Ways to Turn Down Alcohol When You Don’t Want to Drink

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If you are giving up drinking, it can be hard to know what to say in social situations. Having conversations about your sobriety can be uncomfortable, and you should never have to share more than you want to. To avoid having an awkward conversation, it’s helpful to learn different ways to say no with confidence. This will make it easier to go out and be with others while protecting your sobriety.

Even if you stay away from activities where alcohol is likely to be, it can still turn up in unexpected ways. Things like weddings, funerals and birthdays can be triggers, especially if you always counted on alcohol to navigate family and social situations. Below we share some of the best ways to say no to alcohol when you’re cutting back or quitting for good.

Ways to Say No to Drinking at a Party

Always consider the crowd you’ll be with when choosing how to say no. Some groups do better with a straightforward answer, while others respond better to jokes and humor. Practice these with your support circle so that you’ll have more confidence in real life situations.

Ask for a Non-Alcoholic Drink

It’s common for hosts to offer drinks to empty-handed guests. To take some pressure off, ask for a non-alcoholic drink like a soda, juice or sparkling water. There are plenty of fun, refreshing drinks to treat yourself with, and many of them will look like you’re drinking alcohol. If you go out with a group of friends, you can order a seltzer with lime or a fruity mocktail. This will help you blend in with others.

Cover Your Glass

If you’re out to dinner with friends and the waiter comes around with a bottle of wine or a pitcher of beer, simply cover your glass with your hand. This is a subtle and effective way to show that you are abstaining from alcohol. It’s also helpful if you can distance yourself from the bar. If you start feeling uncomfortable, excuse yourself from the table and take a walk outside.

Say You’re Not Drinking Today

Here’s a straightforward response – say that you aren’t drinking today. You don’t have to go into detail about your DUI or financial troubles. Instead, simply say that you’re not partaking in the drinking. There are many reasons why people take time off from alcohol – medications, health conditions, diet and exercise. You don’t owe anyone an explanation for your choices.

Explain You’re the Designated Driver

Telling people that you’re driving is the ultimate excuse for not drinking. Some people who quit alcohol agree to be the designated driver for this reason. They can still hang out with their friends while being accountable. Anyone who pressures you to drink knowing that you have to drive is not worth listening to.

Every day, 29 Americans die in motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver. The dangers of drinking and driving are well-documented, and even one drink can cause impairment. Bottom line: Being a safe and dependable driver is something to be celebrated – not looked down upon.

Tell Them You’re Taking Medication

Many medications don’t mix well with alcohol. If you feel pressured to drink at a social gathering, tell the host that you’re on medication. Most people won’t pry beyond this point, but if they do, you can always say that you’re taking antibiotics for an infection.

Bring a Sober Friend

One strategy for staying sober at a social gathering is by bringing along a sober friend. This could be someone from your support circle or a member in your 12 step group. Having a sober friend will give you some courage, as you’ll know that you won’t be the only one abstaining. There is strength in numbers.

Importance of Having an Exit Strategy

Above we shared some ways to say no to alcohol when you’re in a social setting. You can’t avoid these gatherings forever, so there will come a day when you’ll have to turn down alcohol. Not everyone will be aware of your struggles – and some people are just plain pushy – so you need some strategies for saying no.

The good news is that most people will back off when they see you don’t want to drink. This is why it’s good to be firm and confident. However, what happens when you’re at a party and you’re not feeling comfortable? Perhaps you’re feeling tempted to drink, things are getting out of hand or you’re not enjoying the company. Whatever the reason, an exit strategy will quietly remove yourself from the situation.

What is an exit strategy?

An exit strategy is what you will follow when you need to leave an uncomfortable situation. Here is a helpful worksheet that will get you thinking about how to handle different scenarios. This way, if you’re feeling uncomfortable, you’ll know how to react without putting yourself in harm’s way.

Here are some exit strategies to consider:

  • Have a friend on call in case you want to leave early
  • Set a designated time to leave
  • Choose an activity to do after the party
  • Quietly slip out
  • Blame your date (or someone else)

Start Your Recovery Today

Going out the first few times in recovery can feel awkward, but trust us, it gets easier. If people persist about why you’re not drinking, this says more about them than it does you. You will also set a good example for others by having fun and enjoying life without alcohol. Isn’t this the greatest gift of all?

As you grow stronger in your recovery, you can share your story with others. But this should come on your terms. If you’re ready to start your path to recovery, contact Acceptance Recovery Center today. We offer personalized, compassionate care in sunny Scottsdale, AZ. Not only do we treat substance use disorders but also underlying trauma that is often at the root of destructive behaviors. Call us today to learn more about our programs.