you back to how things were.
Either way, the discomfort is theirs, not yours. Keep it up, and keep reminding them of your decision. You may even want to point out to them that you're not asking them to do anything different.
And, if you do normally socialise with your friends while drinking, try mixing it up. Try setting up activities that don't involve alcohol: exercise together, meet for breakfast or coffee.
Whatever your goals around your own use, remember that life can look different with alcohol and you may find yourself wanting to change other parts of your life, too. Be open to feeling more, and to feeling like you have a bit more time on your hands.
But above all, be gentle on yourself. If your goal is to stop altogether for a while, be gentle if you find it hard to stick to the goal.
Change is hard, and you're allowed to make mistakes.
Q: I find it so hard to say no - to friends, family, workmates. I need to get better at it, what can I do?
A: Well, like any other skill, practice is key. But before you start practising, it can also be useful to take some time reflecting on what - for you - makes saying such a small word so hard.
For some, it can be a fear of reaction, anger, annoyance or aggression. It could be that you're simply worried people won't like you if you can't be helpful.
Or for some, their sense of self worth depends on the acceptance of others, which makes the possibility of disappointing others deeply threatening.
There might be a range of reasons why you've come to think theses things about yourself, likely an accumulation of experiences in your childhood. But you don't need to be defined, or limited by them.
Because practising the skill, while seemingly a simple thing, actually helps to undo these ideas, and shift the feelings. The hardest part is to start, because at first the feelings remain the same. But eventually, if we keep going, our feelings catch up with our behaviours.
We can treat our own lack of self belief by acting as if we believe in ourselves - and saying NO to the things we genuinely don't want to do.
Many people fear that the opposite of being generous and struggling to say NO is being selfish, but actually it's self compassion.
To treat ourselves as worthy of consideration, to prioritise our own needs and feelings isn't selfish, it's a radical act of self-love. Even if you don't feel "worthy", keep acting as if you are, and before long you will feel worthy of the consideration you give yourself.
And, even better, others may follow your lead and treat you the same way.