Drinks are a common part of most social and professional events. Whether you’re at a birthday party, a wedding reception, or a networking happy hour, you’ll be surrounded by people drinking. And you’ll probably be offered a drink more than once.
Learning how to say no to alcohol at these events is crucial. The pressure and the temptation to accept a drink can be immense, especially when people respond to a refusal with ridicule or negative judgments. They may keep encouraging you to give in and relax with a beer, enjoy a glass of wine, or celebrate with a shot of vodka.
The following tips can help you avoid alcohol confidently and stick to your resolution.
Offer a Simple and Polite Refusal
Many times, you won’t be asked to give a reason for turning down a drink. Especially if you’re at a crowded event, people probably aren’t going to focus on your choices or give much thought to your reasons. There are various unremarkable reasons for not wanting to have a drink on a particular day.
If somebody does ask why you aren’t drinking, you may simply want to say that you don’t feel like it or that you don’t drink. You aren’t obligated to add anything more, and you don’t need to discuss your sobriety or alcohol use with acquaintances, colleagues, or anyone you don’t feel like opening up to.
Give a Plausible Reason
A polite refusal with no explanations is perfectly acceptable. However, in some situations, you may feel more comfortable offering an excuse, especially if people react with surprise or curiosity.
- Say that you need to drive. You may even volunteer to be a designated driver.
- Claim that you’re on medication. Many medications, including over-the-counter varieties, shouldn’t be mixed with alcohol.
- Let people know that you’re making some changes to your diet or fitness regimen. Healthy living is a major reason people cut back on drinking or completely abstain.
- Tell people that you need to remain alert for an upcoming meeting or for some work you have to complete later on.
The reason you give can be truthful, even if it doesn’t express your entire motivation for avoiding alcohol. And you can pick an excuse that doesn’t reveal much about your life. For example, if you feel that bringing up medications would cause people to speculate too much about your health, you can go with another explanation. You can also mention a medication that’s mild and common, like something for allergies.
Make a Joke
If someone asks why you’re refusing a drink, you may want to make a light-hearted comment. You can joke that you’d rather not have to be carried out of the building or that you have a hard enough time thinking clearly even when you aren’t drinking.
Depending on who you’re with, humor isn’t always the best approach. You also need to feel and sound comfortable when making a joke. But a light-hearted comment is sometimes a good way to deflect curiosity about your drinking choices.
Change the Subject
Whether or not you give a reason for turning down a drink, you may want to calmly steer the conversation to another topic, especially if somebody seems overly curious about your refusal.
For example, ask people about themselves. Maybe you have questions about their family, their work, what they’re reading, or the vacation they went on recently. People will generally be happy to share things about themselves, and they’ll find it a more interesting subject than your beverage choices.
If somebody keeps pestering you about your refusal to drink, you can sigh, shake your head, and say that you find it a boring topic. You can then bring up something else.
In most cases, people will go along with your change in topic, and they won’t pry further. If they do, you can repeat what you’ve already said. You can also walk away from anyone behaving rudely.
Have a Nonalcoholic Drink in Hand
If you’re already holding some kind of drink, you’re less likely to be offered one. Nobody even has to know what you’re drinking. Coke doesn’t need any rum, and sparkling water with a slice of lime can be free of gin.
If a waiter or someone else tries to fill your glass with alcohol, you can remove the glass from the table, cover it with your hand, or quietly shake your head with a polite refusal.
Remind Yourself That People Have Their Own Issues
Generally, people aren’t going to give you a hard time about not drinking. However, if someone mocks you or tries to pressure you, remind yourself that you’re not the one causing problems. The person giving you a hard time may have their own problems, and you aren’t responsible for how they behave.
Maybe they’re struggling to control their own drinking, or they hold the mistaken belief that people need to drink to fully enjoy themselves. They may have an issue with being overly involved in other people’s lives and not being able to accept different choices.
Regardless of the reasons, try not to take their comments personally. If they tell you that you’re killing the mood of a party or making other people unhappy by not accepting a drink, you can calmly reject their comments or roll your eyes at how ridiculous they sound. You can point out that belligerent remarks or accusations are what really ruin people’s fun.
Let People You Trust Know What’s Going On
Maybe you can open up to some people about any problems you’ve been having with alcohol. If you’re in recovery, you can let them know. There are multiple benefits to having people you trust on your side.
Once they understand why you don’t want to drink, they’ll know not to ever offer you alcohol. They can also give you solidarity and support. For example, if you go out to a restaurant together, they may choose not to order an alcoholic beverage for themselves.
Navigating tricky social situations becomes easier when you have the support of people you trust. If you’re worried about feeling tempted to drink on certain occasions, they can remain at your side and help you stick to your resolution. They can also help deflect other people’s drink offers without calling attention to you. Their presence will give you strength and encourage accountability, making it easier for you to turn down a drink.
Prepare and Practice
To help make yourself more confident, plan what you’ll say if people ask why you aren’t drinking. Practice certain responses ahead of time, and choose the ones you think will work best for different people and occasions.
Also, plan for how to respond to alcohol cravings. For example:
- Try not to position yourself next to a bar, a drinks table, or a wine cabinet.
- Talk to someone you trust at the social event, or reach out to someone by calling or texting them. Receiving another person’s reassurance and support can make you feel stronger.
- Take a quick break. Step outdoors for some fresh air, or splash some water on your face in the bathroom.
- If you need to, leave the event early.
You don’t have to feel obligated to attend every social event, especially if you’re in the early stages of your recovery. Along with skipping certain events, you may be able to find alternatives that won’t have any alcohol on the premises.
Don’t hesitate to reach out to us for further advice on achieving and maintaining sobriety, including in social situations that surround you with drinkers. You deserve to receive care, support, and tools for building a healthy life.