May 31, 2016 | By Kelly Fitzgerald

8 Ways to Just Say No to Alcohol In Social Situations

Recovery Relapse Prevention

8 Ways to Refuse a Drink

When we make the decision to get sober we often have to relearn how to be –  how to be social, interact in relationships, and deal with emotions. It would be easy for us to lock ourselves away from the world and never have to deal with the difficult ins and outs of life, but that’s just not realistic. One of the many things we need to learn in sobriety is how to say no to alcohol in social situations. It’s recommended that we change people, places, and things in recovery, but ultimately, we should have the tools to deal with all of these situations. Triggers tend to pop up in the most peculiar places and as sober people, we must be ready. Here are 8 ways you can say no to alcohol in social situations. 

Be the Designated Driver

One of the things I love most about being sober is being able to leave anywhere I am at any time I want. During my drinking days I was at the mercy of a lot of other people and circumstances unless I wanted to drive while under the influence. Today I can offer other people rides and shamelessly say I am the designated driver while out. I’ve also learned that different sport events and other places give you free food or drinks if you are the designated driver. It has it’s perks and you’ll be staying sober at the same time.

Say You’re Saving Money

A great way to say no to alcohol in public is to admit you’re trying to save some money. If you’re already sober, then you know how much money it’s possible to save just by not drinking. We never really notice how expensive our habits become until we leave them behind. Saving money is a positive result of sobriety and one of many great reasons to say no to alcohol in public.

Get a Mocktail

Socializing can be fun with or without a drink in your hand, but if you’re thirsty, you can always get a mocktail. If you’re at an event or restaurant you can order your favorite juice, fizzy water, or a combination of the two and enjoy an alcohol-free day. This way if you’re offered alcohol, you can hold up your mocktail and say you’ve already got your preferred drink. It’s nice to have a glass in your hand when you’re socializing and have a drink of your own that doesn’t include alcohol.

“I Have More Fun Sober”

This might get some heads turning, but it’s the truth. If you’ve completely embraced sober life, or if you’re just trying it out, you can say this when offered alcohol. Fun is remembering what you did last night. Fun is not embarrassing yourself in front of your friends and colleagues. Fun is knowing exactly what the text messages you sent said. The list goes on. It’s good to reflect upon the chaos your life used to be and the messes you had to clean up after drinking. That is why you have more fun sober and why it’s a great response to being offered alcohol.

Change the Subject

A quick “no” may not be sufficient when turning down a drink in social situations. Another way to reiterate your answer is to change the subject. An assertive “no,” followed by a change in topic of conversation could do the trick. Bring up another subject you’ve been thinking about or that’s relevant within the circle you are in. You could also say, “no thanks,” and “I don’t want to talk about it.”

“I have to get up early”

There’s nothing wrong with saying you can’t drink because you need to get up early the next morning. In fact, I find this to be true most of the time during sobriety anyway. I am always committing to different events or sporting events that require me to get up early. During my drinking days I could never make these commitments. Sober life enables me to make these commitments and get up early and get restful sleep. There’s no problem with letting people know you have more important things to do the following day and that drinking would get in the way of that.

“I don’t drink”

This seems like a simple and straightforward statement, but a lot of people hesitate to say this when in social situations. When you’re in a social setting and you’re the only one who doesn’t drink, it might be hard to admit that you’re different than those around you. I find this to be easiest because it’s honest and people seem to take it as a firm “no.” Remember, if your decision how much you want to reveal about yourself. If you are asked why you don’t drink, you don’t have to elaborate if you don’t want to. You could also just say you’re not drinking today. After all, we are only promised today.

“I’m in recovery”

As I’ve become more comfortable in my own recovery, this response is always my go-to. Being open, honest, and proud of our recovery gives us the chance to speak about who we really are, especially in social situations. You can simply say that you’ve had an unhealthy past with alcohol and you don’t drink anymore. I often say that I drank enough in my early 20’s to last me a lifetime, so I’m through with it. Joking around about why you are where you are is ok too. It’s all about what you’re comfortable with. Being in recovery is an awesome achievement and should be talked about.

Saying no to alcohol in social situations can be uncomfortable at first, but the more you do it the easier it becomes. And once you become comfortable in sober social situations, life gets easier and recovery becomes a way of life.

9 responses to “8 Ways to Just Say No to Alcohol In Social Situations

  • Joel Bader

    8 years ago

    These statements rarely work when booze-pushers are around. Sometimes it’s best to get the hell out of Dodge. For the person in recovery-and for all other non-drinkers–this is a good excuse to be rude!

  • I just say that I don’t want to dilute my medication and grin at them.

  • It’s better not to make up excuses and just be straightforwarsd and say “I don’t drink” or “I don’t like it”.

    If they ask you can either, elaborate and tell them your reasons, or if you don’t feel like doing it just say “It’s a personal decision”, end of discussion.

    People don’t have to influence over your decisions and your life, it’s not their concern nor they have the right to.

    • I’ve been in recovery for a couple years now and I have no problem when I go out and someone offers to buy me a drink.
      I tell the truth…No thank you I don’t drink ! Sometimes I get the look of surprise but that’s my decision.

  • Rebel Eclectic

    8 years ago

    I agree with Pablo, any excuses given just leads to more excuses.
    Don’t go to an event with alcohol until you are confident saying “No thanks, I don’t drink”.
    It’s the only thing that shuts it down.

  • I quit many years ago. I actually brag about my sobriety. I will say, (and it’s true ) “you wouldn’t like me very much if I were drinking. When I used to drink I thought I could whip anyone in the bar.” I have had many guys ask me in confidence, how did you do it? When single and dating, I would tell guy friends, you know my love life has really improved since I quit. My dates know they can enjoy a few drinks and have confidence in my ability to get them home safely.

  • Anna Dickey

    8 years ago

    My favs are “Thanks, but I’ve had enough” and “I’m allergic….every time I drink, I break out in handcuffs” 🙂


    8 years ago

    Thanks for this topic. It is very much welcome as it encourages my sobriety. Keep up the good work of educating us.

  • In early recovery I was desperate to find the best one-liner as to why I don’t drink, mainly because I was so worried about what people would think. I’ve been sober for over 7 years now and have heard some really good ones, but in practice they tend to draw even more attention to the issue. The one that works best for me is simply “no thanks, I don’t drink” followed (if necessary) by “I used to drink but it became a problem for me so I knocked it on the head”.

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