Saying yes to addiction means saying no to life

James E. McGinley, PhD
3 min readMar 1, 2022


Addiction is sneaky. It often creeps up on us through a thousand small decisions we have made, decisions often made without thinking.

Saying yes can be a way to let our lives run on autopilot. We simply agree with what is going on and let the momentum carry us. The reality is as simple as it is lethal. If we are addicted, we know it is likely leading us to a bad place but we have found a way to sidestep our responsibility. We disengage. We just let it happen.

Saying yes without thinking is like stepping blindly into a puddle of water. We do not know if it is six inches or six feet deep. Unfortunately, sometimes we don’t want to know. We have to be honest with ourselves. Are we really saying yes? Or is yes simply a form of disguised avoidance of responsibility?

— All choices come with an opportunity cost. —

All choices come with a cost. When we say yes to one thing, we are saying no to something else. Sometimes this exclusion is intentional. We have made a purposeful choice. On the other hand, sometimes it is passive. We are not engaged in a meaningful way in our own life. We are simply letting it unfold before us.

Life is about choices and choices have consequences. So, while we can avoid making meaningful decisions and we can create all sorts of realities around ourselves, we cannot avoid their consequences.

Everything has a price.

Some years ago, I knew some heavy drinkers. In many ways their lives were in a rut. But the consequences were far in the future then. Yet, we know that time does not stop. Eventually the physical consequences caught up. Today they are a mental and physical shell of what they once were and the nostalgia of heavy drinking has become a faded collection of boring drinking stories that no one wants to hear.

— Does saying yes mean that you don’t have the strength to say no? —

Here is a reality that has to be faced. We must ask ourselves, are we saying yes because we intend to, or are we saying yes because we do not have the strength to say no?

Many people in addiction recovery react strongly to 12 Step programs. I have heard people angrily state that they have control because they meant to have a drink. This is the logic of suicidal erosion. It is like being behind the wheel of a carnival ride. Our control is simply a meaningless illusion.

— We must say yes to life. —

This is going to sound harsh. But, for the addicted, each use means that we are choosing death over life.

We must say yes to life. All decisions are connected. Saying yes in one area can affect other areas. We must make positive decisions. We must make what we say yes to meaningful. It is not always trouble-free. When we make a commitment to improve ourselves, it takes up time, space, energy, and requires that we focus our perspectives in new ways. It may not always be easy, but it is worth it.

For more insights see my books and blog at


YouTube channel, The Coping Expert,

James McGinley, PhD is a professor, author, certified life coach, and licensed counselor. He is interested in cross-cultural and applied psychology, whether at work, as a part of a team, in our personal lives and in our relationships with others, or when we face adversity in life — whether from stress, addiction, or exposure to crisis.

Image credit is Unsplash



James E. McGinley, PhD

James McGinley, PhD is a professor, author, certified life coach, and licensed counselor.